I was fortunate to be raised in a family that taught me an important principle about life and that is this: Life is what YOU make of it.
I know it may sound trite, but I have found this to be a true and correct principle. You may be thinking, "I thought I was going to read about the upside of this down economy. What does LIFE have to do with it?" The answer is: EVERYTHING!
Is is true that the economy could stand a little boost? Yes!
Is it true that it's all doom and gloom out there? Only if you choose to make it true by buying into all the media hype out there. Afterall--they want to sell papers, magazines and commercial spots...don't they? How better to do that than with fear and manipulation? I'm not saying ALL media outlets have taken this road, but it is the general tone of the majority of media outlets today.
What I'm trying to get across is that this economy is so much more than stockmarket portfolios, corporate downsizing or the mortgage crisis. What it really boils down to for me and my family is that our society lives in excess! The concept of living within your means is foriegn to far too many and that is part of the reason that many have reacted with fear to the recent economic downturn.
Life IS what you make it and that is all that is happening. It's time to pay the piper, so to speak. And we ALL have ended up paying in the end. So where's the upside you ask???
It's up to us to CHOOSE how we react now and how we go forward from here. Here's what we've done in our family to ride out the storm.
1. Save for a rainy day! When I got my first job and checking account when I turned 15, my Dad also insisted I open up a savings account. He said, "ALWAYS pay yourself FIRST!" That principle taught me to prepare for life's little emegencies and has been a valuable habit--literally! I've been through "hard times"--Hurricane Katrina. We lost our community, our home, our posessions and started again from scratch. Thankfully, we encurred no new debt--because we saved for a rainy day.
Living paycheck to paycheck? No extra? Been there, done that! Look at your living expenses and see what you can temporarily sacrifice for a long term gain. For us, it was cable TV and eating out several times a week. In one short year we saved over $5,000 JUST cutting out those two non-necessities.
Still no wiggle room? Get creative and find ways to generate a secondary source of income! Again, necessity is the mother of invention. Been there, done that too! Tap into your talents and resources--you'll be amazed at what you find.
2. Make this a teaching opportunity. We've chosen to focus on the positive message being prepared gives to our children. Those who are prepared are not in fear.
3. Makeover your Money! If you're not sure "how" to budget--get a book! Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman are awesome! I've read numerous books they've written and really have a handle on how to keep us in great financial health! One of the best things I ever learned was to live on a "cash" budgeting system. If the "cash" isn't there and it is NOT an "emergency" (and I learned that pedicures do NOT constitute a true emergency) then I simply don't spend it. Ever wonder WHERE all your money goes? Keep track of EVERYTHING you spend (every penny, nickel and dime) for one week in a notebook. You will be AMAZED at what you find.
4. Don't believe the hype! Yes, things aren't perfect. Yes, some of our family, friends & neighbors are facing hard times. The worst thing we could do is to do NOTHING because of the fear of the unknown! Where will that leave us? Life must go on and we must be the ones to drive the economy forward. We can't do that if we live in fear and cease our activities of daily living.
5. Share your abundance If you have found yourself in good financial standing--Bravo for you; but, it's time to pay it forward. If you have a knack for budgeting, share it with someone who lacks in that area. If you have the ability to give--give as generously as you can. Time can be as important of a gift as currency. It is time to take care of our own. If you know of someone who faces a lay-off, see what you can do to ease their burden.
Recently, I attended a networking event where a member brought her 7 year old daughter along. She did so because her 7 year old, along with her best friend, was fundraising for the Make A Wish foundation. A brownie troop visit to the Greater Houston chapter of Make A Wish had inspired these young girls to give back. In fact, they had asked that all monies meant to be utilized for their upcoming 8th birthdays we donated instead so that the girls could be Wishmakers. A "gift" of $5,000 is needed in order for a Wishmaker to grant a wish for another child.
I can only tell you that I couldn't write a check fast enough so that the tears would erase the ink! Those little girls not only met their goal, but they EXCEEDED it. It all started with a greatful heart and a powerful lesson from home--that LIFE is what you make of it.May we ALL make life the BEST life possible for ourselves and others.