Thursday, January 29, 2009

Not Feeling It . . .

. . . Not personally at least. The recession/depression, that is. I'm hearing all the news about the layoffs that have already happened and the ones that are coming. I'm hearing the horrific stories of people's hopelessness and desperation because of the loss of their job . I can feel the energy of despondency, worry and uncertainty.

But personally, life is going on as usual for me. I'm fortunate that the hubby has a job in health care that is in demand. He has plenty of opportunity to do overtime. Any financial crunch we might be feeling right now is alleviated with one or two extra shifts. We have been, more or less, financially responsible with our only major debt being our mortgage, student loans and my car (his is paid off). We don't have any credit card debt and with overtime, we can pay down our other debt monthly without too much angst.

In discussing my "out of the loopedness" with the hubby, he pointed out that we've also been living frugally for ages. The thrift store has been part of our lives since we were children. We've been cutting down here and there for a long time without having the intense pressure of survival necessity bearing down on our shoulders. We've been doing it to get ahead not to survive. So if the times now call for us to do it to survive, if that's what it turns into, it's okay because we already know how. When we sat down a few months ago to look at our books and realized we were barely breaking even (our mortgage turned out to be taking a larger percentage of our monthly income than we initially thought it would be due to higher property taxes), we stopped, re-evaluated, cut back and then cut some more. With overtime (without it, I certainly would have had to go back to work), in a few months, we corrected the situation. (We joke when we see something we like but don't need, "Ah, we should have bought that pre-cutbacks.") We're serious and determined. We're able to plan a garden without making too much of a mental jump, and even considering turning the whole backyard, or at least a substantial portion, into a garden. That doesn't blow our minds. We don't miss going out to eat or going to movies because those haven't been big parts of our lives for the longest time. We're not stressing each month about making our credit card payments because we've been realistic about things we need and don't need, can afford and can't afford. I mean, we have debt similar to many Americans but we were already on track to get rid of that debt (i.e. not accruing more). A few months ago I borrowed The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey and was pleasantly surprised to find out that we were following his plan (which some folks swear by) to the letter without ever having read his book.

On other folks' blogs I read about the effects of the recession but I really don't feel it personally and honestly, I wouldn't really know it was going on if I wasn't online/watching television. Over the last week, I've been going back and forth to Target trying to get a yoga mat that works for me. Every time I've been there, no matter what time of day, the lot is packed and there are plenty of folks spending money on all kinds of stuff. The way the media is talking about this recession, I would think by now folks would be coming into Target to maybe get one or two necessities and that's it. But nope, folks are still buying everything and anything. I think that if I worked outside of the home, interacting closely with more adults, I'd maybe get a better sense of the situation. But when I look outside my window, life is going on as usual. While I scour Ebay for cheap workout DVDs, folks around me are still going to the gym. While the library is my main source of entertainment, folks are still going to see movies and still buying DVDs and such. I see Whole Foods on a monthly basis and skip over their produce section altogether but it seems others are not. So I just can't really see it or feel it.

Maybe it's because I live in New York. If you can make it here in New York, they say, you can make it anywhere and it's true. Even driving in NY takes a level of skill and bravery that folks elsewhere don't really grasp. New York is a notoriously difficult place to get along but also rather affluent simply because of what it is. Folks who leave often find it difficult to get re-acclimated to the pace and the requirements and don't return for long. New Yorkers are generally used to used to having ample opportunities to make more money by working harder and hustling, used to being high energy and high intensity. This recession may not be as keenly felt here as it is in other parts of the country. Like the hubby, many folks here seem to be making up for the rising cost of living simply by working more. The city never sleeps so if you don't mind, if you've got it in you, if you need to, you can work when you're supposed to be sleeping.

Of course, I don't think life will go on as usual forever. I know that a change is coming. A fundamental change to the way we live our lives. We'll all feel it eventually. And while I welcome change and look forward to it, a part of me just likes the familiarity of life right now. The convenience. I visited Ghana two years ago and while I loved it, let me tell you, I don't take the advanced U.S. infrastructure for granted: decent roads, sophisticated sewage and garbage collection, reliable power grids. Could I be all right it I didn't have those things. Of course. It was amazing how quickly I got used to not hopping on the net every fifteen minutes. I didn't get online for the whole two weeks I was there because I really didn't want to be bothered with internet cafes which is the way most folks use the internet in Ghana (and in most of Africa).

Well, back to my main point. I'm giving thanks for where we are as a family and I'm happy I'm not feeling it. I can even get some extras here and there within reason. I'm grateful for that indeed because some of the desperate stories I'm hearing drive home the point that these times we are living in can be truly dreadful and if we don't watch it, we can get swallowed up. Easily. I won't talk too much about the importance of keeping our priorities straight but I will say that it's not that serious.


Anonymous said...

I did want to say that like you I do still see plenty of folks even in Maine, who are still shopping and having fun. Of course my skeptica mind can't help thinking are theu using credit or do they really have the cash. I know many folks personally who on the surface look like they are doing great financially, but they play the balance transfer game.

Sadly due to unwise credit use in the pass, we are a cash and carry household. I do have a credit card but no longer use it.

Frankly I think you are ahead of most of us and that is a good thing.

Just Me said...

My life hasn't changed too much either (except my rental house is still vacant, boohoo!) I've always been pretty thrifty and tend to pay cash for most everything. If I don't have the cash, we just don't get it. I had to learn that lesson through some tough knocks though. I do have friends that have been laid off and are really struggling. Everyone thinks they're prepared, but when it happens I don't think you could have planned enough.

DeStouet said...

You said you skip the produce section, please explain that to me, if you will. Are you still eating fresh fruits and veggies?

Thank you.

Chi-Chi, The Original Wombman said...

Hey DS,

Whole Foods produce is 3 to 4 times more expensive than other stores like Stop and Shop. I'm not buying organic produce as much (actually I've found that frozen organic is more cost effective) so there's really no point stopping at the WF produce section.

Fruits and Veggies are still the basis of our diet here. Not to worry! :) I'm hoping the garden will produce a nice organic yield so we can have organic back.

Chi-Chi, The Original Wombman said...

BGIM, wouldn't it be such a trip if folks are still abusing credit? Talk about missing the lesson. I just hate to think credit is what's keeping the level of buying status quo!!

Just Me, it's so true . . .you can never, ever fully prepare. Hope you can rent out your place soon, soon, soon.

I became very wary of credit after watching my parents growing up. We dealt with lots of hardship because of misusing credit and so I have a healthy respect and fear of credit cards. I didn't have the same kind of respect for accruing other debt (other forms of credit) until recently or else I would have paid more tuition out of pocket and saved before we bought a car. Live. Learn. Period. :)

Anonymous said...

Actually I do know folks who are misusing credit, a buddy of mine was talking about getting a car (new) and the dealer had told them, they could get the car with 0 down and some great monthly price. It was only when you realized the terms of the contract that it was not a good deal at all.

Thing is these are folks like me with a fluctauting income, seems this is not the time to buy. But hey some folks are just in a different place than me. I am saving my coins for getting a used Volvo, I am talking like 94-95 that can be paid for in cash. I don't ever want a car note again.

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