Letter To The Editor: Crash Course In Dealing With A Recession

By MARK DEVOLDER
Los Alamos

During the early months of the 2008 Recession, I panicked. The daily news was terrible. I did not think that things would ever get better. Things did get better, but hidden from view was the mounting US Federal debt ($10 trillion in 2008 and $31.4 trillion in 2023).

The value of homeowner equity in the US increased from approximately $8.77 trillion in 2010 to approximately $21.2 trillion U.S. dollars in 2020. By the way, both political parties had a hand creating the mounting debt – so no finger pointing please.  

As a result of the worsening economy in 2008, I hoped for the best but planned for the worst. Recessions occur at approximately 13 year intervals. Therefore, I knew that hard times would occur again in the future.

Much has changed in America, for example, shop classes and home economics courses are no longer taught in high school. Fewer people know how to operate a lathe for machining parts because much of American industry has moved offshore.  Many people are computer literate, but they do not understand how capitalism works. You never get anything for free, you are paying for it one way or another.        

During the previous recession, I began to focus on reducing expenditures. This meant doing more of my own repair work; purchasing a few low-cost / high-quality tools at pawn shops, garage sales, and flea markets (for example, hammer, handsaw, screwdrivers, files, socket set, etc.), and learning to work outside in cold Los Alamos weather. 

While I was at the flea market, an Asian customer walked up to a table where tools were being sold. He held up a file and asked, “How much?” The seller said, “$1.00.” The buyer offered $0.50. The seller said, “No.” The buyer proceeded to walk to another table in search of a file. As a result of the experience, I realized that I had a lot to learn about purchasing used items.

As I ponder the upcoming recession, there are many things I have done over the years to deal with financial adversity.

The following are a few examples:

  • Acquire adhesives for repair work (that is, super glue, white glue, epoxy, and silicone caulk).
  • Never pass up the opportunity to pick up a used piece of steel bailing wire (Model T fixer).
  • Consider cutting an aspirin tablet in two or opening a gelatin capsule of a particular vitamin and consuming only part of the contents.
  • Cut short pieces of tape off the end of a roll of tape using second-hand scissors. Cut 3/4-inch-wide strips of packing tape from 2-inch wide packing tape rolls.  Some packing tape rolls are now only 1-1/2 inches wide. Consider salvaging packing tape from discarded cardboard boxes. (Note: If two layers of tape are applied to a cardboard box, the outer layer of tape is like new. Salvaged tape may be wrapped around a food pack can and provided with a folded over 1/4-inch long tab so you can find the end of the tape.)
  • Learn to break down and repair your own tires. This is what car owners did during the 1930’s Depression.  Acquire a set of tire spoons, a short handle sledge hammer, and a valve stem core remover tool.  Remove the valve core from the valve stem. A temporary ramp can be built using a discarded 4-foot long 2 x 12 plank in good condition (possibly available from the pallet pile at the Los Alamos Eco Station).  The plank is placed near the tire rim in order to break the tire bead. It is necessary to drive one tire on the front of your vehicle up the ramp to break the bead. Be careful. The tire spoons and hammer are used to remove the old / flat tire and replace the new tire.   
  • Re-purpose the white side of paper wrappers from food pack cans. Scientists probably did this sort of thing in the early days of the Manhattan Project.        
  • Stale bread is a good addition to a soup.
  • A discarded 1-gallon milk jug filled with water and placed in a south-facing window is an inexpensive collector of solar energy. (Note: A polyethylene milk jug degrades with exposure to ultraviolet light and requires periodic replacement.)
  • If you are not in a room in your house, shut off the light.
  • Turn your thermostat down to 68 degrees.
  • Put a clear plastic covering over the interior of north-facing windows. A frame to support the plastic can be constructed using cardboard or wood strips. (Note: Polyethylene plastic film degrades with exposure to ultraviolet light and requires periodic replacement.)
  • A package of sewing needles and some spools of thread are relatively inexpensive. If it is OK to wear blue jeans with big holes in them, it is probably OK to sew up ripped clothing – it may start a trend.
  • Plain old water out of the water faucet is significantly less expensive than any store-bought beverage.

View this period of financial stress as an opportunity to increase your skills. There are many ancient types of technology which still work quite well in modern times. Spend some time on the internet or at the Mesa Public Library to learn more about thrifty methods of surviving during hard economic times. Don’t whine – WIN!

LOS ALAMOS

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