Faced with many economic challenges, Serbian families have become careful about spending.
By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 01/11/12
The Brojcin family of Novi Sad has eight members from four generations living under one roof. Many multigenerational families in Serbia are enduring difficult economic circumstances. [Nada Bozic/SETimes]
Sharply increasing prices and poor economic conditions have left many Serbian families with difficult decisions about their household budgets. Those decisions are even more complicated for multigenerational families living under the same roof.
The Brojcin family from Novi Sad has eight members from four generations. Dusan, 88, and his wife Kata Brojcin, 91, live with their son Sava, 62, and his wife Ljubica, 57, who also are retired.
Seven years ago, Ljubica and Sava's son, Dusan, moved into the home along with his wife, Biljana, and their sons Aleksa, 5 and Nemanja, 2.
Dusan, 35, was a football player and now works as a coach. Biljana, 32, works at a foreign bank in Novi Sad.
Using two salaries and three pensions, the household's common goal is the happiness of the children and meeting of all their needs -- an accomplishment that means making cuts and saving money.
"We are here for our children -- our needs are not the most important since we are pensioners," Ljubica, a retired pedagogue whose pension is less than 200 euros per month, told SETimes. "It is important to have quality food for them and provide them with it, and if there is none for us, it's OK. We'll survive. We could eat anything else. The food is our main cost and it seems that for some amount of, let's say, 2,000 [dinars, about 17 euros] we couldn't buy anything now, although we could have a full bag of goods, some two years ago. I'm buying just one cooking oil bottle now [when I need oil] but I used to buy at least five earlier."
Ljubica said the family buys clothing only when it is needed. She said she has stopped visiting stores in the city and buying when she sees something she likes, partly because of the family's budget and also because of the lack of quality choices.
"In [the economic crisis], Serbs are having very rational attitude since they use to cut costs that are the least needed. For example, firstly, they are going to stop eating in the restaurants or will stop buying some better quality food … This caused the decrease of retail which is first sign of the crisis," Goran Nikolic, an economist at the Centre for European Studies in Belgrade, told SETimes.
Sava and Ljubica also have a daughter who is expecting a baby in January. Because baby items are expensive, Ljubica said the family is planning to provide her with the items that Biljana and Dusan's sons used.
"We realized that we have to save money and to cut some costs recently," Biljana said. "Now, we are caring a bit more about the prices of Internet, phones subscriptions, etc. Also, we follow the promotion periods in big markets and going in big shopping during the days when they have discounts and we do save some money this way. Food and car oil are the biggest items in our budget, but my children's needs are much bigger items in our lives."
Sava worked until April of this year as an economist at Hidroinvest in Novi Sad. His pension is significantly higher than his wife's, which he said is fortunate considering the country's economic climate. He said their standard of living has decreased, as their incomes cover less than they did previously. Sava said the family lives from pension to pension now and is unable to put money into savings.
"The biggest difference is the lack of possibilities to go to the best places for vacation -- to the Croatia seaside. We do not have that standard anymore. It is most important for us now is our children's vacation," Sava said.
His biggest concern is the future of his children and the future of all young people -- not only the state's ability to provide for them, but whether the next generation will choose to stay at home.
Ljubica and Biljana said constant price increases are seen as a serious threat for all people. But both said they choose to remain optimistic and hope things are going to be better.