Getting Out of Survival Mode

There have been a couple of periods in my life when I was basically in survival mode. I had to be very careful with my money. Careful as in budgeting to the penny, with the slightest unexpected expense putting me over the edge.

Think ramen noodles every night of the week. Something as simple as needing a new pair of cheap Ked-like shoes required scrimping, saving and hoping they would go on sale so I could get them for $3 or so.

Speaking of shoes, the other day my husband mentioned that he needed to get a new pair because the pair he was wearing was starting to get a hole in the sole. Without even thinking about it, I told him he could put some tape on the inside over where the hole was starting.

“No,” he said, “I think I’ll just go buy a new pair of shoes.”

“But you could put the tape on,” I replied. “I used to do that.”

“Yes,” he said, “But aren’t you glad we don’t have to anymore?”

Of course I told him yes. It’s great to be able to just go buy a new pair of shoes when they’re needed! Or even wanted. And I’m happy with the progress we have both made financially over the years.

But the tiniest little part of me felt like I was missing something. There’s one good thing about being in survival mode: you get the sense that every day is a huge accomplishment. I like feeling like I’ve done something huge each day.

But it’s sure not necessary to be in survival mode to feel that way.

It’s ok to let go of those feelings from the past — to not earn every dollar that it’s possible to earn; to savor enoughness; and to enjoy each day and feel accomplished without that stressful feeling of being on the edge.


  • My wife and I have this very same problem ;) We aren’t fully out of survival mode, I think only death brings that kind of peace haha but we can afford some things that we couldn’t previously, like higher quality food ingredients, not so second hand clothes, etc.

    But in many cases, we are so stuck in the habit, we still buy them anyways. It’s good for the bank, but it does cause stress where unnecessary in some cases.

    You have to enjoy yourself, too. It’s not all about the money. Good post.

  • One thing survival mode does for you is increase your appreciation for things. There’s nothing wrong with buying second hand clothes (I still do that too, along with getting others at Nordstrom’s), but I totally agree about the stress part.

  • I think that more people need to experience what suvival mode really means and what its like to get by on ramen noodles for a week not because you have a strange addition to the noodles but because you have no other choice. I have been in survival mode in the past and the accomplishments really made me appreciate the important things in life like food. I don’t remember what the latest statistic is on the average consumer debt but if these people went into survival mode for a while maybe just maybe their debt problems would be lesser.

  • Matt, well, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone but I agree that it could actually be beneficial. You learn a lot about yourself. (And I can’t eat ramen noodles to this day — I ate them every day straight for more than a year, ugh.)

  • I have to remind myself about the survival mode days anytime I start whining about how “difficult” a certain period might be due to some unexpected expense or a job that pays a little less (my current gig, for instance!).

  • CF, yup, I guess that’s kind of like “it could be worse”. Or maybe “hey it’s not so bad”…