Monday, May 05, 2008

Put On Your Big Girl Panties America

The other day, we were discussing the P&C article about how the current economic climate is affecting (effecting?, hell hold on, where's the big print dictionary?) the ordinary person. Rising food and gas prices have certainly been a potent one-two punch on the household budget.

Leaving out the working poor and those on fixed incomes, who always feel the pinch because they basically live from penny to penny, has it really been that bad so far for "middle class" families? Those with a couple of cars, several computers and cell phones and all the latest "must have" gadgets? Or is it just that we are now having to face the fact that we can't always get what we want when we want it? We are having to spend our "fun" money on necessities?

There was a couple mentioned in that article. Their reported income was a bit over what my gross income is. Now, after approximately $15,000 a year melting away in the form of taxes and insurance, I still pay all my bills comfortably. I haven't had to use a credit card to buy food like that couple claims they have to do. Maybe there is something else there that the P&C didn't tell us about them.

I was at the gas pump the other day when the gentleman on the other side of the pump complained about how much it had cost to fill his pick up truck. Trying to sympathize with his pain, I remarked that I had four gallons in and the pump was reading $14. He said that "something has to give, this just isn't right." I agreed and trying to be positive said, "at least it isn't as expensive as gas in Europe, I've heard it's twice as much over there." To which he replied:

"I don't care. This is America, not Europe."

Leaving me quite at a loss as to how to respond. All I managed was a faint, "Yes, this is America." Yes it is. But why did that translate into high gas prices being wrong for us? Why should we have it better than anyone else on the planet?

I once read some social commentary that described recent American culture as in the adolescent stage of behavior. Like adolescents, we are convinced we are invincible, we love to spend, spend, spend, we don't want to work and grind away, we want to have fun.

I think, if that was an accurate description, America is now at the stage of early adulthood. Our culture is graduating from college and, facing all those student loans and credit card balances, realizing we've got to get to work and cut back on our extravagances.

It isn't fun, though. It isn't fun to work and only spend what you have. It isn't fun to watch all your money go to bills and to have nothing to spend on yourself. It's boring to take lunch to work with you everyday instead of going out with the gang. It's boring to eat a home cooked dinner every night.

It's not fair that you can't buy the latest version of whatever technology you want. Everyone else is getting the newest cell phone, laptop, television, gaming system, fill in the blank.

We have been brainwashed into thinking that a family with a large home, two or more cars, several televisions, cell phones for every member, enough computers and laptops and gaming systems for every member, the latest fashions in clothes, every member engaging in more than two paid-for activities, going out to dinner several nights a week, going to Disney at least once a year, we've been brainwashed into thinking that that is middle class.

People, that is rich. That is lower upper class. That ain't middle class. And we need to start acting like our income brackets. I was speculating that a nice little mini-depression, although not wishing for one for the vast harm it would do to the working poor, wouldn't be such a bad thing for spoiled middle classers who have no idea of how spoiled they are.

Everyone is talking about budgets and cost cutting and saving for extras. That is what you were supposed to be doing all along. Maybe it is because I was raised by a woman who still washes out and reuses plastic baggies, who has been known to wash off and reuse aluminum foil. A woman who put her knowledge of what was important, learned growing up in the rural South during the Great Depression, she put it to good use when left alone with four kids and no job skills. Maybe it was because I lived in poverty in my young adult years.

I was taught to fear debt. I was taught that if you don't have cash for a "want", you saved until you did or you did without. That's what we need to learn. How to do without for a while.

I think it will do America good to get back to the basic values of hard work, frugal spending, saving for the proverbial rainy day, and teaching our children respect for money and the appreciation of the simple things in life.

Thor sez: So, this is probably a bad time to tell you that I'm bored with the two cat trees I have and I want a new one?


Heather said...

We have a nice house, I won't lie. However, we do not eat out often. I watch our grocery budget very carefully. No cells, no cable, no lawn service, and we avoid stores unless we need something. I try to not turn the air on until at least May and this year I'm holding out as long as I can. (I cheated the day I canned jam). Am I a little worried about rising grocery costs? Yes, I just watched my oldest power his way through four eggs, 2 pieces of bacon, toast, and a banana. He's four and thin, what's it going to be like when he 14?

When I was dead broke I was alone, thank goodness I learned about frugality then.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a problem with living within our means......what does bother me is the oil companies making billions and billions of dollars in profits when teachers and policemen and firemen etc. barely make enough to feed their families they make so little that they quailfy for food stamps. When a poor family has to depend of funraisers of bake sales and car washes because their child needs a kidney or cancer treatment.....

Uncle Zoloft said...

Amen Sista Janet!

The poignant truth, and perfect title, of our current national financial crisis.

Add to "Lower upper class" - "Working middle class poor". Those would be the folks who took the 30 yr fixed rate mortgages, have both vehicles paid for, a little in each IRA and have suddenly discovered it's going to get worse. Our Health & Dental Insurance pay less and less for a 10% rate increase or more, every year!?!?!

Bottom line: If you want your prayers answered, get off your knees and hustle. Um and yea; you should put your panties on too.

jaz said...


As a nation, we need to mature beyond the "I want it all and I want it now" tripe that advertising has seared into our brains and begin acting like adults with (man, what a drag) responsibilities to ourselves and to others.