If you have a buck two-eighty, does it slip through your fingers like water?  This has been our experience for most of our lives, so we’re just wondering — is this the norm for most U.S. citizens?

We’ve spent years saving our money — then through need — depleting, saving, depleting, saving, depleting.  Raising five kids and supporting my mom in her later years contributed to the pattern.  We never looked too far ahead, because feces occurs.  We just went about our lives hoping for the best, and paying premium dollars for everything because we weren’t afforded that thing called “on approved credit”.  We laughed at television commercials that marketed to the conservative budget.  We determined that one can only retain a conservative budget if one is making more money than one needs.  How many of us does that include?

I don’t know those statistics.  I only know that we were rarely in that group of survey participants.  People who live on the edge of their personal finances pay a premium to continue in the mainstream.  Car payments, house payments, credit card payments, and something as simple as a house improvement were all calculated at the outside interest rates (premium) for us.  We began to turn a jaded eye at the finance industry.  We had no choice.  We lived in the present.  And, the present meant we had to feed our family, pay for cars to get us to jobs that paid less than we’d hoped, and pay inflated rents because we couldn’t qualify for house loans.  We’ve been a landlord’s dream for over 30 years.  Oy.

Owen loved payday.  He loved being able to pay for his clothes, his food, his entertainment, his musical instruments (a necessity, not purely entertainment), and his cell phone.  I wonder now, would he have been able to stay the course of adulthood sustainability (not to mention parenthood), given our failing economy.  Plenty of people would argue with me about whether our economy is failing or not.  A recession is not necessarily a failing.  Many would argue that a recession is just an adjustment.  Okay.  I get it.  But, who are those people that espouse economic strategies, and purport to know, and communicate, our economic futures?  Have they ever looked in a kitchen cabinet, and found only Bisquick, but no butter?  I’m guessing…no.

Few would think there is anything beautiful about being poor.  But, having lived on the edge of financial disaster, I can tell you, there is an upside.  It’s this: you don’t have to spend your days wondering if your meager retirement plans are “tanking”; you don’t have to spend your evenings moving your few dollars from one savings account to another; and you don’t have to agonize over loan papers for a house that may or may not be yours someday.  You get to live in the present.  And, truly, given that none of us can predict the future…that is a gift.  That thing about Bisquick?  I lived through it.  My friend took us to dinner that night, because there was no butter in our refrigerator to make biscuits.  I’m grateful for her kindness, and I’m grateful I know how to make do.

Moving on to the propaganda machine.  I could write about this for days, weeks, months, but here’s my question: Are we really experiencing a recession, or are we experiencing the media’s propulsion of an idea that serves the coming presidential elections?  I’m paying $3.85 per gallon for gasoline to fill my car’s tank to get to my job.  I’m paying almost $4.00 per loaf of bread (yes, I buy bread with some nutritional value – or so they would have me believe).  I’m paying what I believe is a grossly inflated rate for milk, and most other staple groceries.  WTF?  We have to eat, and the commodities markets are banking on our desires to maintain our mediocre lifestyles.  Please, sir, can I have more?

Song for the night:  Money, Pink Floyd

(Sorry, I can’t get the video to post.  You know the song.  Either sing it on your way to work while your gas tank registers less than a quarter tank and payday isn’t until Friday – while hoping the price doesn’t go up before you get to the pump – or click on the YouTube link above and listen to Pink Floyd, while you sit in your living room in front of your computer monitor, and wonder what it’s like to live in Haiti.  Remember bread lines in the USSR?  I do.)


~ by Linda on April 16, 2008.

3 Responses to “Money”

  1. I grew up dirt poor. I knew we were poor, too. I hear people say they didn’t know they were poor when they were growing up and wonder if they were really that poor.
    I knew people who had even less than us. We never got our lights cut off. We always had something to eat, and we always had water.

    For the first fifteen years of our marriage, we lived paycheck to paycheck. We didn’t use credit cards, however. I’d seen my mom cry so many times over credit cards that I swore them off.
    I think that is how we finally got ahead.

  2. I’ve been thinking a lot about money lately. Last week we found out that my husband is about to be laid off at some undisclosed time in the near future. Since I’m on half-salary for sabbatical, the timing particularly sucks. (When is being laid off good timing??)

    Anyway, I have gone into penny-pinching mode. It’s a very familiar mode, though I’ve not been in it for a while. I remember as a six-year-old insisting that I open a savings account at Lloyd’s bank. Then when my parents got divorced and we had hardly anything to live on, I recall thinking of this saved money as potentially useful — just in case. In college I worked my way through school and kept meticulous records of expenditures, scrutinizing every potential purchase. As a newlywed, I managed to get all of our debt paid off, including our car, so we would have a fighting chance of making it through grad school.

    So all of a sudden now I am thinking rice and beans, rice and beans. Bake my own bread? What fruits and veggies can we buy conventional and which need to be organic when it really comes down to it? How can I cut back on driving the car? Where can I earn some extra money?

    I’d rather be thinking about my book or learning yoga or reading or playing with my child. But I’m “economizing” and helping said spouse to edit his job applications. The fear of poverty rises again. Makes me realize how much it formed my early self. I wonder what mischief that early experience been up to all these years, shaping my attitudes, etc.

    We will be fine. My husband is smart and hard working. We have a heads up so he can find something in time. But it’s no fun this worrying.

  3. Dear Dr. D.,

    The times, they are a-changin’ — again. Thankfully, you have the experience of penny-pinching, and can make it almost invisible to your family, if you focus on what you actually NEED to consume, instead of what you’ve been trained you WANT to consume.

    Your recent trip to South America is surely right in front of your eyes, now that your family’s economic future is at stake. Your eyes are surely open in a way you might not have imagined before your trip. Timing. Huh.

    The following link may trigger some thoughts on sustainability in an otherwise unfriendly economy. We’re looking at our resources in an entirely new way.

    I’ve been contemplating replacing my car with a Vespa. $200 per year in insurance, and about the same in gas to get to and from my job. My family thinks I’m crazy due to the risk of scooter-riding on busy roads. I think they’re a little paranoid, but they do have a point. My reaction time is not what it used to be.

    Lately, we’re rethinking just about everything related to how we support ourselves. As an HR Director, I know how jobs come and go. There’s never a guarantee. And, that’s something many Americans work very hard at ignoring. I wish your husband all the best in finding new work after the proposed layoff.

    A few weeks ago, I was writing to my brother about relying on rice and beans, and he called me to remind me that one of his favorite meals is…rice and beans. Not out of need, but out of preference. Ah, a different perspective. How I needed to hear those words when he spoke them. Rice and beans equal a complete protein, so this actually makes a healthy meal. Add a little fresh salsa, et voila!

    We are not our jobs. We are ourselves, and all that we bring forward from the years we’ve lived. Your years, and your husband’s will serve you all well. I’m sure of it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: