Are you better off than you were a decade ago? In terms of real wages, I’m making about what I did when I was 26, and I’m now 40. Granted, a lot of that is self-inflicted, so I really can’t complain. I gave up salary for flexibility, and the opportunity to take risks on new and interesting things with bigger potential payout down the road. But I have to admit, as I get older, it gets harder and harder to sacrifice forÂ uncertain future rewards than when I was in my twenties.
That’s the one side of the coin. As I’ve have to be more careful about finances, the other side of the equation is undeniable: inflation. The powers that be decided that food and energy prices are too volatile, so they should not be calculated into the official rate of inflation. If you listen to those charlatans, inflation has been non-existent. But when I look at my own finances, the big things that stand out (other than the mortgage and taxes) are food and energy. I’m spending way more in those categories than I was a decade ago, as a percentage of my income.
In 2011, when I lost the high-paying job after the company went tits up, we decided to start eating more meals at home, and eat out less. Sure, it did save money overall, but my grocery bill shot way up to compensate. It was still a net savings, but the grocery bill offset more than IÂ expected! Ordering out some pizza or cheesesteaks every once in a while, it turns out, is reasonably competitive with cooking at home.
Sure, if you can subsist on a diet of hot dogs and ramen, you can do pretty well, but if you cook meals at home as to not bore yourself, it will cost you some money. Eating on the outside of the grocery store? Yeah, that’s some shit invented by rich hippies with money to burn. I don’t find it to be cheap, even if you’re good at meal planning. I realized this summer I am mostly priced out of the beef market. I usually like to smoke a brisket at least once in the BBQ season, but not this year. Last summer we enjoyed several nights of grilled ribeye, but not this year. I haven’t had beef that wasn’t ground in some time. Fortunately, my mother taught me how to make a mean meatloaf, but I have to admit to missing steak.
How is the great recession treating you? Are you better off now than a decade ago? Is food and energy inflation pinching you? And let’s not even get into whiskey prices! It’s almost enough to turn a fella into a populist!