My father is in his 70s, and moved to our town about 15 years ago, having retired at the age of 45. He had some investments and has been very frugal for years, making it possible for him to live on a very modest income. Of course, he lived through the Great Depression– he knows what tough times are.
When he stopped by last Sunday for the weekly pinochle battle, he asked whether I thought we’d be all right, financially. He didn’t just mean did we need a $200 loan, or whether we’d be able to see my daughter through her last two months of culinary school. He meant, would we survive? The fact he asked made me start to worry.
There’s no question that he and I disagree about spending habits. He hasn’t bought a new shirt in probably 20 years. He buys the bare minimum of groceries; I supplement him with fresh fruit, nice cheeses and meats, upper shelf tea, things he’d never buy for himself but I think he deserves. He decries spending money on the children for toys and things he doesn’t think they need, but they’re my children, so I’ll do what I want. (You don’t even want to know what he said about the Disney vacation. But in my opinion, when I looked at how fast the bad economy was spending my IRA, I figured if I was going to lose it all, I’d rather have it be on something of MY choosing.)
But his question wasn’t about my spending, but about how we would live. The Cabana Boy is in the process of changing jobs, but he has the new one for sure. Not likely they’d hire someone just to lay him off, particularly if he’s the only one in a department they intend to grow. As someone who’s self-employed, I don’t have a regular paycheck to count on, but now that we’ve moved the office into the house, my expenses are really minimal, and we can create a cushion to carry us through.
So yeah, I think we’ll be okay. It may be awhile till our next big vacation. We won’t buy a new car this year. We’ve decided to work on paying down our credit and trying to work as debt-free as possible by year’s end. We intend to expand our garden and grow more of our own food this year, saving money as well as giving us a health boost. We’ll do what thousands of other families are doing across the country, and we hope we’ll all get through it.
But headlines all over the news and the ‘Net point out that we haven’t hit bottom yet. We’ve just gotten bad enough that some of the big guys have taken a serious hit that, frankly, they had coming. This 10-minute video puts the whole mess in an extremely digestible form and shows why the fallout will come for many months to follow.
Watching it will remind you once again that for years all the Big Boys have been sticking together and making each other rich; now it’s time for all us little guys and gals to make sure we stick together and survive. Whether it’s pulling together as a Cul-de-Sac Commune, making your neighborhood a caring place, volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, or making sure your local food bank has enough to give away (and helping box those donations up!), everyone can pitch in. Freecycle. Even CNN says it’s chic to be cheap, so check out the local Salvation Army store. We will be.