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What Sticks Around When Times Get Tough

Jessica Lanning

Who knew that budgeting would bring such interesting responses.  In this economic downturn, while some of my clients have seen really hard times, for most of my clients, cutting back has meant lower incomes in commissions and bonuses, less net profit at the bottom line. They are taking simpler vacations, spending less at the holidays, delaying big purchases.  What is interesting is what many of my clients have chosen not to cut in their budgets.

Where you spend your money does reflect your values

When my clients were cutting back, here’s what some of them said they made sure to keep:

  1. The housekeeper.  For most of them, this was about marital bliss.  Even if times are tough, no one wants to fight about who will clean the toilet this week.  Some have cut back on frequency, but many have kept their usual schedule. In many cases, I have heard that the choice to keep the housekeeper was also about keeping that person employed and making money.  Once they’re around a while, it’s hard to let go of household help where you’ve developed a relationship.
  2. Holding onto staff. Along the same lines, I’ve seen many business owners hold onto staff for as long as possible to allow those people to keep their jobs, feed their families, hold onto their benefits.  I’ve also seen business owners grit their teeth over this decision, but for now, they’re doing what they feel they want to do.
  3. Charitable giving. For many of my clients, they’ve continued to give when they could have cut back.  One of my clients said, “Hey, I’ve never been homeless. Times might be tough, but they’re not that tough. I can afford to write a $100 check to help someone out. I’ll take it out of my end somewhere else.”
  4. Kids activities.  Some activities were cut back but others were kept. I’ve heard parents talk about what they felt were their children’s best activities, the ones that gave them the most joy or the most fun or taught them the most. I’ve heard about parents having frank conversations with their children about having to cut back and asking them to choose.  Those conversations have brought families closer together in many cases.

What have you kept? What have you eliminated? What values are you demonstrating by where you spend your money?  There’s lots of learning going on in this downturn. What’s yours?