I tend to think that things are really bad financially, but they are not really that bad. I was very fortunate to grow up in the kind of family where the budget was flexible and we never had to worry about how we were spending money really. I was never taught to be wasteful, but we had no debt, we bought new clothes as trends changed, we went on vacation every summer, we ate out if we felt like it, and we always had cable=).
Even in my first year of teaching, my budget was really flexible. That year costs had not increased and I was not paying for grad school.
For the first time this year, I am really having to thoughtfully stick to a budget. I don't just go to the grocery store and throw everything in the cart that I "need". I don't get a haircut every six weeks. I don't buy new clothes because I don't have the latest styles. I don't go out to dinner because I don't feel like cooking.
I know all of this is good for me to learn. I really never appreciated that my lifestyle was privileged. I guess I was kind of spoiled. I am starting to appreciate that I am privileged even now. Yes, I have had to give up some things I am accustomed to, but I have a nice place to live, I have a car, I never have gone hungry even for one day, I have nice clothes, and I am paying for grad school out of pocket. Even though I am feeling the financial crunch more than I ever have I am also seeing financial blessing.
I was raised to spend money in a certain zone (maybe under 300$) without ever thinking about it and to consider big purchases thoroughly. Now, I have to consider all purchases and stick to a budget. Part of it is the recession and part of it is the career I have chosen. It is really not so bad, though, because I don't need a lot of the things I have had in the past. I've learned that Target jeans are pretty much the same as Gap jeans. I've learned that the brand of toothpaste isn't really that important either. Time off in town can be just as relaxing as a vacation.