Sometimes, I swear. I feel as if I am living back in the 1970s when inflation was rampant and gas lines were the norm of the day. The other afternoon, while I was grocery shopping at Aldi’s, I spotted a new item on their dry goods shelf. It was boxes and boxes of Hamburger Helper. You remember? The food product that was supposed to stretch your meat budget by adding in carbohydrate fillers, such as rice, pasta or potatoes? Only back in the 1970s believe it or not, chopped beef was affordable. Today? Even chopped beef can be priced out of a commoner’s reach. Hamburger Helper is more of a luxury item than a pantry staple.

As the rise in food prices, energy and inflation affect more and more people, I find it odd when I listen (or read) what people are giving up in order to make ends meet. Instead of spending $6 on a gallon of organic whole milk, now they’re buying regular milk at half the price. Instead of getting their manicures and pedicures at a salon, they’re doing their nails at home instead. Instead of spending $7 on a jar of gourmet pasta sauces, they’re opening up a .79 cent can of plum tomatoes and making their own pasta sauces. My question is this: why weren’t you making these cuts before inflation hit your personal pocket book? How much money have you wasted over the years buying this expensive (IMHO) crap?

Doling out frugal advice now is really an afterthought. You should have been doing this all along. Then, when inflation or any other disaster hit, you wouldn’t have been caught behind the eight ball. You would have been ready and prepared. Now? Everything you’re doing is an afterthought. A knee-jerk reaction. And probably too late to make any difference in your expense line. In reality, you have no choice but to cut back on these frivolous things.

I’ve been living the frugal lifestyle that I learned back in the 1970s still to this day. Once Ronald Reagan got in to office and financial policies returned to ‘normal’ I never went back to spending money foolishly. Most of the foods I cook today or recipes I follow today all date back to the 1970s. I’ve always driven a fuel efficient car (40MPG), I continue to shop closeouts and discounts and all my cooking is done from scratch.

Yesterday I was feeling under the weather (it rained the whole day!) and I wanted chicken soup for my soul. I didn’t reach for a can of soup or a prepared box substitute. Nope. I reached into my freezer, found a chicken carcass that I commonly save, threw it in my soup pot, filled it with our filtered, reverse-osmosis water, boiled it softly for an hour and then added in carrots, celery a half onion, some parsley (from my garden), salt & pepper. Voila’ I made myself a very healthy bowl of chicken soup. No MSG or high sodium content if I had cracked open a can of processed soup. Just 100% soul goodness. Within minutes after enjoying my freshly made bowl of chicken soup, I was feeling so much better.

Nothing makes me feel any better than a bowl of my freshly made, home-made chicken soup! Sometimes I throw in some beans, rice or pasta. Most every time I throw in a handful of frozen spinach or some other veggie (usually frozen from my summer garden). I often top my soups with grated cheese. For practically pennies, I can create a whole meal out of a chicken or turkey carcass that most people toss in the garbage. Till now. Inflation is making people rethink almost everything about their lives.

I don’t see much difference anymore on how I am living now as to how I was living back in the 1970s to the middle 1980s. It’s as if I am living in a time warp. My lifestyle hasn’t changed much. I do most everything DIY. I’ve been doing my nails myself, hubby’s been cutting my hair (as well as his own), we’ve been cooking from scratch, doing our own car and home maintenance and repairs, etc for over fifty years! I know how to ask myself if a purchase I am contemplating on making is an essential or a non-essential product. Do I really need it or do I just want it? We’ve been living on a budget for decades.

When I calculated and planned our retirement, I based our expenditures on our monthly Social Security income. We downsized our home back in 2001. We went from an 8 room house to a 4 room house. We went from $5600 in monthly expenditures down to $2500 (all in 2001 dollar values). Currently, based on inflation, we’re living on $3300 a month. Were there more things we gave up or eliminated? Of course. The first to go was frivolous vacations. We had to prioritize what was important and necessary. Should we sell our RV and related pick up truck? The answer was ‘no’. We bought those items for our winter time in Florida and that’s what remained on our priority list. By renting monthly instead or daily or weekly, we were able to lower our RV lifestyle to a more affordable level. We’ve already booked a three month stay next winter in Florida. All extra savings go into our Florida account so that we are guaranteed that budget line item is never eliminated. All other trips (Maine, Outerbanks, upstate New York) have been cancelled.

I’ve been through the stock market crash of 1987. I’ve been through the recession of the 1990s brought on when Iraq invaded Kuwait. I’ve been through the dot com disaster of 2001. I’ve been through the housing crisis of 2008. These happened long after the high 1970s inflationary years. I’ve been through the Viet Nam war. Student protests and race riots. And now the pandemic of 2020: the food shortages, the energy crisis, supply chain issues, high fuel bills and super high inflationary costs on just about everything on the planet. Apparently, it seems to me that there has ALWAYS been some form of financial discord I’ve had to deal with. More bad times than good times, for sure. I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. I’ve been solvent and I’ve been broke.

This much I’ve learned to be true; (and there are countless others learning the same thing) all that matters is having a roof over your head, a comfy place to sleep on, food on the table and a hot shower a few times during the week. If you have those four things in your life, you’re doing better than 85% of Planet Earth. It doesn’t matter what brand clothes you wear, car you drive, address you live in or what possessions you think you own to impress. No one, especially now, gives a hoot. We’re all in ‘survival mode’ and it looks like we’ll be in that state of reality for a long, long time to come. Make the cuts. Straighten out your lives. Value what’s important and what is not. And remember the one true thing people need today is our kindness. We need to be kind to each other and to empathize as we all struggle to face another day.

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