BACK ON MAY 22, gas cost $4.10/gallon here in Faribault. As the numbers on the pump scrolled up, finally locking at $64.50 for nearly 16 gallons, I felt a tinge of anxiety. My husband, Randy, commutes some 30 miles round trip to work in nearby Northfield. And at a time when he’d just learned that his job of 39 years would be cut at the end of August due to new corporate ownership, saving money was foremost on my mind. Still is.
Today I almost laugh at my reaction to that May pump price. Since then, gas prices have risen even higher to $4.73 in early June, now down slightly and holding steady at $4.69. Recent media reports, however, indicate fuel prices will continue to drop with the average national price currently at $4.63/gallon.
I haven’t done the math on how much more Randy’s commute is costing him this year. I do know, though, that I think twice now about out-of-town trips. Casual Sunday afternoon drives or drives simply to explore neighboring communities are mostly non-existent. It’s helped also that, since my mom’s death in January, we no longer need to travel 240 miles round trip to my native southwestern Minnesota. Not that gas expense would ever have been a consideration in visiting her.
And then there’s the cost of groceries. I consider myself a price savvy shopper who buys mostly basics, avoiding convenience foods. We eat simply and aim for healthy. But the price of chicken, our meat of choice, has skyrocketed as has the price of eggs. I cringe every time I see the grocery bill and feel thankful that I’m buying for only two rather than a family. One item I refuse to give up is the 4.4 ounces of dark chocolate (five individual servings) priced at $1.99. It’s my sole indulgence.
Dining out is, for us, an occasional treat. I can’t justify the expense when I consider the multiple meals I could prepare for the price of two restaurant servings. Recently, while vacationing in the central Minnesota lakes region, we ordered appetizers and two drinks at a channel-side restaurant. That cost us $47, tip included. When I remarked on the cost, Randy reminded me that we were on vacation. Still…
As we dined on that waterside restaurant lawn, I observed that plenty of people likely hold no money concerns. Pontoons and other expensive-looking boats glided in and out of dock slips at a steady pace. I felt a bit out of place here, our rusting 2005 mini van parked in the nearby crammed parking lot among all the newer vehicles. Our lives seem vastly different from those boaters and other diners.
Yet, despite the economic disparities, I feel grateful. We are debt-free. We own a house. We are now both on Medicare, a mega financial savings after forking out some $20,000 annually in recent years for health insurance premiums for insurance we couldn’t use because of high deductibles.
I try not to dwell on the numbers in our retirement accounts, which show a loss of some $30,000 in the first half of 2022. It’s disheartening, especially as we close in on retirement. Our investment advisor advises us to hang in there, that the market will rebound. We don’t necessarily have the luxury of time. But at least we have retirement and personal savings accounts and are not struggling to pay bills like many Americans.
In all of this, I also feel thankful that Randy and I both grew up poor. Our approach to life and to finances is mostly similar. We don’t need the biggest, best, newest, because we’ve never had the biggest, best, newest. But we’ve always had enough.
TELL ME: What’s your approach to finances and inflation? Are you doing anything to cut costs?
© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
I can certainly empathize with you on this. I commute to work each day and plan to retire in two years is possible, but I may now have to extend that, due to current market impact on my retirement funds. I am much more careful now to spend ,and really think carefully about most purchases, even in places where I never did before. you are wise not to give up chocolate, these small treats are what we look forward to. like you, there was a time when I was a single mom, with minimum of money and I am always grateful for what I do have, even in challenging times. I never take it for granted. we will get through this.
Yes, we will get through this. That is the hope.
We have been tightening the belt straps since the pandemic hit. There was supply chain issues and a little bump in prices back then. I try to shop smart in regards to groceries and try to not get excessive with driving with having to drive into work every day (at least my commute is short). Really have to be strategic and decide what is needed and that be enough for the time being. I am grateful my partner has a similar mind set too – that truly helps. Happy Weekend – Enjoy 🙂
It sounds like you are being smart about finances, doing your best in these difficult times. I’m thankful you and your partner also share a similar mindset.
We’ve never felt like we had to have the newest or the best, although I am fussy about some things like shoes and cookware. Better stuff does last longer. So we’ve tried to buy the best we can for things that we know we’ll have for a long, long time. What we’ve always been clear about is that we don’t need a big house, big cars, a boat (we can rent one for the occasional water ride!) or a cabin (again, we can rent one!). Our money philosophy has always been hand-in-hand with our environmental concerns. We do love to eat out, but I cook a lot (I love to), so that’s all balanced, too. One thing I’ve learned by traveling outside the U.S. is that things here don’t cost as much as we think. Go somewhere else and see what gas and food costs; it’ll change your perspective. Above all, be grateful.
It sounds like you take a sensible approach to finances that matches your values. As always, I value your insights.
Audrey: My last gas purchase in California, a couple days ago, totaled $67.22 for 11.795 gallons at $5.699/ gallon at Costco. Richard
Yikes, Richard. I guess I shouldn’t be complaining about gas prices in Minnesota.
My 8 year old car gets 56 mpg. Prius.
I buy beef from a local guy. He sells it by the cut so I don’t have to buy a half or a quarter which is too much for us.
Chicken? Same thing. Buy it from a gentleman farmer and former student about 1/4 mile away. Big chickens and in both cases beef and chicken, no transportation costs.
Eggs? Same thing. Stores are frequently cheaper for eggs.
My son’s garden; lettuce, cucumbers tomatoes.
I, too, have zero debt, I also am losing my shirt on investments.
I highly recommend straight from the supplier. Much higher quality.
Larry, I agree that straight from the supplier equals much higher quality. Good for you to have found those local sources for beef and chicken that are affordable and sold in quantities you can consume. We should chat sometime about those sources. I do shop the area farmers’ markets.
Good for you to also have zero debt and drive that 56 mpg Prius. As far as investments, yeah, it’s disheartening to see all that money vanish, poof, right around/in retirement.
I am thinking on doing a blog on our prices. Now that the $=€ then everyone can see they are feeling the pain but in Europe it is way more expensive.
Growing up with enough (not poor, as my mother reminded me) we had fresh vegetables, meat, and a roof over our heads and clothes to wear! Hummm… I use to think “what does that have to do with anything when all the other kids had “nice new stuff”.
With my lifetime of experience I now realize how it was a good lesson to live with just what we needed.
Good thing you guys have most everything free and clear, don’t think most Americans can say that.
I look forward to your post. And, yes, your mom was right. We weren’t poor in the sense that we had everything we needed. I fully agree with that.