I've spent the last few months reading through the Little House on the Prairie books with my seven-year-old daughter. We're on The Long Winter, which is proving to be perfect reading for these difficult times. No matter how bad our economy gets, or how grim the grey winter skies, when it comes to hard times we've got nothing on the little town of DeSmet in the winter of 1880-81.
Winter came early that year, with a blizzard in October, and after that it hardly let up. Pa Ingalls made the quick, smart decision to move his family to town for the duration and it was a good thing they did; they would have frozen or starved otherwise. Blizzard followed blizzard that year, with each storm lasting several days. Most times there was only one clear day between each storm. Trains couldn't make it through the snow-covered tracks after mid-December and the town was left on its own until spring.
One thing that stands out to me in these books is how Ma always manages to scrounge something together for every special occasion, no matter how broke or how hungry they are, and no matter how awful their circumstances. We can learn something from her.
We might be in for a few rough years before the economy improves, but we don't have to spend those years whining about what we don't have. Instead, we can turn our thinking around and see the possibilities. This is your chance to fall back on your inner resources, your chance to be creative, to think outside the box.
It's also a chance for all of us to take a long-needed breather from the consumerism that's kept us in a frantic rush to work, work, work so we can spend, spend, spend.
Think of the recession as a fiscal vacation.
Face it, we act like sheep in a herd more often than we care to admit. If the Johnsons serve champagne and filet minon at their parties, it's hard to reciprocate by throwing a potluck, but if everyone's entertaining on the cheap....well, it gets easier, right?
Last month I talked about planning for fun, and I encouraged you to go to your calendar and make sure one fun thing was happening each week. Well, here I am encouraging you to do the same thing this month. If you're short on cash, make it simple and cheap - a walk with a friend, a trip to the coffee shop for a book club meeting, a visit to a local museum. Go on. Do it right now. I'll wait.
It's not really luxury we miss in difficult times; it's joy that we miss. When we attach joy to money, we do everyone a disservice.