November 11, 2008

A guide to living in reduced circumstances

Alice is sad to report, it has come to this. She would much rather produce a guide to living under better circumstances; however, in this climate (read, economy tanked), it seems inappropriate.

Until the recent, shall we say, unpleasantness?, Alice made a living, as they say, from offering financial advice, a field whose existence appears rather tenuous. Thus Alice will offer a few words on the way she lives now.

It may be ordinary for some folks, but for Alice, it is not business as usual, not S.O.P. by a long shot. Alice is a baby boomer, part of a generation that has been known to act as if instant gratification takes too much time.

Food: Alice has rediscovered her kitchen. She markets -- in ordinary grocery stores, where she watches for good prices. She is applying heat to food on a regular basis. A prescription for burn cream has been filled, and Alice slathers it on with abandon.

Clothing: Fortunately, Alice was never much of a clothes horse. Now, she is not even a clothes pony. More like a clothes shih tzu, if that. So much for predictions of pricey underwear. It's strictly Hanes -- her way or the highway. As for outer layers, good-bye catalogs; hello, thrift shops.

It's time for pre-owned clothes. Pre-owned shoes. Maybe freebies from craigslist, or bargains at a church rummage sale. (Do they still have rummage sales? Does Alice know how to rummage?) The lipstick factor is prominent in Alice's toiletry plans.

Might even be time to relearn to sew, although that could cost Alice a finger or two, which would push health care out of reach.

Shelter: At least the mortgage is paid off. There will be no improvements to shelter short of hanging already in-house paintings and reorganizing the bookshelves and closets.

Heat may be curtailed, although Alice will be damned if she's going broke in the dark. Perhaps she will rearrange the living room furniture. Or would that be the deck chairs on the ship that may remain nameless?

Travel: all air travel has been postponed indefinitely, with the exception of tickets procured with frequent flyer miles to places where Alice may stay with friends. Inter-Wonderland transit has gone public.

It's subways, buses, and trains. Au revoir les taxis, those little yellow vehicles that have sped Alice from one part of town to another on a regular basis in the past.

Entertainment: Welcome to free movies on demand. Let's watch all DVDs purchased but still sealed against thievery. Read all books acquired with spines still uncracked. Can Alice interest you in a game of Monopoly? (Read about its ironic history here.) Anyone want to ante up for a game of nickel-dime-quarter poker?

Who cares if you lose? It's only money, right? Isn't it? asks the financial planner. What she really wants to know is, how far can we go before we hit bottom? Are we there yet? Please? Even the Wizard off Wall Street, major shareholder in Capitalist, inc., seems a few steps off. (Damn it, Alice should have remembered white men can't dance.)

Is there a 12-step program for the global economy?

Contemplating what to defrost for dinner, Alice is profoundly depressed. Previously she had never considered the freezer section a home for much more than ice trays, nukable proteins, extra smoked salmon, bagels, butter, and coffee.

Now she has said adieu to her menu drawer and has wrapped various meats, first in plastic wrap, followed by aluminum foil, labeling the packets with indelible marker by contents and date received. In the 'burbs, growing up, Alice remembers seeing her father do this with entire filet mignons he had cut into portion size.

It feels different now, and part of Alice is relieved her beloved Daddy isn't around for this 21st century meltdown. On the other hand, he taught her that life was a banquet. It's just that Alice hadn't planned on getting the check.

Here's to hoping the light at the end of the tunnel isn't an oncoming train.

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Blogger Teresa said...

Yes, growing up, we had a entire extra freezer in the garage dedicated to the storage of meats bought on saleā€”as well as the results of rare, odd explosions of baking or cooking, military mess hall style, that would yield an entire year's worth of dinner rolls or beef stew. With the "green" era's benefit of hindsight and our knowledge that refrigeration is among the top-three energy hogs in the household, I wonder if the cost of running the additional freezer didn't consume any potential meat-sale savings. At any rate, we needed a place for my mother's manic cooking binges, so whether or not money was saved on meat is purely academic.

I am sorry to hear that things have been rough for your financially. I just proofed an article citing a study showing that the financial decision-making capacity of heterosexual men is seriously impaired when they are confronted with sexually arousing images, so it's my contention that all those straight men on Wall Street, on the Federal Reserve, at the Treasury Department, etc., have basically fucked up the country because they're hardwired to prioritize sex before logic, and they've just been able to fake it for a really long time. It really explains so much, doesn't it?

1:57 AM  
Blogger alice, uptown said...

A daily newspaper reporter interviewed me yesterday about clients' reactions to their shrinking 401Ks, and I mentioned that in my former life, I was a magazine and newspaper editor.

She commented on my track record in killing off industries involving American intellectual capital, and I'd forgotten: I've seen all this before in the soap opera known as The Death of Print Media.

Perhaps it's a good thing I have no training in anything utilitarian, given what my so-called career choices have proved in the way of economic indicators....

4:32 AM  

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