During the "recession we had to have" (to quote then Federal Treasurer Paul Keating) my grandmother gave me some invaluable advice on how to make my household budget stretch further.
It was 1992. I had been married for just over two years and I was a new mother at a time when paid maternity leave was non-existent, so we were a single income family. My husband was a carpenter but the housing industry was far from booming. The unemployment rate was 10.73 per cent and interest rates on a home loan had hit an all time high of more than 17 per cent. Yes you read that correctly.
At that point my budget was so finely tuned, I was price-checking every item I purchased in my groceries. The budget was set at a maximum $100 per week and even a $2 saving on that bill went straight into the emergency account. I remember my grandmother suggesting I stretch my grocery shopping schedule to eight days. The logic was that after several weeks I would have effectively eliminated a week of spending and saved $100. It worked.
Without a doubt it was a time of uncertainty on many levels. I chose to walk, rather than drive wherever possible to save on the cost of petrol which hovered around 63 cents/litre back then, but was still a major cost consideration in the weekly budget. I also worried about what lay ahead for my baby son, and any future children, at a time when the news shared stories of civil unrest and war in Iraq, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Rwanda - to name a few.
I was not alone in the challenge to make ends meet and concerns for the future. It was a story that could be shared by most people I knew.
To be honest, I pondered daily about whether or not the struggle would ever come to an end.
I reminded myself that my parents, and grandparents, had also struggled through challenging times - war, food rations, depression rather than recession, and so much more.
Their survival and the survival of so many others, in times of challenge throughout the ages, were beacons of hope.
Fast forward to 2022 and society is again trying to cope with an endless flow of doom and gloom messages and news. Interest rates are rising, home prices are soaring, the price of petrol is over two dollars a litre and the world is watching with sadness and uncertainty for the future as a war rages in the Ukraine.
It is not surprising that so many people struggle with anxiety.
This message is not to undermine or trivialise the current financial struggles and concerns for so many people. Those struggles are real, and at times frightening. The request for support from charities is on the rise and many people are without affordable accommodation.
But my experiences from 1992, and the stoic attitudes of generations before me, are a constant reminder that anything is possible and hope and determination should never be lost.
I still have a budget that I follow closely and the good news is that this financial measure has served me well. It is now a habit I follow because I know it works, not because I'm desperately trying to protect myself against an uncertain future.
And for the record any savings made on my weekly grocery bill - stretched out to eight days - are still squirrelled away into a 'rainy day account'.
Maintain a sense of reality when reflecting on the 'good ol' days', and look to the future with hope.
Jackie Meyers, ACM Editor
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