Our guide to help you survive these tough economic times

Carol Kinsey GomanMany of us – in fact, most of us – will go through, or are going through, tough economic times. Maybe these strategies from others who have – or currently are – will be of help.

As expected, the highest number of strategies for thriving in tough economic times had to do with spending cuts. But those weren’t the only strategies that people were employing. Here are the top three categories of tips reported.

1) Modify spending.

We are being cautious about spending and look more to the future when planning vacations, spending money on our house or helping our older children. I think the big difference is slowing down a little when making financial decisions and watching more closely for the unexpected expenses.

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My tips? Socialize with your neighbours, friends and relatives by doing simple things. Help each other with yard work, play cards and games, watch movies together. Take in free community events. Volunteer to help with those events. Visit your library and get a library card. Spruce up your wardrobe by shopping at consignment stores. Keep track of what you spend where and think if that is truly where you should be investing. Take this opportunity to make a plan to save more so that you can sustain yourself and your family for a year or more on savings. Have discipline in how you spend your time.

We’re watching more movies at home rather than going to the cinema.

Cutting back personally = not eating out, keeping old cars, mending clothes and not buying new ones, nor springing for niceties like Starbucks.

Less trips to Starbucks, don’t need all the lattes anyway, LOL. Judging purchases by how many car payments they are. E.g. We wanted some furniture, but we decided not to make the purchase because it was equal to four car payments.

Analyzing where we are really spending money and creating a plan so that we have clear goals we are working toward. Looking for great deals, lower interest rates, lower prices on items we need or purchases we have been holding off.

We like to go out to dinner periodically, particularly for beer and pizza, but this year, we are going every four months.

Taking a winter vacation every two years rather than every year.

I’ve cut back on my gym membership. However, exercise is essential if you are not working or worried about the times. I walk outside and do abs on my bedroom floor to stay in shape. I looked for a sale for hand weights as well. I pay a small fee not to lose my initiation fee and can be in this non-active status for six months. I do not go out for dinner or lunch except for a rare networking dinner or lunch. I make my own cookies/muffins. I buy a whole chicken and make several days of it. I make pizza from the dough you can buy. (Meals from scratch are much cheaper than ready-made.) I clip coupons and shop the sales. I had to cut back on cable TV services, and I don’t go out to the movies. I use the local library for magazines and books. I’m not afraid to say no to my family or friends or tell them I prefer not to spend the money right now.

I often do the shopping, and I buy less meat, mainly in the interest of healthy eating but also because of the cost. And a few things, such as orange juice, I buy every other week instead of each week. When you examine prices, you see how expensive groceries are these days, and juice is one.

Simple steps have included not going out to eat as frequently and attending local community theatre performances vs. travelling. More complex steps have included renegotiating with vendors like the satellite TV provider, reworking car leases and setting lower monthly rates, and renegotiating long-distance phone call rates.

We think twice about errands that we have to run so we package them in a way that reduces mileage. We save a lot of money on gas anyway because my office is in the house, and most of my business travel is by air, but that said, we still try to be careful in “around-town” travel.

We are reducing overall driving by things like eating out nearer to home rather than travelling to other nearby cities.

I try to get the same for less money, and if I do not get it, I try to get more for the same money. It works, and it presses the suppliers to become ever more efficient. It does not put them out of business at all. They become more creative.

Cash in – Credit out – Stop using credit cards. Construct a budget and stick to it.

Cable TV is a luxury.

Gym memberships cost a lot. If this is how you treat yourself – excellent! However, I have too many friends with memberships they don’t use. Go for a walk … pay as you go for gym usage if possible.

I have not purchased any clothes/shoes for the last three months and am not even missing shopping.

Personally, I am carpooling … saves lots of money each month. Using coupons and shopping at sales only. Saving more is the key right now … not always easy to do when everything keeps going up in price.

I’m doing more free stuff with family and friends – sports, running and playing basketball with my son.

I am struggling to find the right balance between surviving and thriving. So, I have started a budget and am using it to keep track of my expenses. I’m trying to stay within the confines of it and, at the same time, get a better picture of what I spend my income on so that I have the data needed to make informed decisions about future cuts.

My husband and I had our three-month emergency savings established long before the economy stalled. When the failing economic indicators revealed themselves, we stashed a little more at a time. We’ve been saving for over a year. While this practice is admittedly terrible for the economy, it provides a great feeling of individual security. I don’t worry even a little about losing my job. I can now maintain my lifestyle without an income for a whole year before we acquire any debt. I feel confident that I can find employment in that amount of time, and it is empowering to feel secure when so many feel fear.

2) Stay positive

During this economic time, it is a good reminder to be thankful for the blessings you have and not to take anything for granted. Remembering to focus on the positive and not the negative. Don’t panic with all the doom and gloom. Let’s pass through this phase of life with grace and dignity!

Personally, I have found it challenging on occasion to get out of bed in the morning as I typically awake to a clock radio and the news – always doom and gloom – the ‘chicken little’ scenario – ‘the sky is falling’. I worried about my decreasing financial portfolio, my contracts, my children and university, the heartbreak of the unemployed, the increasing homeless population, the selfishness of many in powerful positions, and the seeming inability of world leaders to visualize the macro while putting in place the micro.

My solution: I applied the Dale Carnegie theory to my life – “What is the worst thing that could possibly happen?” I decided what that was for me in my business and personal life. I then met with my brokers and reviewed my financial portfolio to get a real-time perspective – then shelved it; turned the radio off and awaken to a buzzer; spent time with positive people versus the negative; say a prayer for the selfish; applauded the leaders who stepped outside the box; contributed to the well being of my community; am thankful for the blessings I have in family, friends, home; and, my ability to work in a circle rather than in a box!

Stay positive by remembering how lucky you are to have what you do … your friends, family, health, shelter, etc. Billions have so much less.

Remember your economics lessons to keep your perspective. Recessions happen, and they don’t last forever. In fact, a couple of decades later, you may not even remember it.

3) Renew your spirit

Know that God has a plan for you. There is peace in focusing on what’s really important. Remember that the bad economic times are not about you. Start the day with spiritual readings. Spend your time helping others find jobs, food, shelter. Take joy in networking – reconnecting with folks you value and making new connections. Help others make connections. Love those around you. Appreciate each day. Share the highlights of your day with your loved ones around the dinner table. (Invite others who are struggling to join you.) Start new habits that may change your life for the better forever.

Keeping life balanced between home and work and balancing time with family and friends is very important.

I may give up lattes, but I need to keep going to Yoga. It gives me inner peace.

Carol Kinsey Goman, PhD, is an executive coach, consultant, and international keynote speaker at corporate, government, and association events. She is also the author of STAND OUT: How to Build Your Leadership Presence.

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