Saving money seems to be the name of the game lately. With rising inflation, increasing costs in stores, and generally higher cost of living, people are looking for any way possible to cut corners and trim costs. The problem is that most people don't want to sacrifice any comforts to really save money when they need to really buckle down. Then the consequences of not buckling down to save a lot of money hit them really hard and they end up paying a higher price, like losing a car or their home.
Most people don't realize that you will be making choices soon that you may never have imagined making. The economy is not looking good. Inflation is here no matter what you are being told by the news media. You may have to sacrifice a lot to keep a roof over your head or a vehicle to get you back and forth to work. You may end up working a second job in addition to the side hustles you already have to bring in extra money.
While people will generally do what they need to do to put food on the table, that will even be under attack. You may find yourself making cheap meals every night instead of once or twice a week. You may find yourself making a lot of food from scratch to eat decently.
However, in truly dark times, you may have to ask yourself what you can live without. You will have to make choices and sacrifices. You may have to become uncomfortable to stay afloat financially. You may have to make some lifestyle choices that you never imagined could happen. You may have to downsize homes or vehicles. You may have to move back in with your family. You may have to swallow your pride and ask for help. You may have to rob Peter to pay Paul even though that is not a long-term solution. Anything can happen when you are suffering financially.
Having been there, we have gone through some hard times. Money was extremely tight and there was never enough to go around. I have lived without a clothes dryer, microwave, and dishwasher for extended periods of time. I either didn't have the money to fix them or to replace them. I found out that none of them were necessities. I just had to plan my laundry differently and spend time washing dishes. A microwave is nothing but convenience. You can live without it if you have a stove.
The hard times were really hard for a while. Meals were cheap and consisted of pasta, very little meat, and many casseroles/soups that could be stretched to feed four growing kids. Clothes came from thrift stores and garage sales unless they got them new from grandparents. I learned to make laundry detergent when I couldn't afford what was in the store and still address sensitive skin issues in one of my kids. We started growing and preserving our own food to save even more money.
We did not go to a lot of places. If my kids went on trips, it was with grandparents or friends. I bought a school activity pass to save money going to ball games. I worked or made extra money on the side to pay for our bills and basics. We borrowed items to work on projects and accepted just about anything free.
Life was uncomfortable. I barely lived paycheck to paycheck for years - even before I got divorced. However, I had a list of priorities about what we had to pay for and what we needed. The priority for bills was always heat/utilities, food, gas, insurance, and phone/internet in that order. The rest of the money went to student loans (which got deferred for a while), medical bills, and necessities needed in that two-week pay period.
Looking back, I realize now how tough it was to go through that. I was under a lot of stress all the time. I realize now that we were blessed in ways I couldn't even begin to express. Somehow, our needs were always met. I also learned three important things:
1. I learned how to prioritize and stick to those priorities. If I strayed from those priorities, the consequences were usually steep and very hard to come back from. Our budget could be wrecked for months from one bad decision. Lessons had to be learned and that was one of the biggest ones.
2. My kids dealt with the hard times well. Kids are resilient and, if they know the expectations, they will usually stick with them. They remember some of this time, but they don't think of it as a bad or hard time. They still played with each other, got to go to the park, play with friends, and had toys to play with at home. Life was still good for them. I remember money being very tight for my parents too as a kid and still thinking life was good.
3. Decisions are never made on the fly. Unless the activity or the item was free, everything that had to be purchased was carefully considered. I made plenty of mistakes in my money-handling before this lesson got pounded into my head. Even now, I think twice (or more) before spending money.
I realize now that life could have been far worse. We could have been forced to live in our vehicle or in a place that was rundown and falling apart. We might not have had any working appliances. We might have been on welfare completely instead of just needing some services. We might have had to go hungry and not have any food to eat. The list could go on but know this...
Life can always be worse. We may think we have it bad or tough now, but it can always be worse. Be prepared for the worst.
However, I'm afraid we are heading into those worse times now. I'm afraid that we will have become very uncomfortable just to afford the basics. You already see the signs of it happening across the world. Shortages, supply disruptions, rising prices, and service shortages have already become a daily occurrence. There is nothing that is going to change this for quite a while.
However, I want to help you any way I can with advice, tips, and life experience. If you need encouragement or ideas for living more frugally, I am including a list of my most popular articles on saving money.
You can still take steps to make this financial discomfort better for you. You might not be able to do all these things, but you can certainly tailor it to fit your needs.
1. Make a list of priorities in your budget and your life. You need to ask yourself what is important to you and your family. You need to ask your family what is important to them. You may find out that your kid really doesn't love dance lessons. You may find out that you are paying for four streaming services and you only use two. You may look at your recurring bills and realize you are paying for things you don't need. Your family may think that Friday pizza night is hugely important to them. By making a list of priorities for your budget and your life, you will know what the excess in your life is.
2. Cut the unnecessary out of your budget. Now that you have a list of priorities, you probably realize you are paying for stuff you don't use or need. Now is the time to get rid of those expenses to free up money to do other things.
3. Do what you can to become debt-free. I know many financial people are saying to not worry about debt, but that is not how I am geared. If you have the chance to pay off a vehicle or pay more down on your house, just do it. Having a roof over your head and a vehicle to drive to work is really important for most people and they would be in a world of hurt without those things.
If you have any credit card and student loan debt, you should be paying those off too. The government will not sail in to pay your student loans off so let that ship sail. Be responsible and get them paid down. The last thing you need is a debt collector breathing down your neck when you are drowning already.
4. Get prepared. You should be putting some cash aside for emergencies and if an ATM or bank is not available for withdrawals. You should be putting food away so you can eat when you can't afford groceries. You should be making sure your vehicles are maintained and running in good condition. While you can still afford (and find) supplies, you should be getting prepared and taking care of repairs.
This may not be as bad as I think it will be, but many people are not prepared for a financial downturn or inflation. We are headed for some rocky times and need to be fully aware of what is happening. We need to be prepared to be uncomfortable and to make sacrifices that will ensure our long-term survival.
Thanks for reading,