Saving money and expanding our community in difficult times

My family is a book family. As far back as I can remember, even before my father began writing books, our house was full of books. Piles and piles of books lying in every corner of the house. My mother was always trying to find space to build bookshelves. As an avid reader myself, I soon got into the habit of collecting books. The love of books has been passed on to my children, and since they were born we have been collecting books. The bookstore, for them, is like going to a toy store.

Recently, as part of my family's effort to tighten up our home finances, we have begun the transition from bookstore to library. And the benefits have been incredibly rewarding! Santa Monica, where I live, has a new, beautiful library. We made a family trip to the new building, got library cards and spent the afternoon looking at the endless books there. Tara, my elder daughter, was so excited to see the variety of books from fiction to biographies to fantasy. They each got two lovely books to read (which they read that same night) and are ready to go back as soon as possible. In addition, we are setting aside books and DVDs to donate and share with others in our community.

I marvel that if it weren't for the uncertainty of the recession, I would have pushed off this incredible opportunity to teach my girls that a love for books is separate from the need to accumulate them. Not only are we supporting our local library, we are also encouraging our children to live more a more sustainable lifestyle-that is, taking advantage of what is already there instead of always buying everything brand-new.

Though the constant outpouring of negative news on foreclosures, bankruptcies and unemployment is nearly impossible to avoid, I have been reading with great interest the silver lining that has been emerging from this difficult economic period. Of families spending more time with their kids in nature or playing ball, rather than just seeing a movie. Or the rise in volunteers for non-profit organizations and charity events. An increase in public transportation. People everywhere learning in big and small ways that you really do not need to buy so many things to live a happy, fulfilled life.

This recession is an opportunity for us to curve our consumerism, and also to think more as a community. Readers, please share your intents on how you hope to decrease your spending while increasing your sense of community. Imagining a more caring, active and sustainable neighborhood within our own cities and towns is the first crucial step in repairing our country and the world at large.

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Mallika Chopra blogs regularly at Intent.com

Mallika Chopra on Intent.com