How The Recession Has Changed People

How the Recession has changed people's spending habits and attitudes about life

How The Recession Has Changed People

My parents’ generation always talked about the Great Depression and how hard times were. It was difficultto picture people not having enough to eat or trading services for rent because no one had any money. Even though it was long over by the time I came along, I can remember my parents being very frugal during my childhood. The habits they learned during toughtimes stayed with them. My father was always after me to turn off lights when I left a room. My mother saved and re-used things like aluminum foil because “it was expensive”. They said things like, “It costs a dime every time you turn on an iron”, encouraging me to iron several things if I was going to turn on the iron.

Little did I know that someday I would get a chance to see first-hand what frugal living was all about. The recession has caused most people to change their spending habits. I’m grateful I was taught the values I was taught by my parents, because from them I learned not to live beyond my means. People in recent generations may not have been so fortunate.

Even though we are technically out of the recession, evidenced by a recent increase in retail sales, a rising stock market, and the creation of new jobs, the new spending habits people have recently been forced to learn are not going away so easily. These habits we’ve had to learn in order to survive may actually slow down the recovery.

For Melanie Nix, a mother of three, the recession has meant giving up manicures and pedicures and having her hair cut less often. Her family doesn’t go out to eat as much and they took one less vacation than usual last year.

Katie Baker, an office manager, says she works twice as hard for the same money. Her company had todownsize, leaving her to do the jobs ofco-workers who were let go. She’s cancelled her internet and land line and doesn’t spend money on recreation or going out to eat. Her vacation this year was to a house in Florida a friend let her use for free. She spends more time in prayer about her future.

For Wick Ashburn, a self-employed realtor, it’s created more time for him to do things he used to pay others to do. It’s made him more mindful of spending practices. “I realized I spent a lot of money of things I didn’t really need,” he says. His family doesn’t take as many trips or eat out as much. In his business, “I’ve had to learn to work smarter,” he says.

Nancy Lata, also self-employed, only spends for what’s important—food for her family and pets and only items that are necessary. Even her consignment shopping has been curtailed. She has a deeper connection with friends and family and realizes their importance over going out and having fun.

Some have taken on additional jobs if they could find them or reduced the cost of the services they offer, hoping to attract more clients. Others have consolidated trips in the car to only when they have several errands to run to save gas. Some dressed more warmly inside their homes during the winter so they could lower the heat to save fuel. For many, it’s given them time to really evaluate what’s important in their lives, and it usually doesn’t end up being the “things” we’d all come to rely on for entertainment or diversion. People have been forced to become more creative and resourceful about finding solutions to their financial problems, which is actually a good thing.

Many have had more of a spirit of camaraderie, relying on each other more to get through the challenges of a down economy. In my office we decided that each of us would take turns making soup one day a week this winter. It turned out to be a great idea with lots of nourishing dishes and recipe exchanges, but more than that, there was a feeling of “being fed by each other”, which felt very supportive.

The pendulum swings, and it will probably swing again, giving each of us the opportunity to experience the variety life brings. New mindful spending habits are replacing old ones, out of necessity. Whoever said “necessity is the mother of invention” was definitely right. Will we ever return to the way things were? Maybe not, but perhaps that's not such a bad thing.

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