Recession? Oh, Relax. Have a Steak.

Who cares about a recession when you can enjoy a nice juicy steak, right? That’s what steak house advertisers are hoping you’ll think when you see their Napa Valley billboard.

On a recent car ride from the Napa Valley to San Francisco, my stomach moaned and groaned. I had no reason to be hungry. It was the day after Thanksgiving, and just 12 hours earlier I was as stuffed as a holiday turkey. This did not stop the billboard from taunting me. The eye-catching billboard pictured a plump, juicy steak accompanied by a silver platter and the bold question: “What recession?”

While I appreciate the billboard’s clever play on consumer denial surrounding the recession, I find it hard to succumb to the advertisement’s message and ignore the current state of the US economy.

Steve Benen’s recent article in Washington Monthly titled, “Unemployment Picture Turns Even Uglier,” shows that I am not alone. According to Benen and Richard T. Curtain, director of Reuters/University of Michigan Survey of Consumers, consumer confidence is undergoing its largest decline in history. Curtain weighs in on the issue saying that consumer confidence “is being driven down by a host of factors: falling home and stock prices, fewer work hours, smaller bonuses, less overtime and disappearing jobs.”

These are certainly signs of troubled economic times. As a broke, but hard-working, college student, I am concerned about the impact of the recession on our country, but also on my personal finances. To protect my finances, I have transformed the most mundane activities into money savers.

To start, I have rekindled my love affair with the French press. I enjoy buying coffee by the pound and brewing it in my own kitchen, so why not do this on a daily basis? Once I started brewing my own coffee and stopped making daily trips to coffee shops, I noticed a significant increase in spare change. My family has jumped on the moneysaving bandwagon and issued a “no presents” Christmas. We agreed that instead of exchanging gifts, we would enjoy a holiday meal and each other’s company.

Aside from learning the importance of saving money, the most significant lesson I have learned from this recession is to make conscious distinctions between wants and needs.

By passing up things that I may want, like a juicy steak at a luxury steak house, and by limiting spending to purchases that I actually need, I am, in my own small way, a money saver.

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