This very brave author, Hexane Olen, had the courage to write an Opinion piece for The Washington Post (click here for article), about what I already knew to be true about inflation. And that is, all your frugal tricks in the world ain’t gonna help you with our current round of higher living costs.
Here’s the preposterous financial advice many pundits, both professional and amateur, are doling out to the masses as a means of financial advice on how to tame our forty year highest rate of inflation ever:
Most of us don’t earn above $300K so many of us are feeling the brunt of inflation. Many of us live either suburban or rural, meaning we can’t utilize public transportation. I thought buying in bulk was the way to go? Duh? Has someone told Costco this? During the Great Depression many ate lentils as a means of getting their daily/weekly protein fix. And who in their right mind ever said frugality is fun? Because it isn’t. Never was and never will be.
The big way the piece missed the boat was in assuming that these lifestyle cutbacks could result in significant savings and confer a benefit of teaching self-control control and increasing personal resilience. But when it comes to inflation, this frugality approach is useless. No one can budget-cut their way out of fast-rising prices across the board, not when wage gains aren’t keeping pace with inflation. Calls for sacrifice sound tone-deaf because, no matter how well-meaning, they are.
Just how is inflation affecting those on fixed incomes? A conversation with retirees who were rationing hot showers and, yes, skimping on meat, had this to say: “I do most of my food shopping in markdown bins,” one said. Another said many of her meals consist of “oatmeal, eggs, pasta salad, toasted cheese sandwiches.” The issue wasn’t ignorance about budgetary decisions. The problem is that they were cutting back and still were unable to keep up with the rising costs of energy and housing.
Personally, I think earning less than $300K per year is not the pain line limit. It all depends on your spending habits, your lifestyle and what you have become accustomed to. Giving up a two week vacation in Paris and substituting Las Vegas instead isn’t as painful as coming to realize you can’t even afford to pitch a tent in a national state park as having more of a financial impact IMHO. If you’ve been used to living large, then cutting back and utilizing frugal habits isn’t going to sustain you. But if you’ve been frugal your whole lifetime and mastered the art of living on $40K per year (or less) you’re going to be used to sacrifice and going without. You’re not going to notice much and you certainly won’t see any extra benefits in becoming more frugal. You’ve reached your saturation point. For you, it’s do or die. For them, it’s live and let live.
In a nutshell, whoever you are and whatever financial rung you are on the ladder, no matter what frugal choice you incorporate in to your daily living, eventually nothing will work out. We need real world solutions (such as re-opening up the XL Pipeline which will send a message to all the other fossil fuel corporations that help is on the way, eventually, so start playing fair now!) Our supply chains need to be rectified, the National Guard should be utilized as experienced truck drivers (thus getting the supply to those who desperately need it) and once fossil fuels start flowing again, fertilizer can be manufactured, crops can be planted and harvested and the upcoming food shortages our own president warned us about will be diverted and eliminated.
Think any of those solutions will be incorporated any time soon?
There’s your answer. And now you can see how stupid it is to use one tea bag for every ten cups of tea you home brew as not saving you any money, fighting inflation or being helpful. The three most important ingredients to sustain life is: water, food and energy. Well, energy has been decimated. Next year (or sooner) we are going to experience food shortages and if any of you rely on municipal water, good luck with that. (think Flint, Michigan)
Giving people a few helpful savings tips can’t “solve” inflation or make it significantly easier to navigate, any more than the problem was solved when financial adviser Suze Orman suggested people stop “peeing” away their retirement savings on expensive takeout coffees.
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