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Opinion: How to Thrive in the Recession

Poli Psy


Published April 1, 2009 at 8:49 a.m.

Yes, the economic crisis has hit us all hard. But tough times also bring out the old-fashioned value of thrift and inspire the ingenuity and grit to practice it. Here are 10 tips for making it through the downturn. Don’t confine yourself to my suggestions, though. Be creative — and generous: Share these ideas with family and friends!

1. Make some money. With Photoshop and other DIY graphics software, counterfeiting is easier than ever before. But don’t overreach. Produce just enough to see yourself and your family through the next few months (or years). Remember what happened to Bernie Madoff.

2. Renegotiate your contract. Rather than silently accepting a layoff, see what you can work out with your boss. In these tough times, there is nothing management appreciates more than flexibility. A salary is good if you can get it, but appreciate the other valuable benefits that don’t cut as deeply into the bottom line. A workplace gives you a roof over your head eight to 10 hours a day, and it’s usually heated in winter and air-conditioned in summer. Frequent birthday parties — at large companies, there’s one practically every afternoon — are convenient sources of highly concentrated calories. And, even with cutbacks, many offices still provide free water.

3. When you aren’t working, stay home all the time. Unfortunately, this parsimonious tactic is less reliable than it once was, now that we can shop and access all manner of paid services through the Internet. But here’s a tip: Let your electric bill lapse. You’ll save dollars and also avoid those tempting spending opportunities.

4. Memorize. In our overstimulated media age, memorization is a forgotten skill. But prisoners in solitary confinement have learned that the person who knows portions of the Bible, poetry or song lyrics by heart is never bored. Borrow books and CDs from the library now and commit them to memory. When these public institutions have lost their funding, you’ll be far ahead in the entertainment game.

5. Repair, recycle, reuse. Many Americans have already become experts in waste-free living. But think again about those items you still consider disposable. Can’t you rinse out that dental floss, Q-tip or tampon, hang it up to dry and wring two — even three! — more uses out of it?

6. Sell or rent the excess. Look through your closets and cabinets with new eyes. Depending on the prescription, the leftover pills in the bottom of the bottle can bring a pretty penny in some parts of town. What about those old family albums? How often do you look at them, anyway? Collectors of 1950s or ’70s kitsch will grab them up on eBay. And, with numbers of mortgage foreclosures rising, your home is looking increasingly attractive to renters. You may not have an extra bedroom, but if you’re shorter than 6 feet, there is probably a foot of space at the bottom of your bed lying empty every night.

7. Expand the menu. Certain editions of The Joy of Cooking contain delightful recipes for raccoon, woodchuck, porcupine and other wildlife that may be roaming your garden or investigating your garbage cans at this very moment. (Once you’ve procured the animal, be sure to follow the instructions on removing certain glands and “kernels” from its body.) And don’t forget the protein right inside your home. No, I am not suggesting you execute your companion animal. But should the hamster or goldfish, sadly, pass on, try dusting her in cornmeal or tempura batter, frying and serving her with a nice dipping sauce. Knowing that Goldie has contributed to the household economy in this profound way may help your family find closure.

8. Ask the kids to chip in. Even though jobs are scarce, there are some forms of work — chimney sweeping or cat burglary, for instance — that most adults are simply too large to do. Many armies throughout the world are also recruiting children. Help your kids seek out these opportunities. Work is a character-building experience.

9. Use it up. Everything.

10. Hope the recession ends before you have nothing left.