I've found myself doing things to live more simply and more frugally over the past 7-8 months. Business has been down about 60% for me this year, which isn't devastating, thanks to Ame's salary, and thank goodness. Toss that together with an economy that had been slumping badly in my opinion for a couple of years (start with the rash of foreclosures a couple years ago), and it made sense to me to begin to look after some measures that would keep my family secure should it get worse.
Of course, it has gotten worse, but I'm not feeling pinched yet. There were some steps we took:
Pay off debts.
Last year, we knocked out a ton of debt, from old college loans, to all credit card debt, to paying off a car loan early. It wasn't sexy, but it's been fantastic not having those payments hanging over us. We don't use the credit card for anything but convenience or travel, and we haven't carried a balance since.
Live more simply.
I've actually enjoyed much of this. I went to great lengths to plant a functional garden, raising it up off the surface, within cedar walls. It drains well and has excellent topsoil. It even has a section of sandy soil for the cucumbers. The yields were great, and best of all, the food is delicious. It has been a real pleasure to eat organic carrots and tomatoes. They just burst with flavors lost in the process of shipping food great distances to our tables.
It wasn't big money saved in the garden up front, but just the process of making more soups and stews with lots of leftovers has meant more meals at home, which is a terrific savings. Plus, Isabel loves cooking with us, which is great fun.
I've looked for places to save money at every turn. Even business travel has been improved by crashing at friends' homes, with the obvious added bonus that I get to enjoy their company. When I do stay at motels, I stay within chains where I get points towards free stays. The Choice Hotels chain is great- reasonable rooms, plenty of promotions for points, easy redemption of free stays.
Get out of the market.
With the inflation that has been going on, and with the foreclosures, I began sensing that having hard assets was going to be essential. Slowly, I moved the investments to gold. Wow, am I glad I did! I know this is regarded as kook stuff by so many in good times, but it's not so kooky now, is it? I urge my friends to do this now. Get out of the market. It isn't done sinking, because our government isn't done engaging in the problematic behavior that caused the problems in the first place. This bailout is going to mean a lot more inflation. Even if the price of gold doesn't go up any more (it will), the worst you will do is preserve your purchasing power as paper money buys less and less.
Still more to do.
I have been accumulating canned foods for emergency use, but I still don't have a full supply for a minimum three-month period, as I would like. Our house has storage issues, so this is a problem. I need to remove old junk to make the space. I would really love to get a freezer and perhaps even an extra fridge. I used to have the bonus fridge, and it was great, buying things that would keep in the fridge at low prices and storing them.
If we didn't have Ame's relatively recession-proof job (she delivers babies at Methodist Hospital), and we hadn't taken the steps to eliminate debt, I would probably be pretty worried right about now, with my own enterprise suffering. It's amazing to find out that you can still live pretty well even in trying circumstances, so long as the preparation is there.
If you haven't altered the way you live towards preserving your family's security, I urge you to do it right away. Not like a Chicken Little thing here, but the news is getting worse, and I do expect some shortages in the near future. It will be temporary, no doubt. Hell- the Great Depression was temporary, if you catch my drift.