July 16, 2011

The Economy is in Bad Shape - No News Here

Over the past several weeks, or should I really say months, Congress has been at odds regarding raising the debt ceiling. The economy is in bad shape and frankly I am quite worried. That is all I will say about that. I don’t want to talk politics, I just want to say that we are living in a very difficult economic time. The one thing that I have learned from this is that we have to depend on ourselves to take care of our own family, neighbors and friends. This is a philosophy that was common amongst our grandparents and great grandparents.

I have been listening to the news and reading the paper and here is what I have learned:

1. Crops are failing due to the weather – flooding, droughts, storms. Crops failing mean prices are going up on items such as food and clothing as two examples. Of all the problems with the weather one thing made me sit up and really take notice. There was a dust storm in Phoenix on July 5th and the pictures that were shown of that dust storm looked exactly like the Black Blizzards of the Dust Bowl years of the 1930’s.

2. Oil prices are fluctuating up and down and there is uncertainty as to when prices will drop and level off for good.

3. Our economy continues to struggle.

4. Unemployment remains high and lay offs continue.

5. The housing market is still in the toilet.

Forget Obama care and forget if you are a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Tea Party member or anything else – truth is we can point the blame at a lot of people which is easy to do when you are looking at anything in hindsight.

Back in 2009 I was optimistic about our economy as I felt that by the end of 2010 we would be working our way out of this economic mess. Now I truly believe that we have a few years ahead of us until we begin to recover. 

I have been reading a book entitled The Great Depression: A Diary. It was written by an attorney who lived in Youngstown, Ohio and as you can guess, he kept a diary from the crash and throughout the Great Depression. His diary mirrors a lot of what we are going through right now. There are so many comparisons but most of all he gives advice to anyone who reads his diary about how to be financially secure in your life such as simply not borrowing much and living way below your means so that you can put money away for hard economic times.

Ever since we got back from vacation I have become increasingly concerned about my family’s future.  Costs are up and lay offs continue and if you have a job it doesn't mean that you will keep your job.  So what is a person to do?

Sit down and take a piece of paper and ask yourself this question. If this continues for several years, what is my plan for my family’s financial future?

Here is the list that I came up with:

1. Next year I will find a place in our small backyard to plant a garden and grow as many of our vegetables as possible.

2. Money comes with responsibility. I will look at all money that comes in our house as a precious commodity.

3. I will take better care of what we already have be it furniture, electronics, cars, clothing or food.

4. I will not waste anything and will find opportunities to save our resources.

5. I will make a list of financial goals for our family.

6. I will refer to the Tightwad Gazette books often for ideas.

During the spring when I was eating out of the pantry and freezer, my freezer and pantry didn’t get totally depleted, but both went down by about one-third. There weren’t a lot of sales on meat until about 3 weeks ago. I realized that from what I was reading in the paper about prices going up, that I really had to spend extra money in order to stock and really pack my freezer.

Right now I have a 6 month supply of meat, toiletries, baking items, laundry supplies and paper products. I have about a 4 month supply of canned goods and a 3 month supply of cereal.

My grocery budget for as long as possible will be $37.50 per week ($150 for a 4 week period). I want to leave a generous amount for fresh produce and to also pick up some sale items such as canned goods and cereal. Even though I over spent for a few weeks, I will save in the end. I have done this before but never have I ever felt like I must really take to heart what we have on hand to stretch into as many meals as possible.

With prices going up I may never see food, especially meat, at these prices again. I am really serious about doing this and about making good use of what we have on hand. That means that I will be stretching those foods and trying out new recipes.

I am going to put the kitchen makeover on hold except for the wainscoting and painting.  The rest can wait.

This isn’t a lark, this isn’t a challenge, this is life.  It's time to get serious and face the harsh reality that our economy may continnue to struggle for a few years.  We've been living in denial, looking for a quick fix to return us to prosperity.  But as the 1930's song said "Prosperity is just around the corner.  Which corner is it just around?"   

I'm not panicking but I don't want to sit here one year from now(when we could be in an economy that has slipped into another recession that is worse than the one we experienced 2 years ago)  and wish I had been more prepared financially for whatever we may face then. 

It's time to dig in and get serious for the sake of our families and future.


judy said...

I think so many of us are thinking along the same lines. We are only having work done on the house that we need to have and that will save us money long term(new roof,plumbing etc).

We are also stocking up. I feel like if I can get 6-9 months worth of things into the house I can better prepare.

I love that we all help each other


~Carla~ said...

Wow, you have a huge stock of food! That's gotta give you some relief! :) I buy s few extra items here & there, but nothing major really. I'm an optimist & like to think that most of time, things will all work out in the end.

laura@nomorespending said...

I love this Martha! It's inspired me to make my own list. Money is a precious comodity and you never know what's around the corner.

Joan J said...

I feel like you're reading my mind. Every time I go to the grocery store, the gas station, the pharmacy, and prices have jumped 20% in a week, I think "My gosh, what if this keeps up?" Honestly, I am not prepared, and I need to be. Thanks for inspiring me.

Anonymous said...

It may look bad and feel bad but it is only because we are going thru a big change.It is not about the economy or jobs.It is the "pig in the python" Boomers are now no longer in the fore front they are now retiring and letting go.The gen X and Y s are now making the World theirs but they do not have as much clout as we did. The internet makes it all happen fast due to social media.
Now get back into the kitchen ( I can t believe I said that) and on with the renos please.

Phoebe said...


Rose said...

Martha, Wow! I am totally on board with everything you have pointed out. I feel like so many, many people are oblivious to what is happening in our nation and our world. "Sure, times are tough and prices are up. So what, it'll turn around at some point, it always has." This viewpoint in where most people are at. I personally was laid off last month and I am worried. We are taking a frugal trip this coming week in our camp trailer, fuel is bought and paid for. Just campsites, food, and any extras.

After that, I am canning up as much food as I can get my hands on in August. Freezer space is at a premium, but I can always find a nook or cranny to put a jar or two. And people shouldn't be afraid to can other foods, not just fruits, jellies and pickles. I can meat, vegetables, corn, soup, stew, chili, etc. These are quick, cheap (mostly) and when you add biscuits or cornbread are a filling and nutritious meal. We feel it is just a matter of time... and I am keeping a watch on Israel. I think that will be huge.


Rose said...

Martha, I forgot to ask, what does a $37.50 a week grocery bill look like? Does this include sundries, shampoo, TP, etc? What is on your list? Do you do a lot of cooking with food storage? What does a weekly menu look like? Hope this isn't too many questions, but you seem like you're an expert and I am seriously looking at menu planning and getting serious about our food budget and could use your great ideas. Thanks!


Rose said...

Martha, Rose again. Since I am new at actually knowing what is in my pantry, what does a 6 month supply of meat look like? 25# of hamburger, 30 # of chicken? In the freezer or canned? Thank you!!

Frugalista Mama said...

Great post. Many of the same things are on my mind.

tammyyarbrough said...

I totally agree with everything you said here. It really is time to stop looking through our "rose colored glassses" and face reality. :)

BTW I've been here- thanks for the changes ;-)

Anonymous said...

My philosophy is this: plan ahead as much as you can, do your best in paying off debt, saving money, and stocking up (within reason). Make wise choices, not emotional choices. Other than that, there is nothing any of us can do, no matter what - except to pray for the best.

Worrying will only give you health issues (that cost more money). Be wise, but don't panic about something we cannot change (whatever that may be).