Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Sometimes I wish I was an Ostrich

Lately I've been watching the oil prices climb and the stock market recede. It pulls me and sucks me in like having to rubberneck when you pass those highway accidents. I tell myself that really we are talking about Wall Street not Main Street and try to move on with my day. Then I hit the grocery store and my jaw drops at the rising prices on the food - and there is the link. It is quite spectacular watching gas prices climb at a rate of 10c to 15c per gallon each and every day.

In the '90s I was particularly outspoken about the economic crisis we, as a culture were setting ourselves up for. Yet, most found me to be on the level with the Brickyard Preacher (the dude that would hang out at my college yelling for us to repent or burn in hell). But the dot com crash came and went, then the 9/11 fallout - and the world didn't stop spinning. Spend more money, buy more stuff. A philosophy I really detest, by the way.

Today, there is something else happening. And, I have to scream about it - yell about it. Because I'm tired of thinking about it. They tell us there is "no recession, no chance for depression." And those that speak these words do so from a yearly income of 6-figures. I challenge one of them to come live on less then $60K a year.

These last two years, especially 2007, have been horrifically pinching for the working middle class. Some seem to float through it with almost no effects - until you look at their credit card bills. Others, and I want to put myself here, are really trying to make it on our yearly income. We've decided that we don't want credit card debt, so we are not using them. Everything runs through our checking account. And, there just never seems to be enough. I'm working at finding the holes that money is slipping through now so I can fill them. But, I don't have high hopes for 2008. I'm just wondering what it is going to be to break our financial backs.

Not all our changes are for financial reasons. I've been convicted over the last couple of years to become more and more anti-consumer. We are burning the world at our feet over our wants and desires. This week at the doctor's when I was asked the standard question over whether or not I think Robbie has been exposed to lead, for the first time I had to stop and think about my answer. We have city water, our house doesn't have lead paint - but we have a pile of toys made in who-knows-where. And, I just don't know anymore.

Christmas is knocking at our door, and with it two birthdays just a couple weeks before - we have a small budget this year. The kids are getting three presents each, period. I've asked the family to pool their money for the kids into one large outdoor present. I refuse to go bankrupt for a holiday.

To pay for Christmas and DH's gas to and from work I've decided it is time to eat from our stockpile. This is my comfort place. Money in the bank for me against a disaster, but it is time to pull our resources in and cut way, way back on our outgoing money. We have enough food to eat well for a month, and nutritiously for three or four.

If you think I'm coming from left field think about the recent big news stories over this year:
~ rising gas prices (DH alone is spending $300/month to just go to work)
~ tainted, well everything, coming from China (and probably a lot of other emerging countries in which our corporations are pinching more and more for the bigger profits)
~ major drought here in the southeast (my garden was a dismal failure and I struggled to get good quality from the local farmer's markets all season)
~ Staple foods rising in prices in the range of 20%-30% over periods of a couple of months (convenience foods have remained relatively stable in pricing because they have so little 'real' food in them - this isn't a good omen for where our diet is heading)
~ National deficit rising by billions of dollars so that we can send that same money all over the world in forms of aid (or in my thinking bribery)
~ Foreclosures and bankruptcies all over the place because people were convinced that they deserved and could afford more, more , more and bigger, bigger, bigger

So, like I said I wish I was an ostrich and could stick my head in the sand and let this all kind of roll over. But, there is another part of me that thinks that what our culture needs is more interaction with our neighbors, more local living, more dependency on each other and more grace given. I don't know what the future holds but I'm going to try my best.



Deb said...


I find that getting emails from really helps me stay on track. Cindy has a very healthy attitude about DOing rather than BUYing and she helps the rest of us on her list have it too. You might want to check it out, I love her site and her emails.

kitten said...

At your title I laughed because it brought back some fun memories. A cousin of mine that now lives far off use to ride the bike with me. She was really tall and I was reall short. She would say she was an ostrich. LOL! Now to your post.
I have to agree with what you said. This year has been really hard on us. Daniel has been sick and missed a lot of work, so bills got behind. We planted a garden to help with grocies, but our water went up so that made the water bill higher than normal. Our water cost almost as much as our electric bill. I'm sitting here cold, which is not normal because I'm aways hot, but don't want to turn the heat on. Daniel had a Christmas fund but because we got behind we had to use it, so I really don't want to talk about Christmas. The boys did ask for one big gift, but now I'm just worried over a little something. I don't even want to talk about the gas. Plus, everybody talking about help this place or that place, what about the kids over here. I guess you put it better than me, because I just mad over the whole thing. I'm glad I'm not the only one watching the stock market. I say something to someone and they just shurge their shoulders. We don't do credit card either. What really hit us below the belt when we thought we could breath easy is when we got took for a check scam. That hurt!
Well, I'm rambeling. So, I'm outy!
Take care!

Melora said...

So true.
I am hoping for a miracle for Christmas, otherwise the children are going to be disappointed. Food and gasoline costs are brutal, and now we get to add in heating oil.
The housing thing with people who bought houses they couldn't afford or took out loans with rates that would balloon, all because they were Sure the values were going to continue to rise rapidly and they could flip or refinance really bugs me. I took so much flack when I was appraising from buyers and lenders who insisted that homes were worth even more than the outrageous amounts that the appraisals indicated, and when I would tell people, toward the end of 2005 and early 2006 that the market in our area was flat to declining, they didn't believe me. I feel sorry for people who had little choice but to buy overpriced homes, but a lot of them (at least in Florida) were just foolish.

Our county just voted to increase the sales tax, and I am annoyed. According to the paper, they will "probably" spend the money on schools. It bugs me that they raise a tax that hits low income people the hardest (those who have to spend all we have) to get money that they don't need for some well-defined purpose. Grrr!

I am in awe of your well stocked pantry!

Amy said...

Wow - three whole comments. I need to rant more often.

Deb - thanks for the link. It was very interesting. I love frugal living/money-saving sites and have bookmarked this one. In fact my idea for our Christmas is to spend more time doing and creating memories than buying.

Kitten and Melora - I started getting so upset again tonight when I listened to some idiot go on and on about how the economy isn't that bad and how our economy is just price correcting after having low prices for so long. But I talk with people like you and I everyday, and the economy is getting worse. the prices may be correcting themselves but wages certainly are not keeping pace.

My food storage is totally fear-based. I have always needed to have large quantities of food on hand. It isn't that hard - i pick up extras of different items on sale when there is extra grocery money. I buy my meat off manager-special which means i get it for 30%-50% off label price - so if I find a bunch I buy. I don't want to buy much this month, but keep finding myself wanting to go stock-up on baking supplies while they are on holiday sales.


A family of six living and learning. You might catch us outside in the mud or working on crafts. We always seem to be on the go, come on and join us.