Positives in the face of a recession

It’s official, the recession is here. There’s been talk of nothing else over the past few months with the Government coming under fierce criticism from opposition parties this week for not holding an adequate debate on the issue when the Dáil resumed after its summer recess.

But Central Statistic Office figures released this week show that the Irish economy contracted by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of this year compared with the same period last year, meaning the economy is in a recession. What defines a recession is when there are two or more successive quarters of negative economic growth.

Consumer spending is down, capital spending is down, the housing market is in a slump, industrial production has dropped and generally some serious belt tightening is required.

Walking the streets of Castlebar over the past four days you can’t help but notice a considerable downturn in the number of shoppers throwing their cash around. People have realised that the well is running dry and it’s time to take some responsibility and control over our spending habits which had undoubtedly spiralled seriously out of control.

Gone are the days of three holidays a year. Credit cards will feel the wrath of metal scissors slashing them to pieces, or at the very least they will be shoved into the cupboard in the kitchen where all the bills are stored. Savings accounts will be opened. Loans cleared. Nights out carefully planned down to the cost of getting there, and how many rounds can be afforded, to the price of a taxi home. Precision planning will be required to ensure we don’t lose the ability to enjoy a good night on the town, the recession just means we might have to be creative in scrounging the money together to rendezvous with our pals.

That said, having friends over to chat around the turf fire (yes if the EU permits we will be all out cutting turf ) while enjoying a couple bottles of beer or playing twister, will be the new going out.

You know, I’m actually going to find some positives in all of this. The twenty- and thirty-something generation have grown up largely with silver spoons in our mouths. I’ve know no hardship in my life. My parents indulged my every whim when I lived under their roof. They still indulge me from time to time and I am forever grateful to them for this. Every extracurricular activity I wanted to participate in during my school days was facilitated. I never knew what it was to be strapped for cash. Times might not have been as rosy as I recall, but my parents ensured I never knew what hardship was.

Now all I know is foreign holidays, nice cars, a big house and the ease with which these can all be enjoyed by handing over the credit card time and time again. This is the norm for my generation. But it’s time for us to take some responsibility and know what it means to save up for a holiday or put a few quid away for that rainy day because the rainy day is on the way.

I’m going to open a savings account, sign up to a pension scheme, spend less time in Castlebar’s ladies’ fashion stores and touch base with reality. It’s time I grew up and a lot more people with me and while we can wallow in the bad news that the recession has landed, let’s be mature about how we are going to manage our resources over the next few years until the good times return. Budgeting, the planning of one’s income and expenditure, is something the Government has brought forward to October. Let’s all of us spoiled twenty- and thirty-somethings join the Government in doing some sensible, old-fashioned budgeting.

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