Recession Mama

{April 7, 2009}   Doesn’t Everyone Need More Stuff?

Most of our junk is neatly packed away. It makes us feel better like that. All I see, though, are dollar signs waiting to be cashed in.

Most of our junk is neatly packed away. It makes us feel better like that. All I see, though, are dollar signs waiting to be cashed in.

–By Carla


After 11 years as a broadcast journalist at a legendary station in my hometown of Dallas, Texas, I had nothing to show for it, financially speaking. Not a dime in the bank. Ok we had a few dimes, but nothing considerable. I was making very good money as a radio news anchor, as was (and is) the husband, but we spent it as fast as we made it. And then the layoff. Just like that. Game over. And talk about a bittersweet experience. The layoff came just 5 weeks after the birth of my second son. So here we were with an almost two-year-old and a 5 week old.

How would we pay for everything? How would we make it on the husband’s salary alone when all along we thought our lives depended on me working?  I knew that the financial aspect of this nightmare was going to be topic number one at home, above any other feelings related to the actual layoff.

I married a sheriff’s deputy with almost 30 years law enforcement experience. We view money differently. It’s not good or bad, just different. There was never any urgency to save money. He’d say he could work a part time job and earn enough money to pay for whatever it was we wanted. And we usually wanted stuff. I set aside my desire to stash a giant pile of money in the bank because the flow seemed so endless. Plus, we really liked all our stuff.

I have one of those cool back-up cameras in my new mommy SUV. My sweet, amazing, perfect baby boys look very stylish in it. I have a remote-controlled XM radio in there, too. Top of the line, my husband says. A flashy Christmas present. He also picked up the latest GPS thingy for me. I hate technology and have no need for this but he lives for new technology and really wanted me to have it. We live in a very pretty, new, three bedroom home with wood floors, a pool, jacuzzi and a 2 car garage. We can barely squeeze my SUV into that garage because of all the junk crammed in there. Stuff we’ll never use. Like the upside down hangy-thingy my husband bought. Turns out, humans don’t regularly hang upside down like bats for a reason. But it was just $100, so he figured he’d try it. We have one of those super easy coffee makers…just pop in the pod and you’re done (I do love it).  We also have a top-of-the-line grind and brew coffee maker and we have the latest commercial, industrial, juice-anything, up-to-and-quite-possibly-including-tree-bark, juicer. We have two refrigerators. Oh and we have three artificial Christmas trees. Three. (By the way, that looks even worse on paper than it sounds in my head!)

Yet more stuff crammed neatly into yet more boxes. And yes that's a fridge. Doesn't everyone have two?

Yet more stuff crammed neatly into yet more boxes. And yes that's a fridge. Doesn't everyone have two?

We used to shop and spend and eat out all the time. And a few times a week I’d be forced to transfer funds from savings into checking because I had just received one of those lovely “low balance” emails from the bank.

We had spent ourselves silly. And all the while, we thought that if we lost my income we would lose it all. Now it was becoming all too real. So far, however, we have managed to keep the house thanks to my unemployment check.

So for me, for now, this new life means I can’t just have whatever I want whenever I want it. That is a very humbling feeling. It means, for example, having to cook at home. I know, it sounds pathetic. I get it. But it’s true. We ate out a LOT. Plus the hubby isn’t home for dinner 4 nights out of the week. It also means having to clean my own home. Again, I know how pathetic this sounds. The housekeeper came only every other week, but my GOODNESS what a difference it makes not having her around. It also means the hubby has to mow the lawn. It means no more trips to stores to just kill time and shop for the sake of shopping because we couldn’t figure out how else to spend our time together. The list goes on and on…and I’m still adding things to it. And don’t even get me started on my trips to the salon. The horrific do-it-yourself stories are coming up…and maybe even some pics. Oh they’re bad, honey! But you’ve got to laugh at this stuff. I HAVE to laugh every time I torch something in the kitchen, or get frazzled with the housework, or accidentally color my hair orange. It’s funny stuff.

I’m learning that it is possible to live a different lifestyle, it just takes a whole lot of soul searching to get there. And do you know what? I actually like it. It’s just another challenge…and I’m up for a good challenge these days…what with all this free time on my hands and all. (Kidding. The free time thing. I have a 2-year-old and a baby. And now we have a sandbox. Lovely!)

Connie T. says:


I think you are going to find that cutting back is worth it 🙂 We have never ever been in a position where we could pay all of our bills on time, or even put money into savings. We’ve always lived off one income b/c daycare is too expensive. Because of this, we’ve had to sell off old stuff (that was really clutter anyway), which surprisingly, felt really good to clean out and make some extra cash! I ebay religiously and do craigslist often. I also consign old clothes and baby gear to Once Upon a Child in Plano. I’d love to get together with you sometime and share some of what we do in order to make do 🙂

Good luck on your new “journey” and if you ever need help with anything, you have us Sassy mamas around 🙂

Katy says:

I’ve known you for how long now? And I have never known you to have that much stuff!!! I can’t believe it! 2 fridges?? Do most people have 2 fridges?! To me, that’s like John McCain not knowing how many houses he owns! LOL! I’ll share some of my anti-clutter secrets with you soon. Unfortunately, my guy is a pack rat too. Get rid of the stuff, and you’ll feel sooo much better! I’d love to hear what Connie does! Maybe you should interview her and share it with all of us. You are a journalist, after all.

recessionmama says:

If anyone is a Super Mama, it’s Connie! Great idea, Katy. Connie, I’ll be in touch and thanks for the tips.

Maggie says:

Carla- I know exactly what you mean when you say that all the cut backs actually make you feel good. I’ve been feeling the same way lately. Since I can’t buy whatever I want anymore, I’ve realized that I don’t need or want them after a few days. I always knew in the back of my mind I was an impulsive shopper, but I was in denial thinking I didn’t have it that bad. Now I feel as if I’ve kicked some nasty addiction, and it feels good! BTW, I will gladly donate some of my free time (which comes in bulk nowadays) when I’m back in town to help you with whatever you want!

Carla says:

It really does feel good. It’s like we’re learning new things about ourselves all the time. I’ll totally take you up on your offer. You don’t even have to help out..just come visit. Oh and bring some of your mom’s amazing food…AND your cute mom!

Traci says:

Everyone has their own level of accumulation of stuff. The more money you make, the more stuff you want and get. And one day you wake up and you’re 40 and have 10 year old clothes you can’t bear to part with; more lip gloss than a Nordstrom cosmetic counter; and every nook and cranny of your home ends up with stuff that “might” or “probably” be used at a more appropriate time. And so it went for me until I have finally become burdened with the weight of stuff. Much of my stuff is the remnants of my former self — the hipper, cooler, unmarried, then married with no children and lots of disposable income self. Then there is the home improvement stuff which I never get around to actually improving my home with. I have cubbies, shelves, closets, an attic and garage just full of stuff. But I have slowly learned to reduce, reuse, and recycle — at least for now. I would love to be one of those people who sells my stuff on Craigs List but I don’t want strangers knowing where I live. I want to try Ebay but it seems too complicated. So, I usually just give it away because not only do I get to unload it but it makes me feel like a better person.

The point of this, there aren’t very many people out there right now that have not been forced to make do with or reduce the amount of stuff — whatever it is — they currently have. And many, like me, will eventually end up lean and mean until things turn around. And, then I will once again buy with happiness and accumulate more stuff until the next recession hits. It’s cyclical and I’ve seen it before, I was just young and starting out and thought that was what roughing it was about.

Hang in there ladies! There is a light at the end of the tunnel and you will be able to emerge with more buying power once again!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

et cetera
%d bloggers like this: