There was a standard mantra in my house when I was growing up.
It was "make the best of what you've got".
If we were between paydays, that might mean eating grilled cheese sandwiches or eggs and biscuits for dinner, taking our lunch to school or foregoing that new outfit at the mall. To my Dad, it meant finding a way to make due in order to avoid even the smallest expenses. And my Dad lived what he preached, tying knots in his broken shoelaces and sewing up holes in his socks ~ Kate Luther
Now that I'm grown and have a family of my own, I've realized that maybe Dad wasn't so far off the mark after all - don't tell him I said that, of course - he'd never let me live it down.
Granted, he went to the extremes to avoid spending money but his basic idea was right on. And the reason it worked is that he wasn't worried about wearing the "right" clothes or driving the "right" kind of car. He would have never spent $100 bucks on a pair of sneakers - not when he could get shoes that worked just fine at PayLess or WalMart for a mere ten-spot.
Which brings me to the point of this article: as bad as the economy is, maybe there's a bright side after all.
Our society has become a people of convenience. Our food is processed and microwaved so that we don't have to waste time cooking it. No-one carries money anymore - instead we just charge our purchases on that magical credit card because it allows us to worry about how to pay for the item later. That same mentality is a big contributor to the mortgage crisis we're now seeing as millions of borrowers bought houses they really couldn't afford because lenders gave them a way to "bump" the higher prices to a future date through creative financing called adjustable rate mortgages and balloon notes.
As a result, we not only stopped seeing the "big picture" but we became oblivious to its existence at all. We have been focused on the "here and now", with the idea that the "here and now" was intended only to appease our flights of fancy without regard to the price we might have to pay later. Don't believe me? Just look at the environment. If that's not arrogance, I don't know what is.
But we should have known better.
It doesn't matter who you are or how rich you are, reality will always come crashing in. Its just a matter of time. So if you're staring at thousands of dollars in credit card bills, you need to make some decisions about your priorities.
Your mortgage, your utilities and your grocery bill all come first. If you can pay something on the credit cards, great. If not, then you need to come to that realization and accept it. Yes, your credit score might tank before this is all over, but take it from someone who knows, you can rebuild that credit. Its a long and winding road, but trust me when I say it can be done.
Once you've got your priorities in place, you need to learn, as my father did to make the best of what you've got. Its okay if we can't buy all the latest gadgets on the market. Its okay if we need to keep driving the same car beyond two or three years. In fact, pay that puppy off and discover what its like not to have a car payment at all.
Downsize where you can and believe it or not, start saving. Seriously... even if its only $10 a payday. That little emergency fund could definitely come in handy some day and if nothing else, it will give you a sense of security and accomplishment, something we could all use right now.
Cancel your gym membership and start running or walking in your neighborhood instead. If you've got the space, grow your own vegetables - lettuce, cabbage and broccoli are a few good winter varieties to start with. You can even plant a tomato plant in front of a sunny window in your house and enjoy fresh tomatoes all winter long. Don't think that will make a difference? Oh yes it will. At about $2 per pound where I live, tomatoes can do some damage to a grocery bill.
Wash and iron your own clothes instead of taking them to the cleaners. Learn to cook again instead of dining out and discover the beauty of a PB&J sandwich and a glass of milk. Examine your lifestyle - can you rent DVD's instead of going to movies? Can you spend a Friday night playing cards with friends instead of going out on the town? There's is no shame in saying "I can't afford that right now" and certainly not in saying "I don't need that right now".
Look around, take stock and re-evaluate how you approach your money. You don't have to tie knots in broken shoelaces but you can start making changes in what qualifies as a necessary expense. You'll likely find that while your "cuts" aren't always pleasant, they are usually doable and make a noticeable contribution in your quest to survive our economic catastrophe.
To read Kate's story in full along with its comments go to:-