Friday, January 30, 2009

Recession Ponderings -- Part Deux

Pretend it is warm and you are joining me on my front porch. Yes, that will take some imagination but close your eyes and sip hot tea... think Spring.

As I mentioned in my original Recession Pondering posts, I like to share what our family has done over the years as we lived on less and less. However, I have also admitted to making all kinds of financial mistakes. They seemed like the right decision at the time, especially given past experience and future expectations... I was wrong.

For instance, the first time we lived for a year without an income (very late 1990's), I made very few changes to our lifestyle. I thought I was being careful but upon looking back, I wasn't. Both my husband and I kept up a basic middle class lifestyle (eating out once in awhile, purchasing needed clothing half price at the Mall, etc.) one had come to expect.

When the savings was all used up, we had to borrow money against the equity in our home. We made two false assumptions: first that my husband would get another engineering job quickly (because it had never taken long after a layoff) and that once we put our house up for sale... it would sell quickly. It didn't, it took a year and we still owed $6,000 at closing because we'd used up all our equity.

Yes, looking back we can see how our thinking was not right. However, as I said before, given all our past experience and the probability we'd make a good profit from our house... our decisions seemed right at the time.

So... if you have been trying to become more frugal and find it very difficult... especially if it is because of a sudden drop in income... you are not stupid and you are not a bad person. You probably weren't raised to think this way. As I looked back over the years, that's what I have come to realize about the decisions I made and the struggle I had to live frugally.

One has a difficult time doing anything for which they are not trained. You wouldn't think it strange that you can't play the piano or the violin without lessons. Very few people can pick up a paintbrush and paint a beautiful country scene one would want to hang up on their wall (umm... unless it was painted by a five year old and then it goes on the frig).

Most of us were raised through the public school system which taught if we worked hard and got an education (men and women) then we will live a life of ease and prosperity. Our parents, especially those of us with WWII era parents, quite often pushed education as a way to "better ourselves". It was a rare parent of a Baby Boomer who thought it important to learn basic homemaking and gardening skills... if you had parents such as this... you were blessed.

So, obviously if Baby Boomers were not taught basic frugal living skills, we probably did not teach our own children such skills... despite the "Back to the Land" movement of the late 1970s. Unless, of course, we had to learn them to survive as we did ten years ago.

I always was impressed at how far my mother could stretch a dollar and her knowledge of cooking "cheap" foods. Imagine my amazement when Jean (my sister who is over twenty years older than me) started talking to me about our mother's inability to manage money. Hmmmm... are we talking about the same women?

Jean was born and raised when Mom was very young. I was born when Mom was in her 40s. It appears what I thought came naturally was actually brought about by necessity, years of being a widow with seven children and very little income and then being widowed again when my father died suddenly of a heart attack.

It is never too late to learn frugal living, cooking, shopping, etc. However... it doesn't happen quickly. It takes patience and being willing to become a student again... to relearn skills that are completely the opposite of what you needed for a different life.

Later today (I hope), I'll have another Deepening the Pantry post finished. My desire is to help those who are having to learn a new way of living to find good teaching from those who have walked the path already... from my own experience and that of others. There is always more to learn.


scrappy quilter said...

You are so right, it's never to late to become frugal. Great post.

Anonymous said...

Yes we never stop learning if we are willing to. I have had the same experience with two perceptions of my mother and others. Different years and perspective. Sometimes my kids mention things in our past and I cannot even remember them...or see them Very different. Again different as a child, one as a grown person. I will be thrilled with anything you can teach us. I think of any thing like this as a game ..not as something to win at any cost but to make it fun. God is still in control {as always] but we have to do our part to handle the money He has given us to work with. I wish Washington would think responsibly on these money matters though ;) We have allll made mistakes but they are lessons to learn from and help others avoid. You say it all so beautifully. Thanks. Jody

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

So appreciated this post...I, too, have made some stupid financial mistakes. I'll be paying for them for some time. That said, we do what we do because it seemed right at the time.

I enjoyed sipping tea with you on your porch today. Let's do it again!

Anonymous said...

Beautifully stated as always.

Senkyoshi said...

You always encourage me and give something new to think about. I have learned many lessons about frugality from the school of hard knocks. Today, I have been inspired to teach these lessons to my children so that maybe they won't have to learn the hard way! Thank you so much!!!!!

Arden said...

I love your posts about financial issues. So real and down to earth. You address the emotional aspects and that is so helpful.

I wish you would write more about living with tight finances while raising kids. There is such a push to "provide" for the children - thru college and into adulthood. I feel guilty if I even suggest that my oldest, with a great p/t job, buy herself a pair of jeans. She is a junior and mentioning more and more how "lucky" the other kids are that have their college paid for. It makes me feel awful but she is one of eight! Who could put 8 kids through college?

Lady-in-the-Making said...

Thank you so much for this.... I'm a child of the 70's and 80's and learned that spending is the way to happiness.


I love all your recession-proofing and frugal posts.

Thank you.

Patricia said...

Thanks for this post. It's nice to read something so encouraging during these difficult times.