Things You Can't Live Without During the Recession: Readers’ Choice Edition

May 04, 2009
by Rachel Balik
Soon after we published a feature with advice on what items to keep buying despite the recession, we got hit with a wave of additional suggestions from our readers. We stand by our assertion that health insurance is something nobody should sacrifice, but we loved your contributions. Here’s what you said.

Spending Makes You Smile

People made their choices for a variety of reasons; however, they frequently explained that the things they spent money on helped them cope mentally and emotionally with the recession. The economy may need more help than simple consumerism, but sometimes consuming can help us weather the economy. If there was one trait shared by most of the answers, it was that they reflected people’s desire to continue on with life as usual, or find ways of cheering themselves up.

We Still Have to Eat

Maintaining a certain quality of life seemed linked to lifting people’s spirits. For example, many people said that an occasional nice meal out and good quality food were things they’d continue to spend money on. As Ann Middleman, a consultant at ADM Marketing quite aptly put it, “Chinese food takeout on Sunday nights—it’s become a ritual, and doing without it would be too depressing.” But others took the opportunity to mention their absolute favorite foods, often things that can be cooked or eaten at home. People mentioned cheeses, tomatoes, Romaine lettuce and even pork chops.

Sugar, Caffeine and Other Requirements

Of course, protein and vegetables weren’t a top priority for everyone. Harvard Law School student Jasmine T. can’t go without Crystal Light diet lemonade (“no Kool-Aid!” she says) or Australian red licorice. Newspaper editor Randall Rigsbee also depends on the sugar high, although he buys American to feed his love for gummy bears.

Even more important than sugar for many of you was coffee. Clearly everyone is working hard through the recession (or at least trying to stay awake in order to keep up with ever-changing stock market.) Some people wanted good coffee, others need flavored coffee and musician Mike DiBenedetto, who plays bass for Brooklyn band New Idea Society said “coffee … even bad coffee.” But caffeine addicts, take heart: new research shows that a cup of joe may actually be good for you.

Upping Your Serotonin Levels

Another previously vilified treat that rivaled coffee in popularity was chocolate. Fortunately, in small doses, chocolate is actually also good for you; it also contains serotonin, a natural mood enhancer. It’s easy to forget about the unemployment rate when you’re ingesting a chunk of 97 percent pure cocoa. Not that we are advocating easing your pain by forming a deep, lasting bond with your friends Mr. Goodbar and Baby Ruth. But a little doesn’t hurt and might even help.

It seems like there’s no danger of chocolate overdose, though, because our readers are a healthy bunch and know how to get their serotonin via the best way possible: exercise. A large portion of you listed gym memberships, running sneakers or yoga classes as absolute essentials, no matter how tough times got. As Brettan Bablove, founder of online bridal community, explained, yoga is “100 percent necessary for keeping my sanity.”

Pretty is as Pretty Does

Of course, you can work out all you want, and it won’t make your hair look pretty. (In fact, as most gym rats know, the combination of sweat and whatever cheap shampoo they supply in the locker room in the locker room is likely to do more harm than good.) Still many of the women who said they’d continue to spend money on staying fit also said they’d continue to shell out for gorgeous locks, Several said that quality haircuts or getting their hair professionally dyed or highlighted were something they couldn’t live without, even if they had to cut down on the number of salon visits. Some explained that looking put-together for work was extremely important. Oddly, no one used “because blondes have more fun” as a reason.

Elsewhere in the beauty department, other women named manicures, pedicures, professional waxing and make-up as essentials, even while on a budget. One woman from Philadelphia declared, “Darphin Line Response Cream (recession be damned, I refuse to look my age).” She also likes Chanel No. 5.

Having a Drink

Our male responders can apparently survive without leg waxes, but they refuse to do without booze. Some said they’d keep buying good beer, one person said he’d switch to less costly brand of gin, and some left it at “a bottle of wine.”  The bottom line is: a lot of people, both men and women, like an alcoholic drink to take the edge off from time to time.

Taking Care of Your Best Friend

No, we don’t mean your actual best friend. (In tough times, he can buy his own beer!) We mean your four-footed best friend. Across the board, you all love your pets. You will not give them up, or stop buying them the best food, or the most fun toys. Pet spending is so consistent that a new airline just for pets has recently launched. Bablove said she continues to pay for a dog walker, so her dog won’t be alone all day. It seems that as much fun as drinking is, caring for another creature is something that truly sustains people when times get bleak. Pets can be a wonderful distraction and actually improve your mood. And they’re guaranteed never to engage you in conversation about the unemployment rate.

Most Recent Features