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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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Keep Your Head Up And Your Costs Down

NY Times Headline Today


Have you been following the news today? Our worldwide economy isn’t doing so well. The U.S. House didn’t pass the bank rescue bill. Our fourth largest bank tanked and was sold off. Several European banks had to be rescued. They’re calling this the Black Monday of 2008. Things are looking a bit grim today, aren’t they?


It’s difficult to keep from feeling down about the state of the world right now. Our economy, our climate, our numerous wars and world catastrophes….


But… we can’t do anything about it if we stay down. The world needs us, our families need us, and we have the power to change the state of the world. So don’t lose hope. Put your energy into a solution. Put everything you have into a solution. It’s important. You – we – are important.


Get Your Finances Together


Spend the day getting your finances in gear, working to cut your family’s costs and save money. Make sure you have your money in F.D.I.C.-insured accounts (they’re insured up to $100,000). Take care of your investments right now – make sure you’ve invested safely and conservatively.


Revise your family budget and look for ways to save more. Read Time To Tighten Our Belts for some ideas (there are some great ideas in the comments there as well). How To Keep From Becoming Overwhelmed might help right now, too. Make a list and stick to it.


Some books that might help: Rich Dad, Poor Dad and Your Money Or Your Life. And you also might check out the blogs Get Rich Slowly and Wise Bread. For budgeting itself, I have heard good things about mint.com and myspendingplan.com, both of which offer free online budgets. Also, your bank may have a budgeting software online through the online banking system. And Quicken is available online (with a 60-day free trial) or as a software program. (Please let me know if you have other resources we all should know about!)


Help Strengthen Others Around You


And once you have straightened out your own finances, help others in your community and work to strengthen your community. Your community is a buffer, an important element that you are suspended within, it keeps you afloat and you can help keep it afloat. The stronger our local economies are, the stronger our personal economies become.


Get involved in your community this week. Don’t delay. I’ll be writing more about how to create change in your community in the coming few days, so stay tuned for more.

 

And if you’re really feeling overwhelmed and down, get together with a friend or family member and work together to do something productive for your families and your communities.


We can’t afford to lose hope. Take positive steps today. Right now.


What Are You Going To Do Today?


Please share what you’re doing today – and in the coming days – to make a difference. This way we can all become more motivated and gain ideas from one another!


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16 comments to Keep Your Head Up And Your Costs Down

  • Isn’t it amazing how things are falling apart today? I am glad the House rejected the bailout, because I didn’t believe it a prudent way of helping the economy. So a little part of me sings — and then I think about how much work there is yet to do to get through the coming days. I’m a little overwhelmed.

    Today I decided (before even reading your post about keeping your head up) that I need to take up jogging. So I went jogging. Not even as a way to get fitter and strengthen my lungs, but as a way to control my anxiety. It worked for a little while, at least! I’m going to fight the self-consciousness I feel when I jog and just do it, for my health and stability.

    I don’t know how to strengthen my community though. My community is a bunch of college students living in dorms, far away from our families and homes–what are we supposed to do? I worry.

  • The whole situation just makes me a little irritated (at the powers that seem to be) and saddened (for those who got, or will get, the shaft). During our last crisis, 9/11, when we could have made a really good start at focusing on what’s really important, so that times like now wouldn’t seem so bad, what did our president tell us to do? Go shopping! What an original thought! Then after being re-elected he tells us we’re addicted to oil. Really? Shocking! So….what did he propose we do about it? Perhaps there was something, but not much comes to mind. Then came $4 & $5-a-gallon gas which could be considered a crisis, but I thought of it as more like the canary in the coal mine. (Just what did Cheney discuss with all those energy execs 7 years ago.) The post-9/11 world could have been all about conservation, compassion and community. Unfortunately, well, here we are…. I’m not an economist, but it seems as though going shopping isn’t going to cut it this time.

    As for me, I tried to avoid the latest news and spent my weekend with family and friends, visiting the Konza Prairie Open House – http://www.konza.ksu.edu/ – and going to hear Barbara Kingsolver & Steven Hopp at The Land Institute’s Prairie Festival – http://www.landinstitute.org

    This Thursday I go to the greenhouse-volunteer training at my son’s school.

    Keep up the great work Melinda and 1GG.

    (Hope your grandfather fared well with the recent WaMu debacle)

  • Fortunately, we have very little debt (all on a traditional fixed mortgage) and have our emergency fund in place. But you know what we decided to do with a little bit of money we have set aside for home repairs? Hire a local guy to come and get busy on a project! It will keep him working, and he will buy his supplies and spend his hard-earned money right here in town. And we will get something done that we’ve been putting off. We’re not going to go out and spend it on something frivolous, but on some thing that will add value to our home. Maybe people can think of things like this if they have the wherewithall to spend a little. We can get through this together.

  • “Community is the buffer” – exactly. I was just talking to my neighbor about this yesterday. Not only is it important to build connections with neighbors, volunteer at schools, get involved in local community groups but it is also important to turn as much of what you buy as possible to a local level. Buy local food, yes, but everything else too. If you need some screws and a new hammer and can’t borrow it, go to a locally owned hardware store. Get your RX filled at a locally owned pharmacy. Whatever you have to buy, buy it from your neighbors – the ones owning stores in downtown. Forget about saving money by shopping the big guys. It may cost a few cents more now to shop local, independent now but it will pay dividends later.

  • Deep breaths being taken all round. Apart from getting well right now I really don’t know what to do.

    Next week when I can reliably add two numbers without feeling like my head is going to explode I will be fine combing our budget and cutting as hard as I can go..

    Once I feel our house is in order I will seriously look at seeing if any of the local community houses would like me to run some type of skills classes aimed at the budget conscious.

    Kind Regards
    Belinda

  • dan

    Timely post! I got married a couple weekends ago and we are starting the process of simplifying our lives as apart of our new lifes together. We are doing a budget and will pay off all our debts by spring, sans the mortgage. We are taking the gift money from our wedding and investing it on our house to make it more energy efficient before winter. We just got a membership in the newly started Iowa Food Cooperative. I plan on volunterring with the Coop as well.

    I think community is very important and will help us as the economy gets worse. My wife and I went to our neighborhood block party on Sunday and met many people that live one block north that we didn’t know. Unfortunately, we were the only ones on our block to show up :( Oh well, I’m thinking about planning a block party next Spring and will have it on our block, so maybe more people will show up.

    @Stephanie- try joining a campus club or organization to find community in a college town. Does your school have a sustainability or enviornmental organization? These seem like good places to find like minded folks.

  • Being young and having lots of time for prices to come back up, I’m liking the fact that the money I’m putting into mutual funds now buys more shares than it did when the stock market was doing better. We’re at the low part of the whole “buy low, sell high” cycle. See? There is a silver lining.

  • I dont have a lot of money or am in control of a lot of money but I donate plasma when I have time and save that, I save 25$ from each pay check, and I save the money when I turn popcans back in. It’s only a little over 100 since I started but I figure it’s something.

  • We’re still figuring out what to buy (house-wise) and how much money to spend. It’s a tough decision, and we know full well that what we buy we may be in for good.

    Do we go for a house we can own outright, yet not be able to grow much food on a small block, have travel expenses (because it is further out) knowing oil prices will rise, and heating expenses because we haven’t enough room to grow our own trees for firewood?

    Or do we take a slightly bigger (but not prohibitive) mortgage, and go for a place that is walkable to the city, has acres of land for food, an established woodlot, its own water supply, and can be set up to be off the grid so no power bills?

    My other half is scared of going even slightly into debt with a mortgage, but I’m thinking the second option sounds better for both our children and ourselves.

    Debt is a tricky customer. Even with the second option we’ll have more than 50% equity in the place, supported by strong private retirement funds for both of us.

    I dunno – what would you do?

  • First we moved our money upon word of our bank getting ready to tank… it tanked two weeks later. I hated to do it, but I had to protect us.

    We converted part of our nest egg into a land purchase (something tangible during these shaky banking times) and plan to develop it with a single family home… slowly, we have the time. This provides us some security with our assets not being so liquid. It also can and will provide some work when we begin to develop, provides tax revenue for the state which is in deficit and we can sell the home for a modest profit, helping us in an uncertain market, and helping another family with affordable housing during this horrid housing market when lending is tightening.

    We also restructured some loans on my husband’s business assets to provide cushion should things get worse.

    I planted a fall garden this year to assist in food costs… and my grocery store has finally started labeling all their locally grown produce after a long campaign to get them to do so, and I am buying locally to support my state and community!

    I am volunteering at my son’s school for lunch duty three days a month and bringing morning snack and flower displays one week a month. I am also researching outside fundraising efforts for the school like Albertson’s Community Partners and Safeway/Vons eScripts and Targets Red Card to help generate revenue so that the families aren’t hit up during these hard times on top of tuitions.

    And I am making sure not to purchase anything on credit! And to voice all of my opinions regarding these issues to my Federal Representatives and Senators via email!

  • [...] of the current credit crisis, now is a good time to get our finances together and spend as little as we can. So let’s take the awareness we gained from the Buy Nothing Challenge, and make it [...]

  • My apologies, all, for taking so long to get to your comments! I read them as they came into my email box, but I’ve been working so much lately on community organization and such, that I’m only now able to sit down to answer a backlog of emails and comments!! I hope I’m not too late, and you’ve still come back at this point to read my response…

    We have a long and tough road ahead of us for many months. I hope we all continue to tighten our belts and keep a close eye on our pocketbooks… It was my hope that the Buy Sustainably Challenge would help push us all toward doing this more! I’m hoping a few more of you will join up. ; ) Let’s continue pushing one another to do more, and share ideas with each other!

    Stephanie, It is a little overwhelming. But I think you’re totally on the right track to do something positive for yourself, your health and your overall well-being. Go for it! It also gets your blood pumping healthily through your brain, so you’re better at studying and making important decisions.

    I think there is a lot that you can do within your community – I’m sure there are organizations at the college, and if not, you can get friends together and start one yourselves (a good way to get over your shyness!!). You can also make sure that your own finances are in order, and help make sure your families’ finances are ok (a gentle nudge, at the least). And you can work within the community that surrounds the college. Because when you’re living there, you are also a part of that larger community. Go for it!

    Kirk, It’s extremely irritating that these executives made bad decisions and they are going to retire as billionaires while the rest of us suffer. And yeah, go shopping was a ridiculous reaction. They just don’t get it… shocking.

    It sounds like you had a great weekend, focussed on solutions! That’s what it’s all about, eh? That’s great that your son’s school has a greenhouse! And of course, wonderful that you’re involved!

    My grandfather is fine, btw. The other day we ran into someone with whom he’d worked at WaMu. She said, jokingly: “ah, if only they had you and I at the helm, Washington Mutual would be doing just fine!” He loved that.

    Joyce, Wow, that’s great! You’ve hired a local guy to keep money circulating locally. LOVE IT. What a great comment – thank you for sharing! That’s exactly what the Buy Sustainably challenge is all about…. I’ve been starting to delve more into books about local economies, and I’m totally hooked. Very exciting stuff!

    LatigoLiz, LOL – very funny! Probably a few months away, yet. ; )

    Green Bean, Indeed! Yes, yes, yes! What did you think of my next post, btw, about how to create change in our communities? Is it helpful? Since you’ve been doing this as well, do you have anything else to add from your experiences?

    Belinda, Getting well is very important, and probably one of the best things you can do! What a great idea to offer your budgeting skills to others! Here we have a free school called the Seattle Free School, which offers such classes taught by people in the community. I wonder if your area has something like that?

    Dan, Wow, it sounds like you two are doing very smart things with your money – great ideas! I think the way to get people to come to block parties is to literally introduce yourself to everyone and ask them to come, with a flier in hand as a reminder they can put on their fridge. And then make sure to block the street, and have it right in the middle, where neighbors can’t miss it! Plus, if you have something fun for the kids to do… even better.

    Thanks for your great comment.

    Teacher A, Your comment made me laugh out loud. LOVE IT. Thank you for that!

    Aradia, Something is better than nothing and slow and steady wins the race…. these are important things you’re doing.

    Daharja, I would take the slightly bigger mortgage for the walkable place in the city, with room for growing food, water supply, and ability to go off the grid. Because one thing I have learned is that infrastructure is very important, and those gas bills from traveling long distances can very quickly become prohibitively expensive. And yes, for your children, too. I completely agree.

    Make sure you get a good mortgage and have a solid plan for paying it off. I don’t know what prices are like there right now, nor do I know what the economy is like. Though… I suppose to be really honest, I would rent such a house, and save up until I could buy it (or one like it)…. But that was option #3, I think. : )

    Shawna, I like that you are also putting your money into the local economy! These are great ideas, you all. I love what you’re doing at your son’s school – that sounds like a great program! And yes, good reminder to make sure our local politicians know how we feel. Very good point.

  • We’re even going so far as to renting out a room to a friend. It will hopefully be a win-win for all involved. It’s forcing me to purge some clutter, it’s forcing our friend to do the same. It will help out our finances (hopefully) as well as the friend’s and it may be uncomfortable for all involved during the adjustment, but in the hard times that may be ahead, hopefully it will be a good thing. My husband works for one of those collapsed financial institutions and I have been freelancing from home since our son was born. I am starting to look for more work, just in case. And if anyone has any tips for more “internet” income, please send them my way. I am just getting started in that manner so the $$ hasn’t been pouring in…yet.

  • [...] Speaking of Keeping Your Costs Down, The Wisdom Journal has some good, quick ideas for what to do in the midst of our current Recession [...]

  • George

    You mentioned some great tools for managing your personal finances such as Mint and Quicken. Here is another great alternative called Fortora Fresh Finance http://www.fortora.com. It’s available for both Mac and Windows and it’s super easy to use.

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