Monday, May 05, 2008

The Hills Are Alive...

...with the whines of entitlement....

According to this news article, Americans have hit hard times. While I have no doubt that there are many Americans truly suffering from the recent rise in gas and food prices, I think that journalists are going to have to come up with better examples than one suburbanite's having to (gasp!) cut coupons and (awww!) buy food that isn't organic. This reminds me of an NPR piece a number of months ago (when gas prices first started to rise again), where a person with a huge SUV was complaining about how much it cost him to drive his daughter to a special soccer league an hour away.

Sort of hard to work up a lot of pity, isn't it?

Last I checked, "poor" meant not having enough to eat, or nowhere to live, or no transportation with which to get to a paying job. Not being able to clothe your kids belongs on that list, too. But poor does not mean living the way many of us have been living (happily!) (thriftily!) for many years - buying the cereal that's on sale; knowing that used clothes are best for kids, because they'll wreck them up anyway; trying to live close to work; choosing schools and activities that do not require you to drive an hour each way.

It's called "living within your means," folks - and it looks as though it may just be the next big trend. Now, if all these trendmongers could just stop whining about it...


How To Live Within Your Means


1. Learn to cook. Any time you eat out, it costs way more than when you eat in.
2. Don't clip coupons. These coupons are for name-brand items that cost way more than the generics, which are what you should be buying. Except generic salsa. Trust me, don't go there.
3. Little kids don't need lessons in anything. If the money is really burning a hole in your pocket, put it in their college funds. Or send it to me. There are some knitting books I have my eye on.
4. Stop buying bottled water. It's stupid.
5. Don't go out and splurge on an expensive SUV for your 2 or 3 kids because you're concerned for their safety. Reasonably priced minivans are more maneuverable; therefore, they are less likely to get into an accident in the first place than is an Expedition. They get better gas mileage, too. (Guys, I know minivans are emasculating; but you can't argue with the numbers. I'm sorry.)
6. Expensive prepared food items are not essential to anyone's diet. No one has died yet of an Amy's organic frozen burrito deficiency. Amazing, but true.
7. Get some inspiration. This woman's advice and can-do attitude saw us through the lean years (well, the first set of lean years - now that the kids are heading for college, we're enjoying The Lean Years, Act II).
8. If you are really hard up for food money, don't waste it hoarding white rice. White rice has very little nutritional value. Buy beans instead. And oatmeal. You won't starve with beans and oatmeal in your pantry. You may contract scurvy, however. Eat an orange every once in a while, too.
9. Keep your head when shopping for little kid clothes. Yes, that 30-dollar Baby Gap dress is adorable; but it attracts ketchup and poop as well as the 10-dollar Target one. (Actually, the more expensive the piece of clothing, the faster it gets ruined. Extensive research has borne me out on this one.) Best yet, buy used and cheap (meaning, don't go to one of those cutesy consignment stores and pay 10 dollars for a used pair of shorts when you can get a new pair for 5 dollars at Target). (Lord, I hate overpriced consignment stores.)
10. And please stop complaining that you can't have everything you want. No one can. And you are probably better off than at least 90 percent of the world's population. Running water? Check. Something to eat? Check. Roof over your head? Check. Congratulations, you've got it made!




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45 comments:

  1. Also, unlike new vehicles, old ones were built to last. If you buy a 20 year old station wagon, it may not be pretty, but it will be cheap and it will stick around for another 20. It'll do better in an accident too, cuz once upon a time they made cars out of metal, not plastic.

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  2. That is funny... a while back I was sorting through my pantry and figured I could probably live for about two weeks on what I had in there, should need arise, but I would be eating an awful lot of beans and oatmeal during that time. And then I went and got a few cans of fruit just to round things off.

    I also think it's funny when people talk about the hardships of cutting back on their daily lattes or about the challenge of not just buying any clothing item or book or CD they see and like. Or not going out to eat several times a week. People write whole books on those topics like the concept is something new. And I laugh because I know I am far from poor, but have been a student for nine years now (almost done!) and almost never buy things just because I feel like it. Eating out? Maybe once every two months. Everything has to be seriously considered and budgeted for, and I have only myself to support, so it's not bad at all. It's just life for many, not this strange new world so many seem to think it is.

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  3. Oh, thank you. It annoys me every time I see anyone in this country complaining about the price of gas, too. Do they have any idea what the REST of the world pays? If you don't want to pay that much, you could, um, drive a little less. Or, um, drive a smaller car.

    And for the guys? We have a sort-of minivan (a Mazda5). It comes in a 5-speed and looks cool. Not emasculating at all. And WAY cheaper than, say, a Honda Odyssey. Granted, it only seats six, but it works for us. :)

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  4. Boy how I love that your whacked out, crazy ideas sound just like good old fashioned common sense to me.

    Seriously, new clothes for kids are just as stupid as bottled water.

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  5. clap..Clap CLAPCLAPCLAPCLAP....sounds of people standing up to clap some more. No duh. And here's an idea - why don't people stop sending their kids to expensive camps that teach them to tend gardens and sew...and just keep Johnny and Suzy at home to tend their own gardens and sew? Jimminey Cricket, sometimes I think half the population has had more then their fair share of lattes with a double shot of stupid.

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  6. I'm getting rather tired of the Prius-ownership-is-next-to-Godliness idea that so many people seem to adopt when it comes to gas ans gas prices. Someone on an online forum had the nerve to tell me my Sienna means I don't care about the ownership and the size is a hazard to those driving smaller vehicles. It's a MINIVAN that gets pretty good gas mileage AND fits my family and all our crap. And yes, we bought it new, but we'll drive it until it dies. That's a much bigger money saver than buying a new vehicle every 5 years.

    My biggest beef with most politicians is that they go on and on about helping "the poor" but most of them have no idea what's it's actually like to frantically move 5 dollars around your checking accounts to avoid bouncing a check or eating ramen noodles every night for dinner until you have more money for groceries. Don't get me started on gourmet cooks whose idea of cutting back at the grocery store is buying a smaller package of shitake mushrooms.

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  7. Excellent!!!! I love this and still, to this day, live by many of these rules, even with only one kid. (Well, 1.5)

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  8. Should I give up that bottled air I've been using?

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  9. Let me add my "Amen" to the chorus. Except for the soccer practice an hour (eh, make that two) away. Sometimes the joy of seeing our children do something they do really well in an environment that fosters it is worth the extra bucks.

    But I am so with you on Target. Yes, ma'am. And ramen noodles, too (MammaK).

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  10. kalynne - I don't care where people take their kids to practice soccer - I just don't think anyone who chooses to drive an extra hour should whine about the cost!

    mommyk - Our Odyssey got 25 miles per gallon on our last trip, carrying 7 people. Which is as good as a Prius carrying 3 people getting 50 miles per gallon. I think. Sort of.

    amy - yes, we've had artificially cheap gas for a long time; and let's hear it for Obama for refusing to pander by removing the gas tax! Although, it seals his rep as an elitist who doesn't care for the common folk, you know...

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  11. Superb. Bravo. So much to applaud here. WEll said. The whole SUV thing (or 4 Wheel Drives as we call them here) irritates me no end. My SIL got one because she felt better knowing the kids were further off the ground, and it saved her back. Whatever.

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  12. You're the only other person I've ever heard of that refuses to clip coupons when saving money. I've always said I spend more WITH coupons than without. They don't give coupons for meat, milk and bread. And generic is cheap. So is bulk.

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  13. I love Suze Orman, she says to keep a car for 10 years otherwise you're just blowing your money.

    The French gave us bottled water (see comic Jim Gaffigan's hilarious piece on why) and now in LA we all use it, although I use Brita. HOWEVER, my gardenia plant is having issues and when I googled it they mentioned not to give it rusty or chlorinated water, which is all we have coming out of our taps here in SoCal.

    I'm a sucker for art work and have sunk a lot into it. I was feeling kinda guilty about it until I realized I was going to be housebound for 3 months and at least had some nice things to look at.

    Speaking of which, since I have been housebound, it's scary how much I've saved at the supermarket, in that I can't go and have to order online. I looked at my checkbook the other day and was blown away. I was going food shopping 3-4 times a week!

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  14. I wish my wonderful husband would read this and know that I'm not crazy. I tell him these things all the time, but he IS one of those people you read about in the articles complaining about the cost of gas while he makes 4-5 round trips of our entire COUNTY on a weekly basis, just for the heck of it.
    *sigh* at least I know I'm not the only one with these "crazy" ideas that save our family money. ;)

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  15. I always enjoy your reality checks. I heard some people are cutting back on luxury vacations-what are those?

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  16. Have you heard? The Victory Garden is BACK! No joke...this is one of the "ideas" I've seen lately. DUH.
    My Husband's Toyota station wagon will turn over 300,000 miles in the near future. I think we've done well on that one.
    Pax, EJT

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  17. I buy used cars. The local Carmax is *very* respectful to women; they'll get my business again. I just began riding the train last week, after the 250-mile-a-week commute started cutting into my food budget; couldn't really have done this until LittleBit had wheels of her own [also used]. There are some excellent semi-pricey consignment stores that sell her size; we buy when it's about the same price as we'd pay at Target or Wal-Mart. And I only use coupons when the price w/coupon is equivalent to generic. Looking forward to having a small garden this fall and a bigger one next spring. And I love eBay; I get my Dansko's there but rarely pay more than half of retail, including shipping. [This leaves us more money for books and yarn and chocolate!]

    Word verification today is "oygerms". Too funny!

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  18. Your going after organic food and journalists?! Wow. This is a lot to swallow.

    Alright, alright. I get your point. But if you think i'm going to stop buy Amy's organic mac n' cheese. well, i don't think so girl. :)

    Good list.

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  19. You've hit such a nerve of mine. This sense of entitlement in this country is staggering. I've been thinking about a post on this for a while. What are we doing to our kids??

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  20. Oh geez, that should say my ownership of a Sienna means I don't care about the ENVIRONMENT. Whoops.

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  21. Good tips! My number one tip for living within your means is to spend less than you make. Enough said.

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  22. mamabird - It doesn't matter, so long as you have the money to buy them. It's just the people who think it's the end of the world when they can't buy luxury items to which they've grown accustomed that bug the heck out of me...

    elizabeth - I don't think I've ever forgiven Larry for totalling our 92 Toyota Corolla. I loved that car, and it would have lasted forever.

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  23. Well I for one an really mad that the price of gas has gone up. it now costs as much to fill up my BMW SUV as a full day at the spa including mud wraps, of course (b/c why bother going to the spa is you're not going to get mud wraps?). And I have to fill up the SUV. How else am I going to get Jr to and Sally to school at the end of the street if I can't drive them? And then there's My trips to the gym. I HAVE to be able to drive the two miles to the gym. the treadmills there are to die for! I'm going 6 miles a day on them! And then there's...
    Oh shoot, I just realized that this is not my life, I'm talking about. Spa? What? SUV? I don't think so. Drive kids to school? Why? Isn't that what I got them bikes (used, free) for? Gym... are you kidding me?

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  24. Can you run for president. Even if you dont win, you could teach "some people" a thing or two. And if you ran for president they would find your blog and you wouldnt have to repeat it. hehe Great advise

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  25. Two years ago we thought we were absolutely bursting at the seams with nine people in a manufactured home. So we went shopping for a much bigger home in a planned community. After intense sticker shock ($370,000 for a home in a redneck community in the southwest), we decided a double-wide trailer on four acres for under $1,000 a month wasn't so crowded after all.

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  26. Hear Hear! Good, common-sense advice.

    I do reserve the right to complain about the cost of petrol, though. Over here it is $1.50 per litre (or about $6.00 per gallon, and that 6 Aussie dollars, not US dollars). It cost me $93.00 to fill up today.

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  27. AnonymousMay 06, 2008

    Amen, Sister! Preach on!!

    Cook your own food. The cost of taking four people to McDonalds (for basically poisonous food) comes out to about $25. For the same amount of money, I can buy three chickens, five pounds of potatoes, and two heads of broccoli. And if I get any of it on sale, I might have enough left over for a half-gallon of ice cream. It's a no-brainer.

    And, yes, for God's sake, stop whining. If you have extra money left over that you don't know what to do with, don't piss it away -- give it to someone who needs it.


    -- mom on the verge (dammit, can't remember my google password!)

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  28. Maybe this is my password...

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  29. Your list is a large part of what has enabled me to be a stay at home mom. People ask us how we do it, they don't seem to realize how much the little things over many years really do make a difference. We still do and have nice things, moderation goes a long way:) Love your blog!!

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  30. AMEN!!!
    Even "poor" in our country doesn't compare to the rest of the planet's definition. Your daily latte is NOT a necessity. Neither is the second vehicle. Or super special soccer league for privileged children.
    Huzzah for thrift & living within our means!

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  31. Amen, sister. I've been thinking about how unthrifty we've been living, and it makes me cringe a bit.

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  32. So true. So true. I say this as I am trying to convince my dear hubby that a 42" plasma tv is plenty big for our family room.

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  33. I'm totally printing this out and taping it to every lamp post in my neighborhood.

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  34. This post makes me want to raise the roof and go, "Woop Woop!"

    On a similar topic, I bought a book recently that provides tips on how to "go green." It's full of websites and places to buy organic face cream or organic cotton dresses. Not once does it mention a budget or the fact that most Americans can't spend $45 on a can of night cream and $60 on a dress for their three year old. Reading it made me vomit in my mouth a few times. I was really disappointed.

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  35. Oh amen, and bravo and all that stuff to everything you said. You should get together with all the commentors here and take over the country! Do you know that oodles of years ago Amy Dacyczyn was on Opera for her book and the audience just about wanted to lynch her up for not giving her kids all the stuff they don't need. It made me ill. I couldn't believe how pathetic they were that they would think she was abusive or something. That lady is so amazing and her kids are HAPPY!!!!! Way happier than the kids who have too much.

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  36. Your ending is my thankfullness mantra every single night before I close my eyes.

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  37. I love this post - my hubby and I say similar things all the time but you can never say them enough.

    And I love #4 - nothing much is stupider than bottled water.

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  38. You are a font of practical wisdom.

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  39. You lost me at number one.

    ;-)

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  40. Mrs. CraboppleMay 18, 2008

    Must disagree on bottled water. Nothing is more disgusting than tap water. It tastes terrible, and where we live it is extremely hard. After having a reverse osmosis filter put on my water, I can no longer stand to drink regular tap water, or even fridge filtered water. Once you get used to the pure stuff, you can't go back.

    I see no objections to refilling and reusing bottles of water, and it would be nice if they were better for the environment. But if bottled water gets banned, I'm going back to drinking Cokes.

    Acquafina Rules!

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  41. mrs. crabopple - you're right, sometimes you live in an area where the taste of the water is unbearable - I grew up with yucky tasting water. But my area now, for instance, has fine tasting water (and believe me, I'm sensitive to yuck) and people still spend tons of money on the bottled stuff. And then whine about the cost.

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  42. Don't know if this was mentioned in the comments but we always bought our kid's clothes from Sears because they replace worn out stuff for free (via Kid's Club) provided they are the same size. A pretty nice little bennie.

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