Whereas the gossip in most Central New Jersey Parent Teacher Association meetings may have long been about vacations, hair stylists and shoes, suburb dwellers like PTA moms and Manhattan commuting dads are now singing a different tune. If you open up the Home News Tribune you are bound to find an article on how to reduce spending by taking cooking lessons and gearing up for a long hiatus from restaurant dining. The "Today Show" on NBC has a continual barrage of experts on double coupons and how to plant your own vegetable gardens. "Live with Regis and Kelly" even had Seventeen Magazine Editor-in-Chief Ann Shoket present a lesson on how prom goers can make the shift from being "fashionistas to ‘recession-istas.'"
There is no doubt that tough economic times mean trading in a lifestyle of constant, mindless and frivolous purchasing for one with a more conscious and calculated budget. But are these recession-istas getting appropriate advice from the right place or are media suggestions on how to save simply not cutting it?
Every day there is another scheme outlined on television or in the newspaper providing an offer that will give the economy the boost it needs or suggesting a change that will ease the burden on your family. The Sunday Star-Ledger presented a move into one of New Jersey's two new trailer parks as a possible answer, with "the average price of a traditional single-family abode nationwide [being] $313,600 in 2007 while the median cost of a dwelling assembled off-site totaled $65,100."
Even a state legislative ruling that made same-sex marriage legal in Iowa on Friday is being championed for its economic prospects. It has been determined that its location in relation to the two other same-sex marriage states will make Iowa a very busy place for gay couples looking to legalize their unions. The Des Moines Register has stated that "businesses could see $160 million in new wedding and tourism spending over the next three years, according to a study from researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles," and "same-sex marriage will yield an estimated net gain of $5.3 million per year for Iowa state government, according to the report from UCLA's Williams Institute."
The Hyundai "lose your job and return your car" commercial and the mocking Saturn "we can make some of your car payments" commercial also contribute their piece of advice to what has become a growing melting pot of potential recession busting ideas in the media. Yet these muddled ideas with their limited scope have yet to prove a positive contribution to the faltering economy or those suffering as a result.
Some half-baked ideas have in fact proven themselves, without any question, to be unorganized and poorly executed. A coupon prepared by a bailout ad-campaign that had been discussed, but not approved, by Domino's Pizza Inc. in December made its way into the hands of Cincinnati, Ohio residents last week. In one evening 11,000 free medium pizzas were delivered in the area as a result, according to USA Today.
But the effects of the recession, as well as some of the equally ineffective suggestions to combat the changing economy, are right in our own backyard. I listened with complete surprise when I overheard two moms at the end of a grocery store aisle discussing if the repercussions on their children from buying generic, store brand cereals — instead of the names advertised on television — would be worth the money they would be saving. I, likewise, watched in horror as another mother dragged her Uggs and Abercrombie wearing daughter kicking and screaming into a Payless shoe store. I could not help but eavesdrop on a conversation between my own mother and a friend as the woman described just how beneficial it would be to abandon her lawn service and teach her teenage son how to use the decade old machine that had been rusting in their shed.
People around me are full of pride over their decisions to dismiss their cleaning lady or dog walker and take on the responsibility themselves. I heard a woman brag about how she has started ironing her husband's button-down shirts instead of taking them to the dry cleaner. Simple chores have become perceived as huge achievements. Certainly, these baby steps are a start, but if this is the kind of advice offered to the average family proposals may be falling short of the mark. Curbing excess spending may work for some, but without a solution to the economic crisis in sight making the change from dining out to eating in might not be enough.
The overreaching and in some cases poorly planned business schemes are mismatched to the level of need; and in the same way, family spending plans advocated by talk shows and magazine articles barely scratch the surface. This kind of economizing doesn't seem like it can make a significant difference to our national economy or save your family if the situation continues to spiral downward. What the economy needs is innovation and reinvigoration — some new markets or new methods that will spark true growth. If avoiding the dry cleaner for the next year is the band-aid that will save your family from feeling the effects of our nation's economic problems or if same-sex marriage can keep the state of Iowa's budget above water, you and Iowa will deserve our congratulations. As of now, though, I believe that for the rest of us being a recession-ista will mean something more.
Larissa Klein is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. Her column, "Definition of Insanity," runs on alternate Thursdays. She welcomes feedback at email@example.com.