Thursday, March 20, 2008

Recession ponderings #3 -- Inflation changes the rules

I was a very young wife (and mother) the last time we had this kind of inflation. Even then, it was quite different because wages were also increasing dramatically (and they aren't now) and the price of housing was going up... now they are going down in many areas.

This really is new territory even if it is looking more like the 1970s and early 1980s. Inflation added to any financial equation changes a lot of the usual rules we often think about when we are trying to stay on a firm financial foundation.

To greatly over simplify... the cost of our everyday necessities will probably rise much more than any money we would have in the bank. For instance, if our savings are only earning 4% a year but our groceries are going up by 8% a year then our money in the bank is actually losing its' value. (As I said, this is an over simplification but I need it that way!).

So, what does this mean to most families? Just what it did in the last period of inflation... while we need to have an emergency savings plan, money put into "real stuff" (clothing, food, etc.) before we need them may actually help us more in the long run than putting all of our money in a saving account. For families like ours, living on a fixed income, we have actually shifted all of our "extra money" into real goods.

I have been going through my grocery list as well as reorganizing all of my kitchen shelves and pantry shelves to get a good idea of what we can possibly stock up on each month. At first I concentrated on COFFEE and TEA; baking goods; cooking oil, then canned tomatoes and veggies (Christopher and his canned green beans!); then things like herbs and spices to make certain they are fresh. There are entire books written about deepening the pantry!

Of course, this takes a lot more organization than usual but the money saved will make that small amount of work pay off quickly. I do take a marker and date everything so I don't have to guess as to what is old and what is recently purchased. It also needs to be stored carefully so rodents and bugs do not eat up what has been carefully put back.

I hadn't seen a mouse in our garage since the first summer we lived here so I haven't been too concerned about them. When my husband told me a few days ago that he had scared away a mouse, I immediately went into the COLD garage and put away all the groceries I had left in sacks when I arrived home from the grocery store that day! It doesn't do any good to purchase food ahead of time and then see it destroyed because we didn't put it away properly (or in time).

I heard Glenn Beck (CNN) say recently that he's been telling people since last year to put their money in practical items (as he said... like purchasing next year's size coat for your kid). That's something I learned to do when Stephanie was little. It is not surprising that garage sales were born out of that period of recession/inflation! I would purchase clothing for her to last a few years (remembering we could often find items for a dime or a quarter back then). I did the same for Christopher but I found it harder to locate good used boys clothing... gosh, I wonder why? :)

Anyway... we've been able to build a great wardrobe for all three of us between Goodwill, gifts, and end of season sales. Just yesterday I purchased two very pretty tops at Wal Mart for $3.00 each on clearance, that is less than Goodwill prices. I tried them on to make certain they fit properly when we arrived home and then put them immediately away for next year. I rarely buy clothes at Wal Mart but these were very well made and for the money, a wonderful buy.

It all gets down to this... purchase on sale, on clearance, or at a thrift store to get good prices during regular financial times. Purchase ahead as much as possible when living in an inflationary economy, even if you must pay full price for something you absolutely need (be honest... not something you just want). :)

For this to really save you money (as well as to make certain you have what you need should shortages develop), you may want to write down a priority list like we've found helpful. The three of us talked about what we felt we needed the most, then the items were written down by priority. It was this list that we have used as we earned some extra income.

For instance, we had the new pots and pans on that list. Now purchasing very good quality cookware may seem strange as we face a recession. However, our old "stuff" really needed to be replaced and since we cook most of our meals from scratch to save money... new cookware was an important use of money. As it was, we purchased just what we needed. I would have loved to replace my old Le Cruset' dutch oven with a newer one but that is not in the budget (it cost almost as much as the other three combined). Buy what we need... the highest quality we could afford... but be reasonable.

I hope this makes sense to you. I guess to put it even simpler... one does still need money in the bank but during times of inflation... goods at home ARE the same as money in the bank. If you do a lot of cooking, check to see if there is anything you need to store ahead now. If you sew for your family, you may want to stock up on certain fabrics and supplies as they go on sale... now. The same for any home business or hobby... look for sales now and stock up (even if it is only batteries!).

If you homeschool, consider purchasing the needed books for a couple of years ahead. We did this when we realized we were running out of savings and my husband was still out of work. Since we used the Charlotte Mason "whole books" method we already had a large library purchased at library sales, etc. but we also ordered our math books for two years and a few other necessary books ahead of time. Believe me, that worked out very well.

Other things to think about in inflation... make necessary home repairs now, make car repairs now (at least keep oil changes and such on time), see your dentist and doctor for check ups, etc. If prices do continue to rise, you will be happy you did.

More next time...


Heather said...

My hubby and I have been talking about all of these things. We had a huge number of big expenses in December that effectively used three months worth of income, so we have been forced to be very frugal for the last three months so that we don't dip into reserve. It has been so good for us, and now that things are going to be a bit more stable again, we are not going back to unnecessary spending, but will be stocking up on things for the future, as you and many others suggest! I can't wait for the opening of the yard sale season!

Shan said...


I am loving your posts on recession proofing your budget. I posted a little tidbit on my blog today (nothing as wonderful as yours)to encourage my readers to contact their service providers, i.e. phone company, cable, insurance, etc. and ask them to "re-bundle" or give a discount. Today, my husband and I saved $90/mo just by making the calls!

I am taking your advice about buying for future needs - I must say that I never had thought of that! It sure makes sense!

Yours kindredly,
Honey Hill Farm

Terri said...

Sound advice! Thanks!

the feathered nest said...

Good points! This is something I started doing last month. Also Brenda's idea of asking to re-bundle - I'm going to do that with my phone/cable/DSL provider.

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Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Must start doing some stocking of the pantry... Until you mentioned it, I had forgotten about yard sales getting their start in the late 70s/early 80s.