Money and Love…or Hate

Yes, I’ve been remiss.  Prepping a house for sale and looking for a job have slurped up my creative juices. When you hit a job fair where 15k people show up… When the market’s at 7,000 points… (note: long ago I mentioned that someone (I couldn’t find the source) said 7 ,000 was the point where the market would stabilize. God, I hope so!! Just not seeing the continual slide might help many find just a smidgen of hope that we’d get through this.

But, many aren’t. You can’t be frugal when there’s nothing to be frugal with. And, few things test a relationship as much as an empty checkbook. For many, money is our worth, our value to others. For others it’s a means of avoidance – a new outfit or fancy dinner allows us to skip facing the issues in our life. For still others, it’s a barrier to a relationship, as this funny, but sadly true article shows. Creativity and a sense of humor had no chance against $$$.

Many are staying in unstable, unhappy, unfullfilling relationships out of necessity.   Can’t sell the house. Can’t find a job. Can’t leave. It may be a financial fix, but it’s one that will surely lead to repercussions felt for generations. Frustration, fear, anger, hopelessness – who better to vent at than that SOB spouse you’d leave in a minute if it weren’t for the economy. Love crossses that ever so thin line and turns to hatred. Divorce may be on the slide, but I’m guessing domestic violence will see a big upturn, mostly in terms of verbal abuse, but don’t count out battered bodies along with the scarred souls.

We don’t like to talk about mental health issues in this country. Only the “weak” can’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps ( or whatever cliche you’d like to insert.) Guess what? A lot of strong, responsible, caring human beings will find themselves tested beyond their limits. Some may throw themselves in front of trains, but more of them will throw their pain at others or internalize it and self-destruct (drugs, alcohol, affairs, gambling, over-eating.)

If there’s ever an issue that you can’t be frugal about, it’s your brain. A mind IS a terrible thing to waste. Find a means to shore up your mental health during these horrific financial times. Reallocate dollars and maybe you can try a Relationship Boot Camp. Too steep? Buy the book. Watch Dr. Phil. Search the internet. See what services your community offers. Find a way to save your sanity, if not your relationship.

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Frugal and Jobs

All I want for Christmas is… a JOB! That’s on the wish list of millions this year – like the  4.4 million who are trying to survive on unemployment benefits. The 400k who gave up looking?  In an economy that lost almost 2M jobs this year, it’s not hard to understand their hopelessness. Which leads us to auto workers.

$73 an hour? Absurd! Yes, but also not true. Workers COST $73 an hour, they don’t MAKE $73 an hour. If you’re earning $15 an hour, you’re probably costing your employer about $20, assuming you have a reasonable benefit package. Auto workers do make about double the average worker and about $10 an hour more than their non-union counterparts. And, they get pensions – I know, most of us don’t have a clue what that is anymore. Our future financial health is our problem. (also known as the tanking 401k.)

If you’re unemployed, you probably want to save the auto industry so you don’t have to compete with another 3 million job-seekers. If you’re employed and struggling just to survive, the fear of higher taxes from the bailouts probably has you saying, “the heck with ’em.” I can talk out of both sides of my mouth on this one. There is no easy answer. What I do know is this:

1) If you have a job, suck up, do what’s asked, do more than what’s asked, smile a lot and KEEP it! If anything in this article sounds familiar…

2) If you have a job, spend like you don’t. Given that companies are dumping  jobs faster than I can hit the delete key, think like a good Boy or Girl Scout – Be prepared.

3) If you’re going to spend money, make it count. Money can buy happiness – if you understand what happiness it.

4) Practice frugal principles and extend your bucks, always grateful that you have them to extend.

But even the most frugal finagler can’t invent bucks.  For those of you without a job:

1) Now’s the time for, “If I didn’t work I’d…” (fill in the blank.) Make this a time to regroup. Get in shape. A healthier you interviews better. Use your brain. A well-versed you interviews better. Learn something. A confident you interviews better. Volunteer. A paying forward you has more opportunities available.

2) Lower your standards. Income can be extended, juggled, massaged. Zero is still zero.

3) In an economy where 1 in 10 find themselves in trouble with their mortgage, you won’t be alone if you try to restructure debt. Pride is one of the seven deadly sins for a reason – it won’t feed you.

4) Knowing you’re not alone in this nightmare doesn’t relieve the stress of living it. Try one of these.

Now’s the time to prepare for 2009. Part of that planning is restraint during the holiday season. Part of it is visualizing the frugal you in the year ahead. And, part of it is attitude, the most predominant aspect of gratitude. Not since more years ago than most of us can remember has the economy left so many so hopeless. A quick look down and  you’ll see there are plenty of people even worse off. It’s the looking up that makes the glass half empty.