Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Recession - From Where I Sit

I've purposely stayed away from most talk about what's happening in the world. The news is just depressing, and really, who of us needs help being depressed?

But I wanted a record of what it was like, today, here, because we are making history right now, and someday, I'm going to wonder what October 7, 2009 was like, and if I don't write it now, I won't remember, then.

Mostly, it seems like life is just going on business as usual. For the most part, our lives haven't really changed. We're both still working, and we haven't, yet, had any problems paying the bills.

My client mentioned that they weren't getting as many referrals. I've always been aware that my job is only "as-needed", but I think what I do is such a small part of their total costs that I feel pretty secure. I don't think they'll "let me go." What's more likely is that they just won't have as much work for me to do, and since I get paid per the job, my pay check will be less if I work less.

Deus Ex Machina's company went through a restructure earlier this year, and everyone who wasn't laid off ended up taking a huge pay cut from April to August. Once everything was reorganized, they brought everyone back, but at reduced pay. So, we're not making as much as we were this time last year.

Still, the pay cut didn't hurt us. We were still able to live within our means, and when I say it was a substantial cut, I'm not sure how we managed given that we were, I thought, living right at our income level before. Either we really did some serious budget reduction over the summer, or we were saving a lot more, before the pay cut, than I knew.

Maybe a little of both.

Knowing that, though, makes me feel a little more confident about our future. We were making only 75% of what we earned in 2008, and our lives didn't change. We still did whatever we wanted and seemed to have plenty of money to fund our choices. It must of have been the change in our attitudes about spending money that made the difference. We still have a lot of fat we could trim if we had to cut to the bone.

We haven't been negatively affected ourselves, but we do know some people who are having some problems.

Several of my kids' friends' parents have lost jobs or are underemployed, and I do hear some grumbling about how difficult *things* have become. We're pinching pennies, because we choose to do so. I guess that's not the case for everyone we know.

I've heard about a couple of folks who are close to foreclosure, but I don't actually know anyone who's lost a house, yet.

Maine farmers were pretty hard hit this year. I was talking with Sue at the local farm store this evening when I stopped in for potatoes, and she said that they lost 60% of their crop. Sixty percent! I wanted a 50# bag of spuds, which combined with what I grew, would do us the whole winter (potatoes are our staple food, and we eat them almost every day). They only had 5# and 10# bags. Sue told me that the owner might be doing a few 50# bags, but mostly, selling the few potatoes they managed to coax along in smaller quantities for a higher, overall, profit, looked much better than trying to sell the heavier quantities. I don't blame them. She took my name, though, and *if* he gets some, she'll give me a call. I guess she felt bad about the potatoes, because she gave us some oranges ... although she thought they might have been "passed." They taste fine, and the girls are happy, because I haven't let them have oranges for a couple of years (oranges are not local ;).

The potato crop did poorly, the tomato crop didn't do so well. So far the apple crop has been good, but we still need to go back to the orchards for our BIG picking. All of the applesauce I canned the other day is gone. It was good. But I know I'm going to need about three dozen quarts to get us through the winter - which is something like 100# of apples. I'd rather not try to can 100# of apples at a time. That would be a lot of work - for me AND for my poor seven-quart capacity canner.

I haven't seen a lot of hardship, yet. Things here are always cyclical, and Maine has never been prosperous like, say, California. The upshot of that, I suppose, is that because we've been forced to be frugal as a way of life, we're not as hard-hit when things truly get bad. It's always bad here ... or good - depending on what one is currently experiencing with regard to the current financial climate ;).

But, also, I think we haven't seen things bad here, yet, this year, because the worst of what other parts of the country have experienced started happening in the middle of the most profitable time of year for us. We're just now exiting our "tourist season", when most of the dollars spent in our state were carried in by visitors, who've gone back home. I think the picture here will be very different by the time we reach sugaring season again.

And I think it's going to be a very long winter.

The Farmer's Almanac is predicting cooler-than-normal temperatures and a lot of snow.

At least recreation will be free ;).


  1. I find myself feeling a bit guilty that this recession hasn't really hurt us. I mean my husband quit his job in January and we've added a new family member. Usually one of these things is financially devastating or burdensome to the average American (or at least the ones I keep reading about in this recession). But here we are not hurting too much. Christmas won't be as juicy as it was last year, but that's OK. We knew it would't be last year and we've had leaner xmases. The job quitting was planned, Mr. Mooch was not. The the two happening together at virtually the same time--sort of planned.
    While I'm not quite as extreme as you in the end of the world planning ;0) I do think that planning and practicing the more frugal lifestyle has made the recession just a blip for us---so far. I don't want to get too cocky!!!

  2. I know what you mean about not wanting to get too cocky. It's a little like tempting fate, isn't it?

    Christmas for us will be handmade, again. Not only is it cheaper, but frankly, I enjoyed the whole gift giving aspect a lot more. I'm not sure how much my gift recipients liked it, though ;).

  3. I just got back from a month on the road, and I gotta say--there was NO recession out west! We had to FIGHT for hotel rooms--the first year this has EVER happened to us. Normally, we have our choice of hotels. There were several times we had to drive many,many miles to find a hotel with ONE room to spare. I know a LOT of folks are hurting, but we sure weren't able to see that on our trip. Maybe a lot of folks are taking "credit card trips" ??

  4. From where I'm sitting it's sorta the same boat. I lost a $32k a year job and Husband's overtime has been reduced and yet... well, we paid off about $5000 worth of debt (finally down to mortgages and student loans only!) and still had leftovers for our first vacation. Back to a cash-only lifestyle.

    I don't want to know what we were doing before because I always THOUGHT I was frugal. Apparently not.

    Glad to hear things are well out your way. Even though we had snow last week, this winter isn't supposed to be anything special. Luckily the west is expecting natural gas prices to drop so things should be OK.

    Wonder why I walk around all day waiting for the other shoe to drop?

  5. I think we sit around waiting for the other shoe to drop because it is going to. Our country cannot keep amassing the amount of debt we've amassed without consequence in some form.

    This part of the state of Maine has always struggled. But the attention to heating is not what it was last year when oil was 147.00 a barrel. Folks are struggling tho.

    Personally, we've gone to mostly cash transactions and it has made a world of difference in knowing where all the money was going. WE are able to save. Unfortunatly, we are very underwater on our house; which would not be a big deal if we did not need to sell the house and move to where my husband is employed.

    So we pick apples, stack wood, put up hay. These things we can control. Simple.