I’ve weathered a lot of financial storms while living in America these past seventy years. For example, the President Carter inflation decade of the 70s, the stock market crash of 1987, the dot com disaster of 2001 and the housing crash of 2008. Nothing, however, beats the inflation madness of 2022. Nothing.

We thought over the years that we prepared ourselves for almost every inevitable situation. We even prepared for 3 to 5% inflation. But never for 18 to 20% inflation (and who knows if even those numbers are correct). We never thought that gas would rise to $5.00 a gallon. We downsized from our 9 room home (2000 sq ft) in 2001 to a 4 room home (1100 sg ft). We cut our $5600 a month living expenses (in 2001 prices) down to $2500 (currently it is $3500 thanks to inflation!) We did it without a mortgage (which already started us off as being cash sensitive). We have no car loans, no consumer debt, no credit card debt. We have an investment that pays out monthly but over the years we let the money compound instead of withdrawing it. Fast forward to today. None of those steps we’ve taken over the years to make ourselves as financially free as possible can stand up to the mounting pressures of the current economy.

There just is no escape. You’re hit with higher prices on almost everything from every single angle.

What I’m trying to say is that we’re no strangers to bad economic times. Over the years we’ve learned a thing or two on how to cope and succeed. Our current inflationary time is no exception. For the last few months, we’ve been able to make changes to our own financial standards and weather the decline in our living standards. Most everyone now is finding out they have to do the same exact same thing in order to survive. To do this, however, you have to know what is important and what is not.

I’ve learned that having a roof over your head is our Number One priority. Next comes food and the ability to take a hot shower every few days. You have to have gone through some really tough times (like living in your car) to understand the value of a hot shower, which we did. Last, you have to have the money to pay for your primary utilities such as heat, air conditioning, electricity and maybe a cell phone. Once you have secured all of the above AND you have the resources to maintain such priorities indefinitely, then and only then will you have achieved financial success (IMHO).

I’m not so sure anymore when it comes to our current high inflation rates. We seem to be cutting our food bill down more and more as we go without. We seem to be using our resources, such as electricity, heat, a/c less and less just so we can keep affording said resources. I used to take a bath every single night (I have very bad arthritis). Not any more. I take one hot bath a week, preferably on a Saturday night. The rest of the time it’s a quick semi-warm shower every few days or so. Hubs and I used to enjoy an evening out, at one of our fave restaurants (nothing fancy, just the local diner or food truck). We can not do those things anymore. I can’t buy any more snacks or processed foods. I have to either go without or make it myself from scratch. We’ve cut back on beef and settled on chicken. But even that has its limitations. Chicken for us now is either a leg or a thigh vs a breast or a boneless cutlet. I wonder oftentimes if we should even afford that! Meatless Mondays has turned into Meatless Most Days.

Due to the high cost of gas we are staying home more. We used to enjoy taking a ride through the country side, visiting and exploring a new town, stopping off at a cafe’ or farm stand…….we do these things no more. Every trip must have a meaning, a purpose and an end destination. Every bit of food must be eaten or re-used in another recipe. If not, it goes into the freezer for a future idea. We have to think twice before inviting a friend or family member over for lunch or a dinner. The cost of feeding another is calculated, examined and re-evaluated. Afternoon coffee with the girls is now just a memory. No one wants to do it anymore. I shun any invitation now that comes my way (graduation, birthday, wedding, shower etc.) because each event means that un-necessary money must be spent. We’re not going to do that anymore.

One of the things I like best about myself is my ability to spot trends. Around a year ago, something was irking me NOT to spend my money foolishly. It started with my kitchen garbage pail. The spring hinges broke yet once again. The hinges allow me to just hit a button and the top pops open, hands free. The last time this happened, I just threw the pail out and bought another one. Again, the hinges broke on the replacement model. But this time I wasn’t replacing the ‘broken’ pail. I looked it over and discovered I could remove the hinges but I’d have to lift and lower the top lid manually. So what? It was better than spending another $28, right? The next thing that happened was my house slippers thinned out in the heel. Rather than throw them out and buy a new pair, I looked them over and realized I could lay down a new insole (actually it was the insole of a broken down pair of slippers that I found in my clothes closet. Thankfully, I never threw them out). I switched out the old sole and replaced it and viola’, I had myself a good, usable pair of house slippers. They’re still going strong. Ditto for my deck umbrella. One of the prongs broke through the green material a few seasons back and rather than repair it, I bought another deck umbrella in red. This year, the red umbrella fell and broke in two. Thankfully, I had kept my green umbrella, fixed the corner and am using it today. Why didn’t I do that in the first place instead of spending another $65 for a new deck umbrella? (Note: I’ve kept the red umbrella for parts)

Now that I know repairs are in our future, I bought a sewing machine (to replace the one I sold back in 2010). I’m back to mending and stitching. For upcoming holiday gifts, I’m sewing everyone new, fun aprons! Plus other items they might need in the kitchen (like heat-proof over mitts).

When the fall of 2021 came, we both could tell that buying home heating fuel was going to be a challenge. Hubby and I have been talking about installing a wood pellet stove for years. We both came to the conclusion that our replacement year had come! Since hubby had been researching pellet stoves for years, he knew exactly what to buy, exactly where to buy it, how much it would cost and how he was going to self-install it. By September 2021 the unit was successfully installed in our living room. It was large enough to heat our entire first floor (which is where we do most of our living. We rarely use the 2nd floor). Hubby was able to buy enough wood pellets to last the entire winter season with enough left over to get us started this fall. Now? Many of the pellet models are on back order (because the demand for them increased) and the pellets are a bit of a challenge. We’ve teamed up with several of our neighbors who’ve been using their stoves for years and we were able to secure a supply for the upcoming winter season at a reduced price. We’ve reduced both our reliance and cost of propane by 75%. We just use propane now to heat our water, which as I’ve stated we reduced by a large margin also.

Hubby couldn’t install a clothes line, so this little foldable drying rack does the trick! Electric dryers are the worst offenders!

What have we given up in order to win this inflationary war? Almost everything deemed a non-essential. 100% of our income, which now includes the monthly investment, covers all of our essential bills. There is no room for error. That means no hair cuts, no manicures, no pedicures, no dog grooming, very rarely a meal out, no theater, no movies out (We installed a ROKU @$28 one-time cost and stream only free stuff), reduced cell service, we practice portion control on all our home-cooked meals (I sometimes skip breakfast and have a bigger lunch), no un-necessary travel (which means I’m not visiting my kids and grandkids), no hiring anyone to do anything other than ourselves…which means we do our own landscaping, gardening, vehicle repairs, RV repairs, appliance repairs or as stated above, we think of fixes around the norm. Nothing will be getting an upgrade at least for another year. That means my 2015 iMac has to make due for another season. No upgrading our cell phones, software (unless it’s free). No upgrading our internet speed, our clothes, appliances, home furnishings. In other words, we have to upkeep what we’ve got, maintain it in the best, tip-top condition possible so that it will last and last and last.

Hubby has gone back to work, part time at age 65. I make some money writing. The little extra that’s been coming in helps us keep our heads above water and provides us every once in a while with a little luxury (like lavender bath salts, flavored coffee creamer, a quick local RV vacay, some new clothes on clearance) I don’t see our financial future getting any better in the very near future. Looks like we’re all in this mess together. Hopefully we can learn from each other on how to save money, get things done and keep our heads above the fray.

I would love, love, love to buy myself one of these new wallet-type cell phone purses!!

One thing I learned recently is NOT to throw anything away. As you can see my home is NOT cluttered but I think twice before I dump or donate anything. A few years ago (probably a decade) I had a favorite handbag but it wasn’t in fashion. My purse was small. The trend was large, roomy and designer. When I stopped using my old bag for some strange reason I didn’t want to toss it. So, I kept it in my clothes closet, up on a shelf, where it collected dust. A lot of dust. Fast forward to today and those big handbags are out and in it’s place are these smaller, over the shoulder purses with just enough room to hold your cell phone, a few change cards, some money/coins and a bit of make-up. I was lusting for one and even started scouring the internet to see if I could catch a deal. But at prices starting at $20-$25, I refrained. Till I remembered my old, Liz Claibourne purse from years ago. It was small, compact, fit neatly over my sholder, had room for my iPhone, a few charge cards and a bit of make-up my reading glasses. What was old is new again. Voila’

I saved myself from spending $27 or more bucks! (yes there are some cheaper models but not as nice). I washed off the dust and my decades-old purse is as good as new!

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