Sunday, April 26, 2009

Another troubled friend was worried about the recession last week, not just about her bank balance, but rather her looks!
“It’s causing me to break out in spots and I definitely have new wrinkles with all the stress,’’ she shrieked alarmingly.
Of course compounding the problem was having no spare cash for indulgent beauty products in her efforts to turn back the clock as she rapidly approaches 30.

While the recession is certainly stressful, I guess I'm lucky when it comes to the ageing process. I am constantly being told I look younger then my years but, rather than be happy with my unchanging face, I was always annoyed at often being treated a good five years younger.

It’s only probably in the last six months as I veer further away from my mid-20s that I am starting to appreciate what a blessing it is to have a few years shaved of my age.

Certain I would awake haggard one morning after a year of losing two jobs and the in-between worrying, I guess I was pleasantly surprised to be asked for id in a city supermarket last week

I hadn't been id'd in at least two years!

Complete in tracksuit and red face from hilarious attempts at jogging, the thought of leaving without my bottle of wine was not an option and I sternly informed the cashier that I was fast approaching my 27th birthday and left, thankfully, a few minutes later, mortified but at least with my alcohol in tow.
When my embarrassment subsided I allowed myself the compliment of being mistaken yet again for the face of an 18-year-old.

My Mam is the same; the clock seems to be ticking slowly despite her nearing 50. She loves to have our visiting friends gush over her youthful appearance. Despite the most stressful year of her life, the closing of her business at the start of the recession seems to have left her face without any additional lines, perhaps the only part of her that hasn't been affected.

Of course while recession stress might so far be evading my face, unfortunately I can't say the same for my body. My job searching in January was accompanied by much- needed comfort eating and I have helped console many an unemployed friend over a cheap bottle of wine these past few months.

The damn recession is affecting my figure as well as my bank account.

Now, if only I had the metabolism of an 18-year-old as well

Join the all-new Windows Live Messenger fa

Saturday, April 18, 2009

There was great cause for celebration this week as two of the girls have got job offers at last. Great job offers. One has been miserably unemployed for almost six months, while the other was trapped in a part-time job earning less then a week’s payment on the dole.

She received the good news while torturing herself in a Top Shop changing room, browsing the day away. Not surprising then, that she whipped out her credit card and blew a €1,000 in a frenzied celebration of her success. Some might begrudgingly shake their heads at her impulsive spree but it was well-deserved -- with the added bonus of helping to keep our sinking retail industry afloat.

I've been indulging in some overspending myself. After several weeks of living on dwindling savings and dangerously treading the limit of my overdraft, it was nice to be receiving a pay cheque once more. Now settled into my new job, I am no longer relying on the copper droppings from my piggy bank and have a deliciously crisp payslip to look forward to on a weekly basis. Sure, the economy is a long way from recovery and who’s to say whether our current jobs are safe from the grips of this destructive recession, but why not live in the moment and enjoy what cash we have? I have spent months of cutting back already, berating myself when I resisted temptation and squandered my money on an ‘unnecessary item’.

Why feel guilty for spending some of what we earn? I am conscientiously building a savings account for the future but surely not every penny needs to go into it? Are we supposed to all sit at home with the lights off and our wallets locked away while the economy plunges further into debt? Believe me, there was no one happier then my friend in Top Shop in last week, her joy bordering on hysteria. It was a long time since she had splurged on any shopping and she deserved every ecstatic minute of it. I joined her celebrations later that evening, with an overpriced take away and several bottles of good wine. Mid-week bliss! But rather than irresponsibly wasting our money, we were simply savouring the euphoria of shopping and spending, relishing our current employed status. Deep down we know how quickly we could be back in the dole queue and far from financial contentment. The thought is really never far from our impulsive minds…

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Last week’s Budget was an unwelcome reminder of this ugly recession. As if we needed reminding. It was a call to rethink my spending yet again, as I grappled with figures trying to understand what the Budget’s implications were for me.

Throughout the broadcast I rang my unemployed younger brother, forgetting of course that he would be asleep and I should ring back after dark…At 21, he just missed out on having his dole halved and can continue his oversleeping at ease..

My other brother reckoned he would be cutting back further as his taxes went up, his wages went down and a general air of uncertainty hung over his job. Paying rent in town has already meant having to curb his socialising. Never one to sit in on an evening, ever, I was sure he was finding it hard to watch tv on a Monday or be satisfied with jogging on a Tuesday.

Before, when times were good, his diary overflowed with mid-week activities, cinema trips, pub quizzes, comedy nights, while the rest of us struggled to stay awake during the soaps. His endless energy had him out till all hours and still up before dawn. Even after being struck with Typhoid while travelling last year, no sooner was he safely returned to us from the hospital in Bangkok than he was off out drinking, relishing in his dramatic tale and ignoring all instructions to rest.

Certain that he was finding a more moderate lifestyle difficult, I wasn’t surprised to hear he had a new hobby, but I didn’t expect it to be – baking! Picturing him in an apron and up to his elbows in flour was a hysterical thought, considering I’m use to seeing him with a pint in one arm and a girl on the other. Usually something as girly as baking would invite sniggering all round from him and his friends..

However, a surplus of ingredients after Pancake Tuesday had developed into a nightly event of creative confectionary treats being whipped up in his kitchen. On visiting I was greeted with the most delicious desserts, dripping with chocolate and oozing with calories, jam sponges, cup cakes and cookies. While he and his lads swapped beers for biscuits, their female housemate pounded the pavements in fear of her waistline.

Funny how a lack of money can unearth new skills and interests in people. Heading home for dinner yesterday, I was hopeful for some of his desserts as an Easter treat. Unfortunately, his baking has yet to infringe on bank holiday drinking so he was off to the pub.

Once he got our younger brother out of bed…

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Over the weekend I opened my latest phone bill and it was a shock to my newly recessionised system. It seemed that during the last few months while I had made great efforts to cut back on spending I hadn’t managed to compromise on my talking. It had to be a mistake I thought as I leafed though many pages of numbers. Deep down though I knew it were true and that while trying to adopt more frugal habits I had somehow dialled myself further into debt. When I first switched from credit to bill phone in 2007 I was like a shopaholic with a new visa card. Not having to top up on credit meant I could chat away for hours without fear of time running out.
Until that first bill landed through the letterbox with a heavy thud. I tried to reason that at least I was good at keeping in touch but, as subsequent bills piled up I knew I was in trouble. I pleaded with the network for better deals despite their insistence I was already on the best plan for my usage.
I bought add-ons and text bundles, cheaper roaming and upped my free minutes and texts but I just couldn't contain my talking to the generous limit of the package. According to my family I was talking at six weeks old. Those who know me and my equally vociferous siblings will have witnessed the many random and pointless phone conversations that regularly take place between us. If a Hopkins wants to know something they have to know it now. With a laptop never far away, between us and our mobiles we always got the answers to our trivial questions, answers for a pub quiz, a name that was bugging you or directions in another county.
While caught in the rain in San Diego a few years back I decided I'd go to the cinema - I just needed to find one. Within minutes of expensively texting my brother back home he had replied with directions to the nearest cinema and a list of viewing times. Money wasters of equal measure, it was these kinds of texts that have landed us both with shamefully expensive bills. Short of my fingers falling off or texting myself into orbit, I gradually managed to get my communicating under control.

Now I'm more likely to leave my phone out of sight and on silent after a day of constant chatter in work. That is until something unexpected occurs, news that I’m bursting to tell everyone about - instantly. Something like losing my job due to recession, securing interviews, and finally being offered a new job resulted in instant calls to everyone who mattered.