If there’s one thing we can’t avoid these days, it’s bad news about the economy.  As a financial planner, it’s all anyone wants to talk to me about.  Of course, when everything is going well, everyone wants to talk about how well they’re doing.  I guess it’s part of my job.  No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to get away from the negative news.  Headlines scream “high gas prices,” ”high unemployment,” ”a weak dollar” or the R-word: “recession.” No one wants any of that, of course. As I write this, we are not officially in a “recession,” but it sure feels like one.  Recessions aren’t all bad news. In fact, here are five ways a recession can actually be a good thing, according to MSN:

You’ll have more time to spend with your family. Research shows that recessions foster more family mealtimes – as the budget for other activities dries up. Meals eaten as a family tend to promote a healthier diet, fewer eating disorders, better communication, and a lower risk of teenage substance abuse.  A simple way to connect with your kids is eating together as a family. This is easy to do when they're little, but as kids get older, sports and other activities compete with the family mealtime.

Our family is committed to sharing dinner together.  We play a game called “high-low.” Each of us tells a highlight and a lowlight from the day. Usually someone's highlight or lowlight is a springboard for other discussion.  We also play the “story game” where someone starts the story with one word and we go around the table and each person shares one word to make the story come to life.  We may go around five or six times to get a good short story.  We find this helps with our kids’ vocabulary and their wittiness.  Our goal is to make the stories funny and they often end up that way.

The improved relationship with your family that may result is definitely worth any financial cost.  Ask anyone who is estranged from their adult children and they will tell you they’d give anything to get back into their kids’ lives.

Start that business you’ve always wanted to.  Think about it: Right now, wages are low, rents are cheap, and supplies are easy to find at a discount. Plus, many recently fired executives are more likely to invest their money in new businesses. Consider this: More than half of the companies on the Dow Jones stock exchange – including Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Disney – all got started during recessions.  Not to be flippant about it, but if you have recently lost your job or have had to take a pay cut, it may be the final straw that forces your hand and finally gives you a good enough reason to start that business you have always wanted to start.  Trying to find a job in this market may prove futile so why not create your own?

Fewer credit card offers. A recent study found that direct mail offers for new credit cards have dropped 19%. The temptation for you to use credit is drastically reduced which will have a positive long term impact on your finances.  In Ron Blue’s book, Master Your Money, he says that the average consumer spends 34% more when using credit cards over cash.  And get this: according to Sound Money Tips.com, McDonald's found that the average customer transaction rose from $4.50 to $7.00 when customers used plastic instead of cash.  That’s a lot of pressure on our wallets (especially from the extra weight we’ll be carrying as we eat more McDonald’s).

Prepare to see more coupons. One survey found that 67% of North Americans are more likely to clip coupons during a recession.  Grocery stores are already leading the charge – offering more discounts through newspaper circulars, and through online coupon sites. People who take advantage of all those coupons can save an average of 25% on their grocery bill.  Also, a lot of restaurants are known to offer more “buy-one, get-one-free” deals in tough times.  Use this time to catapult you into the next economic boom time.  When the economy turns positive, continue to clip coupons and be thrifty.  As I mentioned in last month’s article, the same basic principles that work in tough economic times work in good economic times as well.  Clipping coupons and deal hunting are guaranteed ways to help you spend less money.

It’s a great time to reassess your life! It’s amazing how easy it is to refocus on your true passions when money gets tight. Like: Do you really need that fancy new cell phone with all the gizmos? Do you really need a plasma TV (or one in every room)?  Or are you better off channeling your savings into fulfilling a dream? This is gut check time.  Decide now what kind of person you want to be.  Do you want to be someone whose happiness depends on the size of his bank account?  Or would you rather be someone whose happiness comes from more important things such as faith and family?

Matthew recorded Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:34:  "So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today.”  When you have your priorities in place, it is amazing how easy it is to not worry about tomorrow.

Steve Scalici is a Certified Financial PlannerTM with Treasure Coast Financial. He is co-host of God’s Money, which can be heard on the internet at  www.oneplace.com . You can contact Steve at  steve@tcfin.com .