Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Down Turn', 'Current Climate' and 'Credit Crunch'. All phrases we have unfortunately become all too familiar with in recent months. Until now, however, I was merely a commentator on this world recession that has provided a much appreciated, alternative 'water cooler' moment that saves us from droning on about the weather. Accept it people, we live in Ireland. It's January, yes it's cold! Great sympathy has been expressed for people losing their jobs in far flung parts of the world. So sad, but at least recessions don't affect 'us'.

But alas I have become the latest victim of this disaster, with my month's notice handed to me last Friday..apparently it's going to get worse before it gets better, mused one of my unemployed friends over lunch in Ranelagh last Saturday. Three of us had met to discuss life, love and plans for the future over a liquid lunch, a sport we have indulged in regularly since meeting on our post grad courses three years ago. There we were, all glum faces and expensively fading highlighted hair, state of the art phones and Lancome lipglosses decorating the table. Dressed head to toe in Topshop with a sprinkle of designer (dammit I will wear those 200euro sunglasses despite the lack of sun) we had four degrees and three post grads, one mortgage, 2 cars and 1 recently rented D4 apartment, but not a job between us for 2009.

Thinking back to my college days it is hard to imagine that I had more disposable income than I may ever have again. Working four nights a week in the family business (also since wiped out from recession) meant that in between cramming notes and snoozing on the train, I was always ready for the next big night out with money leftover for a new outfit as well. 2007 was a blur of working hard, playing hard and spending hard..with my tips in my tote, no matter how late I worked I always arrived at parties just as the crowd was warming up, everywhere was simply a taxi ride away, Rathmines, Ashbourne, Donnybrook and Drimnagh, nowhere was too expensive to hop in a cab when you had more money then you could afford to spend in one weekend. I was never careless but rather enjoyed never having to think twice about going out while at the same time watching my savings account gain extra zeros through the year. A hotel over night with my boyfriend, no problem. A blow dry twice a week, sure why not. A six week blow out holiday to Australia, mmm sounds good. And of course all the while being still in college meant that I was exempt from the real world of VHI bills, using your own hairdryer and getting the bus to your Saturday night hotspot. Now don't get me wrong I worked hard for my money and never had stuff handed to me like some of my classmates but being in college meant 'keep your money for yourself', while living at home scot free.

Now, two years on I have learnt what it is to budget..Long before this recession reared its ugly head I have acquired an obsession with list making and being organized..I now enjoy 'shopping around' for best value, buying things half price and 2 for 1. In the last year Penneys has become the mecca for all fashionistas, hoardes of women stomping over each other to get the last size 12 on a 12 euro dress. It has become 'en Vogue' to team Penney’s dresses with Jimmy Choo Shoes (trust me I work with 14 of the most stylish women, well for three more weeks I do) and there is something extremely satisfying about discovering 5euro bottles of wine in Lidl that taste, well, drinkable , before paying 20euro into an exclusive club!

Now don't get me wrong, I still love all that is lavish and luxurious in life ( a typical Taurean trait), but I have now learnt the art of 'not wasting'. I don't seem to have any less 'stuff' and am still enjoying spending but budgeting more sensibly means I don't feel guilty. While my savings account currently has one big fat zero in it, so does my credit card. I now - shock horror- eat what's in my fridge before restocking, I turn off lights when I'm finished and I take buses instead of taxis or better still I walk! Eating out is a treat and eating in involves own brand products rather then over priced tomatoes. This is testing me most during the recession as I am missing my Marks and Spencer’s salads! But at least I have learnt I can cope when I need to and I know my old granddad is definitely smiling down on my thriftiness.

Thinking of how I wasted so much before leaves me queasy, I could have had a car for all I spent on taxis and an apartment sooner if I wasn't busy staying in hotels. A small part of me is glad about the recession as I feel it is a lesson that came just in time for my generation. Spending and greed was getting out of control, we were all caught up in a whirl wind of ' I own, I bought, I have'.
It might just be too late for those who are slightly younger though..the other day I called my youngest brother for my regular 'where is your life going, have you looked for a job yet' conversation.. He answered in his usual spritely manner, not a care in the world for this 21 year old living at home with no job. 'I can't talk now sis' he said, 'I'm making me dinner'. I asked what he was having, worried he might be existing on recession friendly crisps and pot noodles. 'A prawn and pineapple stir-fry' was my answer. 'Sure I get 200 euro a week on the dole', he quipped up! 'The recession is grand' he informed me. And with that the line went dead. My credit was gone. Thank god for his disposable income, he rang me straight back.

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