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The upside of a bad economy

Categories: Money, Parenting & Family, Your life


It’s gotten to the point where I hesitate before checking out any news sites in the morning because the endless barrage of bad economic news doesn’t seem to stop. Stock market can’t find any way but down, job losses are growing, and consumer confidence is at a gazillion year low. What I feel like doing is just hiding out from this crisis — pretending that I am not the main breadwinner who is running a start-up and raising money for it right now — but I know I can’t. So I have this mantra I keep repeating to myself, something about how we’re still (relatively) young, the economy always goes in cycles (I am still feeling the bruises from the internet bubble one), and our family and our country will come out fine.

I can’t say that this works 100% but it does help me maintain some sanity and perspective for the longer term. But I feel like I need something for right this minute, some upside, however slim, of living through this economic crisis. So I came up with a few ideas and I’m hoping that you will add yours in the comments. (Consider this our economic downturn therapy session — and it’s free!)

We’re putting more effort into making our family meals at home a little more special. We cut down on going out to eat when I left my cushy job to start Work It, Mom! but we’re being even more careful now. Sure, I miss the nice meals and no clean-up, but it’s also been fun to find new dishes to make and cooking more with my daughter “helping” me in the kitchen.

I’ve learned to make a mean espresso. Truly, I’ve never enjoyed coffee we make at home as much as a latte I get at Starbucks or some other coffee shop. But I decided to put an end to buying coffee on most days and as the result — and after many failed attempts — have become pretty darn great at making a nice latte at home.

My closet is less cluttered. I cleaned out my warm weather clothes (nooooo!) a few weeks back and got my fall/winter stuff organized in my closet. I knew that my new clothes budget would be much more limited so I actually followed some fashion advice and focused on my few favorite pieces and outfits I could create around them. You know what? I have less stuff but I am spending less time wondering what to wear.

OK, your turn: Have you found any upsides or silver linings to the tough economic times? Share in the comments!

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16 comments so far...

  • That’s great that you’ve learned to make a good latte for yourself! I’ll have to work on that one…. :-)

    My kids and I are spending a lot more time doing things together at home (since we can’t afford to go out as much!). My daughter’s finally getting to use alot of arts and crafts gifts that she’s received over the last couple of years!

    BlapherMJ  |  November 10th, 2008 at 10:02 am

  • *Food is more expensive but I need to lose 100 pounds anyway.
    *The kids really like to play with sticks and now mommy encourages it.
    *I like to sleep under thick fluffy comforters–and I don’t get as hot since the thermostat is turned lower.

    Jen  |  November 10th, 2008 at 10:27 am

  • As the primary breadwinner myself I am definitely feeling the pinch. We are doing all that you mentioned and then some. I even started Frugal Friday blogging to ingrain those lifestyle changes in my head.

    However there are definitely positives. One of the best things that has come out of this economy is the tightening of my community. More than ever my neighbors are willing to lend a helping hand, or tool, or carpool…it’s been fantastic!

    Now off to drink my homemade latte …

    Shalet  |  November 10th, 2008 at 12:36 pm

  • This one is for my hubby. His book budget is gone down. In fact, he hadn’t bought a book in 2 months…but it made him shop his own shelves and man has he enjoyed it.

    For me, I’ve become much more creative in the kitchen like you, AND I’ve been much more careful about eating up all the leftovers. We’re throwing away a LOT less food.

    mamajama  |  November 10th, 2008 at 2:45 pm

  • We’re pretty frugal even during good times, but I have found myself REALLY thinking about if I NEED something.

    It feels good.

    Angella  |  November 10th, 2008 at 4:55 pm

  • 1. Eat at home more.
    2. Stay home more (uses less gas ;) ).
    3. When grocery shopping, buy the basics and get use to eating leftovers.
    4. (goes with #3–MEAL PLANNING)
    5. Instead of turning up the heat, grab a blanket or dress heavier.
    6. Only run full loads in the washer.
    7. Rent movies, books, etc at your local library.

    Charity  |  November 10th, 2008 at 5:13 pm

  • I’m definitely cooking more, and shopping less. That typically wouldn’t be a bonus, but because I’m pregnant during this down cycle, I don’t mind saving money on clothes!

    Selfmademom  |  November 10th, 2008 at 5:51 pm

  • Here are a couple:

    Creative Chicken Game: How many dinners and dishes can I get out of a single roasted chicken?

    Play Dates for Grown-ups: Instead of going out to dinner with friends, we all get together for dinner at each other’s homes and can walk home after a few (too many) beers.

    Michele  |  November 10th, 2008 at 7:42 pm

  • Since you mentioned the espresso…some women I work with make their own flavored iced coffees now. They can get a bottle of syrup for about $7.00. We get free coffee at work. They add sugar, creamer, ice, flavored syrups and have an iced coffee! One bottle of syrup lasts them about 1-2 months, a much better bargain!

    Wendy  |  November 10th, 2008 at 8:26 pm

  • We, too, are pretty frugal but we just got more so - thankfully before we need to:

    Got a digital antenna and killed cable (with I’m not missing any of my favorite shows and saving $80/month)
    Sold one of two cars - we live in a city it was a ridiculous luxury
    Go to the library often instead of the bookstore
    Have more than enough toys/books in stock to give out for hannukah & Christmas - only buying 1 $20 item this year. Besides she’s only 3 - she doesn’t need much!
    Walking more, driving less

    Leanne Chase  |  November 11th, 2008 at 10:45 am

  • What our family is doing… is using our public library and borrowing classic family movies . Examples: Apple Dumpling Gang, The Absent Minded Professor, Chitty Chitty Bang, the Ugly Dauchound etc. We pop a bowl of popcorn and cuddle together on a Friday night. With the extra $$ we will splurge on going to the local high schools musical, tickets are about the same as a movie, but the entertainment is much better. Last year we saw Footloose and next week we are going to see Alice in Wonderland.

    Sherry Anderson  |  November 13th, 2008 at 2:38 pm

  • The upsides of an bad economy:

    - Better for environment: we re-use everything more, and drive less.
    - Better health: we eat less junky take out food and walk more.
    - Better for family: we spend more down time doing at home activities ( cooking, arts and crafts, etc.) that involves interaction and conversation with family members instead of just buying stuff.
    - Better for me: I am becoming more honest with myself about my life, my career and my finances.

    SK Joun  |  November 13th, 2008 at 3:38 pm

  • So, are you sharing that latte recipe?? :)

    We’re doing all the same things. Also trying to grocery shop just ONCE every paycheck (2 weeks). I add in a mini-trip in the middle of that span for fresh things if we run out, like milk/veggies/fruit. But I try really hard to RESIST buying anything else on those trips.

    Lee  |  November 13th, 2008 at 3:38 pm

  • I’ve been playing the grocery game and winning. First I challenged myself to spend less than 100.00, then 90 and I am under 70 now! I use a calculator and tally as I shop. I find I am less likely to toss in those cookies if I have to add them to my total and possibility go over resulting in GAME OVER.

    McCashew  |  November 13th, 2008 at 3:47 pm

  • I joined The Grocery Game…it really works! I also am shopping the super sales out there, and getting tremendous bargains! And, I only buy on sale and what I need.

    The biggest upside for me is that I realized I need to save more and spend less, and I really am. I haven’t felt a bit of the pain that I imagined I would feel by becoming a saver instead of a spender!

    Lisa  |  November 13th, 2008 at 7:36 pm

  • Children can offer surprising solutions–just ask them: shorter showers, catch family members forgetting to turn off the lights when they leave the room (put a penny, nickel or quarter in the “pot.”) Children love catching their parents. Your kids may offer to cut back on lessons…or drop an extra activity entire.

    You can read more about this in an article that ran in Newsday, a Long Island, NJ newspaper:,0,5871659.column?page=1

    Susan Newman  |  November 14th, 2008 at 12:55 pm