Recession-proof your life

You can’t pick up a newspaper or turn on a TV these days without being faced with a grave fact: The world’s in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Depression.

But wandering around campus, you’d never know it.

I don’t have my head in the sand. When the credit crunch first started making headlines in September and the possibility of losing all of my investments suddenly seemed very real, I was worried. That lasted for about a week, until I realized I don’t really have much in the way of investments—it’s my fourth year, and my RESP is drained.

Like many people, my feelings about our society’s voracious consumerism are uneasy at best. I wonder, therefore, whether bringing back a little of that legendary Depression-era frugality wouldn’t do a world of good.

A serious rethinking of routines and priorities will be inevitable if the future is really as bleak as the evening news would have us believe. Even if recovery is right around the corner, one thing’s for sure: life will never be quite the same, and I hope a more thoughtful, sustainable society is the end result.

As far as I can tell, university students’ lives may change the least out of any segment of the population. This is partly because we aren’t working full-time, but also because, in a lot of ways, we’re already partying like it’s 1929.

Dancing the Charleston and knocking back gimlets at speakeasies aside, most of the students I know live on tuna and toast, feel guilty about every pint of beer and cup of coffee they buy and walk everywhere. As we all know, cabs are a luxury and, for most of us, owning a car is out of the question.

I’m aware that most of us aren’t exactly living in squalor, but extravagances are treated as just that—extravagances. For every overpriced bag or Smartphone purchased, there’s a textbook bought second-hand and a hundred nights spent shivering in under-heated apartments eating Kraft Dinner.

And I can’t help but feel as though those kinds of habits may become the norm across the board.

If you’re an arts student like me, you’ve long since resigned yourself to living in a cardboard box someday. Look on the bright side: boxes have retained their market value remarkably well, even as the value of your parents’ house is falling precipitously.

For those of us who are about to graduate, it may be worth looking into recession-proof sectors of the economy.

If this whole journalism thing doesn’t work out, you’ll find some of my fellow editors and I running a nail salon and bakery in sunny Stockholm (with tongue placed firmly in cheek).

For you outdoorsy types, I hear riding the rails hobo-style is hot for spring 2009.

Beans, anyone?

I have no idea whether the economy will be back to normal by next year or whether the era of thoughtless consumption is over forever.

But I have a feeling that whatever happens, I’m well prepared.

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