Recession Mama











{October 2, 2009}   This Baby Is Growing Fast

—by Carla

 cristal

Get ready to break out the Cristal, we here at RM will proudly be celebrating our 6 month anniversary next week. Nevermind, forget the Cristal…it’s too damn expensive. Break out the store-brand equivalent or just hoist your Diet Coke can high into the air!

We’ve been sharing stories and helpful (hopefully) hints along the way, as we attempted to start a national conversation about money. Going back to our “roots”, (if something 6 months old can actually have roots), we said that we were “Three friends from three different economic realities helping each other get through this recession, mama!”

six

 

You might  wonder why in the world anyone would want to air this sort of dirty laundry…especially when it comes to money…but our thinking was, “why NOT?”.

Of course, our stories are in no way as shocking and horrifying as other tell-alls…not the least of which was the bombshell this week by Mackenzie Phillips, but I think our goals may actually be quite similar. She has said she came forward because she wanted to make sure that other victims like her would speak out and get help.

Very similar goal for me, personally. I felt passionately (and still do) that too many of us in this country care far too much about what other people think about our financial status and would rather live financial lies than own up to the fact that they cannot maintain the lifestyle they are living. I, for one, had no problem admitting that I/we spent money hand over fist, without ever thinking about how much was being put away for a rainy day or an emergency. Our situation was a bit different than the many horror stories we’ve heard over the past several months about people owing hundreds of thousands of dollars on various credit cards. We had (and still have) little credit card debt (but still enough for me to consider it a monkey on my back), instead paying most everything in cash. Earn it, spend it. Earn it, spend it. After all, I was making almost six figures and had a contract with my (now former) employer. I was recession-proof, right? Wrong. You CAN actually be laid off two weeks before Christmas, five weeks after giving birth, while still on maternity leave, and while you have another year left on your contract. Yup…they can do that. And they did.

Flash forward and here I am, thirty-something-years-old, learning to cook…and honey I mean LEARNING. “How long do I cook this chicken breast again? Why is there smoke in the kitchen again?”…and so on. But beyond everything else, I have learned (and continue to learn) an entirely different way of life, one that has refocused me. 

I love hearing stories from Katy and Heather because we all are at very different places, economically speaking, and we each represent a good chunk of America. Plus they crack me up! The three of us tell it like it is, even to each other.

So, a great big “Thank You” to everyone who has checked us out over the last six months. More than 36,000 page views and counting…whew! Keep coming back for more. Huge changes next week.

Happy (almost) SIX months, Recession Mamas!



{May 16, 2009}   A Wedding Update

By Katy

I want to have my cake and eat it too!

I want to have my cake and eat it too!

A lot of my conversations, these days, go something like this:

Other person: “So…when are you getting married?”

Me: “Umm…sometime next year, I think.”

Other person: “Yeah, I would think so…it’s too late for this year.”

Me: “Yeah, I suppose. But not really.”

Other person: “So..have you set a date yet?”

Me: “No.”

So that’s my update. I have officially postponed my wedding until next year. SUMMER 2010 – the blockbuster union! Or the official beginnings of AntKat!! If you ask me again, I might just refer you to my blog. And yes, the reasons are financial. But it’s not what you think. Well, it actually might be. I’m only pretending to know what you’re thinking.

I still do not want to spend an exorbitant amount of money on one night, and I do not think the recession will get better by next year. I think it might actually fluctuate quite a bit before things get better. So I want to be prepared for the worst. I’m hoping for the best though, so don’t think I’m in the basement stocking up on canned goods. Well, not just yet. If I didn’t have a mortgage, I do think I would’ve gotten married this year. Having to think about paying that mortgage and not knowing whether or not I will continuously work can be a bit stressful. But I don’t like to stress about stuff, and that’s why I want to be prepared. I want an emergency savings fund of a year’s worth of expenses, AND I want the beautiful wedding. Yes, I want my wedding cake and be able to eat it, too. Is there anything wrong with that? On Monday, I start addressing locations. Follow me, as I document my LONG trip down the aisle.



{April 25, 2009}   “My Cheap Dad”

By Katy

I was inspired by Carla’s post on where we get our financial sense. I have common sense, I have hopefully some sense of reality, but financial sense? I’m not sure that’s part of the recessive gene pool. If so, I am definitely swimming in the shallow end. But let me first go wayyy back…back when I was a very, very little girl and everyone said I looked like my dad…

img

Well, unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of my dad to show you. But trust me…this is sort of a cuter little girl version of him. Now, when I got older, everyone said I looked just like my mom, which made me happier (since I am a girl…I really didn’t want to resemble my father, who is a man). As for learning from my parents’ financial acumen, well…you tell me how much you’ll learn.

First, my mother. My brother has always said, quite seriously, that the two of us were born in a mall. My dad says he’d be a much richer man today, if it wasn’t for her and her old LOVE of shopping. She would take us to the mall, even when we were sick and home from school! (Cool, right? Well, not if you’re running a fever and could care less about looking at ladies’ shoes.) Nowadays, she’s not such a bigger shopper. Instead, I think her retail therapy has turned into a fitness fanaticism. I admire the way she’s turned it around for herself though, and boy, do I wish I had her amazingly toned arms!

Now back to my dad. I was always joking, that someday, I wanted to produce a TV sitcom, called “My Cheap Dad.” When I told him this idea, he was actually super thrilled! He bragged to his co-workers that his daughter wanted to write a TV show all about his CHEAPNESS! Obviously, the man revels in the 100 ways he likes to hold onto a buck. Let me just give you a few examples…when I was still living at home (and that really wasn’t that long ago), he would follow me around the house. As soon as I left a room, he would turn off the lights. OK you’re saying to yourself, what’s wrong with that? We should be conserving energy. Should we also turn off the lights when I just left the bedroom for two seconds to grab a towel or hairbrush from the bathroom? And should he turn off ALL of the lights when I was still sitting in the living room?!? Um, hello? I’m still in here…sitting in the dark now. And what’s ironic is, today, he would be considered a forward-thinking “environmentalist.”

Next, forget about going to restaurants with my dad! He believes that a $5/person meal is an average priced meal, and that anything that costs $10/person or more is a super fancy, highly expensive restaurant. Um, I truly believe the man is still living in the 1970’s. And when I say $10 or more…I really just mean $10. He doesn’t really do “more.” And the tipping scenario…oh I think I’m going to get in trouble for this one. Remember how, on “Friends,” Rachel’s dad was a tight tipper? And how, when Ross tried to leave more money, her dad got super angry and accused Ross of thinking he was cheap? Well, that’s exactly my dad. His idea of a good tip is 10% for lunch and maybe 15% for dinner. At Chinese restaurants, it’s worse. I think it may be a couple of a bucks for lunch (no matter what our check comes out to be), and maybe 10% for dinner. His favorite dinner-time restaurants are mostly buffets, especially the ones where he gets the senior discount (not sure if he always qualifies) and also he has a fistful of…coupons. He loves buffets mainly because you get to eat as much as you want, and he only has to tip a couple of bucks, even at dinner. But let’s just get something clear. If you’re not a big eater, like my mother or even myself, he does not like to take you to his favorite restaurants because well frankly, my dear, we did not eat our damned worth!

I could go on, but I’ll spare you all of the details and hope that someday, I will have a TV sitcom called, “My Cheap Dad,” so you could really see how cheap he truly is. I think he got his “cheapness” from his mother. But to really think about it, I don’t think I could call her “cheap.” She has money. After all, my father grew up with a chauffeur and a nanny. But my Nana is actually someone who values money over people. She is someone that this recession is shaking its fists at (with full force)! She has actually said, out loud, that she wants to be buried with all of her money! Well, good luck with that dream!

So…to go back to the point at the beginning of my story, where I told you that I was definitely swimming in the shallow end, financially, I think you can finally see my point.



By Katy

Recently, a comment on a recent post was misinterpreted, and when I started to explain what I had meant, I ended up with writing almost an entire blog post. So I thought I’d share my discussion:

In a comment to Carla’s recent post, I wrote: “The recession is helping us all slow down!” And here’s what a reader wrote: Can’t say I agree with you on this. This is from my own person observation with friends and family: People who have lost jobs or had their salary cut back back up to 30% are now working TWO jobs to make ends meet. They have done away with conveniences such as the cleaning lady, yard guy, etc. and are doing that themselves, too, in additional to large number of additional hours worked. People that still have jobs are working long and harder than ever. Salaried folk are getting to work earlier, staying later, etc. all in hopes of keeping their job. Hourly people are working “off the clock” trying to keep their jobs. With layoffs, the people left at companies have had their duties increased beyond what they can physically do in one day and are totally stressed trying to get it all done. I know I haven’t slowed down. I’ve gone from a job that was manageable at 8-9 hours a day, to working 10-11 hrs a day and working at home after that and on weekends to boot.

Let me, first, digress for just a moment. I am not trying to “defend” what I said, or argue. We, Recession Mamas, love our readers! I am personally humbled when I meet friends or hear from total strangers that they’re reading this blog every day and that they can relate and are glad we’re trying to help each other out and tell our stories. I’m happy to hear a friend, recently, tell me that instead of being depressed or wallowing in this recession, this blog feels very “hopeful” to her. So this post is in no way going against what a reader wrote. I just want to make sure I’m conveying the idea that I believe that what this recession has taught ME, personally, is that love is important and that work should not define who I am.

So here’s what I started telling this dear reader (shortened and altered slightly):

I didn’t mean “slowing down” in terms of work. Believe me! I always seem to have two jobs, and even before this recession I’ve always worked long days. When I’m not working, I volunteer. In college, I had three jobs. For a long period in my younger life, I worked 7 days a week — Monday through Friday at a local TV station, and weekends, I worked at a local radio station. So, I would never be the one to say that we’re slowing down, in terms of work. What I really meant was slowing down and seeing our lives in a real way…that it isn’t all about money…that what really matters is love (or as the Beatles say)…”all we need is love.” In fact, my fiance and I thought we might fight MORE because of the pressures of not having two incomes, at certain times this year, but instead…we’ve gotten even closer. So, although I’m a practical girl who grew up with a Grandma that told me…Love doesn’t buy the bread…I slowed down just enough to see that love and support help get you through the tough times.

All You Need Is Love

"All You Need Is Love"

Let me now expound on that. Before this recession, I truly saw a lot of my relationship with my fiance, financially. I don’t think I really realized this, until the recession hit. I was always thinking about equality in our relationship, also in terms of how much we made, how much we contributed to paying for needs and wants, and thinking that whoever made more money should get the right to have more say in the relationship. It took this recession before I realized that this was all crazy! Oprah’s show, “Recession Proofing a Marriage,” started a provocative and stimulating discussion for us. Would a marriage survive if one person lost his or her job? For one couple on the show, it didn’t seem to be good news. After the husband lost his job, the wife moved out and took their child and her parents took her in. They also wanted her to get a divorce from the now “loser” husband who couldn’t provide for his family. The wife admitted that she expected her husband to be in the driver’s seat and always saw her role as passenger. Using this analogy, one blog reader asked if they were in a car and her husband had a serious injury or couldn’t drive anymore, would the wife just sit there and let the car crash and risk their lives? Or would she step up, take over the wheel, so that both of them could live? (I think this is worth mentioning because it’s how I feel about a good relationship.) So, after watching the show, my fiance and I were appalled at the woman and her parents! What?! Just because the husband lost his job, he also has to lose his wife and no longer be a father to his own child anymore? How and why does money define us so much?

When my fiance and I first started dating, he told me that his biggest fear was not being able to provide for his family. I think this is a big fear for a lot of men, but no one had ever said it out loud to me. While dating, money was never much of an issue. But when we decided to get married, we started talking about finances since it’s the #1 thing people argue about. We soon discovered, to my dismay, that we have extremely different financial situations and very different ways of handling our personal finances. We started to argue quite a bit over this “new” discovery because although I have never dreamt about the fairytale wedding, I HAVE dreamt about a better financial picture. Well, after the recession hit, and my “steady” gig of almost a year and a half ended (really long for television, I may add), I started to “slow down” and see my fiance in a radically different way. No longer did I see our relationship in terms of how much money we made. (And yes, it was partly because I was no longer bringing in any money besides unemployment.) He was the one who went to work every day, and I was very unproductive (for about two weeks, then before I got another gig, I decided to start volunteering.) But while I was out of work and unproductive, my fiance never once said to me…”Hey, sweetie…since you’re not working right now, do you think you could do more around the house?” Instead, when he came home after a very long day at work (usually 10-12 hour days), if I hadn’t made dinner, he would just roll up his sleeves and do it! He was supportive (told me everyday that I deserved a vacation after working so much in the last year or so), kind, uncomplaining (Well, he never really complains about much. I just had not noticed before.) All of a sudden, he turned into the man of my dreams, and I didn’t even know what those dreams were made of before! And although I used to be super cynical and agreed with my Grandmother that “Love doesn’t buy the bread.” I, now, see that Love may not buy the bread, but it definitely helps you to get through the hard times together. It also helps that I slowed down and really saw what I am grateful for…my health, my supportive family and friends and their good health, my loft (a roof over my head), nice and fun neighbors, no debt and a year’s worth of expenses saved so I can eat and sleep at night, and most importantly, a partner in life who makes me laugh and gives me love and support. I think he will make a wonderful provider for his future family, and I am so lucky he found me.



et cetera