Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Living in the Disconnect

         We are living in the United States in a strange time.  For example, if one happens to watch morning or daytime television in the United States, then you are soaked with a bevy of fashion, expensive bags, cosmetics, and plans for your vacation.  Statistics tell us that the middle class in the US is shrinking or crashing badly.  As food, insurance costs and other things rise, families find they have less and less disposable income.  And yet, The Today Show continues with precious Easter outfits for only $200. each per precious tot.  There is a definite disconnect between genuine US life and life as portrayed on the news, and on television in general.  For example, I know people in all walks of life.  I know wealthy people who have sold expensive homes in the last couple of years because they fear they can't carry them in the long term.  I know middle class people who have gone from an annual international vacation annually to stopping at a food bank once a month, because one of them saw a crash in salary, and the other lost a job.  I do know a number of people who were very low income prior to the recession, and have stayed that way. Those who were poor to begin with, seem to be adapting best, although they are worried too, as they see more competition from others in the ways in which they had compensated for their low incomes.   I live somewhere within that disconnect.  I have always been frugal. I however, have spending patterns which differ from those of most people.  I shopped at good consignment shops long before it was fashionable. I buy clothes at the end of season from Lands End, when the really good specials are on.  However, I am generous with a couple of things.  I buy a fair number of books for our family and I have always spent freely on disaster supplies and emergency food, thinking that it's cheaper to get these things when demand is down.
Last year, I spent more on items which would allow us to grow more fruits and vegetables.  I also spend a fair bit on animal care, because I still believe that animals kept in a clean environment and fed properly simply won't need expensive veterinary care.  I presently have a nice car, because it is a diesel and gets 57 mpg. However, other than my present car, I have owned only one new car in my lifetime, and that too had exceptional gas mileage. All my other vehicles have been used and sometimes, they have been downright old. This doesn't mean that I haven't been reliable to work, because an old car can still be maintained exceptionally well.  My daughter and sons are also following that example.  In fact, my daughter kept her old car from college and bought a house. She can always buy a new car, and may not always be able to get in on the housing market.  I have always found a way to contribute, time, treasure and talent to charities which I care about. I have become more discerning over the years, but I still do this.
             This also means that we need to define our own luxuries. When I took a bone china tea cup when I was admitted to the hospital, it got second looks. However, having tea after a meal in a bone china cup is a relatively inexpensive luxury I enjoy, and it allows me to take a comfort from home there.  I don't need boxes of chocolates or lots of flowers. I enjoyed tea in a cup.  My sons luxury is rainex on his windshield.  Find the small luxuries you enjoy.


            Regardless of the drivel media feeds to us on what to buy and where to get it, we must live within the disconnect. We must listen to our own finances, our own family's needs, not necessarily wants. We must allocate as we see fit and not as the culture might have us do. Is there something you do that allows you to live within the disconnect ?



Dani said...

Living each day with only the power that our solar panels have provided to our batteries :)

No sun for a day = reduced power. No sun for a week = do not use any power other than just letting the fridge run...

It's surprising how much electricity one can do without when you have to watch what you use, and how many appliances really are complete and utter luxuries - and not always 100% necessary.

IanH said...

Jane, it's much the same here. Except it's harder when you are aging and retired. Watching necessities go up 3% per year while you are on fixed income really sucks. My major pension is at risk of being cut by 10% (even though it is "guaranteed") by the company that allocated it. The Provincial governments (2) are supporting it. Basically, it means a contract is likely not worth the paper it is written on in the future.

This year, the garden will be bigger. More canning will be done.

We haven't owned a new vehicle for at least 20 years, settling for a farm truck (13 years old) and an SUV (6 years). A new vehicle, no matter what the incentive) is the worst investment a person can make!

Where else can you invest $30k, have it drop 40% in value as soon as you drive it off, and then depreciate to "o" over the next 10 years?

Great post!

JaneofVirginia said...

This year, barring any additional issues or complications, my husband plans to bring solar energy to the barn, the kennel, the garage and the studio. We designed these buildings and had them built over several years, with solar energy in mind. Since they are low power use buildings, we thought this would work well. Our house was not designed this way, and therefore switching to solar would be difficult here. In addition, a lot of our property is heavily wooded and we don't always get enough sun. We do have an automatic gate at the farm entrance which is solar powered with a battery back up, which has been working well for more than a year.

JaneofVirginia said...

Thanks Ian,
My husband and I did everything properly and should have been able to retire. I think it is very likely now, that we never will. Not that this matters much. In all honesty, I can see our health care failing before my eyes, and so I don't think we will live into deep old age.
I agree with you about new cars. The only one I ever bought was selected by my employer who thought my old car made it look as if the hospital was not paying me enough. The director of nurses offered to give me a raise in the amount of "any reasonable car payment" I selected through the hospital credit union. I selected a new car that was deeply discounted as an end of year second, and the hospital gave me a raise in the amount of that payment, and it was payroll deducted monthly. I never noticed the difference in my paycheck. The car served me very well. I owned it for twenty years, and then my husband drove it for awhile. It retired here running animal feed from one part of the farm to another, until last year, when I was paid when the junkyard took it for parts. I am not likely to find such a deal again ! Thanks for your post.

lotta joy said...

When I saw I lived for 60 years in the FOUR ROOM HOUSE my dad built when I was born, I wasn't exaggerating. I drove my car past its 20 year trade-in time because it was a "free car" with no payments. I lived without, always looking to the future.

My future is slapping me in the face. I lost my retirement. My husband's pension has been lessened, and our taxes and insurance went up.

I found some rather ratty material at Walmart for $1 a yard and, although I'm not a seamstress by any stretch of the imagination, I'm very proud of the $2 blouses I'm turning out.

I hope my book sales cover the cost of production. If not, fine. It it does, 'whee'. (and 'whew')

JaneofVirginia said...

Funny, isn't it ? We are supposed to be able to take vacations, buy new cars, see a hairdresser, buy new clothes and shoes, yet no one I know can. Is it all a sham ? Are the commercials simply a way for people selling their wares to try to sell just a few more ? Is poverty the future for everyone ?

David said...

Rather than chase trends, technology, and whatever "the new thing" may be at any given time, I tend to be satisfied with whatever is on hand and proven reliable at the time. For example, I have no desire at this point for a smart phone or tablet. I chose to replace a failed motherboard in my refurbished Dell laptop (myself) because it was worth more to me to use something I was comfortable with and already had everything I wanted or needed on it (games, blog writings, music, pics, misc. personal stuff) rather than take the time and expense to buy a brand new laptop with all the bells and whistles and take the time to transfer everything over to it. Besides, anything new would likely come with Windows 8, and I just got comfortable and trusting of Windows 7. I don't see the purpose of reinventing the wheel every couple of years or so.

JaneofVirginia said...

I agree with you, David. I would much rather keep and enjoy the items which have served me well and that I know are reliable. I'm tired of learning a new set up to something which actually doesn't work as well as the one I used to have.

Mamma Bear said...

We are very satisfied with what we have except I would like more room. Heavenly Father has supplied our needs and sometimes even our wants.

I try to purchase things second hand in good condition if at all possible. Any extra money is going toward purchasing items we need now or anticipate it's need in the future. Money is no good sitting in the bank as interest is a joke. We keep some tucked back for taxes, property and auto insurance plus an emergency fund.

We stopped trying to keep up with "The Jones" a long time ago. We live in a small house in the woods and I can't think of another place I'd rather be.

JaneofVirginia said...

Mamma Bear, It sounds perfect. I was never happier than in my first tiny house in which everything was perfectly organized, as it had to be !