The Shelter in Place Diaries

Shelter in Place Diary #2

Seattle Downtown



Hello Thursday! The day after hump day. The post-hump no-hump pre-weekend workfest.

Today, I’m working to Cozy Coffeehouse music and editing my mystery novel. Also, I found what appears to be a reputable way to donate unused N95 masks to hospitals in Seattle. (Click Here) I have some masks I bought ages ago for my emergency kit, and at this point the hospital workers need them far more than we do. So that’s handled.

Today I’m also thinking about the economy. All week my Twitter feed has been full of helpful suggestions on how I can support artists and writers and restaurants by buying X or prepaying for Y. And while I’m nodding along in spirit I’m also watching my investments melt down like a cheap paraffin candle. This, my friends, is why recessions suck so hard. In the very moment I want to throw discretionary income at all the small businesses and writers I know, I’m less able to do so.

Our household budget is kind of like a Volvo. It’s roomy enough by frugal-person standards, and when a recession hits we have crumple zones for safety.  The economy is contracting, and I’m running around the condo yelling CRUMPLE ZONES ACTIVATE.

Well, I’m not literally yelling. My husband enjoys my antics but we’re confined in a small space together so I dole out the drama in small doses. Besides, P doesn’t need me to yell. He’s leading the charge.

My Brain: No yelling!

It’s time to crumple those zones! That means no travel for the foreseeable future, obviously. (Thank goodness our recent road trip was cheap!) We canceled several nice-to-have subscriptions (Adios, News in Slow Spanish!), and we traded our standard cell phone plans for inexpensive prepaid plans with Mint Mobile. $800/yr saved. Woot! Our 15 year-old washing machine can probably last another year or three if we whisper sweet nothings into the loading hole* when we toss in our underwear. No more hookers and blow either.  (I threw that one in in to make sure you’re paying attention. You know my drug of choice is coffee.)

The amateur futurist in me says that this economic shock comes at a very precarious time. Most households lack savings. (This changed in 2008 after the last crisis, but memories are short.) And student debt and a weak job market have left an entire generation struggling to pay the bills, and therefore poor savings aren’t always a personal responsibility issue.  Meanwhile, many (but not all) corporations have squandered their financial gifts from the Republican leadership. Corporate debt is at an all time high. Netflix and other high-flying companies are the business equivalent of an outwardly wealthy person living off high-interest credit cards. And the Fed has been injecting meth into the veins of the banking system to keep the good times rolling, so now they have few economic levers available for a true emergency.

Yeeeeeeaaaaah. When you’re playing the poorly-regulated capitalism game, this is the moment when all the monsters burst in through the doors surrounding your party and the DM shouts: Roll Initiative.

I enjoy thinking about the economy –  how all the systems interact to create the world we live in. But it’s the daily impact that concerns most of us. You think about your relative who bought a house recently. And the kid you know who is just starting out. Where’s his opportunity going to come from?

Recessions suck, but most of us aren’t helpless.

So here’s some unsolicited advice, blog buddies: If you’ve got stable employment, build up your own emergency savings and then reach out to help a local food bank or people you know who are in a tough spot. (Put your own oxygen mask on before helping others – you remember that drill, right?) Grocery store and Costco gift cards are useful when someone has lost their job. And if you’re an entrepreneur or artist without any crumple zones, start looking for a side-gig ASAP. That’s what I did in 2008 when I was a fresh-faced consultant without many clients and the economy went tits up. I worked an hourly temp job for a little while to support my day job. And we were lucky because P was able to hang onto his job at the time. I absolutely wish you all luck. But luck is even more powerful when you can combine it with having your shit together.

To close, here’s one more thing I’ve learned about recessions: They end. It takes years sometimes, but they do end.

And now that I’ve solved the problem of the economy (har har) I’m going to go write.


PS: If you’ve got extra masks laying around and you’re in Seattle, please consider donating them here.

PPS: I doubt the front of the washing machine is called the loading hole but I think it sounds hilarious. Let’s just call it that from now on.

PPPS: These posts are wordy because I’m not going to take the time to edit them right now. (I have other work to get done today) So apologies in advance for my rambly prose. You’re seeing first-drafts.