Tuesday, July 5, 2011

New Reality

In the last two years the house hunk and I have made some major adjustments in our financial lives. For the last nine years, we've lived a cash only budget. But now, things are tougher. There are four principle reasons for this.

1) The hunk retired. We now live on a fixed income comprised of Social Security and a pension from his job. Just between us, the two allow us to live pretty much where we've been living, and pay the bills. But there's no leftover at the end of the month, if you know what I mean. We budget carefully, watch our pennies, and usually end up in the black each month.

2) Rising prices at the grocery store, gas pumps, and other assorted places. There's a reason people are taking Staycations and shopping at Aldi's and the Dollar Tree. Many of us can no longer afford to take that little side trip to the beach or lake. And we certainly can't afford to shop in the mainstream grocery stores. Every time we go to the store, it's always with a carefully compiled list--a list we follow faithfully. Lights are turned out when we leave a room. Nothing is wasted.

3) Medical costs have gone up. Not necessarily the price of services (although I suspect that might be true, too), but our need for those services have increased in the last two years. We've had a never-ending string of medical issues that required services and medication. And don't get me started on the high cost for prescriptions!

4) There's been a steep nose-dive in my royalties. The publishing industry is crashing and burning. Some publishers have adopted less than honest avenues to keep their heads above water. Most of those avenues involve paring the author's share back to zero--or close to it. It really doesn't matter which publisher you have. Big or little, print or digital, they're all scrabbling for dollars. I've seen an 80% decrease in my royalty checks. Hmmmm. Tough to live on an 80% decrease.

What does it all mean?

In concrete terms it means my granddaughters can't come to visit me this summer. I can't afford the gas money to drive back and forth twice in one summer. Their parents can't either. This is not a life threatening issue. So many families are in much worse circumstance, losing their homes to floods, fires, and tornadoes. But it illustrates the way we, the American people are dealing with the plunging economy.

How has life changed at your house? Do you make fewer trips to the grocery store? Are you more aware of lights left on in empty rooms? What's your new reality?



  1. Hi Anny, We're tightening belts too. I work for the library and this year is the first year I've seen any increase in pay and it didn't cover the increase in my insurance. And we won't even talk about cost of living among other icky things. My S.O. has been forced into another position which pays almost $3 less per hour next year with the school district and his grown son is living with us and can't find a job.
    Fun times!

  2. So true, Anny. Gas prices, food prices, rent...everything has gone up in price where people's income have gone down or stayed the same. It's not easy for a lot of folks.

    I'm sorry to hear your granddaughters won't be able to visit. I hope you get a windfall of some kind that allows it to happen.


  3. I believe Australia came out of the whole GFC much better than the US. That's not to say the gas prices aren't crap and prices haven't gone up. They have but I think if you're always been careful with money then tightening belts is not unusual or a hardship...you just do it.

  4. Vacation? What's that? Think we took one 5 years ago. It means even with tenure, DH's position is not secure, and there's been a 3 yr salary freeze at his job. Son can't find one, because fast food and retail are being filled by former auto workers. To misquote Leslie Nielsen in Airplane, Looks like we picked a bad time to try writing for a living.

  5. Yup, hubby took retirement, which was twice the amount of unemployment, but now we have two extra kids in the house. My 'vacations' have consisted of traveling three hours north to my parents' house or kicking everyone out of the house for some peace and quiet:)

    Grocery is the same: Make a list and stick to it. Hubby's always amazed when the checkout price comes out lower than my estimate, or right on target.

    Gas prices are slowly dropping, but we only put in $20 per week per vehicle, unless we know a trip is planned. And we're fortunate to live in a small town where 5 gallons will get you all over town for the week.

    The spouse's disability hearing is sometime this summer, and we're hoping for good news. And yes, the last week of June was a bit tight around here, b/c we didn't know the grandkids would still be here, and spent a little extra on them that first week! Their mom is supposed to send us part of the food stamp money.