Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How the Recession Changed Us

I read a really interesting article in Parade on Sunday about how the economic crisis over the last year has changed Americans. You could probably guess that there was a lot of negativity:

-79% of people had been personally affected by the recession
-68% of people had lost their job or had their pay reduced, or they knew someone who had
-Over half of people had trouble paying their housing costs or knew someone who had

It talked about people cutting back on vacations, holding off big ticket purchases, postponing home additions or renovations. People are feeling cheated because they "played by the rules", and many are losing faith with elected officials.

I, like many of us out there, was personally affected by the recession. Three weeks after my husband and I returned from our wedding in September, we realized his bank was being purchased by another bank and he'd most likely be out of a job. By December, it was official, and by February, he was unemployed. He recently was hired by a great company, but for months, we lived in uncertainty.

But what I learned, and what millions of others are learning, is that through the challenging circumstances, there's still so much to be grateful for. First off, we made saving money our priority. We hosted game nights and potlucks instead of going out and spending money on food and drinks, and 46% of people said they're forming better relationships with friends as a result of the economy. In July, I started volunteering for the Humane Society - 30% of those surveyed began volunteering for a charity or cause. And my husband and I are definitely have a stronger marriage because of everything we had to go through - 52% said their relationships are stronger with their spouses.

The recession has enabled people to get more creative. More people are learning new skills or becoming do-it-yourselfers. More people are reading for pleasure. People report being healthier and more active. Frugal Femme and I started this blog!

I do tend to look on the bright side of things, and while this recession has been incredibly painful for millions of families, I think it's helping us remember the important things. It's not about big houses, fancy cars, or the hottest clothes. It's about family, friends, taking care of yourself, giving back, and helping out.

I don't know if I could have said that in February when my husband lost his job. But we both gained a lot of knowledge and lessons that many couples probably don't learn until years down the road. Many of the things Frugal Femme and I talk about in this blog are tips and strategies that I'll continue to use. After what we went through, I'm passionate about saving. I try to save at least 10% of my paycheck. And I've become better about gift buying - I now prefer to give gifts that are more personal, like a batch of homemade cookies, than going out and spending a lot of money on something meaningless.

Anyone else out there that was personally affected by the recession who feels like sharing? Do you feel like you're better off in life because you've struggled?

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