Recession Mama











By Katy

happy-anniversary-balloon-bouquet

Six months ago, this week, Heather, Carla and I launched this site.  We had no idea what it would become.  We just wanted a place where we could talk about our experiences in this unusual economy.  We each had very different economic realities, as I am sure our readers do also.  In fact, I think each of us draw in the kinds of readers who are most like us…and sometimes, we also get readers who can’t understand what we’re going through and let us know it!  Money is a hard subject to talk about.  It’s also a hard subject to write about.  Money is so personal.  It’s definitely been hard for us, and we’re the Recession Mamas!  I’ve gotten criticized for how much I’m planning to spend on my wedding, and I haven’t even spent the money.  I was just writing about what various locations might cost us.  But that’s why it’s important to keep sharing each other’s stories.

I actually embrace the criticisms.  I address them, of course, in future posts.  But I love hearing the good and the bad.  This is what this site is for!  We should help each other through a period of time in our lives and in our country’s history that most of us have never lived through before.  We don’t always have to write about our money issues.  I think it makes for a better site if we actually don’t.  I think we are just here to document what this strange, new economic world is like…for us and for our guest writers.

I love when readers write to me and tell me how much they relate to what we’re writing about.  I love when I hear that someone has even used a tip or two from this site.  But what I love most is when someone says simply, thanks, for putting it out there!  We are going to try and keep putting it out there for all of you…and for ourselves.  Thank you so much for reading these last six months!  I hope you’ll continue to read and contribute.  Also stay tuned!  We’ll be rolling out a new look soon!!!



{September 29, 2009}   Broke Girl Frame of Mind

By Heather

I was digging through some papers this week and found a poem that I wrote back in 1996. It’s on a torn piece of notebook paper. Just something I scribbled down one night following a frustrating day of looking for a job.  I’ve kept it tucked inside my green folder with some of my other “thoughts” and stories. I’m not sure why I still have it. I  just don’t throw that kinda stuff away. (not a pack rat, just sentimental)

The “thought” or poem really gives one a sense of my “broke girl” frame of mind. I was just moving along in slow motion, trying to keep a positive attitude. But it was hard. I was failing miserably at being a “success” and accomplishing simple tasks. Even brushing my teeth felt like a major chore.

I was just tired of searching for a job. Tired of having all of the wrong qualifications. Tired of being jerked around.

I’m pretty sure this was around the time I answered an ad for a “public relations” position. I was excited to get an interview. I went into the office and discovered over 50 other people in the room.

Great! A group interview. I hate these. But I’ve been through them before. Better shine!

No such luck. Turned out they wanted me to sell vitamins, water filters and other health crap that nobody wants.

Whoa! Pyramid scheme. I gotta get out of here.

I rushed to the door and was stopped by a very tall guy who refused to let me out. The conversation, to the best of my recollection, went down like this.

“You can’t leave in the middle of the presentation”

“I’m not doing a pyramid scheme. I thought this was a PR job.”

“No but it’s a great opportunity. Really you should sit back down. You’re really not allowed to leave.”

“Either you let me out of here or I’m calling the police and telling them that you are holding me hostage.”

He got out of my way and I went home and sobbed.

So why share this now? Especially when it was so long ago.  It just feels right. I GET IT! It’s not easy searching for a job or learning a new skill in a crap economy. Once you’ve been in this position, you can never forget.

I don’t have any great “Dear Abby” advice or pearls of wisdom here. All I know is that when you’re on the bottom there’s no place to go but up. That’s what always kept me going when the going got tough. You’ll be reminiscing about the “bad times” soon enough. Now I’m going to torture you with one of mine.

ad

 

*****************************************

Shoestring remedies and dime store anecdotes

A handful of full of change and a hole in your pocket.

 

Telephone rings and you wish you hadn’t answered

One more letter and it won’t ring at all.

 

Looking at the want ads cuddled up in a blanket

Turned on the heat, but it only blows cold.

 

One more day and you’re back where you started

Two more days and your start is long gone.

 

Deep dark thoughts, scratch it down on some paper

A whole idea once was great now it’s gone.

 

Brush in time with your voice a humming

Head down lights out you’re dreaming perfect songs.

 

-H



{September 28, 2009}   Helping My Local Economy

By Katy

Friday night, I came out of a restaurant, and I noticed that my car was gone.  I scanned the street, hoping that I just had a senile moment and had forgotten where I parked my car.  Then, I noticed the sign.

“After 9 p.m., you will be towed!” It said.

towTruck

I looked at my watch.  It was 9:27 p.m.  Aw, crap!  I didn’t even notice that sign when I parked the car.  Why was I so careless?  It’s not like I have a lot of money to burn right now.  Luckily, my fiance had driven his car to the restaurant before me, so he took me to the tow yard.  The lady behind the cage wasn’t too friendly.  I wasn’t angry, but maybe she’s seen a lot of angry people.  She asked for my driver’s license and then told me to go through a gated door to get my car.

“I’ll give you your driver’s license back after you get your car.”  Oooo K…It’s not like I’m going to drive through all of the gates!  So after getting my car down (the tow truck had just dropped it off), I went back to the super friendly lady behind the cage to face my financial fears.

“$207.50.”  What?!?!  Did I hear that correctly?  $207.50?!?!?!  Less than an hour at the pound, and it costs me $207.50 to get my car out?  Wow!!!!  I really did it this time.  Then, when I got back to my car, I noticed I had also gotten a $60 parking ticket!!!  How in the world can they double charge me like this?  $100 already goes to the City of Los Angeles for a “vehicle release fee.”  The $107.50 goes to the tow company.  No wonder they were so eager to tow me!  They’re making over $100 an hour.

Since the weekend is almost over, I am trying my best to look at the bright side.  Otherwise, I might as well slit my wrists and kill myself now.  I’m helping the local L.A. economy.  The city is broke, right?  I’ve now done my part (wayyyy beyond my part, in my opinion) to boost the city’s coffers.  Here’s $160 of my hard-earned money.  You are very welcome.  Now, please don’t come asking me for any more.



{September 18, 2009}   The Lead Story That Means So Little

–by Carla

This week I heard the wonderful news that the recession was over.

newsweek-recession-over-cvr

You’d think this former news girl would at least post a link or have the mindset to have remembered where she heard such a thing, so here’s a picture instead. I’ve got two gorgeous baby boys under age 2.5 and they both had yucky nose issues this week (their 2nd summer cold in 2 months…ugh) so I’ve been up to my thick Lebanese eyebrows in tissues, hand sanitizer (or as Toddler Boy calls it “hanitizer”), baby Vick’s and gunk stuck in my hair (that last one is pretty normal, actually). So you’ll pardon me for not accurately detailing for you what should have otherwise been the top story on every station across the country: “The Recession Is Over!”.

Um, K.

This news had about as much impact on me as did the news that we WERE in a recession when it broke at the end of last year. Hello, I’d just been laid off. Not a real shocker. But even before then, while I was still anchoring the news, about a year and a half, maybe 2 years ago, we did story after story about this expert or that analyst saying we WERE already in a recession, or explaining why were weren’t ..and so on. I was so tired of those stories. Then when Lehman Brothers failed a year ago and the cards came crumbling down, it was clear to everyone on earth and possibly even some passing aliens just outside our stratosphere that we were in deep doodoo. But the “official” news that we were “actually” “in” a recession came months later. (Once again, if I were a journalist worth my salt, I’d look up that information, copy the link, paste it here and let you know, but I haven’t showered in 2 days, my hair is clumped up in 2 clips and I’m wearing the same thing I had on yesterday. Having 2 sick kids is a total beat down.)

So you can see that a recession “officially” having come to an end will likely mean little or nothing to most of us. It may do a little something something to Wall Street and Wall Street types, but there’s Wall Street and then there’s Main Street…and there are a bunch of houses for sale on Main Street. In fact, the story on the TV news the other night that followed the news that the recession was over was (no shiz) “150 Blockbuster Video employees are losing their jobs as the company closes several stores…” bla bla bla.

The financial experts and analysts and the smart people who do numbers and money for a living may have a sense of what’s going as far as “official” data, but it doesn’t change a thing for me or my family. I’m still a (very happy) full-time stay-at-home-mom now and we’re still living on a cop’s salary…and having a great time adjusting to this little curve ball.

Don’t get me wrong, I am very excited to see what happens in this new period of economic recovery, but I also think we need to be realistic about it and not think that life (those of us for whom life changed, that is) is automatically going to snap back to the way it was..with us gobbling up everything we could possibly cram into our ginormous houses that we could barely afford on 2 incomes and charging every last purchase we made, paying the minimum each month on our credit cards, putting debt out of our minds, leasing new cars every 2 or 3 years and not putting money away for the future.

Wait, come to think of it, I don’t want that life back.



{September 1, 2009}   Did I Get Ripped Off?

By Heather

money

The door bell rang the other day while I was paying bills and taking care of other “grown-up” chores. I was going to ignore it, but couldn’t since my children ran to the door screaming “Somebody is here, somebody is here.”

I was forced to deal with a “magazine” salesman.

I’d like to point out that we subscribe to more magazines than a doctor’s office. We get so many each month that we could open a magazine kiosk or host a school bonfire. This is thanks to nieces, nephews and children of friends who sell them for school.

The young man at the door told me a story of how he was trying to stay off the streets, turn his life around and build a better future. His name was Demarcus.

I bought his story hook, line and sinker. If fact, I spent at least 45 minutes giving him my best motivational speech. My inner cheerleader chanted “You can do it… you’re building character and using this job as a stepping stone. Hang in there! Goooo Demarcus!” 

I even gave him pointers on how to improve his presentation. We practiced.

 He asked a lot of questions about college and trade school, I answered them. I truly believed him because he seemed incredibly sincere.  He asked that I pray for him. I told him that I would and I did.

I handed him a check for 4 magazines. We shook hands. He left and took off down the street. I felt “good” about possibly giving someone some helpful advice and encouragement.

But now I can’t help but wonder “did I get ripped off?”

I did a little internet research on the company and found almost nothing on it. That is except for an article warning that it was a scam!

Doh! Did I just throw away my money?

money in trash

I was so caught up in trying to help someone that I forgot to be cautious. I have a tendency to believe that most people are good, kind and truthful. Maybe I should be a little more skeptical.

I sent Demarcus an email warning that if my magazines didn’t arrive in a timely fashion that I would contact the local police department, the Better Business Bureau and the Texas Attorney General.

It just burns me up to think that I spent so much time encouraging someone who may  have ripped me off.

I’m thinking about cancelling my check too. But maybe that’s a little overboard.

Still, my gut tells me he’s a  good person just trying to survive in this economy. Maybe the company is taking advantage of him. I’m just not sure.

 Hopefully I’m wrong about the scam and I’ll soon receive my new magazines. We’ll see. Until then, I just pray that some of my advice and encouragement will stick with Demarcus. I don’t want to believe that I was “taken” …. instead I’d like to believe  that Demarcus IS the hardworking, honest, person for which I took him.

-Heather



{June 26, 2009}   Say What?

–by Carla

no whine 

Something hit me the other day while I was sniffing my 7-month-old son’s hair, wondering why it smelled like a pet store: I really loved Katy’s post this week about being super busy at work and not even thinking about complaining about it.  Ok, sure, we are Recession Mama, “where you can whine about your dwindling dime”. Dwindling dimes is what I’m all about. Honey, I have had a dime dwindling kind of week, so I know all about that. Whine away. But as the resident “person who got laid off”, I can tell you that it is a little nerve wracking hearing people (even my close friends and relatives) whine about “work being such a beating” or about having to pick up a weekend shift “again”. That sort of whining does sort of get under my skin these days.

As many of you know, it is in my nature to give people an honest piece of my mind, but not in this situation. I never felt like I should be correcting someone who is truly not happy about their job, even in this economy. Plus, I never ever want to be that Debbie Downer who is constantly complaining about how people should act. I just sucked it up and moved on…all the while thinking, “Man, if they didn’t HAVE that job, they’d be singing a different tune.”

So, when Katy put those exact words on paper (so to speak) earlier this week, I felt a real sense of relief. Because if you are employed right now, even if you’re doing quite well, things could change in an instant, as we’ve all seen over the last 6 or 8 months or so.

It’s really OK to be thankful for your income and that pain-in-the-ass job of yours and the piece of mind it brings you and your family. We’ve all complained about work, believe me, I’m not the exception, but maybe we could take a second to think about what things might be like if you had nothing to complain about.

** And then yesterday, with the deaths of Farrah and Michael, I know more than ever before that life is short and our time here is precious. I’ll be keeping my whining in check from now on. Now, to go hug the husband, who is working more than ever before, and has never complained once.



–By Carla

education_lg

I love to learn. I may not have been the best student in high school/the early years, but I really thrived in college and continue to be fascinated with new things, new ideas and new people. A few weeks ago, I told you that I had enlisted the help of the fabu moms in my fabu mom’s group, asking them how they budget and save (since I’m such an obvious idiot in that department). I loved what Erin wrote. She’s passionate about saving money, “I love to save money!”. See? I told you. She says when she became a stay-at-home mom after her (adorable!) daughter was born, she started to look for ways to cut back since they were going to start living off of just one income.

Erin says, “At first it was challenging, but before I knew it I was addicted! I would save my receipts so I could see how much money I had saved over a month’s time. I know, total dork, but it worked! I can’t believe how much money we were wasting!”

Erin is on-top of her family’s finances and she does so by using Quicken Online, which is free, to set up her budget. “It links to your accounts (banks, credit cards, loans etc) and categorizes each transaction, so you know where every penny is going, and tracks your income. You can set an over all budget, and budgets within each category. I know when I’m over spending in one area or where I’m saving the most.”

Ok, that part does seem a little daunting, especially for a girl who still has yet to master the computer, but I have managed to pay everything online thanks to repeated prodding from Heather a few years back (thanks, mama!!). I am officially adding that step to my financial “to-do” list just as soon as Baby Boy is weened. (TMI, right? Sorry)

shoppingcart

I honestly do enjoy bragging about saving money at the grocery store. (This, from the same woman who used to toss coupons in the trash) And just a couple of weeks ago,  you could have seen my gigantic smile from Mars when the checkout dude told me, “Ma’am (and please stop calling me that), you saved $27 today.” Twenty seven dollars? I saved that much just now? Oh how times have changed, but man that was huge for me.  

There was a major theme that kept coming up over and over when asking my fellow moms about tips on savings: Menu planning. Erin writes, “Couponing can be a little tricky and time consuming, but when I considered I cut my grocery bill by 60% it was worth it for me. I plan my weekly meals around the items I am getting discounts on, and we eat the same things we always have for a lot less money!”

Did I mention that I saved $27 at the store the other day? Ok, just wanted to make sure I got that out there. NOT the biggest deal in the world for most people, but hey, baby steps for this Recession Mama. Yes!



{June 12, 2009}   It’s Been HOW Long?

—by Carla

Six months ago today, I was laid off from my job as a Dallas radio news anchor.

I may have actually looked a little cuter and way more pissed when I was let go.

I may have actually looked a little cuter and way more pissed when I was let go.

No “Debbie Downer” drama here. Just a few thoughts about how my life has changed in that time. 

The new catchphrase these days seems to be “New Normal”. “What’s your new normal? How are you living your life now since the economy went south?” In fact, ABC News is hitting this theme pretty hard right now and Recession Mama has been talking “New Normal” since we got our cute, little feet off the ground. 

I can say with 100% certainty that being laid off was the absolute best thing that could have ever happened to me. I’m not saying that to snub my former employer or anyone else in the world, I really mean it. I had two smiling faces here at home who needed me. At the time of my layoff, my oldest son was 20 months old and the baby was just 5 weeks old. And although I had never wanted to be a working mom, I had resigned myself to the fact that it was the way it had to be. In fact, I had started writing a book about my experiences, entitled, “…But I Don’t WANT It All: Confessions of a Reluctant Career Woman Who JUST Wanted to be a Mom.”

Here, I describe the moment when everything changed three years ago…

“When I found out we were pregnant (with son #1), I was so SO happy and so nervous and so everything…just like any first-time mom-to-be. And I knew one thing for sure: I’d be quitting my job and stepping back from my career for a few years until the little one(s) went off to school, then I’d make my way back into the workforce. I had it all planned out in my head, how it would go down with the husband, when I told him about my plans. We were on a “babymoon” cruise…I was 3 months pregnant…we were in our stateroom, looking out the porthole when I started talking. I told him that since my contract was almost up, it would make sense to tell the bosses that I would not be coming back because I was going to stay home to raise my child. But things didn’t go as I had imagined in my head all this time. See, in my head, we’d embrace and he’d have tears in his eyes, and I’d wipe them away, and he’d tell me that he couldn’t be luckier than to be with a woman who was willing to give up her successful career…one she has worked so hard for…for so many years, to raise his child…and we’d embrace more, and cry together, then we’d hit the buffet. What ACTUALLY happened was much, much different.” 

I’ll stop there. Needless to say, I became a working mom.

(And for the record, I would never dream of passing judgement on working moms. Remember, I was one. These are my personal thoughts I’m sharing with you now.)

As much as I had tormented myself about going back to work with baby #1, I had completely reprogrammed my brain to BE that working mom with baby #2. Then the universe said, “Naaaaaah…change of plans again” on December 12, 2008.

In the last 6 months, I’ve gone from being a working mom (who was home at 11:30 every morning to spend the rest of the day with her baby boy) to being a stay-at-home mom with 2 kids. BAM…just like that. Talk about on the job training. I went from having a twice-a-month housekeeper…to doing it myself. I went from ordering out and bringing in food and eating out…to learning to cook (and I mean learning everything). No more buying whatever I wanted to buy because I could buy it (not that we racked up credit card debt..it was all cash, but that meant no savings). 

This transition has not been all about money, either. It’s been a deeper life lesson.

bitch-slap

I was basically bitch-slapped back into reality. And you know what? I have loved every minute of it. That is not to say I’ve been running around screaming, “Yippee, I was laid off! This doesn’t suck at all!” But there is something about this “new normal” that I have been able to accept rather easily. I am glad this happened. It has put everything back into perspective for me…and it feels great.

Happy Friday !



{June 1, 2009}   You Should Elope…

By Katy

Recently, on Recession Mama’s facebook page (Yes!  We have one now!), a “fan” wrote this to me:

“$29K? Are you serious? You should elope.”

She also wrote:

“I still don’t understand, that in this economy, someone would shell out that kind of money just to get married. Your site is called Recession Mama… spending an exorbitant amount of money on frivolity just doesn’t seem appropriate, in my opinion. We have to stimulate the economy, yes, but we also have to make sure our needs are met and that our children are taken care of. I have so many friends who have lost their jobs in the past year. It’s incredibly sad to see them struggle. I have a friend in Boston who was a music industry executive. He now sells tour tickets for the trolley. Is there not a better way to spend wisely and save the rest? You, too, can be jobless. I had to let you know how I feel.. it’s been bugging me for a week.”

Here’s what I started to say:

I have had the same thoughts and this is why I wanted to write RM. If you’ve read my earlier blog posts, then you would know that I have struggled with whether I should have a wedding at all in this recession. But if you read my blog posts, you’ll also know that I’ve been really responsible with my money. I have been out of a job, many, many, many times. That’s why I have no debt (except for my mortgage), I have a year’s worth of expenses saved up (most people recommend 3-8 months…I actually have a year’s worth…well..now, I have way more than a year’s worth). And I have postponed this wedding for more than a year now b/c I haven’t been able to justify spending the money.

Now, here’s where I’d like to explain further…

My fiance and I discussed this person’s opinion afterwards, and we really did not understand her calling our wedding “frivolity.”  Is the joining together of two lives frivolous?  We really do not think so.  Although I am really not a romantic and am usually quite cynical about marriage, I’ve definitely taken the idea of getting married to this one person extremely seriously.  We’ve discussed everything…from children to ambitions to finances.  We’ve even gone to pre-marital counseling together to make sure we’re thinking about what we need to think about and really know what we’re getting into.  So the thought of someone actually considering that the idea of getting married and having a wedding to show that union, as “frivolity”…well…let’s just agree to disagree on that one.

Believe me, I have definitely struggled with the idea of having a wedding in a recession.  My fiance and I have discussed what we could do with the money, if we weren’t planning a wedding.  After all, I am extremely practical, financially, and I have a dad who is proud to be called “cheap!”

I do love the idea of eloping.  But for me, eloping or having a wedding doesn’t have anything to do with money.  It’s about joining two people who truly love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives building something together (whatever that may be should be up to the couple).  Whether someone elopes or has a wedding…that’s a choice and shouldn’t be based on what other people want or think.  (Yes, I know some of us don’t even have that choice!)

But I disagree that I should not have a wedding just because we are in a recession and that other people are not working.  Recession Mama isn’t about being cheap, frugal, or hoarding your money in this recession.  It’s about being able to talk about our finances and share our thoughts about money, no matter what your circumstances are.  I know now why no one likes to talk about money.  It’s because some of us are so quick to judge someone else’s life without really knowing what their lives are like.  I knew I was going to get criticisms from people who didn’t know me when I decided to disclose how much a wedding truly costs in Southern California.  Most of the people I know who have had a wedding here would tell you that $30,000 is really on the cheap side for a decent wedding.  Also, I, too, spent some time not working this year, and if I had any debt…I wouldn’t even dream of having a $30,000 wedding.  But again, I have taken care of my needs.  I have also saved up for this wedding, and I will be paying for it in CASH.   I am not putting myself into debt for a wedding, and I am helping people who are working in the wedding business.  If everyone who had money just hoarded it in this recession, we would really be in trouble.  I never believed in the idea that you had to “settle.”  I am marrying the man of my dreams.  I have a job that many, many people dream of doing, and I work hard for my money so that I can also have the wedding of my dreams.



{May 28, 2009}   Guilty Shopper

By: Heather

Mamas and Papas. I’m a guilty shopper. But I’ve done a little shopping lately.

42-17017132

Let me explain. If it’s for me, I usually hesitate.  But if it’s for the kids or the house, I usually don’t feel guilty.

I guess we all have our limits and splurges.

I still set limits on what I’m willing to spend. And I shop by looking at the price tag FIRST.

My husband is very generous and he tells me not to worry.

“If you want it, get it.” he says. But I still feel guilty if it’s for me.

But this week I pushed my guilt aside and finally bought my mother’s day gift. I got a cream colored soft leather purse that hugs me like it’s in love. I’ve been searching for a white/cream colored purse for years but have never really found one I like, at the price I like.

I asked the sales lady several times if the bag was on sale. She repeatedly said no. But I decided to “let go” of the guilt and buy it.

purse

But wait a minute. There are people out of work who can’t pay their rent, who are struggling to buy food. How can you spend that much money on a purse? Ridiculous!

Perhaps. But it doesn’t stop there. I also bought my husband two pairs of leather flip flops and a purse for my mother’s birthday and ordered some dress shoes for myself.

I’m horrible right? I felt a little sick when I handed over my debit card to pay for the purchase. I just kept thinking, “How can I have so much, when some people have so little? I should just put it back and be happy with what I’ve got.”

“I know. I probably shouldn’t get all of this”, I tell the clerk, “but it’s really good quality and hard to pass up. And I can never find shoes that fit me.”

Side bar: My feet are really narrow and it’s almost impossible to find shoes that fit.  So when they do fit, I get them.

“Can I return these if I change my mind?”

“Yes.”

“I just feel a little guilty.” I say.

“Well if you can afford it, then I say spend it.” replies the clerk. “It helps us out.”

Hmmm. The comment hit me like a meatball sandwich.

“It helps us out.”

cash register

That’s so true. If everyone stops buying just because they “feel guilty” then the economy will really crash and burn. I wonder if some of our “hesitation to buy” has actually costs people their jobs.

I hope that my purchases will help keep someone employed, and they in turn will keep buying their morning coffee, which will keep the barista employed, which will help them pay for college, which will help their parents financially, which means they can pay for their cleaning lady, which means she can buy groceries for her family.

It’s a big circle. It may seem unfair that some people can spend money on so-called frivolous things. But  here’s my question– “Doesn’t that help the economy?”

My purchases will not break my bank. And I will use everything for a LONG time. Plus we donate to charity, our church and help friends and family when they’re in need. So maybe I should NOT feel guilty. Maybe I should feel good about helping the economy. And hopefully that’ll keep people working too!

 



et cetera