Column

Living the New Plentiful in 2009

Enough doom and gloom already! The New Year had barely started when the business section of my local newspaper offered readers a cynical New Year’s message: “The good news is that 2009 is only 12 months long.”

Many of my friends and colleagues have been remarking that the recession and ensuing panic is only being made worse by the media’s endless barrage of negative messages and news stories.

I have been searching for a positive spin to this negativity and found the answer in a blog post by Marshall Goldsmith, business coach: “We all need to think like entrepreneurs.”

I am taking all the gloomy expert advice for an entrepreneurial spin. My strategy for 2009 is to live lean, become a savings fanatic, and discover my own definition of the new plentiful.

Live lean

This year I am going to try living lean to strengthen up the financial foundations. Living lean is a hard habit to develop, but it sure has a better ring to it then deprivation. Gergen and Vanourek, the authors of Life Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives, found that many successful entrepreneurs built their businesses during recession periods and in many cases living lean was how they made it work. In their blog post Why Entrepreneurs Love a Downturn they write:

Seth Goldman, founder of Honest Tea drove a beat-up Saturn and shunned cable for years so that he’d be ready when his big idea hit, and Sam Addoms, co-founder of Frontier Airlines lived lean so he would never face a choice between maintaining his family’s lifestyle and cutting corners at work.

I don’t have any wish to become like a denizen of the great depression era hanging her used tea bags on the clothes line to reuse a second and third time. Instead of deprivation and living lean what I need is a new definition of plentiful.

The new plentiful is about building a robust savings account and reducing debt to zero. The new plentiful is about gourmet dinners at home with the family rather than dinner out at the newest restaurant. The new plentiful is about the simple pleasures of long walks in the country with the dog, visiting with friends, reading good books. As I write a thought interjects itself: Should I buy the new Sony Digital Book Reader? Electronic books are about 15% cheaper than paper and good for the environment. Is it living lean to buy the Reader?

Become a savings fanatic

Fed up yet with the Latte FactorTM?

Ever since I was old enough to have a bank account people have been telling me to save money. The mantra has always been aim to save a minimum of 10% of your pay check. Do you think I paid any attention? I have had many good reasons for not saving: I didn’t earn enough money; I had to pay off my student loans and my cat needed medicine for her hair ball problem.

If you have been a diligent saver please accept my congratulations. According to all the latest news reports you are a member of a wise and conscientious minority of North Americans. For the rest of us help is on the way. The media is full of tips and helpful advice on how to develop the savings habit. In fact I think it is almost impossible to get through a single day without encountering at least one piece of good natured advice from the experts. It’s got me thinking about the Digital Book Reader again. Is spending becoming the new smoking? In the face of all the pious and well meaning advice I am tempted to flagrantly purchase the Digital Book Reader. Then each time I purchase an e-book I could deposit the 15% savings in my new tax free savings account.

Envisioning the new plentiful

What is the point of living lean and becoming a savings fanatic if you don’t have some amazing plan for the future? Entrepreneurs don’t just take life a day at a time. They set ambitious goals and put in motion plans for moving forward. They know what they are after and roll with the punches, change and adapt to the opportunities and circumstances that arise. The starting point is a vision of your good life. The act of exploring vision opens up opportunities and potential and inspires us to take action. Gergen and Vanourek have a short on-line guide to developing your own personal vision. I also provided a guide to visioning and goal setting in my January 2008 Slaw post “Ditch the Resolutions”.

For me the key to thriving in the next few years is to uncover my own definition of the new plentiful. Sheryl Crow had it right: “It’s not having what you want; it’s wanting what you’ve got.” My new plentiful is about having my financial house in order. I’m going to enjoy evenings at home with family and friends, long dog walks with my yellow lab on the weekends, and reading by the fireplace in the evenings. With my new Digital Book Reader and it’s built in light feature I can save on electricity by turning off the lights and reading in the dark.

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Comments

  1. Great article. Saving or investing in smart, conservative ways is the way to go right now. I wrote an article about finding money in your current budget to fund your savings. Take a look