I had registered to attend a seminar last Saturday but truthfully I was thinking twice about going as I also had a lot of things to do at home. However, since I’d said that I was attending I went, and I am so glad that I did because those three hours were eye-opening.
Mark Hill from Innogen was sharing on Economics from a Biblical perspective. One of the things he talked about was the cyclical nature of economies. We have seen it over and over, from the time of the seven years of plenty in Egypt and the seven years of famine, to our own situation here in Barbados where we’ve had times of economic growth and times of economic downturn, or downright hardship, as we are experiencing now.
These times really call on us to become creative and to look at our lifestyles. Mark showed how in times when the economy experienced a downturn, we would borrow to make up the deficit, but that only put us in a worse economic position. It is similar with our own lives. If we find ourselves with less disposable income, instead of adjusting to suit the situation, often we end up using our credit cards and incur debt to maintain our standard of living. That is precisely why our credit card debt stands at $347 million. I don’t believe that is only consumer debt, but more likely debt incurred to buy food and other essentials.
As many have lost their jobs this week and as all of us have to survive in the economic conditions in the country for the foreseeable future, unless we plan to emigrate, we need to begin to adjust our lifestyles rather than continue to live in the same way and prop it up with debt. When companies experience financial challenges, they tend to look at each line item in their income statement and see how they can either increase revenue or reduce expenses. We need to take the same approach. I am always referring to my first book What Do You Have in Your House? because I know that everyone has something, a little “oil”, according to the book, that they can use to create additional revenue.
I just spent about an hour creating videos for two workshops I’m planning to offer to generate additional revenue using what I have in my house. After successfully writing and publishing books for ten years and giving many people free advice about how to write and publish their own books, I am ready to offer a writer’s retreat so that I can encourage more people to begin to use their creativity, skills and experiences to create and publish books that they can sell locally and online and earn some additional income.
The other side of looking at the income statement is reducing expenses. Mark Hill, in his presentation, highlighted three areas of greatest expenditure in a household (housing, transportation and food) and encouraged us to look for ways that we can reduce those costs by using bio-resources. A bio-resource is any resource of biological origin. That means living things, including our bodies. Now let me hasten to clarify how we can use our bodies in this regard before I am misunderstood.
Mark has taken to riding his bicycle and is therefore using his body to reduce his transportation costs which has the added benefit of getting exercise at the same time. So, rather than complaining about the exorbitant cost of gas (who would prefer to be going to MTW with $400 now?) we can begin to ride or walk to places. I am considering walking to the supermarket and taking the shuttle back. I’m still considering it but maybe I’ll wait until the weather cools down some more. Rather than viewing taking the shuttle as something to be looked down upon or as something for old people, we can take advantage of it to save on transportation costs as long as the supermarkets continue to make it available. You never know – they may soon start to look at their income statement and make adjustments too.
Another area in which we can use our bodies is for our own gardening or maintenance. Although that may help us reduce our costs, it would have the trickle-down effect of impacting another business or individual, so there’s no win/win there. However, if you’re in a situation where you really can’t do any better because you have lost your job, obviously you have to do what is necessary.
Reducing our food bill is another area we can attack, and I’ve heard it both from Mark and from Adrian Reid at the last two seminars – don’t only grow your own food but process it when there is plenty so that when it is scarce, there will be something. That made me look at our golden apple tree which is full of green golden apples. For some reason they don’t seem to be getting big this year and I called a friend of mine who makes juices to come and get them in exchange for a bottle or two of juice. My husband has also been planning to make chutney for the longest time and we certainly have enough to do both.
As I looked in vain for tomatoes at the supermarket this week, I remembered the tomatoes I saw rotting in fields earlier this year and I lament the wastage when they could have been processed and canned or bottled so that they would be available now, albeit not fresh. In these times, we cannot afford to leave anything rotting in a field especially now that we have many people out of jobs and possibly more to come. While structural adjustment has been imposed on the Government, it will obviously have an impact on all of us. So we all need to make our own adjustments now if we want to successfully ride out this crisis. And when we come out of the crisis, we need to make sure that we become like the ant and store up for when winter comes around again.
Donna Every is an author, international speaker and trainer. She was the Barbados Ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (2014-2016) and is the Barbados Facilitator for the WINC Acceleration Program. She has just released her eleventh book, Vaucluse, which is available on all Amazon stores or contact her to order your copy.
Contact her at [email protected]