Choices

“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

Lets go ahead and count on gas staying in the 3.25-3.50 a gallon range for quite some time, and then we can adjust again when it gets up to 4.00 a gallon.  With that in mind, I’m wondering what gets tossed from a family’s budget when there is more month left than money.  Assuming that credit becomes harder to get, people will at some point need to make sacrifices, right?

Ok, if fuel has gone up by roughly a third in one year, chances are that utilities increases are not far behind, and I can attest to skyrocketing food prices, since I do the shopping.  If prices for necessities have gone up by 25%, and fuel by at least that much….what will go unpaid once the envelope is empty?

I’d like to think people will make fewer car trips, but I’ve seen no evidence of that thus far.  If conservation isn’t embraced on a large scale, something will have to suffer as a result.

Will it be cell phones?  I doubt it.  They have become almost indispensable in a fast-paced, sometimes hostile world.  Would you want your loved one broke down somewhere with no way to summon help? Perhaps people will once again view them as a tool to use in an emergency, instead of as a way to stay connected to their friends and family 24/7.

Food?  This is actually an area that it is pretty easy to slash expenses in, provided you have time to prepare real food.  The pre-packaged, pre-cooked frozen stuff is quite expensive.  If Mommy and Daddy both work full time jobs, and are expected to shuttle kids to soccer, or karate, or what-have-you, there will be no time to plan and prepare meals.

Television?  Depending on the type of service you have, you might be able to do without and save somewhere between 40-100 bucks each month.  Thats 25 a week on the high side.  Our family doesn’t eat out, we don’t go to movies, and rarely rent them.  Television is our sole entertainment.  Even so, this is our first budget cut.  We will ditch the Dish.

High-speed internet.  Fuggetaboutit.  Too valuable a tool for this family.  Also, we can watch re-runs of television on our computer.  10 bucks a week seems reasonable.

You see where I am going with this.  We are re-working our budget, constantly tweaking it to adjust for rising prices and a stagnant income.  I will find places to save…but I am wondering what are other people’s priorities?  I’ll give one more example:  Vacations.  I will not sacrifice our family vacations.  Sure, we won’t be traveling the globe, staying at 5 Star hotels and the like, but we will find interesting and fun trips to take as a family each and every year.  I know that soon, the kids will have less and less interest in hanging out with Mom and Dad, so I plan to make use of this time.

What do you think people will do without, or, better, what cuts will you make in the future?

(I’m exempting Democommie from this exercise, as I kinda figure he already lives within his means, kills what he eats, etc, in his cabin there in upstate N.Y.)

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43 Comments

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43 responses to “Choices

  1. I’m carpooling already. Constantly. It’s just crazy not to. As business sometimes forces me to go to Nashville and Memphis, this year as in last actually, no vacation. Budgeting food expenses (as food is trucked here) between the three grocery stores by looking at circulars. Put my entire family on a cell phone plan (including sis and hubby) because it saves extra than paying individually although it’s a bigger pain in the ass when there is a problem.
    Not eating out as much. Making large dinners and freezing part of it (cheaper that way.)
    Will be buying fresh veggies locally (but I sort of always did that but now it will be part of the overall food budget.)
    Is this the kind of thing you are asking about?

  2. Like ‘coma, I already ride the bus to work (for free thanks to the employer). Our one car is a Civic. We share a pay-as-you-go cell phone when needed instead of chatting it up all day on an expensive plan. I make weekly grocery lists and try to stick to them. I’m cooking big batches on Sundays. We’ve made energy efficiency improvements at home. No, I’m not ready to give up the cable/internet, but this is the first time I’ve had cable in over a decade. I’m guessing there are plenty of people out there who have already made these changes and have very little left to cut, and that worries me more than whether I have to give up cable.

  3. Yup, Coma, thats what I’m looking for. How the cost of fuel affects you and yours.

    Rachel, agreed. But that is what I’m driving at…we can make choices, none of which are very tough, relatively speaking. There are many families already staring at the financial abyss, with few choices left.

  4. I already don’t have a land phone line and no cable (just internet) and previously worked from home. I start a new job tomorrow that will create a 50 mile per day commute and I’m not happy about that. The future? I may have to get a different car. I may have to move closer to where I work. I am hopeful to convince my employer to let me work from home at least one day a week, but that will only save about $24 per month. I refuse to cut back on the quality of food I purchase, though (garbage in, garbage out) and will pay the skyrocketing costs for decent food. And though I probably won’t feel like it after dealing with traffic to get home every day, I hope I will still prepare most meals at home. I just need to make larger portions and plan for leftovers. And my cell phone is already bare bones–no text messages, no internet. And it’s pretty obvious I don’t spend money on clothes and make-up. :) But I’m still irritated that my real income is shrinking because of our government’s and our society’s years of drunkenness and excess from an abundance of dirty fuels that’s now drying up. We should have started planning for this many years ago.

  5. The Missus

    I try to make fewer car trips, shopping when I have to get out anyway to pick the girls up at school.
    I also use coupons you can really save on laundry supplies, shampoo and other personal products.

  6. I’d like to think people will make fewer car trips, but I’ve seen no evidence of that thus far. If conservation isn’t embraced on a large scale, something will have to suffer as a result.

    Some people just can’t. Our system doesn’t support it. People live in suburbs where land is cheap, and commute into the city for their jobs. There is no real, functioning public transportation infrastructure that can help people use less gas. Even if you live in one of those counties where you can take the Music City Star into town, once you are in Nashville proper, the bus system still sucks. And if you’re like me and want to walk or ride a bike to do errands, you’re taking your life in your hands.

    I bought a hybrid a few years ago, but not everyone can do that and that only helps so much, anyway.

    It’s a fine pickle we’re in, a fine pickle.

    I read an article recently that said the reason we are in this mess is because Henry Ford (a proponent of alcohol-fueled vehicles) lost out in a battle to Henry Rockefeller, who was a proponent of gasoline fueled vehicles. Gasoline was made of the waste byproduct of industrial petroleum, which the Rockefellers had a corner on.

    Don’t know if it’s true but it’s certainly an interesting idea.

  7. Yes…definitely coupons. I use them all the time, and have saved up to $20 when you count that Kroger (and other stores) do double-coupons.

  8. Well we have recently canceled cable TV (though not internet). We carpool with the other students in our Jiu-Jitsu class twice a week. This time of year the heat/air stays off and the windows stay open. I’ve upped the amount of freelance work I’m taking on. We dropped the landline and so our cellphones are our only phones (mine is barebones, but TheBoyfriend™ needs email on his for work).

  9. woody

    I am coping by saving less. My wife and I may have to spend our retirement money so we can still have satelitte television and cell phones and eat out weekly. But I plan for my brother to take care of us in later years. Actually, we are cutting back just a little in all areas. We drive a little less, buy more food on sale, eat out much less frequently, cut back on some of our entertainment expenses, (canceled some of my monthly subscriptions like Rhapsody which I love). So, by not cutting anything totally out, just doing a little less in all areas, we don’t feel the pinch as bad. We are planning on things getting worse, for awhile. The only major change is planning to retire at 70 rather than 66.

  10. Pingback: Mack Has A Questions About Choices « Newscoma

  11. Am I missing something here ? I remember driving to South Dakota in October of 1987 to bird hunt. My Son and I drove 55 miles per hour all the way there., some 1,200miles.There was a national speed limit at the time of 55 miles per hour. I`m told it saved a kazillion gallons a day. Makes sense, conserve , brings less consumption and down came the prices. WE did other things like turning right on red. Why are the American people not being asked to conserve today? Election year, surely not? My point is if you drive a large suv, do not complain about gas prices. Do the polticians think we are so nieve that we are not willing to help out ? Ever hear of gas stamps ? car pooling ?

  12. “have saved up to $20 when you count that Kroger (and other stores) do double-coupons”

    Whoa, wait. They’re still doing double coupons up there? Kroger here stopped that ages ago.

    Or maybe it’s just my Kroger, which sucks. Will have to look into that, I just assumed all Krogers had ceased.

  13. I already pretty much said my piece on this issue after ‘Coma’s post about the presidential debate the other day, so since I took up half her blog that day with it I won’t do the same here but it’s: HERE.

    But for anyone who wants the Cliffs Notes version, well, I’m not a family, but yeah, I’m pretty much at the edge of the abyss & there is really not much of anything left to cut.

  14. Well obviously I screwed that link up but HERE. I hope.

  15. The Missus

    Don Jones has brought up what I think is an excellent point, lowering the speed limits. Why are Americans not being asked to conserve? Big oil companies, big money, big influence, cowardly politicians.

  16. heartbreaktown

    Cut back? Conserve? What kind of commie propaganda is that? Remember, it’s “uniquely American” to work 3 jobs. Now quit slackin, get to work so you can go shopping.

    Me? I’ve had to cut back on the length of my massages by Sven.

  17. heartbreaktown

    I make jokes because it makes me feel better about serious issues.

    For myself, I guess I don’t have an actual plan as far as budgeting and saving. But I do pay really close attention to all the choices I make every day. In some ways it’s been good, because I’ve started to pay attention to my life in ways I never did before.

    I’m “lucky”, in that I don’t have a family to raise. So it’s a little easier for me than for some. But soon there will be many people that find they just can’t cut back anymore. They will not make it and the government will have to step in. We’re going to learn a lot about ourselves as a society.

  18. Great piece. Regards to the author.

    Of course, there’s another side to this type of economic situation. Many people will not practice conservation at all, we know this already. First whim will be “where can I get easy money”?

    Now is the time where we will see crimes of greed on the rise. There will be more theft, be it gasoline or the money to buy it or items to sell to acquire the money to buy it.
    For some it’s easier to rob someone than it is to take a shot in the lifestyle.

    Drug dealing will soar. Though that’s not something I personally have a problem with as I’m always in the market for a stout bag of doobage or a clean hit of acid…. ;-]_~
    ….unacceptably dangerous drugs will rise in demand and production. Drugs like Meth which is easy to make and quickly turnable. Crack Cocaine will also rise due to ease of import and concealment.
    The most productive method of supplementing one’s income is to deal on the side. No taxes (because it’s illegal) and you can make your stash for free. Hey, you’ve lost your house and job and can’t afford to put gas in the car to go look for a new one. Jail will get one at least two hots and a cot. Better than many will have before too long at this rate.
    As a result, abuse cases will rise to out of control proportions (due to the depression people will suffer as a result of hopelessness) along with the prison population.
    Costing even more money in revenue to deal with.

    We will also see a sharp rise in domestic violence and torn family units due to exasperated daily pressures on all family members.

    Thanx, George. Where would we be if we didn’t have an idiot to lead us?

  19. woody

    Americans aren’t being asked to conserve for the same reason they weren’t asked to sacrifice for the “war”. No one wants to tell them they aren’t entitled to what ever they want. We feel entitled to drive what we want, where we want, as fast as we want and we want to do it with as little inconvenience as possible. We want free music from the internet, never mind the creativity or sweat of the musicians and song writers putting this music out, we want free programs on our televisions, again never mind the fact that hundreds of people are employed to put out that programming, we want free books, but don’t want to fund our libraries, we want the potholes fixed in our roads, but we don’t want to pay taxes, we have to wait to be asked to conserve? We can blame our politicians, we can blame the media, we can blame the corporations, but we really should be blaming ourselves

  20. bridgett

    We consistently choose time over money (in career choice, in parenting choice, everywhere). That means that to have the kind of leisure we want, we have to watch how we spend our money. We don’t have cable and we got rid of our land phone. We’ve got the most basic cel package you can get. We own one 30+mpg car; the adults walk to work, so we don’t have to fill our tank much. I haven’t bought a cup of coffee at a coffeeshop or gone to see a movie in a theatre in years. The park here is nice and of course, I work at a college so there’s always something going on. We use a library card to the max to get books, films, CDs and magazines. We try to go easy on meat (we can’t raise it, don’t hunt it and it seems like a bad idea for the earth to eat so much of it). I bake pretty much all our bread and desserts. We do all our own repairs on the house and most of them on the car. We make most of our own household cleaning agents and we use coupons for laundry soap. We only run full loads on cold and use the clothesline to save electricity on our dryer — we figure we save about a dollar every time we do that. We’re already living pretty frugally, a habit we got into when we were struggling grad students with a baby.

    That being said, we run through a lot of money on things that others might find luxuries. We have high-speed and it’s a necessity for our jobs to continue to keep it. (We are checking in to getting work to pay for it, though.) We spend a small fortune on various kinds of education for our kid (mostly for Montessori, dance, and piano) and we won’t give that up. Every month, we try to all go to see a play or an orchestra concert or a dance performance. I guess if we have to, we’ll probably start choosing the free and cheaper ones of those and maybe not going to see the high-ticket dance companies.

    We’re teaching a little more to try to get more mortgage paid off and we’re staying up a little later to get our books done. We’re selling things we don’t use on ebay. All of that puts a little more money in the kitty. We’re in a pretty privileged position and yet, we’re more or less marching in place, financially speaking.

  21. democommie

    Mack:

    Boy, it’s tough here, I don’t get no respect, I’m tellin’ ya!

    Well, I do kill most of my own protein, but at the cost of ammo (you got any idea what a box of 20 each .308 goes for, today?) I’ve taken to using snares and a pointed stick. I’ve actually found that letting the bigger game die of old age works fairly well and my new slogan is “Road Kill, it’s what’s for dinner!” .

    Seriously, Mack; I’ve had several people tell me that I must be a pretty tough customer to live in a place with no amenities ( I ain’t talkin’ tile instead of marble bathrooms–I’m talkin’ NO bathrooms) and my reply is that I have no children, no spouse. My life is much easier than yours or that of most other people I know. Not having to worry about anyone but me makes it much simpler. I have a cell phone for which I pay $32/month and internet @ 768 k (had to get a landline to get it) . That’s it for “entertainment”. No tv, no cable, no dish, no movies, no dining out (‘cept wings at Happy Hour) to speak of. I spend way too much on gas but, now that I have a house to work on, I’m cutting way back on my driving. I’m hoping that by the time I’m ready to go back to work the bad juju on my resume has dissipated.

    Good luck to all of you folks.

    Captainkona:

    You’ve given me an idea. Let’s start making prisoners pay taxes on other people’s earnings–that’ll balance the budget.

  22. Just in case you wondered, in the grand ol state of California, I am currently paying… 3.93 for a gallon of gas.

  23. My husband and I learned to live lean when he lost his job and I slowed down my business during my chemo. We cut out going out, turned off the phone and the cable. We never really went on vacations, etc. I was surprised at people who’d tell us we could cut back to save money and how ignorant they were to people who really were struggling.
    We pay more rent here, and he’s working, but still live pretty budgeted. Short of our cell phones, which he does need for work, we can’t really cut more out. Its frightening really to think of how many people live so close to or on the edge of poverty.

  24. democommie

    Kate:

    Good for you and good luck!

    I think that the truth of the matter is that a lot of people ARE living in poverty and don’t know it, until the income stream is diminished or their home equity drops and they can’t use their real estate as a loan guarantee.

    I’ve used a big chunk of my not-much-to-begin-with retirement “nest egg” to purchase my shack and do some renovations so that it will be livable. As I said earlier, I have no kids or spouses (or exes) that I have to worry about providing for. When I go, I don’t really care what happens to what’s left behind. If I wind up on the state’s “dime” I just hope it’s not for long.

  25. Damned if I know, Mack. Both of our cars get 32+ mpg and we moved to cut the distance I drive to work in half. I could try selling one and replacing it with a Fiat 500 or a Honda CRX HF, both of which get 50+ mpg, but the dollar savings won’t be enough to keep up with the food costs.

    My company pays for my cell phone so we only have one, which helps a lot, but we still have a home phone just to get dialup – it’s cheaper than any internet alternative.

    We’ve got a dish, but the in-laws pay a portion. We do one Netflix DVD at a time because it’s cheaper than Movie Gallery, and we cut our food costs as much as we can. We’re growing our own for some things.

    We’re not in dire straights at this point, but it doesn’t look like it would take a whole hell of a lot to make it happen.

  26. I almost feel bad saying this, but we haven’t had to cut back anywhere. There are several reasons for this:

    Back in December, when Lintilla was out for her surgery and recovery, I went into financial crisis mode and slashed everything across the board. The simplest moeny saver, for us, is/was to eat in, every meal. We’re talking hundreds, and some months close to $1k in savings. It helps that I love to cook.

    If you MUST eat out (and sometimes it’s just necessary), order the food “to go” and eat it at home or out in the park. On a $50 tab for a family of four, you’ll save $10 in tips, and you get to eat at your own pace.

    Our kids are lazy and shiftless ;) so the only activities they have are through school. I (usually) have time to cook pretty much every evening, as close to “from scratch” as my limited skill level will allow.

    We dropped the land-line phone when I got pissed off at BellSouth last year. :) Saves us about $30 because we use Vonage. Some could do without a landline altogether.

    My wife is compensated the max IRS allowed gas allowance by her employer. This is robbing peter to pay paul, but .50 a mile, when she drives almost 100 miloes a day and gets almost 25-28 mpg in our minivan (believe it or not), adds up. The difference is supposed to compensate her for wear and tear on the car, but I already save a monthly stipend for that, so we just count it as extra income.

    (As an aside, I hope everyone puts away money every month for irregular events, such as car repairs and home repairs. You WERE doing this during the good times, right?)

    We stopped the credit cards cold back in December. Just paying cash for stuff, believe it or not, saves hundreds of dollars a month. Dave Ramsey may be a crank, but the envelope system will literally save your financial life in times like these.

    March/April/May is the lowest electric bill time of the year for us, so we save a good chunk of change there, as well. Well, it’s not really “saving”, but it’s money we had to pay out in Feb that we don’t have to pay out currently. I wish we had NES’ budget billing.

    There have been no movies we’ve really wanted to see this year, so there have been no costs there.

    Lintilla lost all of her vacation time when she was out, so our second biggest expense behind tuition (vacation) WON’T be spent at all this year. I’m already saving for next year’s vacation. (Everyone, once again, you DO put away a little money each month for vacations so you can pay cash you them, right? We’re not talking a fortune – start with $20 to $50 a month.)

    I’ve started changing my own oil again. Just so my dad will stop teasing me about being a pansy, but that also saves a good amount of money.

    On a whim, we bought a pro clipper set. Because summer is coming, Lintilla is going to cut my hair. She’s just going to buzz it all around. I’m old, I’ve been married over 21 years. I don’t care what anyone thinks about my hair, as long as my wife doesn’t mind me looking like a kiwi. My hair grows quickly, so this will save $20 or so a month.

    The paid blog is doing well. I make enough from it to pay for those unexpected expenses every month. I also can make good money singing backup in studio sessions from time to time.

    Again, not everybody can do it, but if you can eliminate restaurants from your life, and you have children, you can save HUNDREDS of dollars a month.

    I guarantee you, we make no more than any other middle classed family (let’s just say the two of us together do not break the six figure mark and we work our butts off), and yes, our house is paid for but we use the money that would have gone toward housing for our kids’ education. Our discretionary income is quite average, if not below average.

    I cannot stress how important a real, written down and agreed to budget each and every month, and saving for irregular expenses is. I have line items for : Car repairs, car tags, property taxes, home repairs, gifts (xmas,birthday), vacation,summer camp, titans season tickets, dr bills beyond insurance, glasses and contacts. Each of these may only get about $20 a month (some, like season tickets and summer camp are annualised and divided by 12).

    Having that money in the bank when life happens (and it will) is a good way to weather the storms with a sense of peace. And ANYONE can do it, because when we first started doing the Ramsey stuff, I wasn’t making much more than minimum wage.

  27. (As an aside, I hope everyone puts away money every month for irregular events, such as car repairs and home repairs. You WERE doing this during the good times, right?)

    What good times, exactly? My entire paycheck goes to rent, COBRA and my student loans. If I’m lucky, I’ve got a few extra dollars to pay off the credit card I use for those irregular events. The boyfriend pays for all of the food, gas, and utilities, and he’s in the same boat. And this is after moving to a radically cheaper place and a slightly closer job. (We’ve tried to find closer jobs, and I had offers very close to home, but I’m going to be starting school in August and that’s about the same distance as this job, which…yeah. He’s put in for a transfer, but no spots have opened up in the year+ he’s been working.)

    Hopefully, I’ll be able to move closer once school starts and there’s the possibility of student housing, but my school is located in an insanely housing-strapped area and rents are through the roof there as it is.

    I’m paying $400/mo for my COBRA coverage (and getting screwed so badly money should be changing hands, but that’s a different story altogether), since I won’t be at this new job long enough for their healthcare to kick in, and the medicines I need are restricted so that I can’t just ask for a prescription big enough to take me through until August (when, hopefully, my school-sponsored healthcare will kick in).

    We only have the one car, and it gets good miles (around 32mpg), but it’s 15-20 miles each way in bad traffic to get me to work, and another 5-10 miles from my job to the boyfriend’s job, and then he has to come back to pick me up after that. Each trip takes about an hour if we’re lucky, so that means the car is stuck in start/stop traffic for about four hours each day. Spending that much time driving around means that we have hardly any time to get things done, and makes things like cooking real food amazingly difficult.

    I try to make big meals on the weekends and freeze them, but there’s no refrigerator or microwave at Breviloquence’s workplace (which means he can’t bring lunch anyway). My meds tend to make me forget to eat, which cuts down on prices significantly and isn’t a huge loss to my system because I sit still all day anyway.

    There are definitely areas we could cut back on, but with our schedules, it’s pretty hard to make that happen. Nothing free is open when we get home, and it’s usually dark to boot. I’ve read every book we own dozens of times, and I use my library card as often as I can. (But the library’s hours make it difficult, since, well, they’re closed when I get home, which means I can only go on the weekends, when I have Board meetings and a week of accumulated chores, not to mention our only social time because our friends live 2-3 hours away from us.

  28. *I’m paying $400/mo for my COBRA coverage*

    That would definitely do it. My parents were in this boat till my mom got her disability. That is of the major suckage.

    This also shows how lacking I am in my knowledge of current events. I could have sworn that California has, or is moving toward, a single-payer healthcare system. I am obviously mistaken. Washington or Oregon, maybe?

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  30. We stopped the credit cards cold back in December.

    Interesting. I started using my credit card hot and heavy specifically to SAVE money. Used to pay for everything with my debit card, but with my BP Visa, I get 5% cash back on my gas, 2% on my groceries, and 1% on everything else. I pay the balance online weekly so I’m never accruing any interest. It’s not much, but it’s $25-50 per month that I wouldn’t have had if I’d have been using my debit card or cash.

    Everyone, once again, you DO put away a little money each month for vacations

    What’s a vacation? I’m not so certain TheBoyfriend™ and I have EVER taken a real “family vacation” and it’s been several years since we’ve done anything even resembling one.

    The funny thing about these money talks is that when I have to articulate where we are financially, it doesn’t sound good. But I don’t FEEL poor or even hard up.

  31. nm

    My husband and I have around $400/month in health insurance payments (and that’s after my employer’s contribution), and ridiculously high deductibles before copayments kick in. So … we’ve had one vacation involving air travel and/or hotel stay in 5 years, have one 30+ mpg car, one cell-phone between us. Broadband and basic cable are necessary for his job. All we have available to cut are HBO and eating out (which, for us, means Calypso Chicken or the equivalent except for our anniversary). I grow most of my own vegetables. So I really, really hope we don’t have to make any further cuts; we could do it, but it’s at the point where it would start to hurt.

  32. Slarti, what is this “putting away money every month” for emergencies you speak of?

    I’ve had to live paycheck to paycheck my entire adult life. There’s never been an option of putting any away to save for me. Ever.

  33. Went over to read Slarti’s post. I often find myself telling certain bloggers to cut the boy some slack, as I think he means well, but good Lord, I’ll never do THAT again. Slarti, my boy, how old were you when Carter was elected? I wish you wouldn’t opine like you were aware of political or economic issues back then. What you know of carter you learned in your Conservatism Is The New Cool classes.

    Further, what makes you think I don’t understand Americans? First of all, I am an American, and have known them longer than you. I have also lived or worked in over 30 states, so i know alot of different KINDS of Americans.

    Lastly, Sport, I’m not negative. Pointing out that the bridge ahead is washed out is not being pessimistic, its actually being optimistic that once you are aware of the danger, you will avoid it.

    Didn’t a single ass-kicking back in school teach you anything?

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  35. This also shows how lacking I am in my knowledge of current events. I could have sworn that California has, or is moving toward, a single-payer healthcare system. I am obviously mistaken. Washington or Oregon, maybe?

    Heh. If that’s the case, no one has told me about it. I could see it happening far in the future (Schwarzenegger would go for it if it didn’t cost him money, but someone would have to prove that over the din of insurance companies first), but certainly not now.

    Oregon is currently having a lottery for healthcare, so I don’t know if that counts or not.

  36. Pah. Is it something in the water?

    Don’t we agree on this issue?

  37. nm

    Slarti, how will you get behavior to change if you lie about the effects it’s having (because that’s such a downer) and lie about the sacrifice that will be required in the course of making the change (because that’s such a downer, too)? You do realize that you have staked out the position: “Americans can’t handle the truth!” and while it has a certain ring to it, I don’t think it’s a winner.

  38. OK, I’ve decided I am that bad of a writer now.

    Why is everyone misreading me? Too many buzzwords? I don’t know.

    Mack, I’m pretty sure you stopped reading after the 4th paragraph, and I guess I wouldn’t blame you. I didn’t really structure that paragraph very well, and accidentally lumped you in with Jimmy Carter.

    Anyway…

    What’s wrong with gaining energy independence for nationalistic and competitive reasons as opposed to fear? What’s the difference what the motivation is?

  39. Well, first of all, Slarti, I don’t have a deep-seated fear of us not being #1. Is our purpose as a nation to be dominate?

    I’m all about good healthy competition. Thats one of the reasons I say let gas get to 5 bucks or so, watch how fast we find solutions. But there will be pain and suffering associated with any transistion, and people are experiencing that now.

    You may dismiss me as a “glass half empty” kind of person, while fancying yourself as a “glass half full” guy. Lets at least acknowledge that the glass is not indeed full.

  40. And, of course, this is one of those issues that’s prone to massive distortions across situations. What’s going to save Mack a lot of money won’t do much for me, and what’s going to save you money probably wouldn’t do too much for Democommie.

    If one of us could stay home, we would probably save a fair bit of money – that person could cook and clean and do all of those things that our schedule precludes otherwise, and we’d save tons on gas. But we can’t afford the loss in income, even if it’s just Breviloquence’s salary (which is 1/3 to 1/2 mine at the best of times, and when the hours get cut, far less than that) because we’re at that margin.

    We can’t grow our own veggies because we live in an apartment and don’t even have a patio, let alone actual dirt to do anything with. My parents grow vegetables and give them to us, but they’re busy people with a lot to do too, and there’s only so much squash one can eat. We can’t effectively do the ‘cook and bring it where you go’ thing because of the aforementioned lack of cooking stuff at jobsites. (I can technically use the microwave here, if no one else is using any of the appliances in the area and I’m willing to risk blowing a fuse somewhere else in the school; so far, I’ve just taken to eating my lunch at whatever temperature it is when it comes out of my bag.)

    The thing is, like pretty much everything else, there are some fairly absolute limits to what can be done, especially in conjunction with lowering real wages and heightening costs all around. Once you’ve got your belt tightened as far as it can go, you’re stuck. And your money will be worth less and your bills will get higher, and you’ll be screwed.

    That’s because, much like global warming and most other issues, this is a structural problem as much as (I’d say more than) a personal one. Yes, cutting expenses and learning to live frugally is a good thing, just like recycling and going green as much as possible is a good thing. But you, personally, can only do so much. In order for things to truly get better, the system itself needs to change.

  41. We agree – the glass is not full.

    I would never dismiss you, Mack – you are like a father figure to me ;)

    Can we (meaning people of different approaches) not work together? I think both approaches are complementary – define the problem, then roll up your sleeves. I think my approach is best for the second part, you obviously disagree.

    Why does everything have to fit in a template? Let’s use our imaginations and come up with creative solutions.

  42. Fair enough. I’m basically just spit-ballin here.

  43. democommie

    Mack:

    I’m not following all of the offsite stuff, but there are far worse things, in my mind ,than being lumped in with Jimmy Carter. Energy independence as a national policy is still energy dependence. If it was not for the oil sitting under the mid-east, we would have as many troops in Iraq as we have in Darfur.

    The United States has an insane energy policy. Our politicians and bureaucrats knew at least 35 years ago that we could be held up by OPEC (and, of course, by our own uber patriotic “Oilgarchs”), but they refused to take needed steps to head off what we are going through now, because it would require sacrifice. So, as of today we still have shit infrastructure for true mass transit in most parts of the country; our passenger rail system is a farce and Detroit only makes 30+mpg rollerskates with doors so that they can continue to manufacture behemothmobiles with crappy MPG numbers. There should be an OAA (Oil Addicts Anonymous) to help those in denial.

    “Hi, my name is George, and my Denali gets 12 mpg.”

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