Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Brighter Side of Recessions

I belong to a budget homemaking Yahoo group with thousands of members. When I joined, I envisioned a huge change in my lifestyle and bank balance as I gleaned information from thousands of experts.

If you are familiar with Yahoo groups, you know this was not the case. Most of the members are lurkers, with only about 20-30 people (including me) posting regularly and actively. And most of the posts are from the newly frugal asking for help getting their household budgets in line. When the more seasoned tightwads offer advice, the newbies usually get angry or indignant. They can't envision a meal with a giant piece of meat at its center. They have no time to garden or cook from scratch. Their children deserve new clothes bought at full price. They have unusual health issues which demand that their house be 60 in the summer and 80 in the winter.

You know the attitude, I'm sure. It's one I have written about repeatedly. I have began ignoring the requests for advice because I'm tired of begging people to make the tiny choices that could mean all the difference in their own lives and our planet's future.

But now people on the group are starting to get more serious about saving, and it's not out of concern for the Third World populations who have been slaving away to make their brand new Nikes. No, they are going green from necessity. They actually cannot afford gas anymore, so they're combining errands. They can't afford as many new clothes, so they're gleaning hand-me-downs and foraying into thrift stores that formerly were considered dens of unusable junk and head lice. Some are trying to serve one (gasp!) meal a week without meat. Imagine! And of course they hate it, but I am enthralled. We all know that necessity is the mother of invention... perhaps it is the mother of common sense, too.

If you visit other countries, you know that even the poorest Americans have an unbelievable amount of expendable income compared to other first world nations. That's why we waste... we can afford to.

I never thought I'd say this, but Thank You Big Oil. Thank you, greedy corporate CEOs. By jacking up the rates of just about everything, you've forced the most wasteful culture on the planet to reign in the insanity just a fractional bit. Here's a virtual high five.

For the record, prices seem stable in my area, but everyone else is B@#$&ing about the recession, and if the scare alone is enough to clean up our act a little, I say bring it on.