Recession 2.0 hit me hard and fast, long before news of foreclosures and bailouts started headlining the nightly news.
My husband runs his own consulting firm and I'm a writer for a nonprofit. We've never been rich, but we were comfortable, able to enjoy some of the finer things that money brings young professionals who don't have kids or a mortgage. Nice wine, fancy dinners out on the town, the occasional massage . . . things you don't really need, but are very easy to get used to.
Then, one evening last June, I walked into our apartment to find my husband pacing the living room. I knew something was up and I knew it wasn't good.
"I just had a really tough conversation with . . ." and he named one of his biggest clients—the one who provided over 80 percent of his business revenue. "He can't pay me anymore."
I could feel the floor drop out from under me. It was like a giant alarm went off in my head, waking me from the dream world we'd been living in. The shrimp defrosting in the fridge for dinner and the wine chilling in the fridge all mocked me, symbols of the life I loved so much. "Come have the last meal of your old life," they seemed to murmur.
I cried and cried, knowing that my salary wasn't enough to pay all our bills and knowing that, for the first time, when my husband told me that he'd take care of everything, I wasn't sure that he could.
But, we're resilient. Both my husband and I come from humble upbringings, we remember what it was like to clip coupons, to cut back, to watch our parents worry about having enough money to pay for both the groceries and the doctor bills. When we met, we were poor students, struggling to even feed ourselves (it's amazing what you can do with an egg, a limp carrot and a box of ramen). We knew we could do this.
We are now in "recession mode." No nights out, no manicures, no clothes shopping. It hasn't been quite as bad as it was in college, but we're definitely more frugal. I approach my weekly grocery shopping like a four-star general heading to battle against rising prices, plotting my game plan in advance and reading the fine print on all the sale signs. No longer throwing whatever looks good in my basket, I've rediscovered the feeling of triumph when you score an amazing deal.
My husband has focused hard on getting more clients. He learned the hard way that having the majority of your business come from one source is not the best way to run your own company. After stepping up his marketing, he's found some success. We're not back to the way we were, but we're getting there.
And I've been trying to earn more too. While I couldn't exactly ask for a raise at my nonprofit job, I've focused more on the freelance writing I do on the side. There's something to be said about how desperation fuels your motivation, because I've earned more from my writing in the last six months than I have in the three years prior. It's not exactly millions (or even thousands), but every little bit helps.
I think what we've both gotten from this is perspective. We'd taken our income for granted, assuming it would always be there, that we'd always have a job. Unfortunately, that's not true. In the new economy, we've learned to grab fleeting opportunities, before somebody else does.
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