I’m a trend setter. I like to follow trends. So, when I noticed that things were starting to become more expensive and when I felt that energy prices were on the rise, my husband and I took immediate action. We’re not newbies to economy downfalls. We’ve been through the 1970s inflation (we know what it takes to hustle for money) the Stock Market Crash of 1987, the recession of the 1990s, the Dot Com disaster of 2001, The Great Recession of 2008 and the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020. So, we knew what steps we had to take to prepare and endure whatever financial calamity was coming our way.
First off, we do NOT invest in the stock market. Ever. I’ve seen too many people over the years get annihilated whenever the economy takes a downfall. Us included. We were wiped out financially in 1987 and again in 2001. So, when The Great Recession of 2008 came on the horizon, neither hubby or I felt a negative thing. This time around, through experience, trial and error, we were prepared. The first thing you need to be prepared at is: debt! You can NOT ever be in debt because if you are and the economy takes a tumble, you will find yourself in deep doo doo. We took the biggest financial hit in 2001. We lost all our money, had many of our assets repossessed and our home sold one day before it went into foreclosure. Whew! We knew it was because of the Grace Of God we didn’t go completely under. He gave us a wake up call and He gave us a second chance.
I’m happy to say, we didn’t fail Him. We’ve been debt free, mortgage free, car loan free, revolving credit card debt free since 2001 after learning some pretty powerful (and painful) lessons. We had to learn, the hard way, what was a need and what was a want. We had to learn how to work hard, save our money and build ourselves back up from zero to prosperity. I suppose many people will be learning their lessons this go-around.
So, fast forward to today and these are the current steps we have been taking to tackle our country’s current economic collapse. Please don’t delude yourself. America is definitely in a free fall. The ‘Powers That Be‘ have absolutely no clue what they are doing nor how to fix the problems surmounting all around us. We’re basically on our own. Hubby and I have already been through two fuel crisis. We know what it is like to have gas rationed and wait in long lines to finally get it. We also know what it is like to find alternative heating solutions for the home. Back in the 70s it was installing a wood burning stove to heat our multi-level home. Now in 2021 it was installing a wood pellet stove to heat our first floor living quarters. Since the 1970s we have ALWAYS owned at least one fuel efficient car! That has always been non-negotiable. We know how quickly life can turn on a dime.
Next step is to get your expenses under control. This is the time to cut back, eliminate whatever is non-essential and to concentrate on up keeping your four walls intact. That would be housing, food, vital utilities (electricity, heating, a/c and cell service) and transportation (gas and vehicle maintenance and repairs). YOU MUST ELIMINATE EVERYTHING ELSE. That means no hair cuts, no vacations, no restaurants or take-out meals, no retail purchases, no more gift giving, donations, no renovations, no keeping up with any Joneses (you have to walk along your own path now). You have to make whatever drastic cuts, eliminations or substitutions quickly. Once you do that, you need to start saving money. You need to stash as much money away as possible. That means opening up an FDIC savings account and socking away every penny.
At this juncture, I think some Americans are starting to ‘get it’ The high costs of inflation is causing many people to re-evaluate their expenses and these same people are starting to cut back. According to this recent Washington Post news article (click here) Americans are doing the following (a bit late but better late than never)
More Americans are beginning to hold off on booking flights, getting haircuts, building backyard pools and replacing old, leaky roofs — in some of the new signs that the consumer engine of U.S. economic growth could be losing steam. Over the past several weeks, households had already cut back on big-ticket purchases because of soaring prices. Data suggests consumers are beginning to tap the brakes on dining out, vacation plans and even routine services like manicures, hair cuts and home-cleaning appointments. Business owners around the country say rising prices, dwindling savings and concerns of a souring economy are taking a toll on household spending decisions. More customers are putting off or canceling home-cleaning appointments. Some regulars are trying to negotiate lower prices, while others have stopped tipping altogether.
Since the American economy is based on consumerism, when they cut back on spending, a recession is inevitable. We will probably find out in a few months that we are already in a recession. Thanks also to the Ukraine war and the remnants of the coronavirus (sickness and staffing shortages) I predict that America will fall into a deep depression. Unless you get your act together now or sooner, you may find yourself living a life much worse than what The Great Depression projected back in 1929. Remember, The Great Depression lasted 10 years. The 1970s Inflationary period lasted till 1982 ( a solid ten plus years). So, we really will have our hands full for a very long time if we don’t get our house in order now.
Since my husband and I are both retired, we realized that the only way we were going to get our incomes up was to return to the work force. With so many companies experiencing staff shortages, getting extra paying work was the easy part. Once I got our expenses under control (i.e. reliant upon our guaranteed passive monthly income) we were able to sock away a goodly amount of cash. Number one: I paid off two zero-interest loans to the tune of $3,154. And we saved over $12,000 into an online Money Market account now paying 1.75% and thanks to the Feds raise in interest rates, we will probably get a higher interest rate by next month. (online accounts are paying out more than brick & mortar banks) During inflationary times such as these, and from my 1970s experience, cash in king! Back in the 70s, I was getting 15% interest on 1 and 2 year CDs. I am expecting those high rates to come back again. I’m not worried about credit card revolving debt, home loans or car loans, which will go seriously high this go-around because we’re not carrying any debt. I do have an RV loan at 3.99% on our 2020 RV but I do have the cash to pay off the balance should the need be. Or I can just sell it. Despite it all, the rig has retained its value. People are still taking RV vacations (us included) BUT they are staying closer to their homes (our next vacay will be only 75 miles away).
Once a recession finally hits, however, companies will be laying off their workers. If you’ve been thinking about taking on a second job or doing some sort of side hustle for cash (I get paid to write articles) NOW may be the right time to do it.
Nonetheless, try as we might, ALL our bills keep going up and up and up. Paying off the two zero-interest loans really helped us. But when you live so close to the bone, as my husband and I do, it’s hard to keep lowering your expenses. We are still keeping our food budget down to $500 a month. More chicken and beans. Less beef, fresh produce and no snacks nor candy. More rice is included with every meal as a filler. We only use our car once or twice a week to do food and other essential shopping. Still our gas consumption doubled. Hubby has become a Mr. Fix It Man. If an appliance breaks down, he researches the repair, buys the necessary part and does the maintenance himself. I still do all the house cleaning. Hubby maintains the outside of the house and lawn (we live on 3.5 acres!). We dry our laundry out on a line. We stopped all un-necessary purchases. I cancelled my Amazon membership. I cancelled all streaming services. We only view TV with either an antenna or through ROKU. We buy NOTHING and pay for NOTHING! We utilize the library more, community services more, freebies more (as in concerts, hiking and biking trails at state parks).
This was our 2021 budget:
This is our 2022 budget:
We switched our cell phone service from AT&T to Consumer Cellular and saved $900 per year. Since we are mostly home these days we really don’t need that much cell service (plus connections are so bad we can hardly hold conversations) so we got an internet phone also for $15 a month. I’m currently working on lowering our home and vehicle insurance. I anticipate saving at least $1,000 for the year for the same exact coverage. Our term life insurance policies will be up in a few years and we will not be renewing mine. Only hubby’s. We use reward cards that give us back 3% on groceries and dining, 5% back on Walmart purchases online, 1.8% back on gas, 1% back on everything else. Every little bit helps.
I cancelled our return summer RV vacation to the Outerbanks, NC (RV fee for the week was $1700 plus gas!!!) I cancelled the summer beach house rental in August with my friends ($644 plus gas and dinners out, at a total of at least $1200 for the week) Instead since we live in the mountains, we’re vacationing at another mountain close by (75 miles) at an RV campsite for only $220 for the week. We’ll be cooking our own meals and doing lots of hiking trails with our doggie. All free. Plus the campsite has a heated pool!)
Lastly, I found some magnificent, beautiful local parks, right along the historic Hudson River, where we live. Hubby and I pack a lunch, find a picnic table, bring along our doggie, a free library book and just enjoy the day.
Every meal now includes a bowl of rice. I cook 1 cup raw rice in 2 cups homemade chicken broth. Top with some grated cheese. Delish! We use bread ends to make bread crumbs. I save them in the freezer. Note how small these recently purchased chicken cutlets are.
When we now buy much needed clothes, it MUST be on clearance or a BIG sale. I bought this $89 Jantzen bathing suit for only $19.99. Hubby needed pants badly. So he used his Father’s Day gift card to buy three pairs of pants (two cargo and one denim). Of course, he succumbed and bought red licorice too!! (FYI: I returned that $76 (?) online bathing suit and got a full refund. It fit me but I didn’t look as good as I had hoped. Oh well.) This black Jantzen suit works just fine! This time I went to an actual store (Marshall’s) and tried on a few suits till I found one that looked and was priced just right.
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