Sometimes you’ve gotta take your lumps.
The stumbling economy has had a real impact on my life and family on a day-to-day basis. As a tattoo artist, I am sometimes out of the economic loop; the life of a tattoo artist can be a bit surreal at times. The first place I really noticed the change was at the grocery store. It seemed like one night a half-gallon of milk was around $2.00, and a week later it was $4.00. That really began my taking an interest in what was going on around me in the economy. The next shock, of course, was the price of gasoline. We hit over $4.00 a gallon here in Texas. Not only did this make it more expensive to get back and forth to work, the number of customers walking into the shop for a tattoo was significantly reduced. A guy had to really hustle to get customers.
But, I like to consider myself a “child of adversity”. When the pressure hits, I try to get creative. It was time to tighten our belts.
The first, and most obvious place to make a cut, was on gas. I became an avid proponent of our local bus service. I started riding the bus evrywhere, even on days when I didn’t have to work. Paying $1.50 to ride as much as I want all day seemed like a better deal than I was getting at the pump, despite the inconvenience of being on the bus-line schedule and dealing with some of the more “unusual” regulars on the bus. It was an insightful experience.
The grocery bill is where I started cutting back next. I couldn’t exactly stop buying food, but I could shop smarter. I started planning our meals, including snacks. That cut down the random “impulse” purchase. I also used the internet to gather as many coupons on my regular staples as possible. I packed a lunch instead of going out. This had the side benefit of making our “dinner-date” budget a little more abundant and we started dining at nicer places as a personal reward for brown-bagging it at lunch.
The slow down in business afforded extra time for me to investigate other income streams. Even in a slow economy, a creative person can find a plethora of avenues available to help increase their income. I sell art, so I focused on marketting my already existing on-line shop. I also started taking advantage of other internet resources and writing for pay. The income might only be as little as $20-$25 a month, but when you have a dozen or more different sites all paying you for your services, that little bit from each site really adds up.
I also found myself taking advantage of the local pawn shops. Before this ugly turn in the economy, I enjoyed renting movies from the local rental venue. Then I discovered that I could have been purchasing many of the same films for half of what I was paying to rent. I now have an impressive movie collection. The same goes for used video-games, CDs, electronics…just another sign of the slowing economy, but it is advantageous for those of us who are in a position to profit from a bargain.
Now that gas prices have gone back down and we are on the otherside of the holidays, things aren’t so bad and customers are coming into the shop with their income tax-returns. Things seems to be returning back to normal, but that doesn’t mean I can return to my free-wheeling ways. The habits I formed over the last year I continue to employ. Just like anyone else, I am trying to stretch that dollar in preparation for the next slump that everyone is warning is just over the horizon.
A final side benefit of the slowing economy, something I consider the most important of all, is how it has forced many of us to slow down and take stock in what is really important to us. My family has become closer than ever, and we have the time to really enjoy the simple pleasures in life; reading a good book, playing in the park, or having a home-cooked meal together. We also have all of our creative juices flowing; producing more art, writing more, and playing more music. I have noticed this change amongst my friends as well; harder times seem to mean a return to simpler values. Don’t get me wrong, I want the economy to pick back up, but based on what I see going on around me, I think most of us will be just fine.