The View From Your Recession

A reader writes:

My husband and I have had our income cut in half. He has been a real estate investor, steady and fiscally conservative, but the downturn has been brutal even for those who did everything right. His equity is halved or more, his income is negative.

My own job (I'm a biologist) is fine for now, but not assured. It doesn't help that our marriage (we are a gay couple with two children in California) is not recognized federally and might be 'annulled' soon. It makes for very complicated financial planning and much reduced support (social security, benefits, etc, etc).  Because of the loss of much of our income and tentative feel of the rest, we've had to make drastic cuts: selling a car (of two), cutting out cable, cutting our grocery bill in half, canceling periodicals and newspapers, not dining out, we had a garage and ebay sale of all our unnecessary stuff, turned off the heat (we live in SF bay area, so it's chilly, but not cold) and, something my grandmother said her family did during the depression, we are taking on boarders, renting our our downstairs rooms (cutting our living space from 2400 to 1500 sq ft for ourselves and our two children).

We have two major places to cut left, but we have put those off as a last resort. Housing and health insurance. We could move to a less expensive city to live in, but at this point we are not sure we could even sell our home in this market or break even. Or we could cut our insurance coverage, which we have to pay in full (company doesn't cover). We've already cut my husband's last year because the price of insurance went up 20% and he's the healthiest of the two of us. Neither of those choices will be easy ones to say the least.

We know we are lucky, there are those that had to give up so much more or lost all their income. And, on the bright side, up till now we are actually beginning to enjoy the cuts, more time with family  and friends and around the dinner table, less life-clutter. It won't be good for an economy based on consumption, but I think many, if not all, of these new frugal habits will stick. We are enjoying them.