Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Economic Rantings of a middle aged woman

You know, when I was a kid I had it pretty good. My Mother would say differently, but to me all the things she thought were adversities in her life, were the things that made life fun for me. It's all in your perspective.

This blog entry has come out of a result of a newspaper article. The article was talking about the increasing prices of foods, gas and in general, everything. Some people interviewed were appalled at the things they had to do now because of the constraints the economy was putting on them; Things like, they have to buy regular coffee instead of the Talle Latte's they've become accustomed to. And then there's the lady who was moaning about the cost of the Chinese take-out, and how much more it cost for the gas to go to pick it up. She was quite upset that the Chinese take-out restaurant was going to surcharge her for the delivery service because of their additional costs. Or how about the man who was complaining about the high cost of gasoline as he was pumping an enormous amount of gas into a huge truck he alone was driving to his office job. Why?

I decided to really look at the increases, and there's no denying there are increases in the costs of everyday things. Groceries have gone up around here about 15%. Some things have increased more than that, but generally, a 15% increase is what I'm seeing.

The wacky thing is, some of the stuff that's going up the most are things that I consider an unneeded expense. For example, I like this one kind of salad dressing. No big deal, I buy it once or twice a year. The price before Christmas was $1.79 for a bottle (8 oz). Now, that same dressing is $3.29 and the bottle is 7 oz. At first I thought it was an error. I took the bottle to the service desk and asked about it. It was correct. The dressing was in fact, $3.29. If you divide it out, that's .47 an oz. Multiply that by 64 oz=$30.08 a half gallon!!I don't think so. I'm not buying it. It's a convenience. That got me thinking about all the other conveniences we take for granted. (Honest to God, I feel like some old fart from the depression era complaining about the costs of everything, but that's exactly what this is like).

It seems to me, that everyone needs something to make them stop what they're doing and look at things from a different perspective. Sometimes it takes a great war, sometimes it takes some devastating disaster, an illness, the loss of a loved one, something to make the masses stop and think about what's going on around them.

Several generations have come to think if they want something they just have to have enough money to buy it. They haven't lived with less in their lives. They've wasted and spent, money they didn't have, but may have at a later date, they hope. They've put themselves into debt, in hopes they will be able to pay off "someday". They've never denied themselves anything. With the help of some little plastic cards, they've been able to live a life that's nothing but a facade of wealth. Now it's time to start to pay back, but guess what? They haven't begun to save for this day, so they're now in trouble. I feel bad for so many, and especially the kids that have come into this mess through no fault of their own, but I also feel a bit responsible for not saying, "STOP" to some of them, or at least say, "Do you know what you're doing?"

I understand that it may not be my place, or business to try to tell someone what to do, but when I see younger people doing stupid things I shudder. (Now I really feel like that old fart....)

That little exercise with the salad dressing can be done on tons of things. It's a good way to understand what the true cost of something is. I know we can't go back to the old days (there's that Old Fart again), but there are some things that I do now, and have done for years, that I know some folks never do, nor do they think to do them. I can save so much by doing some very simple things, like make my own soup. When a can of Campbell's soup pulls in $2.19 it's time to learn how to make soup (it's simple...honest) . I can make several meals, really good meals (and I'm fat so I know "good, delicious meals") out of a ham, roast beef, pork whatever is on sale. I don't waste, and that's the trick.

I watched a woman put a cooked chicken into her shopping cart. It was on sale, at a good price. I spoke to her in passing asking her what she did with the chicken. She told me she would have it for dinner that night, with baked potatoes and a tossed salad. I said, "that's all?" She said, "Yes, because there will be no white meat left after that and we don't eat dark meat". Holding my tongue in, I said, " what do you do with the dark meat?" "Well, usually I throw it away". She said. I had all I could do not to belt her. I did say, "Why don't you make soup?" She just shrugged. Is it me? Doesn't anyone make soup? Does everyone waste like that? No wonder we're considered the "throw away society".

I have to work in an office tomorrow. I work there on occasion. It's a nice office, but there are many clients who come in crying the blues about their lives and the cost to live that life. I sit there and listen in amazement as they tell me things they shouldn't, and expect me to "fix it" so they don't have to pay the piper that's come to get his payment. I only work occasionally because I find I don' t have the patience to listen to the crap all the time and smile politely, when I want to say, "listen jerk, you put yourself into this mess, so don't look at me as the villain". But I listen, nod and smile and say, "Sorry, this is the 5th, 6th, 7th etc. time I've heard this and there's not a whole lot I can do". They usually leave, head in hand, but understanding they are in a pickle.

I think we all need to see life as it really is, and not how we hope it is. We need to live within our means and stop being something we're not. That's not to say, we need to lose all our goals and not try and achieve, but understand that not everyone has a mansion, nor do we all drive Ferrari's, and we will not be King of the world anytime soon.

It's a matter of perspective. It may sound trite to say it, but if you're given a bunch of lemons, make lemonade and learn something about what is happening to you. Damn it, learn how to make soup!