And Now a Public Service Announcement...
A bit over a year ago I dropped the Penny Ann Poundwise persona. I did so for very good reasons and I still think they are good reasons. I also dropped a great many of the thrifty postings I'd been drumming out for twelve years. I enjoyed the break from it and liked being able to focus on other things. I still do. However, of late, you've seen more of my thrifty postings.
There's a reason for this. More and more, I've had reason to polish up some of the old frugal skills I'd let drop. I guess about everyone has been doing what I've been doing, digging back down to past experiences, checking out blogs where money savings are the focus and looking for any new ideas I might not have known before in order to make money flow a bit better in our household.
It's no secret that over the past five years we've decreased our household by 50%. Our grocery budget hasn't. In fact, were it not for returning to my frugal roots I'm not sure we'd be anywhere near our 'normal' (that's all I know to call it since it hasn't dropped!) level of spending either. I'm pretty sure we'd be paying half again as much as we did 5 years ago.
Did you know that when 'cost of living' is figured the government does not include food or clothing and such mundane things? Seriously. That's why they might say the cost of living is up 3% but you feel like you're getting far, far less for the same amount of money. In actuality the cost of goods has risen 40% over the past 3 years. 40%. It's that extra 37% rise that is making you feel like you've been sliding backwards down a hill you'd struggled hard to go up! Next year, the year following at latest, we'll all see a tax increase. It's a fact. It's going to happen. It's estimated that the average tax payer will see a $1600 annual increase in taxes. And that's just federal taxes. Our county has just increased our taxation by another 1% on purchases which puts us somewhere near the same level as larger metro areas. For a poor rural county that 1% means we're that much further away from making ends meet. There's the current drought across the mid-west and subsequent loss of crops to consider bringing in further price increases on goods. There's a lot of talk from small businesses about increased prices to customers to cover government ordered health care costs. I sincerely believe that we're going to see our current level of living decreased still further.
Just this past week, I had a short grocery list, far shorter than usual. I walked out of the stores we visited with half the items on my list. For the first time in 20 years I did not buy a single can of soda. Not one. That has never happened, EVER. While John long ago agreed to limit his soda to 1 a day, this is the first time in memory that I've not put at least 1 12 pack or 8pack in the buggy. I simply didn't think I had the extra cash to spare this week in light of other needs we'd meant to cover and I did have a small stock at home. I haven't bought cut flowers for my home in six months. Mind you, I've never before let short funds stop me, but I realized after coming back home that things are getting pretty tense on the homefront when I decide that we can make do for two weeks without purchasing any soda at all and that a $4 bunch of flowers I took for granted every other week is a rare occasion item now. Even with my decreasing the list and forgoing the much wanted flowers, we were $16 over our budgeted amount when we finished shopping that day.
While I do not want the main number one focus of this blog to be solely frugal living, cost cutting, money saving methods, expect to see a bit more of that here these days. John and I are nearing retirement age. We don't have much of a retirement fund built up. Ten years ago we truly expected at this point for John to be able to retire with perhaps a part time job to keep us afloat. That isn't happening in today's economy.
We aren't crying the blues. We're blessed that our home is paid for and we're free of debt. That said, it takes what he makes full time to keep us going with a bit leftover for savings. Not enough savings to make a dint in a retirement fund but enough to at least make us feel if we keep pedaling really hard we might at least stay afloat if we aim for a later retirement date. My part of the pedaling hard is to make sure that the household runs as efficiently and thriftily as possible, hence my greater focus these days on being ever more frugal.
I know it isn't just us. Many people I've spoken with or with whom I share on a daily basis are doing the same. I'm not blaming this president or the last. I am saying that the economy is not recovering and we might all just be prepared and improve our skills once more. One historical economist said we could expect to be in this recession/depression for another ten years. Funny isn't it how these things come in cycles? In my short life as a homemaker I've weathered the recession of the late '70s and early '80s. I weathered a major life event that rocked my financial world down to rock bottom and had to start over again. Twenty years ago when we were starting out as a married couple with a previously acquired family I brushed off my frugal ninja skills because we were starting over from scratch and it took every penny we had to do it. Then we hit a spell where we began to pay off debts and build up a savings account and we could ease up and just be regular thrifty folks. And now, I'm dealing with another recession which appears to be every bit as dramatic as the first great depression in proportion. I've found over the past three years that I'm easing back into frugal ninja skills. It seems as though every single month I'm adding back in an old habit that I'd dropped in the days of ease.
I'm an optimist for the most part. If we experience a sudden great turn around and everything comes up like roses in four years I'll shout hurrah with everyone else. But in the mean time, I believe I'll just err on the side of caution and trim and tuck and cut back. Practice makes perfect and I think I'm going to need these skills and more besides. I don't mind if you don't agree. I'm not going to argue the point. I'm telling you what I'm seeing with my own eyes. I've reduced what we purchase by over 50% in the past two years and I'm paying more for less. I'm hearing this same story over and over again from others. I think we should all take heed and be more cautious.
I'm happy to share my experience, my trial runs, my new discoveries if it helps you run your household in a way that makes ends meet. I'll cross post to Penny Ann Poundwise blog on Xanga and Thrifty Homemaker here on blogger too in an effort to reach more people than this blog alone might reach. Maybe I won't BE PennyAnnPoundwise ever again, but the frugal skills that brought about that inspiration in the first place are certainly going to come in handy once more.