It used to be that people in the middle class owned their own home, had money to buy all of the necessities that their families needed, had decent saving accounts, 401K's, didn't need to live paycheck to paycheck, and were able to take a family vacation every year even if it was just going to a nearby campground just to get away. It seems that picture has done a whole lot of changing over the last few years and I am not really liking the direction that our country is heading. Families do not leave their homes, pack lunches for every family member every day, wear the same clothes year after year even after they are tattered and stained, there is no room for any emergencies as saving have been eaten up by increased expenses, homes are on the brink of foreclosure, there is a lot of deficit spending just to keep the same lifestyle we have always led.
Now more than ever we are all finding ourselves struggling. Some of us have never had to put up with some of the situations we are finding ourselves in, and it can be a scary place to be. We are needing to be creative and make some major cutbacks in our lifestyle in order to keep the same standard of living that we have always had. Some are clueless as to how they can do this and are petrified of having to change their lives.
What lead to this state of affairs? No pay raises for years at a time, increasing costs of living, forced job transfers, not being able to sell our homes, decreased credit availability, declining home values, foreclosures, increased taxes and medical expenses, businesses who have no regard for positions people are finding themselves in, banks who are unwilling to help struggling homeowners, job losses, increased disease caused by new stresses that we are not used to dealing with, shrinking 401Ks as well as other savings avenues, and reduced work hours available are just some of the problems that have contributed to this new reality.
It seems like this problem is insurmountable. It looks like a giant mountain that we are both unwilling and unable to climb and conquer. What is there to do but to throw our hands into the air and give up? Now, more than ever, we need to pull together and make some sacrifices. We need to help those that are in need of help even though we may not think they need it. We need to band together and take care of each other. We need to have less focus on our short term profits and more focus on the gains that can be made in the long term.
Being just one person, what can we do to make the world a better place? I will give you some ideas of things that we have done as well as things that could be done if people weren't so hung up on following the highest profit line they can get. Some of these ideas are things that we can do to help ourselves, while others are ideas that we can use to help those around us which may indirectly benefit us as well.
When I found myself with less cash flow than we have traditionally had, I found ways to stretch our budget. I switched out all of our regular light bulbs for CFLs, turn on less lights at night, turn down the thermostat when no one is home, and run all of our televisions and other electronics on power strips so they do not use electricity when they are not turned on. Instead of buying clothes at the retail stores I used to frequent I found myself buying them at garage sale or thrift shops, same with other household necessities such as plates, books, and pot. Recreating clothing that we already own is a great way to save money. Why not make that shirt with the stains on it into an art project that your children can proudly wear to school? Those pants that are too short can easily be turned into a jean skirt or jean shorts. Making our own foods from our homegrown garden has also been a Godsend to our budget woes. Sugar free blackberry jam in the stores was $5 per jar. Picking the blackberries from the woods and making our own saves us a lot of cash. That $5 easily buys enough pectin to make at least a dozen jars of jam if not more. Who ever thought before this all began that I would learn how to make my own green cleaners, sausage, dog food, canned veggies, frozen soups, broths, and dried herbs?
Businesses can help people too. If you can't afford to give them a discount, at least work with them so they can fit your goods and/or services into their budget. If they say they can't afford the bill and try to arrange things to make everything more affordable for them, believe them. Charge an affordable interest rate and don't change all kinds of extra fees just to add to their misery and to your bottom line. Then the business will not loose customers and the customers can still afford services on an affordable payment plan. I think it is despicable when a business tells a person to sell their home at a large loss or spend all of their life savings just to get paid sooner. What will they do the next time? There IS going to be a next time, you DO know that, right? Why can't we spend more time helping others who are also struggling to get their feet under them so they can then pay that kindness forward? If they can afford the payment then you will not have to worry about these customers declaring bankruptcy costing you even more money either.
Banks can lower a current customer's interest rate. If they are already your customer and they are paying their bills in a timely manner why not try to help them make their payment more affordable if they request your assistance? This will free up some of their cash so they can spend it to help stimulate the economy. This will indirectly help a bank as they have invested their customer's money into various stock markets. Increased spending will increase the value of those holdings earning the bank more income thereby helping the bank as well as it's customers.
Insurance companies don't need to keep adding a 10% increase to their customer's charges every year either. If people feel less taken advantage of they will be less likely to take advantage of others.
I also feel that fraud and lawsuits are destroying our country. People seem to be looking for a quick profit around every corner. Taking people to court costs everyone money, as does charging for services not actually provided. Even those of us who aren't even involved in the situation. That is how prices got as over inflated as they have. Businesses don't eat the cost of these lawsuits and payouts themselves, they divide the cost and spread it out as increases to all of the other customers weather it's insurance or some other business. Why do you think our cost of insurance has risen so dramatically over the last 15 years? Certainly not because the equipment is that much better. Think about it. How much does it cost to go to the vet vs going to the doctor? Both went to the same amount of school, but there isn't insurance in most veterinary practices. What about the dentist? I still pay close to the same amount now as I did 13 years ago when we got our dental insurance. Why? Because people are not abusing the dental insurance plans in the same way as they are abusing the other insurance companies. My health insurance cost on the other hand has increased more than 250% over the same amount of time. Are we REALLY that much less healthy?
Start seeing the sanity and refusing to take the easy road, instead take the road less traveled. Help yourself, help others, stop being greedy, and together we will make it through the rough times.
Thank you for stopping by to chat with me. Please leave me a message, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Cindy