Learning from the Recession

April 5, 2009 by JS · 2 Comments 

This post is the second post that resulted from my curiosity about what is happening as a result of the economic meltdown. Yes, we hear a lot about it on the news, but that’s all about big banks, auto company bailouts and governments trying to flood the country with “liquidity” to unstick the credit markets.

But what I was curious about was the stories the don’t make it onto CNN; what effect is the credit meltdown and global recession having on normal people in their day to day lives..

So I asked 5 strangers to write down what they had learned as a result of the tough economic conditions. Like I did, I think you’ll find the stories very engaging, and you’ll see how powerful of force money is to shape people’s lives.

Lesson #1. Hiring People who are Over-Qualified

This past year has been an eye opening experience to say the least.  Everywhere you look, people are being laid off.    My family owns several small retails businesses in the midwest and had to do some hiring to find new employees this past year.  We advertised for both manager and sales associate positions in both local newspapers and Craigslist.  We found that the people responding to our ads were not just retail experienced individuals, but people who had been laid off at major factories in the areas.

When we were calling people for interviews, we found people who were desperately looking for full time management positions offering full time benefits and pension plans.  This response was kind of amazing to us until we had the pleasure of actually sitting down and discussing the position with these folks.  We heard stories from women who were in desperate search to find work while their husbands were laid off.  We heard stories from men who applied for our positions with the hopes that we were a major retail chain offering management positions.    One lady explained to us that about 75% of her town was employed by either of two local factories, both of which were doing heavy lay offs.

I felt bad that we did not have more positions to offer.

Jayda, St. Louis, MO

Lesson #2. I’m Happier Now

First of all, I saw this coming.  With the Bill Clinton era lowering the qualifications on home mortgages and the home lending bubble being ready to burst I knew what to do.  Fuel prices also showed me to hold onto money as hard as possible.  So, at the point when I knew, due to past years trends, to bail out of the stock market, that let me keep the whole worth of my money.  While other people were loosing money each day in their 401k, I was internally laughing, telling them they should have listened to me.

This whole time since fuel prices came up, I have been cutting back in every way possible.  I learned how to cook more kinds of meals.  Though attrition, I’ve replaced incandescent bulbs with compact florescent or LED lights.  So I stayed ahead of the curve, in cutting costs.  And I love coupons now, I can’t get enough.  I do still eat out some, but it’s two for one now.  And forget fast food meals almost all together, they are too expensive for the quality of the food.  So the quality of my life went up, while the cost of it went down.

Sad thing is, it usually takes money to save even more money.  So I did spend where it would help the most.  On other things that didn’t cost money to cut costs, I lowered the normal temperature to save on heating.  I purchased window fans, to cut down on heating and cooling as well.  This economic downturn has done a world of good for me.  I have a greater net worth, lower debts, and I’m happier.  Now the only issue is when to reinvest to take advantage of the last gold mine of the downturn–the stock market.

KB – Greenville, USA

Lesson #3. 101 Ways to Server Mac ‘n Cheese

I remember the days when I was able to open the freezer and gaze upon the abundant choices of meats I had.  These days, the recession days, I open my little chest freezer and stare down dispiritedly at the little shriveled frozen green bean that had escaped from the bag before I had a chance to boil it.  I haven’t yet managed to work up the energy or desire to crawl into the freezer to retrieve the lone bean, or the money to fill the freezer with more meat, but I have managed to become a creative cook.

If this recession has taught me anything at all, now that my freezer has been relieved of all of its meat, it is the value of a food product that has been in existence for as long as I have been alive! I have discovered the amazing things a creative parent can do with a 79 cent box of macaroni and cheese!  In the recent months I have managed to make this cheesy carb into a main dish, a side dish, a cold dish and even a dessert!

For 79 cents and a splash of milk you can serve this age old favorite spread neatly beside a pile of whatever vegetables you have available, a slice of buttered bread and a tall glass of Kool-Aid.  For a bit more you can create a masterpiece casserole!  Simply make the macaroni ‘n cheese like the directions say, toss it in an oven safe dish with a handful of vegetables, a few cut up hot dogs, sprinkle on some crushed corn flakes, warm in the oven and Viola! A feast fit for, well, maybe not a king, but definitely fit for my hungry family.

Maybe macaroni and cheese was created for a depression, maybe it was created to withstand a recession.  In any case, it has become a staple in my family and will doubtless stay that way for a long time to come.

Tina, Mayville, USA

Lesson #4. Recession = Simplifying

During this current recession, I have had time to sit and think about what I really want to do with my life and the things that are important to me. My husband is in the construction business, mostly residential, and I am a stay at home mom to two sweet little girls. We have learned to stick together as a family and ride out the bumps together.

Although we have lost a third of our income, we really cannot complain. We can still put food on our table and although we may be forgoing the amusement parks, we can go to the zoo and pack a yummy lunch. Who said being poor put you at a disadvantage?
We are using our limited financial funds to find resources that are more valuable in our community. We are no longer eating at upscale restaurants, instead I have learned to cook, which my husband just loves. We are cooking Cornish hens at home with tomato and mozzarella salad and it is literally only costing us a few dollars.

I still worry about our future, and being able to provide our children with the best, but for right now I am enjoy a simpler life.

A.R. – Louisville, u.s.

Lesson #5. Daddy’s Advice Saved Me

If someone asked me what I’ve learned from the recent economic downturn, I wouldn’t hesitate in answering.  I’d say that the lessons I learned from my father served me well.  I was able to take all of the practical advice he taught me about money and put it to good use.

“Never buy anything on credit if you have the cash,” my dad would say.  “Save your money for a rainy day.” As a child of the depression, he knew what it was like to be poor.  His father – my grandfather, was a wholesale produce distributor in New York City.  They always had fresh fruit and vegetables on the table, though not much more.

So over the years, I saved my money diligently.  I invested conservatively – mostly in bank CDs.  I maxed out my 401k at work and participated in employer cash match programs.  I didn’t take elaborate vacations, buy expensive cars, spend money on the latest and greatest electronic gizmo or max out my credit cards. Except for a modest mortgage on my house, I do not owe anyone any money.

I’ve learned that even though my job was recently eliminated as part of the recession, I still can make it – for several years, if necessary, just by relying on my savings. I don’t need a handout from anyone and I’m not frightened about my future.  I know I will make it – because I heeded the advice my dad gave me.  “Never buy anything on credit if you have the cash.”

Thank you, Daddy.

SuzyQ – Glen Allen, Virginia

If you’ve learned any personal life lessons as a result of this economic crisis, please leave a comment. I’d also like to thank the people who bravely stepped up to tell there stories for us all to learn from.

[This article is part of the Carnival of Personal Finance (#200) at]