Saturday, January 3, 2009

Back to Basics

Recently, I saw a commercial for Allstate Insurance. According to the commercial, Allstate has been in business since 1931—through the last 12 recessions (have there been that many in the last 78 years?). The commercial goes on to say that after the fear subsides in a recession, people start enjoying the small things in life—“back to basics,” they called it. Coincidentally, I received Ina Garten’s latest cookbook as a Christmas gift. The title? Back to Basics.

I think I have always embraced a “back-to-basics” kind of life. In 2000, my family and I moved to the Bay Area of Northern California. At the time, the technology industry was at its peak. We moved right into the middle of the “lifestyle of excess” in Silicon Valley—expensive cars and even more expensive real estate. At the time, I was a stay-at-home mom and we were living on one income. We felt so out of place. We couldn’t compete; even more, we didn’t want to compete. That was probably the most difficult 16 months of our life. Then, we faced not one, but two lay-offs in one year. We were fortunate to live not only within our means, but well within our means. Living by this principle helped us survive that turmoil.

Fast forward almost 9 years to the worst economic year in our lifetime. While people in our community are losing their over-mortgaged homes, significant portions of their retirement savings, and jobs, we are blessed to be in pretty good shape. We wanted to buy a home just as much as the next person, but we resisted the insane California real estate market. We have a long way to go until we retire so, despite our retirement losses on paper, we have time to recover. In the face of Monterey County’s economic trouble, my job looks pretty secure; having some seniority to fall back on doesn’t hurt either.

I can’t help but wonder if our country would be in such bad shape if more of us had embraced a “back-to-basics” kind of life? We can all help the economy get back on its feet without spending our way into bankruptcy. Start enjoying the simple things again—home-cooked meals, visits with friends and family, gifts from the heart. Let the “Joneses” keep up with themselves. Pretty soon, I bet they will be trying to keep up with you.