Some recession survival tips

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

#1 Stop buying useless stuff: This is one of the easiest things to do. Simply refuse to consume for consumption and consumerism's sake. It is true we all have to buy things to live, such as food, and other necessities but you do not need a new cellphone if your old one works fine and neither do you need a new PC, new fridge, etc., while those are still working fine.

But time and again you hear people say that they “need” a new PC simply because the new one has a faster processor, or the latest Windows operating system, or that they “need” the latest model of this is that smartphone – an ordinary cellphone no longer suffices either. Why do they think they “need” this latest one? Because it has, so they have been told by the advertisers, more bells and whistles than the one they have which may only be six months old.

It is not need but desire for the latest new stuff that drives those wants, which masquerade as “needs” in their brains because the adverting in the media suggests that they need the latest gadget.

Fact is that they, unless their older one is broken, do not need a new one. And that brings us nicely to point two.

#2 Stick with what you have: Stick with what you have means that, namely to be content with the stuff that you have – as long as it works and does the job you require it to do.

So, you have got an older PC that Microsoft tells you will not work with the new version(s) of Windows. Then you need a new one, yes? No, you do not for Microsoft is not the only computer operating system about and neither is it the best.

First of all it is not necessarily true that an older computer is not going to work with a newer Windows operating system. Often all that is required is a cheap upgrade in that a larger memory is required.

On the other hand if you do have an older computer which has less than a gigabyte of memory chances are that many of the new versions of Windows do not work. That still does not mean that you have to toss out the old computer. Quite the opposite. Just load a new operating system on the machine, such as one of the many Linux versions. Ubuntu Linux is a great choice and with a footprint of the entire operating system with almost everything you could wish for on the CD (yes, CD, not DVD) being just around 700MB you will have a faster and better PC than any new one.

#3 Make your stuff last: This is something that in today's modern world of (cheap) consumer goods we seem to have entirely forgotten.

Kids and adults alike do not seem to take care of their possessions anymore and this can be seen rather frequently how they never come back for anything that they, for instance, lose in a park or such.

Bicycles and scooters are left behind because they have a flat tire or because a nut or bolt has come off. Items of clothing and even cellphones are lost and never inquired about. And the list could go on and on.

#4 Reuse, repurpose, upcycle, repair: Reuse of whatever came to hand was the norm in days gone by when people did not have the mentality of spend, spend, spend, and this attitude of reusing and repurposing was good for their wallets and the environment.

Now with the Great Recession in full swing and, regardless of the promises by our dear leaders, no end of the same in sight, the mindset of thrift has to come back into its own and reuse must become the norm again. But, as we have seen when the Great Recession came into full action those that refuse to be part of the spend, spend, spend, society are branded terrorists even by the governments for, as it was stated, undermining economic growth.

With a finite planet with finite resources, bar those that are renewable if but properly managed, the idea of a constantly growing economy is total fallacy and the sooner we come to realize this the better.

Our grandparents and their parents, and for many of us even our parents, used and reused as much as possible. No glass jar went into the trash if it would be used for something else, and the same applied for almost anything else too that people today would consider trash.

Paper was reused. Wrapping paper and paper bags too. The latter two were carefully flattened and put away for future use and pencils were used until there was almost nothing left, by using a pencil extender which could be bought in any stationers.

Today, as far as container reuse is concerned, this can be extended to many other kinds, and even plastic milk jugs can be upcycled into storage container and other kinds of useful things for the home and office.

In the days of our grandparents, and so some extent even those of our parents, everything could be repaired, either by DIY, and many a book was written on those subjects and skills, or by the repairman. Today everything is being made so that it cannot be repaired – at least not easily – and repair is made more costly than buying new. And thus things end up in the trash and ultimately, regardless of recyclability, in holes in the ground. All so that the economy keeps growing. But it is an artificial growth based on finite resources and thus the growth is but an illusion.

It is bad for our wallets and it is bad to the environment, for the Planet.

With the right mindset there is very little that one has to buy if one does not have the money or the inclination to be part of the spend, spend, spend stupidity.

Don't go out to spend $7 on a pencil bin, even if it is “green” and made from recycled steel. A clean tin can will do the same job at zero cost. The same is true for glass storage containers where large glass jars from produce of one kind or another will do the job equally well, and that for almost nothing.

We have moved so far away from sanity, it would appear, that people have to be told, on sweet tins, for instance, that those containers can be reused for a variety of things. To our grandparents this thinking would have come more or less natural and they also passed it on to their children and grandchildren.

#5 Grow your own food: Growing your own food, or some of it, and here especially those vegetables and herbs that you use commonly, reduced your bills and also gives you a greater food security.

Besides growing your food also learn to preserve your harvest by canning, drying and freezing, so that nothing goes to waste.

Learn how to cook properly from scratch and be aware of what can be done with leftovers.

Don't forget either that many weeds in your garden are, in fact, edible and that they could, and should, become part of your diet. One of the easiest and simplest to identify are dandelion and stinging nettles. Both are very good eating and also very good for you. Furthermore there is chickweed, sorrel, lambs quarter aka fat hen, and many more. Learn to identify them and, if you are thus inclined, as I am, even “cultivate” them for use. Why battle with them when you can eat them and they grow without any input.

#6 Foraging: Foraging for wild edibles is possible even in city parks though the legality could be a question. But learn what grows where and be sure that you can identify the plants safely. Some have poisonous lookalikes.

#7 Learn DIY skills: Being able to do things yourself, from wiring a plug to building your own furniture, and everything in between, are skills that can prove very important in order to live well in this Great Recession of the early part of the 21st century and we do not know how long this is going to last.

Regardless of how long it is going to continue, and my guess would be that it is going to go on for a lot longer than what our dear leaders are trying to make us believe, being able to do things for yourself, and here especially being able to repair things, will be very useful skills to have. The problem of the lack of repairability of today's products does come in here, however. Too many are made in such a way, as said before, that they cannot be repaired easily or not at all, at least not with ease of access, and thus we must demand that goods are made again in such a way that they can be repaired.

Being able to make things, however, is not just something to use in order to overcome times of recession when money is not as freely flowing. It is something that will be useful to simply make you more self-reliant and, in addition to that, it is fun to make things that you can then say “I made this (and I did not have to go out to buy it)”. To do that give me the greatest satisfaction, especially if the “raw materials” were items of waste.

There are many books available and the best of those books are the older ones that we published in the first half of the 20th century and even before. But you can also find many instructions of how to do this or that, and how to repair this or that, on the Internet and often entirely for free.

Make use of all those resources and learn as many DIY skills and then perfect them as you possibly can. The Great Recession may just be the beginning and a sign of things to come.

This is just a small list of tips as to how to live well in a recession and the aftermath of one. I have probably missed a lot of other things but I am sure that you can put your own mind into gear and adjust things to your own needs and environment.

© 2013