A year ago, before the recession was officially acknowledged, things in my life were looking bright. I was newly married, my husband and I had just graduated from Hastings College, a wonderful Midwestern liberal-arts school in Nebraska, and I was beginning my writing career.
In any economic climate, being young, enthusiastic and a dreamer can either be an amazing or deadly combination.
I was convinced I could make it. We had just moved to Lincoln, Neb., a hubbub of activity compared to the small town from which I’d come. We settled into our newlywed lives in our one-bedroom apartment. My husband worked as a temp in the factory at Novartis Consumer Health. I tried my hand as a freelance writer.
The first rumblings of trouble came from the factory. Gossip of bad financial news ran rampant. We were nervous, but things seemed to be looking up — at least for my husband. On the day he was given a job in the Novartis offices, all the other temps were laid off. When he came home that day, I was expecting an excited and proud husband. What I saw was a man who felt guilty for being happy about his new job.
Both of us worried about our budget. On top of everyday expenses, we had student loans. We could have panicked. I could have drop-kicked my writing career and taken on a “real job” that would have provided something more substantial.
But those economic woes forced us to focus. It was no accident that more than a year ago my mother had paid for us to take a Dave Ramsey financial seminar. That experience has been our saving grace as the economy has worsened.
Because of our low income, we’ve really had to buckle down, and that’s difficult for a couple of twenty-somethings in the city. But now, it’s the little things that get us through the day. Recently, I joked to my husband, “You know you’re in a recession when … ” after I gave him his birthday present: a reorganized closet so his suits could hang straight.
You quickly realize the things you think you need aren’t really necessary at all. You don’t need to shop at a high-end grocery store. You don’t need to have the more-expensive toilet paper just because it’s quilted and softer.
And in the end, you’re happier.
My husband’s job has since expanded to include more important duties. I’ve grown tremendously as a writer, and I am making money doing what I love.
When the economy gets better, you probably won’t see us frequenting those high-end grocery stores or getting that expensive toilet paper. We never expect to be rich, and that’s fine. Although our wallets look anorexic, we appreciate what we have. More importantly, we appreciate each other and how hard we work to support our humble, little lives.
Despite everything, we’re living the American dream, whatever that may be.