A FEW WORDS ABOUT THE ECONOMY
The economy sucks. Yes, its been that way for 5 years now. We know that, but what have you decided to do? Did you decide to be a victim and cry about it, or did you ditch the smartphone, car payment, and shred all the credit cards except for one you keep in a safety deposit box for emergencies? Still have that SUV? Or did you park it and/or sell it and bought a smaller fuel-economy car? Did you decide to take the family on vacation to Disney or did you decide a cruise is a far better deal since they are literally 50% or less than what they usually are? No one is saying deprive yourself or your family, but if all your kids have smart phones and you are still going to Disney when phone plans are cheaper as well as cruises, then you need to take a closer look at how you are a victim of yourself and the corporations by continuing to contribute to what brought us to these hardships already. Thats right, I do blame the corporations who brainwashed you into believing you needed a smart phone to share photos, email, media, texting. I mean really, you are usually at a computer for several hours a day, do you really need that smart phone for the hour you are commuting or out at a meeting or family event? You can’t live without your email, web, internet, texting for 1-3 hours? How did you do it 5-10 years ago? In the “old days” circa Y2K, we would check our email before leaving work and we would check it again after dinner. If something Earth-shattering would happen within those 2-3 hours, certainly we would get a phone call, not an email or text message. I have an iPhone, and I love it, but I am out shooting on location away from a PC for as much as 12-15 hours each day, I love being able to check my email, get a text about a subcontractor on another job as to how its going, and even check in on Facebook to see what my friends are doing. Its all good, but I can afford it, and I am not going broke because of it. If anything, I would ditch cable or FiOS or any other service to the tune of $150/month since I have a data plan on my phone and iPad.
My point is, we need to change our habits, not wait for the government to make our lives better. Those people on Wall Street protesting? Ask them if a gun was held to their head when they signed up for credit cards and/or a mortgage to the tune of $100,000. They didn’t. They wanted it, but never thought they actually had to pay for it. Yes, many or even most were hard working and had a job when they signed up to be in debt, and now they are out of work. So, maybe they were making $50/hour before, but the reality is, those jobs are gone. Now you have to work a bit harder and bag groceries, work in retail, flip burgers, or get a landscaping job for a fraction of what you were once paid. It sucks, trust me, I know, I paid for my education and I deserve to be paid for my skills. But, if those jobs are not there do I just cave in and wait for someone else like the government to fix the problem? Or, do I go out and get a job that is not quite my ideal job, in fact a job I could have gotten without and interview as a teenager? The answer is obvious, start flipping burgers at a fast food chain or bagging groceries, with a good attitude you will soon move up to cashier, then department manager, then manager if you are half as smart as you think you are. And if none of that happens, its better to be working and meeting people than sitting home feeling depressed about how you cannot pay the bills or feed your family or afford vacation or are a month behind on health insurance, car payment or smartphone bill. You need to adjust your habits, and, when things do get better, you will be that much further ahead of the pack.
Let me give you a few examples. A photographer friend of mine went cold-calling, knocking on doors of wedding photography studios looking for work. I heard about it (its a small world) and offered him a job in NYC for 2-3 hours for $300 and he said “sorry I don’t do New York, money to get in, tolls, gas, parking, etc.” So, he turned down a job for $300 which, even with expenses could not have cost him more than $50, $25 if he took public transportation. Not to mention how many contacts he could have made since it was a semi-political function. Really? You rather spend a day knocking on doors all over North Jersey than take a job in NYC for $250 off the books for 2 hours of work? Really? I gave the job to someone else, they jumped at the opportunity, sure in the end it was about 4-5 hours of work and travel time, but that was basically the electric bill for the month, gas money, groceries, even healthcare for a full month. The fact is, there is work out there, but its not what it used to be, and people don’t want to do it because they are accustomed to getting more for doing less. Guess what? Those days are gone… adapt, or don’t complain. When things change, then we can go back to commanding the money we deserve if its available. Trust me, I know it sucks paying your dues and still making the same money you did a decade ago. What sucks more, is not having any money. So take your pick, its your choice, but so many of us DO NOT have a choice (like factory workers in a dying town/community) but in a metro area, we have a choice, take advantage, suck it up.
Here is another story which is a bit more positive. A caller on the Dave Ramsey Radio Show (how to become debt free) told of the fact that he was an MBA but took a job at Burger King making burgers. Even at minimum wage, you can make $300/week. That may be 1/3 of what you are used to working, but this guy went in every day with a great attitude, never complained and the owners soon moved him up to management, from there up to district manager of several restaurants of that chain. MBA being a district manager of several fast food restaurants may not be his ideal, but he soon broke the debt barrier, lived within his means and is now debt free. Here is the bonus… his wife was working too, but making more, but even assuming she was also making minimum wage, they had enough money for the mortgage, car payment, groceries.
Don’t overlook the pennies. Again, its not ideal but at least your time and mind are occupied. You are out, meeting people, and the management notices you and elevates you due to good work ethics and attitude. I know I don’t want to climb that corporate ladder again in my 40s, but it beats the options of bankruptcy, not being able to feed or provide for myself or family. Its always dark during the storm, but remember, at some point, there must be sunlight again. I’d rather wake up tired at the end of the storm than still penniless when the sun starts to shine and everyone are fighting for those available jobs.
For those of you who did not understand, comprehend or think about what I took time to write above, just do this, and don’t say you don’t know how:
1) STOP USING CREDIT CARDS, you are contributing to debt and high interest payments.
2) AVOID USING DEBIT CARDS, yes, its your money but you don’t feel the same pain as paying cash.
3) USE CASH ONLY, especially at gas stations which charge more per gallon for debit/credit.
4) BUDGET: Sure that steak or salmon looks good, but if you only have $50 to spend that week on groceries, go for the chicken on sale and buy cheap staples like rice, beans, pasta, vegetables. Save some money for the steak later on.
5) Keep at least 1 month of expenses, if not 2 months of expenses, in an emergency fund. 1 month to go on vacation, or loss of job and a 2nd month worth of expenses if the car needs repair.
I can go on, but if you can’t take these first 5 steps, you really have no right to complain. Its called preventive medicine. Good luck. We all need it, but plan your own luck if all else fails.