The economic downturn has affected everyone in some way or another. Many people have had their lives catastrophically altered by it, even having to start over from scratch. Others may not have been affected as badly this time around but they may still bear the scars from recessions past.
Nearly every decade has had a period of economic downturn in it; certainly the seventies, eighties, nineties and the early part of the new millennium all had their own troubles. The recession in the late nineties was an incredibly challenging time for us personally. But my family and I are proof positive that you can survive a recession and indeed, thrive again. My late Dad’s advice to us then is just as appropriate now. He urged us to “Hang on and don’t panic – what goes down always comes back up again”. It was some of the best advice I have ever received.
In the meantime, here are a few tips and tricks to help save some pennies, which is always a good idea whether your household has been deeply affected by the recession or not.
Don’t get seduced into overbuying
Despite their advertising campaigns and assurances they are “on your side” during tough economic times, big supermarkets are in business to make money – lots of it. Don’t be seduced by their “3 for 2” or “Buy one get one free” offers unless they are for products you were planning to buy or will definitely use. Stick to your list and buy only what you know you can use before it spoils or goes out of date.
Shop at smaller independent shops
Shopping at local shops, including your butcher and greengrocer, can really help you to save you money as well as supporting the local economy. Farm shops are wonderful too. Despite what the supermarkets would have us believe, prices are usually less than they are in larger stores and the quality is often far superior. It’s also a lot more fun, and allows you to get to know your local community.
Plan to use your leftovers
I’m a big fan of cooking once and eating twice. You can save both time and money this way, but only if you really do use your leftovers. If for some reason you won’t be able to use them straight away, freeze leftovers immediately. Throwing food away is the same as throwing money in the garbage and it is bad for the environment too.
Form a group with a couple of friends and get together once a week to prepare two or three dishes in bulk together. Everyone gets one of each finished dish to take home and use or freeze. Buying ingredients in bulk means you will save money and having meals ready to go will definitely save you time.
Safari dinner parties/potluck
Entertaining can really put a squeeze on your wallet but socializing is important. If money is tight, get together with friends for a “potluck” dinner . Everyone brings a different course; if someone is not a keen cook they could provide the wine and soft drinks. If you live close together, have a “safari dinner party” where you walk from one house to the other for different courses. Or host a wine and cheese party where every couple brings a bottle of wine and a chunk of their favourite cheese. You provide the bread, crackers and a couple bottles of wine plus soft drinks. Easy, frugal and fun!
If your children are growing out of their clothes faster than you can buy new ones, remember, the same thing is happening to your friends and neighbours. Get together for a clothing exchange of items that are still in good condition. Everyone brings the clothes and shoes they can no longer use and exchanges them for things others have brought that will be useful to them. This works with adult clothes and shoes too.
Magazine/Book/DVD/Computer Game Exchanges
Same principle – get together with friends and exchange things like good quality magazines, books, DVDs etc. It is a great money saver and you can even turn it into a social occasion if everyone brings either drinks or nibbles to share.
Be careful with credit
I know that sometimes it feels like the only way to survive in a recession, but unless you pay off credit cards on a monthly basis, you are paying interest upon interest, often at punitive rates. Even if you buy something on sale at a really good price, it is going to cost you more. Try not to use your credit cards without paying them off in full at the end of the month unless it is an absolute emergency. Nothing is a bargain bought on credit.
Share car journeys
Kids have so many activities these days, it is worth getting in touch with other parents and figuring out if you can take turns driving to and from all the clubs and lessons. It saves time, hassle and money and it is good for the environment.
Save on Expensive Glossy Magazines
If you love glossy magazines but are on a tight budget, check out them out online. Many magazine websites contain much of what is in this month’s issue plus extras as well.
Use your library
With the ease of buying books on the internet, and the temptation of lovely, cosy bookstores with sofas and coffee, many of us are neglecting our libraries. Membership is usually free, and you can even rent DVDs and CDs for a very small charge. Magazines and newspapers are available to read there and you can borrow your favourite books to read at home. Some libraries even offer free internet access, plus they usually have free activities for children as well.
Start a Babysitting Circle
Take turns looking after one another’s children with a group of close friends, devising a credit system so that there is always someone available to help out. (ie. If you look after my children for two hours, I give you two credits, which you can use with any other member of the circle, not just me.) Agree that everyone starts with, say, five hours credit, and go from there. Not only does this save money, it means there is nearly always someone available to help out, and as you are doing this with good friends, your children are definitely with people you trust.
Don’t worry constantly about not having enough
It may sound like a lot of metaphysical mumbo jumbo, but believe me, the more you worry about money the more you repel abundance. Obviously you need to be careful with money during a recession – but don’t let it become an obsession. In my personal experience, if you share and reach out to others, you almost always find that somehow you have everything you need.