Friday, April 17, 2009

It's the Economy, Stupid

Isn’t it about time we dust off that famous/infamous quote from George H. W. Bush (the President I have referred to for the last 8+ years as Bush the Elder) and apply it to the debacle that many of us are living/suffering through?

Yep, it’s the economy, stupid! I’m not even going to get started on how this unmitigated disaster got started but rather I’m going to write just a bit on how it’s affecting at least this household and what we’re doing about it.

First of all, I haven’t worked in 3 months. Worse, I was an independent contractor so no unemployment comp. That sucks. Even worse, in spite of dozens and dozens of job applications I haven’t come close to anything yet expect for “warm body” jobs prospecting and cold-calling within a high pressure sales environment.

So, what are we doing? Well, we were pretty frugal to begin with. Not much into luxuries and gratuitous expenditures. But, we’ve managed to cut back pretty good although by the time we get done with fixed expenses each month (rent, utilities, car insurance, health insurance and groceries) we’re still pushing $3000 a month and that’s scary.

We haven’t gone out to eat (or even $1 Whopper Junior carry-out) this year. We used to love going out for breakfast at least once a week at Vista Way Café—and it was a business meeting too when we would talk about what we needed to get done, bills to be paid, etc. typically on the morning a business trip would start for me. We don’t go shopping (we never did much to begin with) except for the grocery store, dollar store and occasional sojourns to Barnes & Noble.

By the way, think about the Barnes & Noble or Borders thing. A paperback novel costs about $8. It’ll take somewhere on the order of 8 to 10 hours or so to read (that’s actual time spent reading). That’s versus going to a movie which will set you back $10 or even renting a movie for $5 both of which provide only about 2 hours worth of entertainment. Plus you’re going to occupy about an hour of your time just going to the bookstore and making your selection.

So what else are we doing—not a whole lot different. My car was paid off a year ago so we don’t owe money on it. It’s too bad I’m not working because then either we could be putting the same amount of money into my IRA or saving it for a down payment on the next car.

Our grocery bill is about the same—even though we’re eating all of our meals at home. Last night I grilled loin chops and asparagus. Let’s do the math—2 loin chops are about a pound and a half of meat and cost about $4; the asparagus came from the dollar store (believe it or not you can get fresh asparagus in season at the dollar store and it’s enough for 2 meals for 2 people). So for less than $5 I did a full meal including chimichurri sauce on the side. At a restaurant that same meal is about $30 for 2. Tonight I’m going to make homemade pizza (do the math—homemade pizza crust costs about 50 cents to make plus maybe 1 to 2 bucks worth of other ingredients). And the grocery store will grind meat for free--London Broil is on special this week for $1.67/lb. which means 90%+ lean ground beef for $2 a pound less than if you buy their hamburger.

We’re not going anywhere so I haven’t filled up with gas in a month—and I’ve only been putting in about a half tank. A trip to Costco is a major 5 mile round-trip adventure--especially at the right time of day when, if you're lucky, you can get lunch from the free samples.

Well, I guess I’m not doing much to help spend our way out of this economic mess. Tough! I wish someone would give me a big, whopping bonus for screwing up. Maybe if I opened up the Bank of Walt I could get some bail-out dollars. Someone made off with a third of my IRA and I’d like it back but I know that’s not going to happen.

So yeah, it’s the economy, stupid. There’s a bunch of people in the same situation we’re in. And a lot of them are my age which is even scarier. But, like the State Farm ad—things will get better. I’m just hoping that they don’t get a whole lot worse before they get better. And, I would like to know WHEN!

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