Budget blues

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Everywhere we turn, people are fretting or grieving over their budgets. Most of us have either heard about the Great Depression or lived through it. We can't easily put our minds back to that mentality where we have to squeeze every nickel until the buffalo complains. We can't believe it is really happening again. The different form that this economic crisis is taking is beyond what most of us can comprehend. So, it is easier to just ignore the situation and continue our lives as if things are still the same.

However, there is a part of us that demands that we be more realistic. All the heartbreaking requests for help from social agencies need to be considered carefully. It seems that some agencies spend all of money I would ever be able to give them, on repeated mailings and hundreds of cute little note pads and return address stickers. The worst part of that is the stack of stickers I already have are no longer useful since our address has been changed. I guess I should donate a few dollars to some charity with my new address on my check and then through the electronic network see if other agencies will latch onto it. I could just write the new address on the old stickers, but there isn't much room and if I have to do all that, I might as well just write my whole address out.

My response to any in-person, or over-the-telephone request is to say that my church denomination does the best job of sharing any mission money I have, so I give through the church. That doesn't please the callers, but it is hard for them to argue against.

The younger people have been raised in such a way that when something breaks, they expect to throw it away and get a new one. This is not all their own fault. Many things we buy are not expected to last. If you look in the telephone books you will not find many businesses that advertise "Repairs." I remember taking two of my parents' living room lamps to town to get the wiring repaired. I'm not sure if there is still such a place where that can be done.

Budgets are hard to prepare when your source of income is uncertain. Farmers can hope that a certain field will produce enough grain to provide income for needed expenses. But Mother Nature and prices can mess up those plans. Those who work by the hour can make a budget, but if their hours are cut, that figure is meaningless. Salaried workers have a better chance at a realistic figure as long as their employer remains solvent. But the outgo figures vary quickly as prices change, so there is still no certainty that you have reached a workable budget.

When I drive past a small home where there is a cow, some chickens on the lawn, and the soil turned for planting a garden, I wonder if that isn't the answer. But the ground is so low down these days, and you can't milk a cow from a swivel chair.

Probably the best answer is to live frugally within whatever means you still have, and hope for better days to come real soon. But I don't think I can live without my computer, my TV hook-ups, my dishwasher, freezer, washer and dryer, refrigerator, furnace and air conditioner. It costs money to keep them running, so they HAVE to be in the budget.

I know! I'll save money on groceries by eating out everyday.