Feature Articles - Weekly Feature
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in October of 2008 "number of job losses occurred in trucking (-12,000)." Scary number isn't it? That is 12,000 jobs that vanished, but it is also people in the industry who lost those jobs-just in October. It could happen to any of us in a whipstitch of time. It is time to dig in and get ready for the bumpy ride we still have ahead of us. To do this, we might need to look at how our parents and grandparents survived the Great Depression.
My mother, who is 84 years old, speaks about growing up during the 1930s. She tells of wearing clothing made of flour sacks and going bare foot during warm weather. Being raised on a farm and growing their own food helped to take them through the winter months, but the chores related to preserving the meat and vegetables back then before all the new technology, would make most modern-day folks cringe. The one main point that mom makes though is that people were frugal back then and that was how they survived.
Being frugal is misunderstood by most who think it means being cheap or being a tightwad. This is not so. It means spending money wisely. In these times, people are used to having what they want when they want it and this attitude and habit have led many to their downfall. One word can be used to define our society of today, disposable. Instead of buying quality items and goods that will last a long time, which is spending money frugally, we buy cheap things that we use once or for a little while then throw them away and buy a replacement.
Translating frugality into trucking is easy. Small things add up, such as buying windshield-washing fluid at a discount store instead of a truck stop or eating a meal in the truck instead of going in and eating every meal in the truck stop café. When you are planning to eat inside, believe it or not it is often more frugal to have that steak with all the trimmings than a burger and fries. The nutritional benefit is a greater value for the money. If you have a choice in where to fuel, buy the fuel where it is the cheapest instead of where you get the most points on your frequent fueler card. Yes, it might cost you a point or two but it might also save your company from going under. Check with your company shop about filling oil jugs there instead of buying it on the road. The same goes for getting that spare light or additives.
Do you really need that new seat cover or piece of chrome? Can you make do with that pair of boots and just having them resoled or do you really need a new winter coat? Is that game you are playing while waiting for a shower really worth the money? An old woman I used to work for told me once: "Watch the nickels and dimes and the dollars will take care of themselves." Sage advice in these tough times.
Being frugal can also be seen as being conscientious in one's job. Do your job giving an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. This will help the company keep customers and maintain the equipment. Remember, that voice on the other end of the phone line or computer screen is also scared losing their job or home.
Finally, the holiday season is approaching and it may be time for us to lose the commerciality of what the holidays have become. Perhaps we need to take a page from my old mother's reminisces of her childhood holidays when she said that being poor farmers, her parents did what they could but the gifts were few. Her mother would secretly sew her and her sisters a new dress, her father would buy them a new pair of shoes, and they might all get a new pencil for school. My mother still talks about the year in the depth of the Depression when her dad got all of them an orange to share.
Sounds pretty bleak, doesn't it? It really wasn't. Mom says that they would spend the day together on holidays only milking and feeding the livestock instead of all the other work usually done. They would have a special meal with deserts then would sing songs and tell stories. You should see the gleam that still shows in mom's eyes when she talks about that very special orange. It is a remarkable sight.
Being frugal with one's time is the greatest gift one can give. Spend your time wisely in doing something special with your family and friends, it doesn't have to cost anything else and might be a simple as sitting with your child on your lap and your arm around your spouse singing carols or telling a story as you share an orange.
Ya'll be safe!