Katie, 27, and her fiancé, Ryan, got engaged in October, 2008, just as the economy was beginning its free-fall. Ryan was graduating from law school and, with a job lined up at a good firm, he planned to start paying off more than $150,000 in student loans. But in February, Ryan’s law firm withdrew their offer, laying off employees and downsizing their operation. Katie’s salary as a Catholic school teacher wasn’t going to be enough to make ends meet and pay off the loans. While Ryan searched, unsuccessfully, for another legal job, the young couple was in a bind. “Should we still get married? How will we live and survive?” Katie remembers asking herself.
A few weeks back, I introduced Busted Halo readers to Kevin, a young man who was struggling with dating and romance in this economic downturn. I asked readers to share their personal stories and wow, did I get some heartbreaking — and inspiring — tales.
P.J., a 34-year-old single man, says he relates to Kevin’s predicament: The recession has dealt a serious blow to his dating life because feels he doesn’t have enough money to “court properly” and his job “is not stable or professional enough to attract the type of attractive women I would like to date.” Others, however, reported silver linings of family time and deeper emotional connections after some of the material pressure of a go-go-go economy had been removed.
Indeed, dozens of you responded to our survey. As summer turns into autumn and we approach the one-year mark of the worst of the recession, it’s time to reflect on how finances have impacted our relationships.
Looking at cheaper alternatives
From pedicures to lattes and travel to eating out, some 68 percent of Busted Halo respondents have cut back on their day-to-day spending in the last year. K, a 25-year-old woman engaged to be married, says she’s cut back on Starbucks and Tim Hortons coffees, packs her lunches more frequently, has stopped hanging out at the mall, and borrows movies from the library rather than renting. On date nights, “we’ve been looking at cheaper alternatives to keep having fun together and are always looking at solutions to keep doing things we like despite the smaller budget.”
Ronald, 36, goes even further; it’s back to basics for him: “I just make sure there is a place to sleep, food to eat and gas to move. Everything else I can manage to save up for is a blessing these days.”
M, a married woman with kids, reports that she and her family have always been on the lookout for free events, but they’ve redoubled their efforts in recent months. “While we are able to manage the necessities, the extras are extremely limited. However, we are determined to stay positive: We don’t need to go to the movies if we can borrow a movie for free from the library. We can have fun at a park or playground instead of an amusement park. The economy is doing wonders for our creativity.”
More than a third of respondents said they delayed a major life event — getting engaged, getting married or having a child — because of the recession. This is in keeping with national survey data showing that 40 percent of people ages 18 to 34 are delaying marriage, divorce or having children.
Lindsay, 25, says her boyfriend is “putting his marriage proposal on hold” as he searches for a stable job after completing a master’s degree this past year. But respondents remain optimistic: 83 percent said that by this time next year, they expect that their finances will have improved, and 74 percent said they believe the economy as a whole will improve within a year.
Finding silver linings
Indeed, Busted Halo folks — and young adults in general — are quick to look for silver linings amid all this personal doom and gloom: Readers said being “forced” to become financially literate and pay down credit card debt, learning the joys of making dinner at home and spending “quality time” with friends and family have been unexpected bonuses of the tough times. Might this past year have some lasting impact and help us refocus on love instead of empty materialism?
“The recession is an easy scapegoat at times to not become romantically involved with someone,” says Jeremy, 24. “In fact, the recession, in my estimation, strips down the walls men build for themselves to impress women and, instead, forces them to be transparent in terms of beliefs, values, career goals. My girlfriend and I have always enjoyed doing simple acts of charity for one another, including: cooking meals for one another, going for walks, turning the TV off to talk, visiting friends and family, writing notes to each other — the list goes on. If anything, the current economic climate has allowed me to be more creative in showing my love and appreciation for my girlfriend. What’s incredible is that being creative does not have to cost you anything!”
Other readers report similar realizations: Ronald said the bad economy forced him to go out on his own in a more entrepreneurial role. “I had to learn how to work smarter,” he said, and it paid off.
And remember Ryan and Katie, who were wondering how to pay off law school loans, and whether to postpone their autumn nuptials? Well, Ryan applied to hundreds of legal jobs, networked, all to no avail. So he branched out: “I am happy to report that he now has a job as a supermarket manager — a paycheck and health benefits!” writes Katie. “In the end, this brought us closer than I could imagine. We realized as a couple what is really important to us, what we can live with and without. We also realized at the end of the day, we can control very little about the world, but we can control how we take care of one another and that has made all the difference.” I wish them all the best in their upcoming marriage!
Have stories to share about how the recession has impacted your life? Post your comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.