Saturday, March 5, 2011
An Economic Reality Check
My goal is to ultimately keep this blog light, informative and hopefully fun! for me and the good people who are kind enough to read it, but every once in a while it's impossible not to hunker down, get serious and have a little reality check. (at least for me, anyway) Now, I'm sure if given the choice, we would all prefer to have our lives just roll happily along without having to worry about the less pleasant details getting in the way, but that's something that's becoming more difficult for the majority of Americans to do these days. Don't get me wrong.... It's wonderful to try to maintain a positive outlook at all times, but practicality isn't a bad thing either.
According to a January 25, 2011 article in the LA Times, the USDA is predicting that food prices are rising anywhere from 2% - 3% in the coming year. I'm no genius when it comes to economics, however, with our economy and the country's National Debt being what they are these days, and with so many honest, hard working folks losing their jobs, this prediction does not bode well for the average family just trying to put food on the table.
While consumer goods and services continue to increase in price, both the blue collar and white collar Jane and Joe who are lucky enough to actually be employed, are not seeing similar (if any) increases in their paychecks. Deductions for health insurance, 401K's and pension plans (if there even is one), not to mention state and federal taxes, are also rising significantly and bringing net or "take home" wages to new lows. Hubbs works in a middle management level position for a national corporation. His salary pretty much matches the "middle class average" for our country and he and his coworkers haven't seen a single penny more in their paychecks in the last couple of years, because his company isn't giving out even basic cost of living raises in an attempt to try and keep overhead down. From what I read and see on the news, it's the same all over the US. There are small privately owned businesses shutting their doors for good all across the nation. Mom and Pop enterprises are slowly disappearing from our cities and towns, because it's darned near impossible to compete with the big chains and they simply can't afford the expenses associated with doing businees anymore.
The most frightening part of this shift in the economy is that it doesn't look like anything is going to change for the better anytime soon. You don't have to be a financial wizard to know that increasing consumer costs coupled with stagnant or decreasing paychecks and mass lay-offs across the nation, means there's no such thing as "disposable income" anymore. Sadly, most Americans are struggling already just to pay for the necessary costs of living, like mortgages/rents and utilities. We're not talking cruises to the Bahamas here.... We're talking the normal everyday expenses for food, clothing and shelter. Tack on car payments, fuel for those cars, college tuition, property and school taxes and a long list of costs that go along with raising a family, and it's hard to imagine how the average family could possibly thrive over the next few years, unless something happens to shift the economy back in a more prosperous direction. People who never used a coupon in their lives are anxiously awaiting the Sunday supplements. Folks who had difficulty ever sticking to a budget plan, are diligently calculating every penny that is spent.
I'm not attempting to debate politics here. (my daddy always taught me not to ever discuss politics or religion) I certainly don't have the solution to this issue. It's just something that's been weighing on my mind quite a bit these days. (and I'm positive that I'm not alone in these thoughts) Whether you're the "praying kind" or you're not sure where you stand on the subject of faith or spirituality, the one thing that I believe we all have in common is hope. So, whether you pray for a resolution to our country's financial dilemma or just have hope that it will change for the better, I'm pretty certain the ultimate goal is the same..... A path back to the prosperity that America has been envied, hated, loved and fought for, generation after generation, and for the peace of mind and stability of all her people.
I'll try to make it a point to regularly post recipes for low cost satisfying meals, as well as some of the money saving tips that I use and that I hear about others using. Feel free to share any of the tips you use to keep expenses low and satisfaction high. Luckily, most of the good old fashioned homestyle or comfort foods are on the more economical side anyway!
Live Well, Eat Well