My grandfather and I spoke for a long time Wednesday about the current financial crisis. As a former banker, he’s seen it coming for more than a year and can’t understand why the banks took so long to react. And he told me, “this happens with every generation of new CEOs,” once every 20 years or so, they get too greedy and they fall.
My grandfather, who has watched the economy ebb and flow for a century, is now is wondering if this will be as bad as the Great Depression, or if they have caught it early enough and it will be more like the 70s. Either way, we’re not out of this recession and probably won’t be for a while. While I’m not an alarmist who sees the sky falling at every moment, I do see a grey sky ahead and it would behoove us all to tighten our belts a bit.
Make sure you learn all you can about your savings and investments. Read about the FDIC and what is really insured, and also make sure you are banking with an FDIC-insured bank. Pay down your debts as quickly as you can, so that you are not over-extended as we go into harder times. And if you are lucky to have more than others, give what you can and do what you can to help those in need.
I know from reading the comments about affluence, that some of you are hurting now. As Rhonda Jean says, it’s time for us all to go into squirrel mode. Now is a good time to do with what we have, and buy as little as possible.
How To Cut Costs In Our Daily Lives:
I encourage you to first take a look at your bills from last month. What were your highest monthly costs? Was it electricity? Water? Cable? Whatever it was, you should work on that first. Then, here are some things to think about:
1. Cut the cable television. Whoa, you say. But don’t stop reading. You can do it. I haven’t had cable television in six years. And I’ll let you in on a little secret: I work in the film and television industry! How do I keep up with what’s going on? Well, the internet helps a lot. I also check out movies at the library (you can reserve them online and wait until you receive an email that they’re ready for you), rent dvds at the local video store (it’s so great to watch a television series all the way through without commercials!), when there’s something we really want to watch we just get together at a friend’s house, but mostly we read and we talk instead.
Don’t worry about your kids making the transition – they’ll handle it. The library is full of good books, and you can even read a book out loud together as a family. Our family used to take turns each reading a chapter of the book – a great bonding experience. You can also play good old fashioned board games, which can be loads of fun – pick up a few at a local thrift store or garage sale (or your parents’ basement).
2. Reduce your electric usage. As you cut your cable, you can turn off our television: the biggest energy guzzler in the house. As your incandescent bulbs wear out, replace them with CFLs – they are more expensive up front, but they will last many months longer and will save you a lot of money in electricity. Turn off lights unless you are in the room. Minimize your A/C or heater usage as much as you can – turn the A/C up a few degrees, turn the heater down a few degrees. Use a laptop rather than a desktop computer, if you can. Plus turn off the computer when you’re not using it. Turn down your hot water heater to 120F. And spend less time in the shower, which uses a lot of electricity (or gas) to heat the water.
3. Reduce trips in the car. Now is a good time to finally learn that public transportation system, or really carpool with your coworker who lives nearby. You don’t need to keep your kids from after-school activities, just arrange with other parents to carpool. Or even arrange an after-school bus – check into it with your school and find out who to call. Consolidate your errands for the week to one or two days when you’re already going out. And if you live within a mile or two, think about walking or biking instead.
4. Replace junk food with good food. For some reason, when we have to cut costs often the first thing we do is stop buying good food. Does that make sense, when this is the stuff that nurtures our bodies and helps our children grow up strong and healthy? Cut out the soda and alcoholic beverages and drink water instead, but don’t stop buying fresh fruit and vegetables as these are important.
Forgo eating out for a simple, home cooked meal instead. Bring your lunch to work and school rather than eating out. Rather than buying granola bars and other processed foods, make them from scratch – you might find it’s a lot easier than you think. Plus it’s a great after-school project for the kids to help make. And by all means, grow a fall and winter garden, or help a friend grow theirs in exchange for some of the goods.
If you’re really hurting economically and just can’t afford fresh fruit and vegetables, don’t be afraid to visit the local food bank. That’s what it’s there for.
5. Hang in there and reach out to others. In many other parts of the world, it is normal and customary to help one another when times are tougher. If you are lucky to be doing well, invite some friends over for dinner, or do something else to help (gently and respectfully, of course, as it is tough to ask for and accept help). If you’re not doing so well, don’t be shy about accepting a kind hand. Barter! My juicy backyard plums for your 6x hand-me-downs, for example. Now is the best time to start building your community by just living and being local, through and through. Together we are stronger.
What Are Your Thoughts?
Does this current bank/insurance/whatever’s next crisis scare you? What else can we all be doing (or not doing) to keep ourselves, our families, and our neighbors safe? How are you feeling, how are you coping?