9 February 2011

The economic crisis - has it changed you?

We knew it would last for a long time but this economic crisis is dragging on longer than I expected it to.  There is no doubt there have been dire consequences for many people.  Homes and jobs have been lost and more than a few lives and businesses destroyed.  I hope genuine recovery is possible for all those who suffered.

At the beginning, when we were being warned to tighten our belts, I knew things would be tough, but I saw it as an opportunity for all of us to change, to move from being spenders to savers.  After a period of hardship, I hoped for progress that would lead us to an environmental awakening.  I hoped people would have a Eureka! moment and work out the savage link between spending and the overflowing landfills spewing carbon and methane into the atmosphere.

There is $72 in that bowl - it's my change jar.

Those of us who have been living within our frugal means for a long time knew that if we knuckled down and kept to our budgets, if we were cautious and if we didn't lose our jobs, if we could continue our thrifty ways, we would survive the crisis.  However, there wen't many of us doing that, most people were living close to the edge. As the crisis dragged on, I was surprised to see people I've known for a long time change in ways I never thought possible for them.  They started cutting back, being prudent with their spending, looking more to the future and not just to now; money stayed in their pockets and started being saved. Now that conditions are easing (in Australia), I have real doubts they'll return to their old ways.  It looks like permanent and deliberate change for them, with lives transformed.  

I hope we don't go through such a desperate and difficult period of time and not have it teach us valuable lessons. There has to be some good come from it.   The main thing it confirmed for me was to always spend less than I earn and that the best strategy for living well over a long period of time is to live on one income, even when there are two.  I've had many emails from people telling me their stories of how they have done that and the enormous difference it made, and had they not been firmly committed to that way of living, before the EC, they would have gone under.  It also reaffirmed my belief that stockpiling for many people, though not everyone, is a huge help in tough times, and  that when you're living from week to week changing small things helps a lot.  I'm firmly convinced that cooking from scratch can make a real difference to health and savings, and that overall, if you adjust the way you shop, eat plain and simple food, make your own cleaners and laundry liquid, and do it consistently, week after week, it will make a big difference to how much you save each week.   And sometimes that difference will make or break you.

So what do you think about it?  What, if anything, has the EC taught you?  Have you seen change and improvement?  Have you adjusted and reorgansied because of it?

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