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Fighting the recession blues (or, trying to justify some retail therapy)

Categories: Money, Your life


A while ago I wrote about being freaked out about the economy. That was back in September, before the actual collapse of the stock market, official pronouncement of the recession, and then a larger, global recession, mass layoffs, and billions of dollars in government bailouts. It was also before our family was directly hit from every direction, including my husband being laid off and having to look for a job in one of the worst job markets in history or the start-up where I have a daily gig facing a longer road to raising funding (like all other start-ups) than I anticipated. (By the way, if you click that link today you’ll get to see me eating Matzo ball soup on camera, an added bonus:)

In other words, it was before the sh*t really hit the fan, to use my very sophisticated analysis of the economy and our family’s financial turmoil situation.

I’m not very good at compartmentalizing things so it’s safe to say that I have this constant underlying sense of anxiety that follows me wherever I go during my day. I hate it, I wish I could meditate/yoga/breathe/walk it off, but all evidence points to the contrary. But the one thing that it hasn’t made me or our family do is to cut out all possible discretionary spending. We’ve never been big spenders anyway, not even when I had one of those fat paycheck jobs and we had no child or mortgage. And while we have definitely cut down on fun spending like vacations and weekend getaways (the most painful thing to give up, it turns out), eating out or going out, we still allow ourselves some affordable luxuries.

This morning, for example, my husband and I went to Whole Foods, got $20 worth of yummy breakfast delicacies, and had a breakfast date at home. Last weekend we bought a sweater for him and a funky Tshirt for me on a huge sale at a store where usually stuff is overpriced. I thought about, but decided to not give up the one expensive creme I use in favor of a cheaper version at the drug store. And every Friday, my daughter, my husband and I have dessert and tea/milk/coffee at one of our favorite little bakeries.

Times are tough, we’re stressed about money, and yet, we haven’t gone barebones on our spending to the degree I think we could. I have days when I think we’re stupid; there are days when I think that life is short, we’re young, and our little affordable luxuries won’t make a fundamental difference in our longer-term financial situation. I also remind myself that we’re lucky because plenty of families literally can’t afford any luxuries, small or larger.

In a way, I think this is part of our survival mechanism kicking in: These little affordable luxuries are a way to distract ourselves from the endless bad economic news or from dissecting our family’s finances. As long as I feel like we’re not going overboard, I think this is a good way to fight recession blues, of which I have plenty.

What about you? Have you cut back on “fun” spending significantly? Do you still allow yourself and your family some affordable luxuries? What are things you haven’t given up?

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8 comments so far...

  • oh I so feel this post. I have certainly cut back because saving for my business, also a start up is a priority. We look for cheaper outings, for example, instead of going out for dinner and a movie, we have dinner at home and go out for desert and a movie. That’s a savings of 60 dollars for two people on average.

    I wanted to buy a new car, which I didn’t . No new TV, I’ve had the same one for 7 years, (our wedding gift). I will go shop for some clothes now because it’s the best time to buy clothes, so many sales.

    Another way to cut spending is to go over all the bills and see what can be reduced.

    Thank you, this was a great post.

    vera babayeva  |  February 11th, 2009 at 9:24 am

  • We, too, are pretty frugal, but have actually been a little less so than normal. You only live once…and you can’t take it with you ;)

    Angella  |  February 11th, 2009 at 11:09 am

  • Spending money actually makes me feel better about money. It makes me feel like I’m controlling it instead of the other way around.

    I’m sure a good shrink would tear that justification to bits - but it’s the one I go with for now. :-)

    Miss Britt  |  February 11th, 2009 at 11:36 am

  • We have cut back on any unncessary bills or options of services. We don’t go out to eat as much, but I’m not sure if it’s because of the recession or because our toddler can’t sit through a dinner without a major breakdown. I guess his tantrums work in our favor, money-wise. I do my own roots every other time now - its not great but definitely passable until the next time I get into the salon and I save a HUGE amount. Other than that, we have decided to take advantage of some of the great sales, but not to buy anything we can’t afford cash. We both thankfully still have our jobs and not much has changed income-wise for us. We have made cut backs to save money for any unforseen event - especially since I’m in real estate.

    Oceans Mom  |  February 11th, 2009 at 2:13 pm

  • Yes, I feel this post as well. I have been personally affected by this economy (laid off previous to starting my own business). I love the poster who can do her own hair. I wish I could…hair color (very expensive) is the one luxury I cannot give up. I tried…but felt the recession blues! I’ve tried to be more savvy looking for bargains and learning to plan ahead for meals that can stretch. I definitely think about everything before buying unlike before.

    Leslie  |  February 11th, 2009 at 4:09 pm

  • My husband lost his job two months ago, and we had to cut back on all non-necessary spending. In fact we cut our weekly spending by more than half.

    Fortunately he now has a job, in fact paying more than before, but I’m still in survival mode for a few more weeks as it’s likely to be another 9 weeks until we get a full pay, which means our meagre savings are going to have to stretch further than I’d hoped.

    Kin  |  February 11th, 2009 at 4:26 pm

  • Don’t give me that much credit! I don’t do my own hair all the time, just every other time that i wold go to only do 1/4 inch of roots - no highlights or anything. It doesn’t look great, LOL, but passable enough that people would have to inspect me to notice. Actually, my husband helps me get the back of my head and all the areas that I can’t get! Then when my hairdresser sees me the next time, her color fixes my mess.

    Oceans Mom  |  February 12th, 2009 at 12:53 pm

  • I figth the recession blues with a few self-pampering “luxuries” from Valor dark chocolate (the best) to one very nice bottle of wine a week and my pure silk eye mask and pillowcases (bright red) from Silk’ N Dreams (http:www//

    Clarice MacGarvey  |  February 24th, 2009 at 9:11 am