Everything you didn't learn in school that will help you survive the world of work. A place for newbies, for working moms, for seasoned professionals and "free agents" to share strategies, tips and tales from the trenches.

Nov 1, 2009

Downsized But Not Defeated (book review)

(c) 1997, Hope Stanley Quinn & Lyn Muller-Lochman

Necessity is truly the mother of invention.  On the tender outside edge of the dot-com bubble, companies were still downsizing, and employees were being laid off.  Author Hope Quinn's family went looking for a resource, and finding none, she compiled this book.  Downsized but Not Defeated: The Family Guide to Living on Less
is still timely, though noticeably absent are any reference to internet resources, ARRA, universal health care, or other services you could cut from your expenses, like your iPhone or TiVo.  But you may be glad for that, since this back-to-basics approach reminds you of the things you truly need  and sets the tone for your post-employment financial life as well.

Quinn and Miller-Lachman take a "You're OK" approach to keep you from panic, and assure you that downsizing your output when your income is cut is rational and manageable.  Remember that we were all living beyond out means anyway, certainly in 1997.

The book presents the personal stories we are accustomed to in self-help volumes.  This reviewer personally finds it distracting, but it does give the text some narrative readability, and it can help the reader identify with the material.

The 5 Stages of Grief are a true experience, even if we feel they have become a cliche.  The book's opening chapoter allows you to "feel your feelings," so that you can get to the work ahead.  And that work is what you would expect: live lower on your hierarchy, and spend a lot less money.  But houw....?  right?

To break down your Luxuries and Necessities, the authors recommend simple listmaking.    If something is truly a necessity, ask yourself if there is a way it can be maintained for less.  If your daily coffee is a need, shop the cheaper vendor, whether that is Dunkin' Donuts, or 7-Eleven.  If the karate class is contracted, you will have to see it through.  If the class is expiring, maybe it is not a Necessity to renew. (another case made for paying in full when you can.  If the end comes, you will have fewer monthly withdrawals to account for.)

Some of the outdated advice you will find is a recommendation to convert cash to CDs for a long-term savings plan.  This may still be an option, but note that CD rates are very low at present.  Similar advice is given about home equity loans, though even in 1997, the authors caution against borrowing more than you can repay.

The "Getting a Job" section is the most outdated, as you might expect, but there are still some common sense reminders that you have everything you need for your jobhunt.  Buying more "stuff" to prepare is just a distraction. 

In each area of your budget, suggestions are offered for downsizing, for example, reduce entertainment costs with coupons, matinees, minor league sports, dining in/desserting out.  Remember your contemporary resources as you review these suggestions: e.g. reading periodicals on-line.

Two chapters are spent on food budgeting, and since food is typically 15% of the family expenses, this is an appropriate amount of space.  Unfortunately for this review, Miss Bender subsists on hummus and seltzer, so she did not relate much to this section.  But here are some "hey now" moments from my own reading.  (the rest of you might find this website interesting)
* Yes you do have time to bake bread.  You are at home.
* Budget shopping will take you longer than habitual shopping
* Local and seasonal can be had, but may not cost less, and you need to have a flexible palate

Community Support Agriculture can be expensive and requires a lot of adventurous spirit.  For a couple of months, monitor your produce consumption to see how much you are spending and consuming before you invest in a collective.  If you are not willing to learn how to prepare kale and pickle turnips, this may not be your thing.

This book can be found online (see our carousel at right).  Though some comments will feel out of date, it is not as a whole outdated.  BWF recommends it for its practical approach, a structure that allows you to focus on the items relevant to your life (child care, and debt consolidation, for example) and read in an order that suits your priorities.  We are recommending it because it is from a slightly earlier time in our cultural memory, which also helps remind us how cyclical these downturns are, and that we do (and have, and will) make it through.

The Finishing School continues to stress to our students that your preparation for a downsizing should occur while you are employed.  This means
1.  Living within your means
2.  Saving appropriately
3. Simpifying your expenses
4. Buying to last
It is your best defense against feeling vulnerable to any of life's surprises (including illness, disability,  and disaster).  When your rainy days are over, you will be habitiated toward starting to prepare again.

Related articles
Preparing for the Worst
Meal Planning and Nutrition
Employment at Will


Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

Powered by Blogger