There's a bright side to almost any unwelcome development, isn't there? Lose a love and you may also lose some unwanted pounds. Lose an earring at a party and you might make a friend in the person who helps you look for it. Lose your job and you may end up in a new one that you like more. There are even bright spots in this recession.

For starters, as we've noted before, this recession is offering us an unusually promising time to buy stocks that are deeply on sale. As my colleague Tim Hanson has suggested, it may be the best investing opportunity in 35 years.

Here's another bright spot: We Americans are changing some of our ways -- for the better, as I see it. Sales at high-priced stores like Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) and Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF) are down, while sales at Family Dollar (NYSE:FDO) and Ross Stores (NASDAQ:ROST) have been up. We've been seeking out bargains and not as readily spending $100 on a new shirt.

Pennies saved
We've finally begun saving more, too. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that household debt in the U.S. went down a bit in the third quarter of 2008. That might not sound so impressive, but get this -- that's the first time it has decreased in more than 50 years! Moreover, savings rates have been going up and could reach 3% to 5% in the near future. For a while, we actually had a negative savings rate.

Those developments are heartening to me because when we get mired in debt, especially nefarious credit card debt, we can end up nearly ruined financially. This development may be bad news for companies that earn profits from cards, such as MasterCard (NYSE:MA), Discover Financial Services (NYSE:DFS), and Bank of America (NYSE:BAC). But it's good for most people.

Remember, after all, that getting trapped in the quicksand of debt is really the opposite of investing. Just as you can grow a $10,000 nest egg into $40,500 at 15% over a decade, you can also see your debt spiral from $10,000 to $40,500 at 15% over that same 10-year period. Worse still, many lenders are charging 25% or more. In 10 years, $10,000 can become an obligation of more than $93,000 at 25%.

So keep getting smarter about your finances, as we wait for this recession to end. And perhaps pick up a few stocks, once you've paid off your high-interest rate debt.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article. Discover Financial Services is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Bank of America is a former Motley Fool Income Investor pick. Try our investing newsletters free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.