I’m currently waving a white hanky in the faint hope that the next person I speak to understands that I have finally surrendered. I have been worn down by the misery about job losses and downturn and have no wish to verbally argue for the bright side anymore; although I’m still going to think it. I thought that the ‘price of property’ conversation was as dull as it could ever get but this current obsession with impending doom has brought the art of listless chatter to new levels. 

Yes, I am aware that people are losing their jobs, the economy is on its knees and the fallout could be tough, and I am not unsympathetic or unrealistic. I traverse a perilous path myself as there is a very thin line in these times between self-employed, where I find myself, and unemployed. But I see no point in worrying about it and constantly rehashing the bad news. (I assure you my comments are not out of smugness, I have the least recession proof skills of all!). Even if you are facing unemployment or have already become a statistic, there is always hope. Use your mental energy on being creative with what you have. Swallow your pride and ask for help if you must. Talk to your creditors and look for a solution in the short term. There is always a way out, but you have to look for it; concentrating on how awful the situation is, is futile. 

I’m currently seeking positive people as I’m in a fairly lonely place right now, there’s only about three of us! I’m looking for people who want to laugh to forget about all this instead of people who are forgetting to laugh entirely. If there are enough of us we might even set up a colony where we can all be considered crazy together. 

Over the weekend I found myself in many such conversations. One of the better ones discussed the social responsibility on all of us right now to keep things local and consider where we spend our money. Do you give all of it to the large multinationals who will probably ride out this storm anyway or can you find a way to split it and spend more with the smaller retailers? One woman said that while she still enjoyed the convenience and choice of the large supermarket that she patronises, she has made a conscious effort to buy her fruit and vegetables from a local greengrocer. That’s a great idea. Someone else suggested that they were happy to pay a little extra to the local shop rather than take the time and the energy to travel to the North of Ireland. When you factored in the cost of travel and stress it tended to even out any savings; another wise person in our midst. 

Geographically it makes little financial sense for people in Waterford to travel all the way to Newry for discounts unless there is an overwhelming price difference on a particular item that you really need. Someone else suggested haggling; asking for a discount. It was generally agreed that you would be more likely to have a positive outcome from a small local retailer when it came to haggling than you would at the larger chains. Finally we got around to good old fashioned bartering, now there’s a thought. While we can’t sustain or grow the economy with such behaviour, it would certainly plug a few holes in the interim.

While on the subject of social responsibility it is also worth looking at it from the other end. Those that serve us have a part to play as well. I stood in a queue for much longer than necessary recently as one poor shop assistant tried to check out everyone while her colleague blatantly sat at another till, munching a sweet and quite slowly sorting out some paperwork behind a ‘position closed’ sign! There’s necessary administration in any retail environment, but shouldn’t you do it when there are no customers around or at least not in full view of those waiting patiently? 

In a café over the weekend I was served by someone who bordered on ‘rude’. No eye contact was made, smiles were non existent and when I realised I wanted three coffees instead of two it practically inconvenienced him. By all means stick a ‘sale’ sign in the window and discount everything by 20%, but it’s not a licence to treat customers poorly. 

When I was growing up the word ‘saving’ meant putting money away for a rainy day. In this new millenium the word ‘saving’ appears to be the difference between the original price of an item and the newly discounted one! That is not ‘saving’, it is ‘spending’ but just ‘spending smaller amounts’. I’m all for spending, particularly in a recession. Money has to be kept in circulation in order to keep things flowing, even if it is at a slower pace. The bigger problem is that for too long we have put all the emphasis on spending and nothing on saving. 

When we got an incentive to save for a few years with SSIAs, it wasn’t sold as a tool to foster a long term habit. Instead it was a short term kick in anticipation of blowing it all when the term was up. And blow it all we did! We didn’t exactly have the best role models in the world as we can see with the current unearthing of irresponsible spending by banks, government departments and state bodies; they too believed the party was never going to end. We can’t blame them entirely for the current circumstance but oh what a hand they had in creating the mess.

So it’s time to put our tin hats on and get busy. It is what it is and no amount of talk about the state of the economy or useless reminiscing about the designer clad days of the tiger will solve the problem. The only thing that will get everything back onto an even keel is if we get creative and look for new opportunities and possibilities; isn’t that what lured the Celtic tiger in the first place? We’ve done it before and we can do it again. We are also starting way ahead of those grimy days of the eighties. This time we might even create a more solid foundation for long term wealth. At the risk of having something thrown at me I’d even go so far as to say that these are very exciting times indeed. Life is becoming affordable, quality over quantity is fashionable again and it might even awaken our spirit of giving and helping, particularly to those who are really struggling. Isn’t it strange how we tend to be more aware of those in great need when we have less?

If your concept of ‘shortage’ this Christmas is just forgoing some ‘new stuff’ but you will still have a full belly and a warm bed, then you are very rich. By the way, studies have also shown that optimists are generally much healthier than their pessimistic counterparts, ultimately ‘saving’ money on medical bills! So join me in raising my half full, rather than half empty, glass to the future. It will all work out just fine.