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When Times are Bleak, DO SOMETHING

About a year and a half ago my husband left his job to start his own company. He had been beyond miserable for too long and based on some promising information from potential clients he took an enormous leap of faith to finally become his own boss. Within about three months he was back to his happy self and there was a lightness to his spirit that hadn’t been there for some time. Everything was great!

As life has a tendency to throw us curve balls once in a while, the main clients that he had secured to start the business fell through all at once, and we were left with a dearth of income. With one kid in college and one about to start in less than a year, not to mention our mortgage, electric bill, car payments, and our other regular expenses looming, we were both worried about our immediate financial future. To make matters worse, I had left my part-time job a few months earlier, which didn’t bring in a ton of money, but was great for incidentals and provided a cushion if we needed it.

After a few sleepless nights of worrying incessantly, I finally decided that I had to DO SOMETHING. Being passive about this situation was not going to help anything, and while I didn’t have another job yet, I felt like sure that I could at least DO SOMETHING to contribute and help in some way. So I dug out my old Tightwad Gazette book (from our newlywed days) and dove in.

The first thing I did was I went through the nicer, brand-name stuff we no longer used and got to work selling them on eBay and at consignment shops. I didn’t make much, but I felt good that I was at least bringing in some small “free money” from things that were gathering dust and had been paid for long ago. The next thing I did was figure out creative ways to cut down on daily expenses. Since I like to cook, I started in the kitchen.

I started creating food items that I realized were far cheaper to make than to buy. For example, I started making my own pizza dough. Flour, water, and yeast are very inexpensive and the great thing about making dough from scratch is that everyone can make it to their own liking. Thin crust, thick crust, covered in parmesan cheese - just making our own pizzas, especially when topped with fresh vegetables that I already always have in the fridge, cut down the cost immensely. I also started making my own salad dressing and croutons, and if I may say so, my Caesar rivals any bottled, preservative-filled dressing you’d find on a store shelf, and my daughter has been known to take a bag of my asiago croutons downstairs instead of popcorn for movie night. All of our baked goods were homemade (and who doesn’t prefer freshly baked chocolate chip cookies to anything you’d find in a package?), as well as granola, burritos, ice cream, and a plethora of other things. I cancelled my gym membership and watched exercise videos on youtube. (I also splurged $3.00 to buy an aerobics video that I had loved in the early 90s.) Christmas gifts that year were applesauce and peach butter that I had made and canned from our backyard fruit trees.

The list goes on and on but the point is, instead of worrying about things, I MADE THE CONSCIOUS CHOICE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THEM. Ultimately my pioneer ways probably didn’t save us a significant amount of money. But at least I could feel like a productive contributor to our family and its finances rather than just sitting around getting stressed and sick about the state we were in.

So my advice to you is, whatever situation you’re in that’s bringing you down, DO SOMETHING! If you’re lonely, join a meetup or a singles group. If you’re unhappy at your work, make a concerted effort to find something new that will fulfill you. If you’re upset about your past and living inside your own head, find a therapist or support group that can help you. Whatever it is, just DO SOMETHING. It might end up solving the problem, but even if it doesn’t, you can at least know that you did more than just complain about your lot in life.

Make the choice. Choose action over inaction, proactivity over passivity, positivity over negativity, and hope over fear. In this way, you’ll be choosing happiness no matter what curve ball life throws at you next.

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