The local newspaper last week reported a substantial increase in sales of sewing machines. The owner of the business attributed this to the current economic downturn and its effects on households struggling to meet mortgage and credit card repayments. She is not the only retailer noticing a change in consumer habits. Kitchen appliance outlets have seen an upsurge of interest in the old-fashioned pressure cooker and butchers are being asked more often for the cheap cuts of meat and large joints. These require longer cooking times but can be bulked up with root vegetables to provide more meals from one cooking session.
Anyone whose parents or grandparents lived through previous global Depressions of the 1930s or 1890s can tell you that wives and mothers hold the key to their family’s survival. Here are 5 simple bits of wisdom handed down through the generations.
1. Manage the money you now have.
A ‘no-brainer’ is to pay off your debts in whatever amounts you can manage but on a regular basis. Along with that, you simply do not buy anything new that you can do without. The new mantra is ‘need, not greed.’ Form a regular habit of putting aside something ‘For a Rainy Day.’ It may be only a two dollar coin per day – saved from a canned soft drink you did not buy – but at the end of a month it is enough to pay for a visit to the specialist, if one of the family falls ill.
2. Don’t pay for anything you can do or make yourself.
With the obvious exception of electrical or plumbing work that must be carried out by professionals, house maintenance is usually within the capacity of any fit person. Advice is often available from friends, family or neighbours. If you have an Internet connection, use it to find websites offering free How To articles and videos. With your computer and printer you can send lovingly homemade greetings cards for birthdays and Christmas.
3. Grow some of your food and cook it at home.
Until you start growing vegetables, you’ll never know how much pleasure comes from eating a tomato or lettuce you planted, nurtured and harvested from your own garden patch. Advice abounds in your local library or online at gardening or nursery sites. Cooking in your own kitchen is a pleasure and it can even help you to maintain your waistline and boost your overall health. The reason is that in enjoying the colours of fresh produce and inhaling their fragrances, your brain receives signals that equate to the satisfaction of eating before you’ve taken even a bite. Also, the more you handle fresh food in its whole forms – for instance,an orange rather than a jar of marmalade – the more interest you’ll take in learning about nutrition.
4. Sew some of your own clothes.
If you don’t already own a sewing machine, then this is one time to break my ‘don’t buy anything new’ rule. You will quickly become competent. I did it – and in a time before the brilliant modern versions – so the proverbial Drover’s Dog could do it now. You can even teach yourself to draft paper patterns and save even more cash, especially on children’s clothes.
5. Entertain friends and family at home.
The house you live in is the biggest investment you are ever likely to make and you’ve no doubt put a lot of effort, time and money into enhancing it. So why not consider it as what it really is: your own Day Spa, vacation Resort, intimate restaurant, cinema, Botanical gardens or whatever is fitting for the environment you have created or dream of making out of what already exists. Your teenagers may want a nightlife scene that’s beyond your capacity to provide and probably beyond your capacity to endure if it could be inserted into your home. If so, what’s wrong with letting the kids earn the cash to take them into these nightspots?
Here is an Extra Bonus Point.
If you’ve read any of the Tips above and thought ‘Too Hard. I could never do that’ then let me tell you a Secret. Success in all of these areas comes mainly from seat-of-the-pants experience, so don’t let yourself be put off by the bucket loads of expert opinion. The experts all got there the same way you will: by trial and error.
Here is a Footnote for those interested in the historical overview.
The invention of the sewing machine is attributed to a London cabinet-maker in 1790 but the first patent for a sewing machine was taken out by an American, Elias Lowe, in 1846. By 1850, another American, Isaac Merrit Singer, had completed his design for ‘Singer’s Perpendicular Action Sewing Machine’ and patented it in August 1851. Technically, this was an industrial model, but by 1856 the advent of ‘hire purchase’ made the invention available to professional dressmakers. As always, this technological advance was to have an impact few people could foresee. When male tailors in Sydney went out on strike for thirteen weeks over the rates for piece-work, the David Jones emporium replaced them all with ( lower-paid ) women operating the new machines.