Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Recession Babies

My dad was a Depression Baby. While I was born on the tail-end of the Baby Boom, Dad was born in 1930 – right at the start of the Great Depression. People who were kids in the 30s developed a certain perspective on spending and wastefulness. My parents carried those perspectives with them their whole lives. A lot of the clues to my parent's upbringing could be found in small gestures, like re-using paper towels, saving corks, and huge jars of nuts and bolts. There was another thing too... my parents were reluctant to spend money to fix non-essential features that broke on things. Like the channel knob on the TV set, or the antenna on the radio. If the back hatch on my dad's minivan wouldn’t stay up; Dad would have never dreamed of taking the car to the dealer and paying to have it fixed. Dad would have gone out to his work shed, found a length of 2x4, cut it to length, and tossed it in the back of the car so it would be there when he needed it. That’s the type of thinking that I think we need to get back to.

This weekend I replaced a set of struts in the car. Both my family and my neighbors expressed more than a little surprise that I would attempt my own automotive maintenance, particularly on something as seemingly (to them) as difficult as that. For the most part, many of my friends and associates come from a culture that sees nothing wasteful in paying someone to change a set of wiper blades or pump their gas. I’m all for supporting the local economy through spending money, but I need to save money as well. The decision to build/fix vs. buy/hire was probably much easier for me since I’m among the recently laid off. But I would argue that everyone should start considering taking steps like this... now. If you’re unemployed and living off your savings, you need to save your cash wherever you can. If you’re working, you might want to think about spending a weekend or evening saving some cash and adding it to your emergency fund. Plus you might be learning a skill that could help you save more if you find yourself out of work. I'm going to track the $ money I save on the car repairs and report back...

Meanwhile, I think I'll go out to Dad's shed and find those old black and white TVs with the vise-grip knob turners and take them to the e-waste center
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