How to Take Advantage of a Crappy Economy

The age-old motto of the downtrodden is “When life hands you lemons, make some damn lemonade.” As many of your jobs vaporize, homes foreclose and loans default–you’re trying to find the bright light in the this nasty mess at all costs.

I’m here to tell you that you can make lemonade. There are ways to stay positive in a bad economy and take care of your motivation. But even beyond that, the economy has brought us a couple of very important social changes that work to our advantage.

Here are only are few of the clever ways to reverse the effects of the economy on your personal finances and capitalize on your circumstances:

Freelancing is Back

The strongest trend in career management is the shift away from traditional employment and into self-employment and freelancing. This is particularly true is fields that lend themselves to consultant work, and for those who are interested and capable of taking advantage of the Internet to start their businesses.

As I read Gary Vee’s Crush It, it’s evident that with enough passion, anyone can succeed at just about anything that they love–so if you’re pursuing a hobby after work that you enjoy, perhaps it’s time to rock out with it and monetize? The same is true if you have sellable skills (which nearly everyone does to some extent) because you can capitalize on a job market that wants temporary and consulting workers, not permanent headaches.

Personal Branding is Ultra-Important

In my opinion, “personal branding” has become the buzzword of 2009. Don’t ignore it–Twitter and Facebook were buzzwords and misunderstood long before they became household names. Now everyone is tweeting to their tweeple. And the businesses that can tap into it are rocking.

Understanding what you’re passionate about and expressing that to other people is a key measure of how successful you can be after a sudden change in employment, like a layoff. Cold-calling future employers is dead, not only because of the economy, but because employers like to rely on established networks to find new hires.

If you can become a part of that network and showcase yourself, you’ve got one foot in the door.

Frugality is Cool Again

It’s been a while since looking for the best deals was “in.” Take advantage of this trend while it lasts (it will save you a lot of money), then ignore the return to crazy spending and keep frugality going. It will be tough, but as we emerge from this mess, I’ll give you some tools to work with.

If your finances have been put to the test in this recession, you’ve already gained an interesting tool set in stretching your dollars. Converting as many of these as possible into long-term habits that are change-averse (think automation and systems) is for your own protection from yourself.

Simplicity is Making a Comeback

In combination with frugality, people are realizing the benefits of returning to a simpler life–one that isn’t worse that consumerism, but actually better and more relaxing. I may be seeking out these blogs intentionally, but it seems to me that “simplicity” and “laser focus” are also buzz words of 2009.

Blogs like Zen Habits, its sister Mnmlist, Simple.Organized.Life, On Simplicity, and others are becoming virally popular. They’re teaching us how to be less concerned with things and more at peace with experiences. They’re also showing us the advantages of focusing on one thing at a time–a fundamental concept for success with money, in my opinion.

Deals, Deals Everywhere

This might be the most obvious and most evident of these trends because advertisers are trying desperately to get their message heard through the noise at all costs. But beyond the superficial consumerism, now might just be the right time to buy a car, buy a home, and well–just about anything else.

It’s too bad so many people are struggling just to pay rent, or they could take advantage of the downturn. We might not get another opportunity to shop like this one for a long, long time.

Bargaining/Negotiation is Also Cool

If you thought hassling over prices went the way of mom-and-pop shops, think again. You can talk your way out of sticker price on almost anything these days, including large chain stores.

When was the last time you negotiated your rent? How about smaller things, like your cable bill or phone service? Negotiating with service/shelter providers is just as important as buying, especially because we’re talking about recurring expenses. $10 shaved off your monthly cable bill can quickly add up over the course of the year.

Colleges are Being Overrun

One of the most interesting phenomenons to me in a recession is this apparent “run” on education. It feels like everyone and their mother wants to go back to college and study something, whether it’s simply because they’re unemployed and looking to better themselves, or they are still working and want to enhance their chances of staying that way.

College admissions have become more competitive as applications rise, but in many cases, they’re becoming more expensive as well. Colleges, who have been short on money and donations the past few years, are looking to recuperate their losses by taking advantage of the new-found demand. Be careful!

Doing Nothing

The only surefire way to get nowhere in this recession is to do nothing. It’s easy to fall victim to depression, hopelessness, and despair. Don’t let it get to you.

The minute you give up is the minute you give away control of your life to someone else. Take it back and do something with it.

Photo credit: wsilver via CC2.0

8 thoughts on “How to Take Advantage of a Crappy Economy

  1. Great post! I’ve had great business all through the recession — being a freelancer has never been better! And we’ve taken advantage of the low prices. My brother works at a furniture store, so we took the plunge on a dining room set and a sofa set. Why? Because we got a 60% family discount on top of the recession-sale prices. It’s all about looking for the silver linings and taking advantage of the opportunities. They’re out there.

    1. That’s an incredible discount, even for a family member! It’s great that you can take advantage.

      I think there are many people “jumping on” the freelance train, but those who have been doing for a while, such as yourself, are definitely better positioned to take advantage of it.

      Even after the recession is over, with the globalization of business and the Internet, I see a lot of work being done that way that was traditionally done with in-house staff.

  2. Good points Fizz. And since colleges are being overrun, it’s a natural next step to start business that cater to nervous potential students and parents who need guidance and assurance.

    1. Now, there’s an idea. 🙂 Yes, I’m sure that the students in school now aren’t happy when they see their tuition skyrocket, especially since some of them went to school with the expectation of “being shielded” from the recession.

      1. Indeed. Hence, should take a look at a post I put up yesterday entitled “Tuition Hike For The Poor is Like A Tax Hike For The Rich” after the University California raised tuition by 32%! OUCH!

  3. Yanno, freelancing might be even more important than we realize in this economy. I just read an article from the Wall Street Journal that highlighted two different men whose freelance (one was actually a hobbyist) gigs actually become their full-time jobs/income generators after getting laid off. If they hadn’t paid attention to their secondary revenue streams, they might not have had anything to fall back on.
    .-= ConsciouslyFrugal´s last post: Finding and Supporting Locally-Owned Businesses =-.

    1. I think that’s exactly why so many people are taking it up, not to mention that it’s a lot of fun for those who are enjoying what they do as freelancers (which I think most people do).

      Once you have a baseline established, even if you’re making $100 a month, you have the skills ready to scale up that operation if need be (as it so happens in a layoff).

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