Hoping for a happy holiday? Try tuning out the media

Last week we heard more bad news on the economic front. Government officials said they expect the recession to stretch into next year. They also pointed out a few more gloomy facts: the last time Americans cut back this much on spending was right after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, new home sales are at the lowest in almost two decades and jobless claims are sharply rising.

Now, I definitely don’t advocate sweeping the truth under the rug—the economy is in a bad place and it’s beneficial to know how it got there. And I’m proud to live in a country that celebrates the freedom of speech and opinion. But sometimes it seems like the media is being, as my mom would put it, a Negative Nancy. Or maybe it’s not that the media is any more negative than it used to be, but that, living in the electronic age, we’re barraged by news on the TV and on the Internet at rates unlike anything in the past. Back then, you could just flick off the radio or choose not to look at the paper. Now it’s in your face from the moment you turn your monitor on at work.

So I’ve started to tune out the news. I’m not in denial. I know we’re in a recession. Unlike the National Bureau of Economic Research (which just officially recognized that fact yesterday, for crying out loud) most of the country could have told you we were in a recession a year ago.

You don’t need to hear what you already know. So my suggestion is to give it a rest this holiday season. Tune out the media and listen to yourself—and your family. Start by using your own common sense to guide you through the hard times.

For instance, you know that food is expensive. Eggs, bread, milk—all the staples have gone up thanks inflation and increasing (until recently, anyway) fuel costs. So you could feel helpless, or you could do something about it. Buy cheaper brands, clip coupons and eat out less.

OK, now let’s look at some heavier dilemmas. Maybe you can’t afford house payments and the bank is threatening foreclosure. What’s your plan of action? You could panic and do nothing. You could listen to the news—which dwells on the fact that more people than ever are losing their homes—and simply give up hope because foreclosure seems inevitable. But those aren’t very satisfying solutions. They aren’t even real solutions! Here’s one. Did you know that there’s a sure way to hold onto your home? It’s called Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and it’s your right as an American citizen. But reporters don’t talk about it on TV because it’s good news—and they think good news is boring.

DebtStoppers has the scoop on whether and how to file for bankruptcy—along with a game plan for managing your debts. A quick phone call or email is all it takes to get going. Start by signing up for a free one-on-one debt analysis.

If you have a hard time finding the light at the end of this economic tunnel, try looking at the positives. Like the fact that gas is way cheap! If you would have told me this summer that gas would drop below $2 per gallon in my lifetime, I would have called you a dirty, rotten liar—or just laughed hysterically. But it happened. My gas bill has been cut in half, giving my budget some greatly appreciated breathing room. I hope you’re taking the time to enjoy this moment as well. It won’t last forever. But nothing does.

Just take it one day at a time and don’t lose your head. Keep up common sense financial strategies—practice a little restraint, ask for help when you need it and prioritize paying off debts and saving money. If you keep your wits about you, chances are you will look back on this time in your life with different eyes. You might not look back and laugh, but I bet you will smile knowing that it was today’s trials that made you stronger for tomorrow.

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