Recession Mama

{September 25, 2009}   Who Wants A Little Good News…?

–by Carla

I went digging around on the Internet the other day trying to find an upside to all this recession talk…which honestly gets to be a total downer from time to time…and I  found this article.  It gives a broad overview of how the recession is “taking its toll” on various aspects of American life. But I chose to dig deeper for you and find the happy stuff…not all the doom and gloom. For example, here’s a little somethin’ about the old ball and chain: 


“Marital bliss also suffered. Nearly 1 in 3 Americans 15 and over, or 31.2 percent, reported they had never been married, the highest level in a decade. The share had previously hovered for years around 27 percent, before beginning to climb during the housing downturn in 2006. The never-married included three-quarters of men in their 20s and two-thirds of women in that age range. Sociologists say younger people are taking longer to reach economic independence and consider marriage because they are struggling to find work or focusing on an advanced education. The Northeast had the most people who were delaying marriage, led by states such as New York and Massachusetts. People in the South were more likely to give marriage a try, including those in Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas.”

The way I look at it, there are fewer people trapped in crappy marriages who are too broke to get out of ’em. KIDDING. Just kidding there.

Ok, now for upside point #2 from the article:

“The share of people who carpooled to work rose to 10.7 percent, up from 10.4 percent in the previous year.”

Recession: terrible for most other things, good for the environment. See?

Next “plus”:

“Women’s average pay still lagged men’s, but the gap has been narrowing. Women with full-time jobs made 77.9 percent of men’s pay, up from 77.5 percent in 2007 and about 64 percent in 2000.”

Right on, ladies! Oh wait, the one time in history we’re THIS close to getting paid the same as the guys (um…and exactly why AREN’T we?)…and I got laid off!? WTH!?

Anyhoo, there ya go. Some happy news to report.

Have a great weekend everyone!


{September 8, 2009}   Marriage and Massages

By Heather


My husband and I were recently talking about our 10 year wedding anniversary which is coming up this Friday, September 11th. I asked him to name his favorite moment of the wedding. He quickly answered “The shot table and the reception…”

(insert eyebrow lift from me)

“And of course saying I do,” he added.  

(insert smile from me)

We’ve been together for 13 years. Most of the time it feels like we just met… other times it feels like a hundred years. Occasionally, we want to whack each other on the head with a frying pan. Thankfully, we’ve never actually done this.

We had a “frying pan” moment over the weekend thanks to a massage. It was just 50 minutes, but it felt like an excruciating 24 hours and a HUGE waste of our money. Money that I want to demand back, but I’m afraid it might get someone fired. So I probably won’t.

We were out-of-town and decided to treat ourselves with massages. The plan was simple.  We would take turns at the spa while the other one watched the kids. I would go to the first appointment which was at 8 am. He would go at 9. They were 50 minutes each. I asked to leave a few minutes early, so he could make it to his treatment on time.

Best laid plans. Right?


I rolled out of bed and got to my appointment 15 to 20 minutes before my session. I told the therapist I needed to leave early. He said “fine.” Then he kept talking.

I’d like to point out that I LOVE massages. I’ll let almost anyone give me a massage as long as they knead me like a loaf of honey wheat bread. Nothing can deter me from getting a massage. (not even a life threatening MRSA staph infection which I got from a spa in Vegas)

I’ve paid a lot of money over the years for spa treatments and I’ve had my fair share of “AWESOME” and “FRIGHTENING.” But this is the first  a massage has caused me to point my finger and yell at my husband in a hotel hallway. (Not my finest moment)

Consider some of my more disturbing massage moments. There was the massage student who rubbed my abs and asked me to call him sometime. Ewww. The nice Italian woman who rubbed my boobs with olive oil. Ickkk. A man in Greece who grabbed my ankles, pulled them over my head to my ears while straddling me. Wowza! Thank goodness I was wearing underwear. Or how about the therapist who ran out of the room only to return and announce that she had diarrhea. Ughh. None of this has EVER made me scream at one of the people I love most on earth.

I can handle too much oil, horrible music, chanting and a little weirdness. But I CANNOT handle a chatty Kathy who talks and talks and talks when I’m trying to relax.

This was unfortunately the case. The therapist told me about his daughter’s surgery, his life as a single parent, the three months he spent trying to pass a kidney stone and Amber, the therapist, who had a crush on the hotel’s personal trainer. Then he delved into my parent’s divorce, my arthritis, how often I pick up my kids, etc. He talked so much he forgot to massage half of my body. He got my back and left arm. The rest was left high and dry. Then the wind-bag ran past our time. That made my husband late for his massage.

He was mad, I yelled it wasn’t my fault in a crazy person way. Then we spent the three hour drive home in silence. (or as much as you can with two kids) Relaxation ruined.

Later when we got home he walked by, gave me a little pat and said I love you. The frying pan moment was over. 10 years of wedded bliss restored!

 This takes me back to our conversation about our wedding day. I told him that although I did enjoy the “shot bar” at the reception my favorite moment was feeling so calm and certain about marrying him.

“I never had a doubt.”

Then without blinking he actually asked if I would book massages when we celebrate our anniversary later this week.


Now that’s love.


{September 4, 2009}   The Anti-Recession Mama

–by Carla

I’m not sure if was the alignment of the moon and the stars or of the tide and the Big Dipper or what, but this past week was about the best week I’ve had in a very long time. My husband and I celebrated 6 years of marriage on August 30th. (For the record, I normally leave “the husband” out of all of this because he thinks I’m a nutbag for writing about this stuff…or he just things I’m a nutbag in general…I’m not sure which) Anyway, six isn’t even that big of a deal, really. Well it IS, but it’s not 10 or 15, you know what I mean? I think the common gift for 6 is iron and candy or something random like that.


We each thought the other was going to forget the date, so we hid the cards that our relatives had sent to the house. How very dorky of us. But we didn’t forget. I’d saved up my pennies and bought him a gift certificate for a round of golf since he’s always saying how much he enjoys playing but never gets a chance. I also got him his favorite dark chocolate snacks. See? Iron and candy? But what he did for me was so above and beyond anything I had dreamed up, it really blew me away. He took me to Wolfgang Puck’s “Five Sixty”, high above downtown Dallas.

This tiny little cone (a signature WP dish, I'm told) cost as much as my shoes. This better be tasty!

This tiny little cone (a signature WP dish, I'm told) cost as much as my shoes. This better be tasty!

The swanky, revolving restaurant was so very much out of the norm for our new lifestyle that I was literally giddy with excitement the entire night. He forced me to forget about how much this was costing us, assuring me that he had worked a ton of hours at his part time job to make it happen. 

...see how happy he is about that?

...see how happy he is about that?

Just kidding, he actually seemed to be having a good time, honest…

"At least I don't have to eat Carla's cooking tonight..cheers!"

"At least I don't have to eat Carla's cooking tonight..cheers!"

To be back in this wonderfully familiar atmosphere for the night, and with our two baby boys safely asleep at home with grandma Nina making sure the house didn’t burn down, we could focus on each other for the first time in a very long time. No worries about money or bills and certainly no worries about tantrums or poopie diapers. See, the layoff was tough on our marriage, I won’t lie, and I’m sure the husband won’t mind me outing us like that. I mean, good grief, I’d just had a baby 5-weeks earlier, we had an older child…a 20-month-old at the time…and those things alone can put a lot of strain on a marriage. Not to mention the fact that news people and cops are pretty stressed out folks at times. But this one night almost seemed to erase all of that.

It’s certainly an anti-RM theme for me to talk about going out for a swanky, super expensive dinner (oh and he bought me a spa treatment at a phenomenal spa that I love), but I think I learned some sort of lesson from it all. 

Honestly, I don’t know exactly what that is, but I think it had to do with letting go, not being so uptight and stepping out of my financial comfort zone if even briefly….and just enjoying life.

By Katy

I know…this commercial is annoying.  But it really has a point.  Getting a credit check may save your marriage.

Now, back in the day, couples would have to get blood tests before they were legally married.  These days, you show up at city hall, hold up your right hand, sign a bunch of paperwork, and it’s, hopefully, till death do you part.  (Unless you’re of the same sex.  Then, you really don’t have that right pretty much anywhere in the U.S.)

I believe in knowing your partner’s credit score before you tie the knot.  I know it’s not romantic.  But I also think that two people can be in love and not necessarily get married.  Love doesn’t necessarily need to lead to marriage.  When you’re deciding on the rest of your life together, you have to think beyond love.  Love will hopefully help when you seem to hit rock bottom, and if you remember you once loved each other, it might carry you though immensely tough times.  And like I’ve said in a previous post, I also don’t think just having money is the answer either.  But before anyone gets married, shouldn’t there be a more stringent checklist?

Wants children?  Yes or No

Believes in God?  Yes or No

Sexually compatible?  Yes or No

Similar goals?  Yes or No

Long term ambitions?  Yes or No

Financially stable?  Yes or No

Credit score of 650 or above?  Yes or No

What do you think?

{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…, 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.

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.

By Katy

Beverly Hills Courthouse

Beverly Hills Courthouse

After I wrote about recession-proofing a marriage and, more specifically recession-proofing a wedding…I got a lot of mixed reactions. So I sent some e-mails to wedding vendors who were looking to get my business (and had e-mailed me first). I told them that I was possibly considering getting married next year, instead of this year because of the recession and that I wanted to have more money saved up. I was hoping for a few e-mails offering me some deals. But instead, here’s a more typical response from the ones I got.

“I do understand your dilemma that you posted at the bottom, about whether or not to get married this year and the deals. Something else to keep in mind – a lot of properties go through annual pricing review and prices often increase a bit at the beginning of each new year. Mostly to go along with the general increase of the cost of goods.”

Yikes! That’s obviously what I don’t want. Another “vendor” who had spammed me with e-mails had this to say about a wedding…

“Katy, with homes prices finally within reach, interest rates at 4.5%, $8,000 buyers tax credit and our cash back rebate of thousands of dollars – why not elope or at least modify wedding costs – and set a goal to buy a home together sooner? I invite you and your fiance to meet with us for a free homebuying plan.”

I don’t know how he got my e-mail, but dude, I already own a home…an awesome loft in downtown Los Angeles. (If you actually read this blog like I asked you too, you would know that.) On the other hand, eloping IS something I’ve considered. (Although, my mother might not like that, since I’m her only daughter and the ONLY one of my generation to get married.) And that’s kind of how another wedding vendor felt about the possibility of my fiancé and I eloping:

“I cannot tell you how many times I hear that and I understand your feelings. It’s a personal preference if you want pictures with Elvis or pictures with your flower girl…? We have a great location that can’t compare to the desert – we’re the beach! Great weather, beautiful sunsets – what more could you ask for! Let me know if I can help and we’ll see if we can pull something together for you.”

Hmmm…what does the desert have anything to do with it? And to be honest, I like Elvis better than flower girls. I won’t be having any of those in my wedding. If I elope, it will be at the Beverly Hills Courthouse. And I think I can safely say that Elvis has definitely left that building.

{April 9, 2009}   Recession Proofing a Marriage


Today’s Oprah was all about recession-proofing marriage. Is that even possible? Now, I’m not married, but I am engaged. Since we all know that couples fight mostly about money and sex, my fiance and I have extensive discussions about finances. We’ve even gone to pre-marital counseling. Now, I’m a realist.  I’ve had to be, and although our financial picture has not changed that much recently, we are closer to each other now, more than ever, in this recession.

Before I worked freelance as a TV producer, I didn’t really know much about money. I racked up credit card debt in college, like a Freshman adding the inevitable 15 pounds. Looking back, I laugh because I think my best friend Ryan and I thought we were rich! We took cabs, instead of the subway. We ate out at nice restaurants a LOT. I mean we were going to Ye Waverly Inn before it became a celebrity hotspot with its own Vanity Fair blog! Now, I even worked my way through college with THREE jobs, so you’d think I learned something about the value of money. But it’s difficult when no one ever wants to even approach the subject.

So how did I learn? Well, essentially by getting laid off for the first time in 2002. I was a news anchor in D.C., and right before the country went to war, this company (which will not be named) laid off the entire news staff. But their questionable decision was my path to a new world — the world of television and entertainment. I loved it. My first job was on a style/fashion type show, and if you know me…that’s always been one of my passions! I know designers like a 6 year old boy knows Hot Wheels. After two years working on that show, the network decided to move it to New York City, and that’s when I began to realize the importance of networking. I also figured it was necessary to have some savings. Now, I was still living with my parents then, and they will always support me. But it was time for me to get my own financial situation under control.

My first step was to figure out how to get rid of my credit card debt. I transferred everything onto a 0% card, and I applied anything extra out of my paychecks towards paying this card off. I, eventually, even transferred my student loan onto a 0% card. I don’t know if that’s a wise move these days because financial experts always tell you not to move your money from secured debts to unsecured ones. However, this really helped me.

My brother also helped. He consolidated one of my student loans with his, paid it off, and I just paid him monthly (without interest). (My brother is really the financial guru in the family. I hope to be him one day.) Soon, after paying off all of my debts, I started saving, and I now have roughly a year’s worth of expenses saved up.

Now, here’s the dilemma. My fiance and I have been engaged for a year now. We wanted to get married this August. But with the recession, we’d like to have an even bigger emergency savings because my savings would only cover me. If we were both out of a job, it definitely wouldn’t cover him. Most of you are probably thinking this is a no-brainer. We should just wait to get married, right? Well, not so simple. A lot of wedding locations, florists, photographers, etc. are offering deals THIS YEAR. And I’m a sucker for a bargain. So, to get married or not to get married. That is the question. And…just in case you were wondering. The question is NOT to have a cheaper, lesser wedding. I’m all about getting the BEST for LESS. I just need some help. ~Katy

et cetera