What has the recession taught you?

17 July 2009

Although it started off slowly, the world wide recession seems to have hit many countries pretty hard. Unemployment has taken a toll, so have marriages - I read recently that financial problems have pushed many couples to breaking point.

There is no doubt about it, this recession has destroyed the dreams of many and made a lot of people reassess how they live. However, I believe we can learn a lot in times of stress and hardship. These are times when we tend to look more closely at ourselves and re-evaluate our lives and values. When the economy bounces back again we will be stronger because we usually learn harsh lessons and make difficult choices only when we have to. When the good times return, although many will spend more again, those lessons will be remembered and become part of who we are. My parents and many other older folk were, in part, shaped by the depression, we are being shaped by our times too.

So what have I been able to learn during the past year that I'll keep:
  • Living with a thrifty mindset does me good.
  • I don't need any convenience food - from scratch and slow foods are healthier, delicious and cheaper.
  • I enjoy the struggle - having things too easy makes me soft.
  • I feel more in control of my life when I have a purpose to each day - the purpose being not to go under and to make as much as I can with what I have.
  • Mending and hand stitching is relaxing and enjoyable.
  • Family and friends are priceless.
  • Helping others gives me an immense feeling of satisfaction.
  • We are living on about one quarter of what we used to live on, and we are thriving and happy.
  • Taking responsibility for myself makes me stronger and more confident.
  • I need to rest and get enough sleep - having a strong immune system is essential in tough times.
  • Simple life tasks like baking bread, cooking from scratch, harvesting water, change me from being a passive follower to a proactive leader.
When the recession is over, I'll be pleased but I'll take all the good I can from it. And the thing that shines like a beacon for me now is that living simply is joy in good times, but when things are tough is can be the difference between make or break.

What has the recession taught you?


  1. Hubby and I were fortunate to start a frugal lifestyle before the Recession started. I did learn a lot from my Grandmothers who did go through the Depression, but I have so much more to learn.
    I am concerned for those who now have no income and/or lost their homes because of these hard times.
    All I can say is that I am so thankful for what I do have and will continue to live a simple lifestyle no matter what comes our way.

  2. I think living in this recession has brought out my Irish/European immigrant 'genes' that were alive and well in my ancestors. To rough and tough life out with practically nothing .. by their standards, we are wealthy and should not be complaining. But the current generation, those that did not experience the Great Depression, will learn to either sink or swim.

  3. So far, we haven't felt it, but my husband works in a job that is very much affected by the economy (organics), so we're bracing ourselves.

    I read the same thing about relationships, but also that fewer people are divorcing because they cannot afford two households right now. Interesting.

  4. The recession has taught me what's really important. To be gratefull for all we have!


  5. dear rhonda,

    i know this is not in the right place but i have been thinking about what topic i would like you to write about and it is this. it seems that just yesterday, my husband and i were in our 20s and 30s now all of a sudden in the blink of an eye, we are 49 and 50 years old and retirement is staring at us. we are not prepared in any way. we are paying for foolish financial mistakes we made when we were younger. we know better now but that does not take away the consequenses. i would love you to write something about preparing for retirement when you have left it too late. i have been really thinking about it lately. i am a faithful reader of your blog.

    sophie in new zealand

  6. I guess the most important thing it has taught me is that people watch too much tv and listen to too much commercial rehashed news.

    I work in real estate and I can tell you when a newsreader on Channel whatever says things are great enquiries go through the roof, but when some economist on a morning breakfast tv show - talks doom and gloom and a 20% shift down in prices things come grinding to a halt - although the "economist" is nothing more than an old banking buddy of the host and he is only talking about the market in western Sydney.

    SO it has taught me that people need to become more intelligent and realise that television is ENTERTAINMENT not gospel.

    END OF RANT thanks for reading


  7. Though we are doing fine financially at the moment, and have tried to 'recession proof' ourselves as much as possible, I have learnt that my frugal skills are a very useful tool, not just something to fill in my blog about!!

    I enjoy being resourceful and 'making do', but it also gives me some peace of mind, knowing I could make a big difference to how we would survive a job loss, or change in circumstances.

    I have also learnt that sometimes our society needs a big kick in the you know what, to get people to wake up and take notice of how we are living, our attitudes and our own egocentric view of the world. For those not affected negatively by the recession (yet), I hope they might learn from those doing it the hard way, and make changes that benefit themselves, the earth and other people anyway!

  8. That home skills and frugality helps us in being "recession-resistant". My children and I still enjoy all the things that are important to us and it was easier to let go of the rest because I had already let them go (in my mind) when I started on my journey to live more sustainably.

  9. It's taught me what's important and what isn't. It's taught me more about trusting God. Actually in someways I've liked it. It has helped me to simplify my life and I'm learning new skills, so it's not all bad that's for sure. Linda

  10. I think the recession has reinforced my desire to be a good steward of my time, money, and talents...
    I also don't take things for granted and am enjoying living more simply!

  11. I very much enjoy your practical posts (many of which I have printed out with more to come, as I am still working my way through your archives :o), as well as the ones of what simple living looks like in your home. But my favourite ones are those you write on the "philosophy" of homemaking and simple living, the inspirational ones that say: "this is important, a fulfilling way to live". I know that in my heart of course, but when our culture (let alone the media) holds such an opposing view, your posts are like a breath of fresh air and a hug at the same time! So my vote for next week's line-up would be one of those please :o)

    What have I learned from the recession? That I'm grateful for my kids. It is through them that I first "came home" and learned how to manage financially and become more self reliant. That through this my husband had the freedom to pursue the work he wanted, and is in a good job and has many skills. We're in a good place to weather the recession (and peak oil changes that may well come on the heels of it). And that if everything goes to custard, having each other and good relationships will help us survive :o)

  12. We have been blessed with my husband being in education and is tenured so he should not lose his job. However, we have increased the size and scope of our garden and I am canning a lot more than most years. We have cut back eating out and buying "extras" at the grocery store. I have a grocery budget and I do my best to stick to it. My two adult children (ages 19 and 21) are both home for the summer and it has been more difficult with them home but they are learning to adapt with us. I think this will be a good lesson for them also as they prepare themselves to live on their own soon. Thank you so much for your example to all of us.

  13. I have become much more aware of the cost of items. I used to go to the grocery and throw whatever I wanted, including magazines, into my cart and not considering the cost. Now I clip coupons, check prices and go with my shopping list and I definitely check my receipts. I also cook more at home. My husband and I don't go out to eat much at all anymore. I've become more appreciative of simpler things. I've found I don't have to buy expensive gifts for people. It has impacted our business greatly and we've had to change our lifestyle. But I believe we have changed and won't go back even when things turn around in the economy. BTW, what a great question to stimulate discussion Rhonda.

  14. My partner and I have always been reasonably frugal, but when he lost his job two weeks before Christmas last year we really had to rethink what we considered essential.
    Nothing like the loss of one income to teach you how to make your own fun!
    We rediscovered the joy of cooking together, had picnics in the park and re-used and recycled everything we could.

  15. It's taught me that although my hubby and I are sailing through this - we grew up with little and are used to making it work, making do and doing without, we did our kids a great disservice by raising them in a more affluent time. They have no idea of how to cut back, or even the desire to. I should said 3/4 of them don't - the younger daughter is frugal by nature and has always loved and lived a simple life. I'm worried about how hard my oldest is working, to keep the fancy house, expensive car, private school, etc. that her family is used to. She has a masters degree in education - she could quit her job, homeschool her kids, and scale back the house and bills, but she chooses to work 60 hours a week to keep up her current standard of living. I wish she would stop and smell the flowers and take a step back. I feel like my husband and I were remiss is the indulgent way we raised them when the money was flowing a little looser. I was a stay at home mom, but those kids never lacked for anything and I feel now that was a mistake.

  16. The recession has reinforced to me that what we have is enough. We are very lucky to have a beautiful home and live comfortably financially, but sometimes we still tend to look at the greener grass on the other side. It's also served as a reminder that no matter how good financial times are, at some stage they will get much worse. So no matter how much it seems that we can "live it up" financially, we don't ever want to leave ourselves in a position where we will be paying for it later.

  17. Dearest Rhonda,
    My husband & I are in our early thirties & we made a financial mistake of buying a block of land that we shouldn't of. It has taught me a few lessons as now we have 2 mortgages until our block sells. Even though money is tight I wanted to live more simply anyway. I cook all our meals from scratch. We never go out to eat, & I plan what we are going to eat for the whole week so I don't have to run into town everyday. I make biscuits with the help of my 3 yr old. I have turned the tv off! & the difference in my daughter is huge. She reads, plays outside & helps me with my housework.
    There was a movie I recently watched called The pursuit of Happiness, which starred Will Smith. It makes me realise how lucky we are to have a roof over our heads & food on the table. We don't live in a mansion or drive expensive cars or even have fancy clothes ( I but alot from the op shop or make my own) but I can say I am VERY HAPPY!!!!!
    Take care & God bless.

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  19. Actual here in United States I heard that the recession has brought the divorce rate down.
    Divorce here is quite costly.

    My mom taught me a few frugal tips.

    As for employment by hubby job is on shake grounds. Not sure what will happen next spring.
    My job I feel is more stable then his.

    Coffee is on.

  20. For next week, I would like to know more about LAUNDRY !

    I made some liquid laundry soap from Fel-Naptha soap, borax and washing soda... and my whites are so dingy I can't stand it!

    When I used the same ingredients but just grated the soap and left it dry, I didn't notice my whites getting dingy.

    Could you offer some suggestions, or guidance?


  21. I started on this path before the recession, but recession has further confirmed many of the things I'd already figured out. friends and family are the most important thing. I feel happy and more secure when I'm living frugally. I don't need new things to be happy. Staying in at home suits me very well indeed. Living in the way allows me to live a healthier life. This isn't anything startling to me, but it's further impressed these ideas on me.

  22. I am so thankful that I started my self-suffient and simpler lifestyle 3 years ago, so am been somewhat more prepared and able to manage the tough times that we are all experiencing now.
    I am grateful that we do not have any major debts apart from the mortgage which is relatively small. Anything we have had to buy has been with savings.
    I look through old bank statements etc from my "former" life and I cringe at the amount of debt we had incurred. Topping up mortgages to pay off maxed out credit cards and huge overdrafts which were treated like extra cash.
    I still have a lot to learn but I am thankful for this blog which has been such a huge inspiration.

  23. love love love your post and I have learnt all that you have listed and more... but not thru recession just by doing this a long time ago and now reaping the benefits!

    Dh and I installed a cupboard, a space where we can keep all our supplies... will take a photo and put it on my log soon... its such a wonderful idea that I am wondering if there are any other 'hidden' unused spaces in my home I could put to better use!!!

  24. I have spent many hours looking back through your blog and seeking ideas. You may already have some posts about what I would like to read about as you have so much to inspire that I have not read everything. You are welcome to direct me to particular posts if you have already discussed the following: knitting for beginners (I already knitted scarfs for my girls but I want to learn more), just got a lot of peaches so any recipes would be great (family doesn't eat red meat but milk and eggs are okay) and any suggestions for tea parties (crafts, food ideas, themes, etc.). Looking forward to the next post!!

  25. I'm definitely learning to appreciate what I have, good health, a lovely family, and enough money to pay the bills, for starters. I've stopped pining about the things I would like to have, and instead taking care of we do have and using creative means to save a few extra dollars a week.
    I fell in love with an expensive brand of museli recently, and when it ran out I decided to make my own using what I already had in the cupboard. I made it tonight and it's amazing! Going to put the pictures up on my blog now. I'm getting a lot of enjoyment out of little discoveries like these.

  26. We've been preparing for a huge recession for a long time now so in reality, what this one taught me was to trust my instincts/intellect no matter what any experts or world leaders tell us.

  27. I've had a frugal life for many years... so I really think I was prepared. A bit anxious, sometimes, but would quickly control myself. As I watched others despair I felt that none of that was news to me.
    I even felt I was having more money, more work, had a more solid foundation.
    But the situation allowed me finding other kindred souls (trough the web)and making it easier to display this more simple way of life, this connection to nature.
    And of course, meeting all these new friends led to learning new skills: bread making, gardening, soap making (soon)...

  28. One of the biggest things I think the recession has made me notice is that we really don't "NEED" all that much. We always say we need this or we need that - more out of habit than true necessity. There is always a way to 'make do' as my Mom used to say. Dinners don't have to be a huge spread - simple and homemade are the ones my kids like best anyways. Many nights we've had cheese omelets and fruit and toast and they're so content you'd think it was a gourmet meal. :) I'm also very thankful that we've never really lived beyond our means because we were able to absorb some of the rising costs without it causing us a lot of headache or financial stress. Thanks for all you do - and have a beautiful weekend.

  29. "I enjoy the struggle - having things too easy makes me soft."

    That particular quote is what I have been saying for two years now. It's nice to have things already done and convenient but where is the work that went into it to be proud? I have been actively getting that feeling back.
    Thank you for this post.

  30. Rhonda, I would love to learn more about companion plants in the beg and herb garden to help bug control naturally and without chemicals. Thank you for all you share!! Emily

  31. I have learned I am not as frugal as I could be, and that I was happy as a child, even though as a teen I wanted to get as far away from that background as I could. Now I am returning to it.

    I have a long path ahead of me, but its going to be fun.

  32. I have always be frugal & careful with my money (now it's our money with a husband). We have moved to a house where we are have the space and are getting a garden ready for a fall planting (first planting for us). So even though the economy is going through a tough time and we are doing ok financially, we are still making changes to simply more, do what we can for ourselves and staying on the path to be more self-sufficient. Your blog is a wonderful place to learn more from your posts and all the readers comments. Thanks, again, for all that you share. Emily

  33. In regards to your question, "what ideas do the readers hope to see next week," I'd appreciate more on the art of homemaking. When I read your post a while back on the important work we do I cried through several parts of it. It meant so much to me and your words were very powerful. I so appreciate all of your time and work put into this!

  34. we have always tried to live more frugally, but really were put to the text last fall when my hubby was laid off and our only income was my babysitting money...scary when you have bought your first house just a little over a year before and now are terrified you will lose it...but we made it through. we got innovative, even more frugal and thrifty than before and found a great community here where we barter and help each other out. one thing this has taught us is that nothing is impossible, even if it seems like it might be...dh was able to find enough work every month to pay the mortgage, i made just enough to cover utilities and car, we bartered for our groceries so were still able to eat organically, we realized we are not the sum total of our credit score and let it go in favor of making sure the house payment was made on time. we weathered and still are, but we know we'll be okay. we really learned who was in our community of friends though, and that was the biggest gift! :)

  35. Ever since I was young I've always been called "cheap". I used to save my birthday money and any money I earn from babysitting or any other summer job. I could never find anything "good enough" to buy with it.
    Now into my mid 20's being "cheap" has become a virture and is now called "frugal".
    I make just about everything I can from scratch. I make homemade bread (I try to make extra for in the summertime as it's too hot to turn on the oven - and it actually wastes energy because the ac has to attempt to keep up). I used to make my laundry soap from scratch with fels naptha, borax and washing soda but my whites became so dingy even with a vinegar rinse. So now I add a box of washing soda and a box of Borax to my Purex powder formula that I get for just a couple of dollars and it streches it way further.
    I meal plan every week, I keep a list of what is in my pantry and in my freezer and cross items off as I take them out so I know exactly what I have and what I need.
    We no longer buy convience foods. I can make baked mac and cheese so much cheaper and so much more delicious than Kraft can! LOL
    My husband and I are also working very hard to pay off our debt. He had quite a bit of debt when we got married and we recently paid off 3 of his credit cards!!! That is helping alot and is alot of weight off of pur minds.
    We also have a budget and try our best to stick to it. We use the envelope system. It works very well for us.

    Have a wonderful day and a great weekend!!!

  36. We are very lucky that we have not been personally impacted by the recession, other than our investments. I also do not think we will be financially impacted beyond our investments (because of the position that my husband holds - he isn't replaceable).

    However, I am making a lot of changes for environmental reasons and it is benefiting us financially in the same way as for someone being frugal.

    We are canning and preserving for 100 mile reasons, but it also means we are gardening, buying in season, buying in bulk, etc. We are repairing, repurposing, re-using, etc for the purpose of reducing (reduce, reuse, recycle), but that also means we save money. We reduce our driving to reduce gas consumption, but it also means we reduce money spent on gas.

    So, while the recession has not taught me much personally, it has helped to create a plethora of frugal living websites, books, etc and they are helping me with what we do. That is really where it has helped me the most.

  37. Do you know, it teaches me something every day. I love taking care of money and spending less. Seeing what we can save. And not going bloomin' shopping!Get far more out of staying home and picking a veg or two. Seeing all our own food on our plates is amazing. Fab post. Looking forward to next weeks! x

  38. I have earned I can do ANYTHING. When we didn't have the money to go to the laundromat, I learned to hand wash, and put up lines to dry in our bedroom. Every flour based product (bread, pasta, tortilla) is cheaper to make than to buy. I started making my own dairy products, too, not just because they are cheaper, but because they are heathier. I didn't know I had all the materials on hand to make a cheese press!

    My famiy is very poor in America, way below the poverty line, but we are wealthier than 85% of the world's population. That puts things into perspective.

  39. We have been frugal for so long. But we have definitely learned to be more prepared for anything.

  40. I would agree with the lady who requested that you write about preparing for retirement when you have started late. Also, about digging out of a debt hole during a recession. Thanks for all your practical tips!!

  41. What an awesome post! yes I agree with everything you wrote!

  42. From day one we have always lived simply but keep on learning and doing. We have been through many layoffs and job closings and illnesses through out the years and lived through it and learned even more. With no debt it helps. I have always used learning such skills as a hobby and enjoy every moment of it. We make it like a fun game. I stayed home to raise the children and still do. We have collected many books and such through out the years on such subjects and shared it and the skills we lerned with anyone interested in learning. The books cost a dollar or under for the most part and are priceless in the information they gave us. We had no mentors around to look to and learn from. With my husband's retirement just around the corner and coming fast our investment got cut in half or more and will probably never recover in our lifetime. We only invested in the safer things but still like all of us, we lost a lot it took years to get. We did without a lot to get those investments going but crying over spilt milk will not change a thing. We have all we Need and then some. Rhonda we come here for the feeling of kinship and from you all I have learned more. I so enjoy this blog and the people who comment. I guess we learned we can live fine if we have the disire and the skills. Even without money persay we can bartar if we have a skill or product to bartar. Our children are living the same style life we raised them to live and also are doing good despite the world's problems. They have young children to raise rather low paying jobs and it still works. Yes we all have to do without wants but needs get met and the need for love and family is priceless and free. We too have an income way below any averages we have ever seen but when we meet up with friends from school etc and they start to say they have this and this...what they also tell us is they have debt for this and this. We have the same basics as they do.A car, home etc but no debt. Our used car looks good and gets us to where we need to go etc..the home was paid off way early into the loan. Not by any means a McMansion but comfortable. I do not mean to be bragging...it just is amazing to me still that it can be done. The main thing is that it is so fullfilling too. The contentment is beyond money. The stability of our home and not having to depend on the the economy's ups and downs is so calming.This week my husband only had work for a few days even though he had been with this company for decades...that was ok...we will be fine. You learn quickly the government will not prop you up you only need God and yourselfs. Rhonda I am sure looking forward to buying your book when it comes out! :) Jody

  43. Not to put my money into stocks that tank (ie GE) That money was SUPPOSED to pay for college for both my sons who will be attending this coming year.....who knew....I could live on a shoestring if i had to...no cable, no extras, i have NO problem with that...my kids may have something to say about that, however....

  44. You must have hit a nerve by the looks of all the comments.
    What I have learned from this recession is to PRAY! Pray a prayer of thanks and for guidence. Then keep on praying.

  45. This recession has taught me:
    *to take care of/maintain the things I have so they will last longer.
    *to look @ what I have instead of what I don't have.
    *to keep my wants/needs in check
    *to stay on top of my finances on a regular basis
    *to communicate with DH on our goals (financially & otherwise)
    *canning homegrown veggies gives me a great deal of satisfaction!
    *enjoy my life w/ family/friends as you never know what tomorrow holds.
    *to appreciate the journey...good as well as mistakes(& there have been many). It's all part of the learning curve.
    NOW, I would love to know where you get your adorable enamel containers (ie. laundry, bread, ect). They are wonderful! And I would like to know more about your budgeting process.

    Thanks Rhonda!!
    Debbie, central Illinois

  46. I know you've mentioned this before, but I sure would like ideas/help/encouragement for getting others on board. It's like society has certain expectations and it really makes it hard to explain to others (especially my children) that it doesn't have to be "normal" to be in debt up to your eyeballs and anxious all the time.

  47. We've changed a few things about our lifestyle - always trying to combine one journey with another to save on fuel; learning that we CAN live without newspapers (reading them online instead); recycling the newspapers we have as an afternoon "fuel" in the woodburner - when tightly twisted they last a while; never using the oven just for cooking one thing, but cooking cakes/pies/bread etc in one session and freezing for later use; oh, and no more instant gratification on Amazon!!!

    We had a cold winter but had to limit our fuel expenditure, so I made thicker curtains, made a heavy curtain to go across the front door and keep draughts out (the BEST idea I've ever had) and was lucky enough to find, for just one English pound, a feather eiderdown which kept our feet cosy all winter. Now I'm on the lookout for a bigger one. We managed, and sometimes the challenge is well worth it.

  48. Oh an P.S. to my last post, I am now BRILLIANT at putting in new replacement zips - even the sort with a flap over and sewn into the waistband . . . and I have been honing my darning skills too!

    I often think of you quietly going through your day on the other side of the world, encouraging others to step off the hamster-wheel of life that so many modern women are treading.

  49. Just wanted to let you know that I have listed this post on the best of the week 'Buddy's Extra'. I hope it brings you lots of new friends to your wonderful blog.


  50. This is a nice, positive post. All the same, I do feel for those who can't retire now, or worse, have lost their homes. A few cut-backs here or there are nothing compared to what some people have been through so I don't want to trivialise what has been a severe trial for other people.
    Because of our age and stage of life, I can honestly say we have been directly impacted in mostly positive ways, financially. Sure, my husband has had some superannuation wiped out, but he's nowhere near retirement. On the flip side, we've received several government handouts, our mortgage interest rates are down, we're getting solar hot water and power connected with the rebates. So I still feel a bit cushioned from the effects that many people have felt.
    I still have felt the need to constantly be vigilant- keep spending down, be thrifty, don't get caught up in a materialistic lifestyle and appreciate my family, friends, and other blessings.

  51. Great post! I had to laugh over you saying that you actually like it when things are a bit hard. I couldn't agree more. Trying to make a frugal meal or fix something without spending a bunch of cash makes me feel challenged, sharper, more firm in who I am. Great post.

  52. It's made me really, really grateful for what we have and I don't take anything for granted anymore!



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