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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 ?