Continued from Parts I and II
I don't know about you, but sometimes I feel like I've taken an emotional beatdown from the all the doom-and-gloom over the economy.
There were times when the news was downright horrifying. How many stories were there about families who went from comfortable, dual-income living to dual-unemployment, burning through their life savings in a matter of months and facing foreclosure? I read a story about a mom who said money was so tight and food was getting so expensive that meat and fresh produce were luxuries that she and her kids couldn't afford anymore.
Close to home, people we knew lost their jobs and our local food pantry was adding more new families each week. Our own family was affected and Hubby and I had to make some tough decisions about how to stay afloat financially. I told our kids so many times that we were going to be careful about how we spent our money that they started asking me if we were going to run out. That was my biggest fear, too.
When the-tightening-of-the-belt begins in earnest, it takes some fortitude to face the new limitations. Stick to the budget - no extras at the store, no eating out. Toys, clothes and entertainment aren't even in the budget, and cross your fingers that the cars won't need fixing and that no emergencies come up. You hope you're just riding out the storm, but you wonder: what's going to come along and change things for the better? The future seems like a grey unknown and it all starts to feel like a too-heavy coat that you can't take off. But the worst of it is the feeling of isolation. We don't tend to broadcast our personal financial statuses, especially when they're not going well, so at those low times, we feel like we struggle alone.
Then slowly, the silver linings start to show themselves. No eating out means healthier meals and finding new homemade favorites. No entertainment budget means more family game nights or other snuggly stay-home activities (and really, what could be better?). "Back to basics" starts to seem like more of a smart concept and less of a punishment.
I was at this point of starting to accept our circumstances and making the best of things when I looked around and noticed that not only weren't we so alone in the world, but that we were also in good company! From out of nowhere, it seemed like everyone was making do and getting by. But not with oppressed spirits. People were flying their frugality flags loudly and proudly! They began to wear their thriftiness like a badge and become card-carrying penny-pinchers.
The very best part: everyone wanted to share their tips and tricks for getting through the rough spots. They shared their couponing strategies (heck, they even made a reality show out of it!), their upcycling ideas and countless other pointers on how to cut costs. From the least of ideas that only serve to make life a little brighter (like letting our hair grow and braiding it when we couldn't afford the salon) to revolutionary ideas designed to help us stretch a dollar (like fuel-efficient cars), it's been a grand testament to our organic, ingrained desire to take care of each other when the going gets tough.
I think it speaks to the resiliency of the race - the human race, that is. Okay, so maybe we let things slide from time to time and get ourselves into a world of trouble. Maybe we go through rough patches where we seem collectively apathetic. Toward everything. But by our very nature of being human, we're not perfect. I know, as one individual, I tend to run in cycles between being (occasionally) awesome and (more frequently) ridiculous, with a vast expanse of ordinary in between. But I always like to think I'm making my way back to awesome by learning from my mistakes and finding ways to do things better. Extrapolate that across all the other individuals on the planet, and you've got a world of folks who try, and sometimes fail, and try again to be the best they can be. For both myself and the rest of the humans, I'd like to think we're on an upswing. I like to think there's hope for us, yet.