Coping With High Prices
Housewives around the world are facing rising prices and, often, diminishing incomes. How do they cope?
This article from the Dominican Republic shows how some housewives in that Caribbean country are handling these problems
“WE HAVE changed our life-style since you were here,” confessed my friend, whom I had not seen in some time. “With prices ever higher and less money coming in, we just could not keep up with our old way of life.”
This, of course, has been the experience of many families around the world. Television, newspapers and magazines daily present us with statistics on the economic situation—statistics that keep changing but rarely improving. They tell of inflation everywhere and also about the difficulties resulting from high unemployment rates and recessions.
Many of us, as housewives and mothers, are not overly interested in statistics. But we are interested in looking after our homes and families. We want our children to be well fed and educated. We want to be able to provide them with proper medical care and decent housing. With this in mind, I was interested in hearing what changes my friend had made in coping with the situation.
Planned Buying—Do Not Waste
She explained: “First, we don’t eat like we used to. For a time we were enjoying the best of everything, without giving much thought to the prices. But now we are getting used to having meatless meals a day or two a week. Our meals no longer include the variety or quantity of food we had before. In short, I have learned to waste less and economize. I shop where I can get the best prices.
“Along with that,” she continued, “we have learned to be more careful with our clothes. Before making purchases we ask ourselves: Is it really necessary? Will it quickly go out of style? Then, if we buy it, we try to take care of it so that it will last. I think some of our financial problems have made us appreciate more the things we have.”
“Your experience is not uncommon,” I replied. “Not long ago, a university student told me that since her father’s death a few years ago, her mother has had to work for others as a cook to support the family. She said: ‘When I see how hard my mother works to provide for us, I cannot bear to see anything wasted. I see to it that we cook just enough food so that each one has sufficient for his needs, but so that nothing is left over to be thrown out. When mother comes home with her pay, she knows exactly where every cent must go, and there is nothing left over for extras.’”
“Yes,” agreed my friend, “it is really important to keep firm control on expenses if you don’t want to end up in trouble. I know a young married couple who have a very small income. When they receive their money, they sit down together and first set aside the money for the rent and utilities. The next portion is allotted for the foods and cleaning materials that can be purchased monthly—leaving apart what they will be able to spend on things that are bought daily. Though their income is limited, they put aside one or two pesos every month for their emergency fund and occasionally a few pesos to contribute toward advancing the worldwide work of Bible education being done by Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is quite surprising how well they manage.”
“Good planning and cooperation are important,” I added. “But imagine how that whole arrangement would be spoiled if they were spending money on smoking, drinking and gambling—vices that keep many a family in want.”
I went on to illustrate what I had in mind: “That is the way it was with Ana. A few years ago, she, her husband and her children lived in one room. All she owned in the way of furniture was a bed. Her husband is a hardworking mechanic, but everything he gave Ana, along with whatever else she could obtain, she gambled or smoked away. At least 14 pesos a week went to the lottery. More disappeared at the bingo games, and she cannot even remember how much more she spent for cigarettes. There was never a centavo to buy anything for the children. They were clothed and fed with whatever the neighbors gave them. Tension and nervousness led to bitter quarrels with those with whom she gambled, and certainly she was no friend to her husband and children.
“Then Ana started to study with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and what a change came into her life! Soon she realized that her chances for a better way of life did not depend on winning the lottery, but, rather, on developing a close relationship with her Creator. Gradually, as she progressed in knowledge, she became a different person. Now the family lives in a modest, rented home, and the money once used for gambling and smoking provides food and clothing. Instead of constantly quarreling with her husband for more money, now Ana herself helps out with a little beauty salon at the back of the house. She has time to be with her husband and children, attend Christian meetings and share in telling others of the good news that changed her life.”
“Her husband must appreciate the change in her,” my friend commented, “and the children as well, but I wonder about all the women in this country who have to struggle alone. How can they possibly cope with today’s high prices? There are so many women who have been abandoned or divorced or widowed and still have families to raise. What can they do?”
“Many do not really cope,” I replied. “They just exist, living on help from neighbors and relatives. That reminds me of the last time I saw Dominga. I asked her what the women in her town were doing about the high prices, and she answered: ‘Complaining.’ Happily, though, we have many examples of women who take the initiative to help themselves.”
Make Use of What You Know
“A typical case is that of Juana,” I continued. “She lives nearby with her two teenage children. She told me that although she lives with her mother, she was getting desperate. How could she cope with the cost of the children’s education, their fees, books and clothing as well as food for them? She would have to find a job. But where? Doing what? Jobs are even scarcer in the towns and villages than in the larger cities, and she has no special training. However, she knows how to wash and iron, so she looked for someone who needed these services and, as a result, has been able to ease the financial burden.”
“So the lesson there is: Make use of whatever training or knowledge you have that can benefit others,” my friend remarked.
“That’s right,” I said. “Many women make a living at dressmaking. Others crochet table centers, place mats and pieces for chair backs and have more orders than they can fill. In some places, teaching these skills and other handcrafts has proved very profitable. A showcase with sewing notions or cosmetics converts many front rooms into community stores, or a table with vegetables in the doorway becomes a local market.
“Some women have developed shopping services. For example, I know of one who has a clientele of office workers. She buys clothing, purses or shoes, delivering the items to the offices. She deals with specific stores that give her special prices, and the girls are happy to escape the harassment of shopping in their free time. A pleasant personality and the initiative to have on hand what the people want help these ventures to succeed.”
“The field of entertainment has also been affected by rising costs. Have you had to make any adjustments in that respect?” I asked.
“We certainly have,” she stated firmly. “You probably remember how often we went to the movies and to whatever show or spectacle was presented at the National Theatre or in the stadium. We have really cut back on all of that. Besides, it was becoming increasingly difficult to find movies that we could enjoy together as a family.”
“So, what do you do for recreation?” I asked.
“Our favorite is a trip to the zoological park or the botanical gardens,” she replied, “but often we simply spend the evening together, exchanging experiences, playing games, and so forth. We have come to enjoy one another, to be interested in one another’s activities. Visiting other Christian families has also enriched our lives.”
I had to leave at this point, but as we parted I reflected on the conversation we just had. What really helps the most in coping with today’s high prices? I settled on one answer: While as housewives and mothers we may put into practice many schemes to economize and to increase our income, the most important thing of all is our own positive attitude.—Contributed.