Your MatchGirl, dear readers, has been spending a lot of time lately thinking about money. Or, her near total lack of it. And other people's perception of money and the total lack of it.
When your MatchGirl was younger, there were a few times in her life when her family had very little money. As a child, it's not something one truly realizes - there was food, there was shelter, there were clothes. Looking back, however, one realizes that her parents struggled to put the needs of her and her siblings ahead of their own. And she's grateful - for both the fact that she didn't realize it at the time and that she does, in retrospect, now.
In the current economic downturn there is a lot of talk about people losing pensions and homes and money in the stock market. There was an article in the New York Times about how the rich can't send their kids to the top nursery schools anymore. New York is an expensive city and believe you me, getting by on $405 a week (before taxes) means sacrificing some creature comforts (We'll save for another post how loads of New Yorkers were surviving on this amount or less before the downturn).
Several people have mentioned to me that they use Mint.com to manage their finances, and, while your MatchGirl has always been good at balancing her budget, she is signing up for this service as well. With less money coming in, it's imperative to make the most of it.
But let's talk about when the managing of one's finances, gentle ones, takes you socially out of the loop. How many dinners and brunches and weekend cocktails do you miss out on? How do you feel when your friends are talking about their fabulous vacations and the furthest you've made it this summer is Coney Island?
I ran into my unemployed friend A at a coffee shop a week or so ago and in the course of sharing stories from the trenches of unemployment, he mentioned a conversation he had with a well-heeled friend a few months back. It seems that A's friend was going on and on about how she hadn't received a bonus this year because of the economic downturn, all the while knowing that he hadn't worked for months and that poor A barely had enough money for groceries that week.
I have been in the same situation as A in my current state of unemployment. It's not, in my experience, that those close to you don't care. It's more probable that they do not truly understand, especially if you, like many of us, were raised being told that money is simply something you do not discuss.
For the unemployed amongst you, take heat. A job will come eventually and you will be back on your feet. While collecting your $405 a week, pinch pennies, be wise and know that having things isn't everything (something of which your MatchGirl must constantly remind herself). For those of you who are employed out there, take care with your words. Even though your unemployed friends may not share with you how stressed out or broke they are, it never hurts to keep it in the back of your mind.
The economy will turn around - eventually -- it always does. But let's all just try and be mindful of each other until it does.