Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Ain't it the truth? There are a bunch of blogs out there about life on the down and dirty. I won't even mention the economy. My son-in-law hasn't had a job in the last year. The other one works intermittently because his job depended on the housing boom--you know, the one that went bust?

People everywhere have to make choices between eating or meds or gas. Winter's on the way. Heating costs are rising. The hottest item in NY is a kerosene heater because people can't afford the cost of heating fuel.

Food? What's that? It's too late in the year to start a garden. The squirrels are starting to look good, aren't they? It's amazing how perspective can change when your basic needs are not met. Things you would never imagine doing suddenly seem normal.

People who never had to worry about their next meal are now lining up at food pantries. And the food pantries are collapsing under the weight. Generic and store brand staples are the new popular brands. With credit lines shutting down, people are rediscovering cash. Who knows? Perhaps some will learn that skill that's in such short supply--counting!

An acquaintance of mine never moved his mindset out of the past. He doesn't understand why people need more than twenty thousand a year to live on. We haven't figured out a way to tell him that hasn't been possible for a while...at least in suburbia America.

People who live on credit are in for an especially hard jolt. Credit cards plus loss of job equals catastrophe. Depression is at an all time high in our country with the predictable results or suicide, murder, child abuse, and all those other problems.

I bet about now that you're wishing you hadn't read this blog. Stick with me. We have some good things that can come from this mess. We can start working together. We can begin bartering for the things we need--skills for skills. We can learn about old-fashioned virtues that we've forgotten like delayed gratification, saving, and thrift. I bet there are some people who have no idea what that word means.

I grew up in the sixties in a household that was below the poverty level. It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized that we were "poor". We didn't go without. We had food--balanced meals--on the table for every meal. Mom bought day-old bread (it tasted just like the other bread!) for half price. She walked the extra blocks to shop for the corn or green beans where it was three cents less a can. Meat portions weren't enough to feed a small country; they were enough to feed our family. Clothes were hand me downs, but they were in good shape with no holes or tears.

Perhaps as a nation we've grown arrogant and wasteful. We believe we're entitled to everything we desire. I just haven't figured out where that attitude came from. The vast majority of people in this country actually own very little. Most of their belongings are the property of the failed mortgage companies and the failing credit card companies.

If you had to walk away tomorrow with what you actually owned, what could you take with you? I meant that "walk" literally because most of us don't own our cars.

Fear can be a good thing if it makes us stop and really take a hard look at our lives. If we look, learn, and make some life changing decisions it could be the making of us and our country. I hope so.



  1. Well...not sure what to say after that...

  2. I'm am so grateful I learned the hard lesson of living on cash not credit a long time ago. I can't imagine how this crunch would hit if I had that to deal with too. I use my debit card religiously and don't carry cash, but I can never spend what's not in my account and that's a wonderful wonderful thing.

    My husband's job is much like your son-in-law's. He was laid off the entire summer. They called him back three weeks ago, but now he's laid off again this week. My family is much like what you've described for your family in the sixties -- always has been because I'm a cheapskate. I buy where I get the best deals, laid off or now, great royalty check or not. I think it's a lesson many people are going to be learning over the next year or so.

  3. My hubby once told me he'd never seen anyone squeeze so much out of a penny the way I do.

    I learned early in our marriage to stock up on food during the 'wealthy' months, so we wouldn't go hungry during the 'lean' ones.

    We are fortunate we own both vehicles; no car payments. Yes, they're both 8-9 years old, but they run (okay, his does, lol!) and get us where we need to go.

    Credit? Hubby went credit-crazy in 1998 and we're suffering slightly because of it. Now if we don't have the money, we don't buy it.

    We're finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel; medical bills are paid, and current on everything. Now to build up that savings account again...

  4. Yep. This one is depressing. I occurs to me we've been so spoiled to just getting what we need without really thinking about it. We are survivors though and will figure out a way to handle this mess. Let's hope for a light winter. That would help.

  5. The only thing we owe on is the house, oh--and they might be able to repossess the dh's degree. Student loans are a bitch. But the rest. Sorry kids, it's cash in hand (or debit card) or no go. Yes hot dogs, Mac & Cheese (store brand, Kraft is expensive) and ramen are still staples in my house.

  6. Fortunately for us, a downturn in economy brings an upturn in church attendance. We'll have a job and after these last four years, I can't tell you how relieving that is. I've never seen public fear like this before as what is happening in our country. It's fascinating and unnerving at the same time. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next four years to change it, whether for bad or good.

  7. A lot of families are going to be hit hard in the coming months. I'm thankful I've always been a thrifty, cash and carry kinda gal. Even when I was a kid, I stashed my allowance and babysitting money rather than spend it.

    I've been down to little more than the clothing on my back before. It's amazing what you can live without when you have to.