And Now a Public Service Announcement...

                                  An optimistic couple looking over their ration book.

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.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree on this post. I am always a thrifty grocery shopper but I think I spend twice as much now then when all my kids were at home.

I will looking forward to your future posts on saving money.

I always read your blog but rarely comment.

Lindy :)

Arden said...

Something you said stuck out a bit. You said the home is paid for but it is still taking all of a full time income to make it. That seems high to me.
We have one income also but we have a large family to provide for (8 children, 2 adults), numerous pets, 2 cars, etc. Plus a dh that commutes almost an hour each way so our gasoline prices are almost equal to our food budget. My dh makes an average salary for our area but our family size is far from average. If it were just the two of us and no mortgage, I would think money wouldn't be a huge issue.

Arden said...

And just to let you know, I am an old fan from the Pennywise days so my question isn't meant to be confrontational. lol I never commented then because it was a pain in the neck and my comments didn't show up.

IM said...

We are in exactly the same spot! I often think of families today, and how expensive even one weekly trip to the grocery store would be. For two old people, we sure can motor through that produce. At this stage of the game though, after fighting illness that can steal your taste for months, it is a pleasure to shop no matter the cost. In our lives to date? I have found what I spend here, I can save there, and somehow it all works out. It isn't a game for the feint of heart, though!

Joyce F said...

Looking forward to your posts on frugal living. I think this is a challenge for us all. It's a "do I really need this question" about every time we go shopping. Sometimes I justify the purchase of a used book or two by remembering that our vacations have always been "staycations", that we never see a movie at the theater any more, and rarely eat out... I think my husband justifies the purchase of a new tool in the same way. Living in the Midwest we see our dried up garden, ponds and rivers getting low, brown cornfields giving up very little yield, soybean fields looking iffy and hear the farmers worrying. Some think all farmers are wealthy because of the big equipment they have but they don't think about the debt they carry and the iffiness of farming. We aren't farmers, by the way.

Colleen said...

I'm looking forward to your thrifty ways . I found you when you were Penny & crossed over when you became Terri. We are a 3 generation family of 6 working together to make a good life for all. Dragging out the old ways has been a great help to me


Peggy Lorenz said...

Terri, so glad to see you will be focusing a bit more on money-saving, etc. I have always enjoyed your thoughts on that subject! I think I need to bring out my Complete Tightwad Gazette along with my other similar books, and brush up on those frugal skills also!

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