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Brave New World

Things as we know it will never be the same. The sooner we get used to that and move on with life, the better.

Sorry to be a drippy raincloud on everyone's parade.

I have been trying to adjust both mentally and financially to the new life-as-we-know-it for sometime now. At first it was temporary, the economy just being in a set back reading to rebound. As soon as it rebounds, well life will get back to normal, my husband will get his $5 an hour paycut back, gas and grocery expenses will settle back to normal, and our Vanguard Funds will see to upper stratosphere of earnings as the the Dow makes it above 12,000. We can start spending and saving again. My house and property will be worth something again.

Yeah right. Boy have I been in denial.

I don't know how many ups and downs the money system in America will have to endure this year, but I do know that in the long run we will have to adapt to what life is right now. We have had to scale back our expenses substantially, including getting rid of my vehicle and sharing our truck between dh and I. What started as a temporary solution is fast looking like the new norm. We have always lived a very frugal, rural life but having to stretch the dollar even further than before ....and knowing it may be the way things are from now on....is very stressful. It's at the point now that we must decide whether to get rid of our animals, because we can't afford to feed them. Yes, they feed us, but they cost money. And we can't afford a "hobby farm" anymore. The grocery store meat and milk will probably kill us in the long run compared to fresh organic meat and milk, but I'm looking at the NUMBERS right now, not health benefits. We will have to make do with one vehicle for us. I have not been able to find work in the past 4 months, and dh's hours are getting cut...it's hard to make a 40 hour week right now. I have a son almost ready for college, and we can't afford to send him.

Things will rebound for the better for sure, but life will never be the same again. Who would have ever thought GM or Chrysler would ever go under?

Some serious decisions need to be made at our house the next couple of months. I hope everyone else makes some wise decisions too because this may be the way life is for quite some time.




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April 7, 2009 7:43 PM

frugal_fun said:

I'm sorry to hear about the strain at your house.

Just some thoughts that may or may not help:

Is there any way you could grow or allow the animals to forage for food? (You may need to cut down the size of the herd, but still, some economical fresh food might pay for itself.) Is your son willing to consider a trade instead of the straight college? (Some lifetime earnings calculations I've seen suggest that this might be one of the best deals going at this point.)

And I agree with you 100% on the economy.  I've been aware for sometime that our economy was built on air.  Last fall was the washershed that I was semi-waiting for.  

It's hard because life does go on when the economy is down, and I don't want people to panic, but then again, it's not coming back. Right now it seem most people around me are  looking for the roaring 90s and 01-06 to come back in the next few months.  For instance, my sister patiently waits in house that she no longer wants, determined to get a certain price that I'm convinced she probably won't see again in our lifetimes.

Good luck with your decisions, however they turn out.  I think it's wise to presume the boom is over for a very long time.

April 8, 2009 1:02 PM

Cinnamonhuskies said:

You are correct, most people are expecting a return to 'normal' which is their vision of the boom times. I think we have a new normal.

Foraging is impossible here because we live in the woods with a minimal area cleared for our house, barns, and garden. The animals have a small fenced in pasture but not much grows in it. We learned the hard way that we can't let our chickens free range because neighbor dogs, coyotes, foxes, and even a hawk have made meals out of them. So we make the best out of what we have available for them.

My son has some experience in the HVAC trade already, and would love to keep doing that. All our friends say, 'He's such a smart boy he should go to college!' It's a difficult position to be in. My feeling is that perhaps he should do a trade for a year or two and then re-evaluate where we all are financially then. Just putting off college for awhile.

Thanks for your comment, frugalfun.

April 9, 2009 12:14 PM

ArielDawn said:

I am also accepting that we are facing a 'new' normal.   I was laid off and anticipate never making that kind of money again - but then again I don't want that commute or that stress level again either.   I also see that what I paid for daycare and what I spent on working basically has me breaking even - and believe me I was very well compensated.   However when my unemployment runs out in the next month the picture will be different.

DH has had OT reduced to nothing and is also fearing a layoff or at least a demotion in job title and salary.   He is terrified about this - I tend to be more positive as he has a craft that is physical - ie he splices and repairs telephone cable and could do that for a contractor or for a cable company.  Granted the pay and benefits would be lesser than what he has now.

I have been slowly accepting this fact and for the most part am not angry about it.   DH doesn't seem to be there just yet.   However I do think we can survive on what we make if we focus on doing so and put some of our long term savings on hold (ie 401K contributions, college savings, etc).   I have also been learning in the past 10 months how to stretch our income - something I didn't do before.

Our children are still very young though - 5 1/2 and 2 1/2.   They do have a lump sum in a 529 account that was funded when my grandfather passed.   Other than that I don't see us doing much in terms of savings for college.   Their grandparents give them bonds for birthdays and xmas which helps as well.

Also a trade in HVAC is probably a better move in today's market than anything else.   It is a PHYSICALLY located job - it can't be outsourced overseas.   Plus if he really enjoys it then all the better.  I also think we have gotten too far invested in paying for our children's education past high school.   There is nothing wrong with a child wanting something bad enough to work hard for it - the satisfaction and pride gained through that is immeasurable.   We can't give our children everything - we can give them a strong foundation and a backbone to persevere.   I see from what I've read in your posts you do that already.    And if he is 'such a smart boy' he will succeed....

with the loving support of his family even if not the financial support.

I agree that a lot of families have many re-evaluations to make in the coming months.   I hope that yours and mine too are made with the best of our heads and hearts combined.

April 9, 2009 3:10 PM

Hofmama said:

I feel you, Cinnamon. We have a 16 year (my brother) who has just assumed that he'd go to college...that's what everyone does when they graduate high school. But the resources simply aren't there (DH and I are paying for OUR law school debt, which has turned out to not be the smart investment we thought it would be...turns out there's way too many lawyers).

All we can really do is hang on and pray it doesn't get even worse. Sigh.

April 10, 2009 8:47 AM

frugal_fun said:

It's too bad that the trades have gotten such a bum rap.  We need "smart" HVAC workers, too, especially if they love the work.   (Actually I would argue that we need that more than another college educated cubicle worker, but I digress..)

And this is maybe because we homeschool, but I don't think education has to stop just because college is out of reach.  Even small towns have a library and almost everyone, the internet.  I would argue that most people could get a much better education on a DIY basis.  Many of the leaders of our past where taught to write and read and then got the rest of it themselves.  

Anyway, good luck with everything.

April 10, 2009 12:19 PM

Hofmama said:

I don't disagree that one can be extremely well-educated and be self-taught. Unfortunately, however, the college degree serves now as a barrier to entry to a lot of professions that did not have that requirement 10 or 20 years ago...it's not that folks who don't go to college are uneducated, it's that they have significantly fewer options available as far as careers go.

April 10, 2009 1:05 PM

Cinnamonhuskies said:

I don't remeber if I said it here, or on the Dollar Stretcher Community, but:

years of experience and a State License doesn't seem to be good enough anymore.

April 10, 2009 2:28 PM

Anne Cross said:

I have a TREMENDOUS amount of student loan debt ($75k) and don't currently earn enough to pay them back in a speedy manner.

I am very happy with the education I got (bachelor's and two master's degrees), but if I had really understood the debt load I was taking on, I don't know if I would have gone to college (I was the first in my family to go to college, and my parents hadn't saved anything for my college education, nor did they pay towards it, but they did encourage me to attend).

People in trades make a much better (and more stable) living than many professions that require a college degree. Perhaps your son should consider working a trade for a few years and saving up money to go to college later in life -- he'll be able to pay for his education, and will probably appreciate it more (and benefit from it more) when he's a bit older.

Re: food -- have you ever considered a vegetarian diet? Beans and legumes are far less expensive than meat and animal-based products. (and they're yummy!)

April 10, 2009 5:21 PM

frugal_fun said:

"years of experience and a State License doesn't seem to be good enough anymore."

Yeah, I know.  It should be good enough. Most people who actually have degrees and entering the job market within the last 10 years admit those degrees didn't do much for them and/or were way too expensive.   And yet no one want to really broach the idea of skipping college altogether for fear of "limiting" options.  

It seems long run that $75K worth of student loans is a whole lot more limiting than not having cubicle type corporate professional jobs open (which is what we are talking about "limiting" without a degree).  It's a frustrating situation and suspect very soon either corporate America or college prices will need to shift (or both).

My thought  would be that self study can also create a degree on the cheap.  In the end a degree is just a piece of paper saying you've passed x requirements.  You can test of out $1000s worth of credits by DIY methods (AP and life etc).  Throw that together with community and commuter colleges and then you've got an education that your son can pay for through his own earnings.

April 10, 2009 8:40 PM

Cinnamonhuskies said:

Anne: no offense, but beans and legumes aren't on my 'yummy' list yet LOL! I guess I need some meat mixed in there.

FrugalFun: I forgot about testing out of some classes will save money, added to a community college degree and it should shorten the time period as well as costs.

The trades have been shaky lately here in Michigan because of the housing bubble popping, but I expect a full recovery eventually....it's hard to say how long it'll take. At least it could open things up for him to get into either the electrical or HVAC area of engineering too...not just housing.

April 10, 2009 9:15 PM

missapril_piano said:


My uncle built up an HVAC business and supplemented it with teaching HVAC at the vocation/technical school. He lives on "snobs hill" and drives a range rover. Just turned the business over to his son...   HVAC is a good trade!

April 11, 2009 6:54 PM

cheapChic said:

useally you have to cut down on the herd of the cattle we raised cows for years yeah feed is alot of money now for a ton of hay then the vet bills then always have someone there to feed them when a faily is gone its tough work I talk from experiance but the out come comes out ahead for us but think threw what you want first then dwindle the herd down smaller herd is better then no herd good luck.

April 13, 2009 4:05 PM

Cinnamonhuskies said:

you are right! A smaller herd is better than none at all. It's the accountant part of me i guess!

I go out there and look at the babies and think 'I want to have that one bred and that one and ....and that one would make a good buck someday, and that one has nice colors....'

I guess i'll give it another year LOL. It would be hard to not have any of them around...boring...like living in town LOL.

April 15, 2009 11:49 AM

baileym1 said:

I don't know if this will help or not, but we have chickens and here is what we do, atleast for them, to keep the eggs flowing and chickens growing! We give all uneaten food scraps. (Which means it's been reincarnated twice and no one will touch it again!) Then with all the grass greening up, we cut and give that to them also. We live where there are alot of trees and we've cleared a small area for growing too, but we live in the country and can gather the grass that the county cuts too! I've also done some research and if you google "high protein for chickens" you'll come across an extension service site. This site will tell you how to get free protein for your chickens. It's a little gross, but the protein you get is free and the best for chickens.

Maybe this will help so you can keep them atleast! I love my chickens!

April 19, 2009 8:22 PM

This Old Housewife said:

We all have to adjust our expectations--perhaps reading a copy of Great Expectations will help.

Those who expected the most took the greatest hit.

April 20, 2009 9:50 AM

Cinnamonhuskies said:

TOH, yep, I expected after a year at a $5 LESS an hour job and no benefits, things would improve for my husband's job. I was waiting, expecting to "get back to normal" as soon as he had a raise back to where he was, medical insurance and vision insurance of course too so i could get new glasses.

I've learned not to have "great expectations" anymore!

April 20, 2009 12:26 PM

marianne said:

Look into options for college.  There are lots of grants and scholarships out there.  There is also work-study at some colleges.  I have three kids in college.  They all have jobs and are able to pay for their own expenses.  It is hard, but it can be done and is worth it.  We have strongly encouraged them not to take out student loans or other debts and they have been able to do it so far.  If they need to sit out a semester and work, they can do that too.  It seems overwhelming at times, but it can be done.  We may not be able to control the economy or where it is going, but we can choose not to let it get the best of us.  We can barter, shop at garage sales or whatever we need to change to make it in our income.  When you succeed in hard times, you feel such a good feeling and realize that you can do more than you thought you could.  Good recipes can make a difference too.  You don't feel like life is so bad when you can make inexpensive meals that taste really good or make homemade bread and cookies.  You can do it and you have lots of people who are going through the same thing and can help with ideas and encouragement.

April 27, 2009 10:14 AM

LarkSF said:

Plumbers who have knowledge of greywater systems will be in high demand...knowing how to reduce our water usage will fit in with the green economy bandwagon. Anyone with skills in maintaining, reusing, repairing will be important in this new economy as people "make do" with what they have. There will be opportunity for those with trade skills.

May 2, 2009 11:22 PM

tripletree said:

The pinch you are feeling in feeding your livestock is a little known fact that is happening to most livestock producers right now, whether they be a backyard "hobby" farmer or a big-time producer.  Feed prices have soared over the past year and a half but the market price for animals or their products have not kept pace.  Not even close.  I know many long-time hog producers who have had to get completely out because they were losing $40 to $45 a head every time they sold a hog.  You can't stay in business long when you're hemorraging money like that.  Dairy producers are experiencing a similar situation in that the cost to feed their herd is high while their milk prices are staying depressed.   You can't just let these animals forage, either.  They have to be fed an adequate ration in order to produce enough milk to pay for their keep.  And remember, you have to feed that heifer for two to three years before she ever starts paying you back in milk production.   The beef market is also in the same bind.  Prices on meat animals have been further pressured by the glut of animals going to market because of the number of herd reductions and/or eliminations by producers who simply can't take the financial beating any longer.  Meanwhile, consumers are oblivious because their meat, milk and egg prices have stayed artificially high due to the greed of the "middle men" who pay the producer next to nothing for his animal and then turn around and sell that animal or product to the end-market (the grocery store) at a huge mark-up.  The price on corn and soybeans is finally coming down, so feed prices will probably correct in the near future, depending on this fall's harvest, but then grain producers are going to be in the bind because it took a lot of money to get that crop in the ground (I mean A LOT - the numbers would stagger most of us if we had had to write the checks for cash rent, fertilizer, herbicide and seed just to get that corn planted - and that's if you could even get your corn planted with the unusually cold, rainy spring we had) and now, their grain markets are crashing hard.  Pulling out a profit on $3/bushel corn is going to be a struggle for most.  You have to have nerves of steel to want to farm nowadays.  I don't see the situation getting rosier anytime soon, either, which is a scary thought for consumers all over the world.  What happens when guys decide it just isn't worth it to pour all this money into a crop to get high production when their bottom line stays the same.  Why fork over all that cash to grow 200 bu corn if you can make the same profit growing 100 bu corn without the high input cost (fertilizer, gmo seed, etc.)  What happens if our beef/hog producers keep walking away reducing the number of marketable animals by half or more?  We are on the verge of a farming crisis in this country, and yet the calamity is virtually invisible to 95% of the general public.  I wish every adult in this country who sat down to eat would have to try to produce at least part of that meal, so that they could see how HARD it is to produce a crop, or raise and feed an animal up to slaughter/production age.  I think it would change a lot of people's outlook.

July 25, 2009 6:01 AM

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