The current tough economy is forcing many people to make lifestyle changes. For some, minor changes are all that is needed. For others, the house payments are behind and there are times when getting to work is impossible because there is no money for gas. If this is the case, it’s time to cut deep. These are just a few cuts that may hurt, but may also save you.
Children’s activities in a difficult economy
These days, kids have a more exacting schedule than many adults. Aside from school and homework, they play soccer, take music lessons, art lessons, drama, and still want time to hang out with friends. If accommodating these activities means drowning in this tough economy, it’s time to cut back.
As children, most of us built forts with whatever scraps of wood and sticks we could find. We played tag, drew pictures on construction paper – or any paper we could find – maybe even read a book. Almost all of us played role playing games in one form or another, whether that was Dungeons & Dragons or the classic “let’s pretend.” One deck of cards provided hours of entertainment, and often brought the rest of the family in on the fun. The intense scheduling of today’s kids is as stressful as the work schedules of adults, and according to some experts, that’s a bit much (David Elkins).
If your children need an activity, perhaps because you live far from other children, let the kids choose the one that is most engaging. Perhaps you can help him or her choose the one with the most benefit. Drama offers social activity as well as the chance to learn cooperation and elocution.
The average cost of dinner at Red Lobster for two adults is about thirty to fifty dollars. A movie costs upwards of thirty. While down time is essential, it doesn’t have to mean spending. Perhaps it’s time to stay home and rediscover each other. Perhaps keep the economy off the list of discussion topics.
Share a bath, if the tub is big enough. Read to each other. Maybe buy (or better yet, borrow) a book on sensual massage and try the techniques on each other. There are many ways a couple can spend time together without going out to expensive venues. Instead of dinner and a movie, buy some cheap candles the next time you go shopping and set them out for a candlelit dinner.
Rediscovering each other includes the children. Spending time with dad in the middle of the floor with a matchbox car or two means memories for a lifetime.
Fine dining – even at home
That candlelit dinner works quite well with beans and rice. Eat less steak and pork chops and more beans. Buy the leaner hamburger. It’s a better value than high fat selections, because all that fat cooks away. Economy packages are not the best choice here – go large. Buy high quality, frozen vegetables and dry goods. If crackers are palatable, make sure they’re whole grain. You’ll get more quality nutrition for your buck. Rice is cheap and adds bulk to most any meal. If possible, grow a garden. Seed is cheap.
Consider whether you can make do with just one vehicle. If every adult in the household works, this may not be possible. Think about car pooling and public transportation. These may be unpalatable options, but depending on how far under water you are, it may be necessary to make sacrifices. If the vehicles won’t sell, garage them and cut out the insurance, if you own them outright and this is a possibility.
As for recreational vehicles, it may be time to sell them. Boats, RVs, and motorcycles are not as important as the mortgage and electric bill. However, if you live in a climate where riding a bike to work is feasible, that motorcycle or scooter may cost less in gas than a car, and therefore makes more sense in this economy.
Animals – should they stay or go?
Whether or not to keep the pets is a hard choice. For some, letting go is not an option, In other cases, it’s almost impossible.
Horse owners are hit hard in this tough economy. Feed prices have increased. All U.S. slaughter houses have been closed, dropping the base price – that of dollars per pound – from under the horses. Equines can be found on Craigslist and other free listing sites for as little as a few hundred dollars, and even free. No one is buying. The horse rescues are full and turning animals away because of a lack of resources. The same is true of dogs and cats.
If this is your situation and you are still able to squeeze out enough dollars to keep them fed, make that animal the recreation of choice for your family. Don’t rent a movie. Go walk the dog, brush the horse, or pet the guinea pig. You’ll all benefit. If all pets must go, consider keeping one inexpensive animal for family entertainment.
Make them staycations. Grill out. Make a small fire and let the kids roast something. If you must get away from the house, try camping. It’s cheaper than most other types of vacations, and can be done relatively close to home. It’s even possible to set up a tent in your own yard and practice those togetherness skills. Visit friends. Invite friends over and you can all enjoy a board or card game, or maybe try some role-playing. It’s recession proof, requiring only willing players and some imagination.
Whether Christian or secular, Christmas does not have to be commercial. Maybe you’re used to spending hundreds, even thousands, on gifts. Try baking banana bread and wrapping it in colored plastic wrap for family and friends. There’s a great recipe here. Gather your holiday books and movies and spend time enjoying them with the family. Make the holidays about enjoying time together. The kids may have a difficult transition, but it’s up to you to show them how to live within your means.
Cutbacks are tough for all members of the family. Rather than drown in debt, make some new traditions. Learn new forms of recreation, and new ways of looking at the world. When the economy recovers – and believe that it will, eventually – you’ll have discovered new ways to enjoy each other’s company.
David Elkins. Psychology Today. Are We Pushing Our Kids Too Hard?