As I’ve said a hundred times, there are no victims, only volunteers. When we volunteer to pay 300% more for something than what we could spend if we were more patient or proactive, then I consider that to be a self-inflicted price gouging wound. A real danger comes when we’re faced with the painful reality of such decisions in light of today’s economic stage. Attempting to ignore the consequences of seemingly innocent spending choices can literally make the difference between being financially strong or falling into a death spiral of financial ruin.
Throughout my close watch of economic events over the last three years, I have yet to find a single financial crisis that wasn’t self-inflicted. Every one of the notable failures could have been completely avoided with a small amount of prudence. Yes, that means that just in the last two years alone, over $30 TRILLION dollars of expense could have been completely avoided if people applied some basic common sense and eliminated the “I want it now!” mentality. $30 Trillion dollars may be just a tad bit disconnected from your personal household budget, but I assure you that the results of applying just a few disciplines will make as significant a difference to your household now as $30 Trillion is to the world.
I’m sure we’ve all had those moments in which we wondered how we could spend our hard-earned money so quickly and have very little to show for it. Well, the good news is that that there is opposition in all things. That which spends quickly can also save quickly and make a big difference in your state of financial preparedness. You may think you’re frugal now, but let’s see if you have some room for improvement—without feeling like you’re living like a depressed pauper.
First of all, let’s get our head in the right place. Being more fiscally responsible is clearly not the standard in our culture today. There’s a constant barrage of peer pressure beating at us each day on how we need to have this or spend that. But it’s critical that we remember that just because foolishness is rampant, it will never be successful in watering down the substance of truth. Instead of being swayed by the standard spending lifestyle, we need to stand firm in dismissing such a lifestyle from being relevant to our life. Just because “everyone is doing it” doesn’t make it right. It just means that a whole lot more suckers are falling for the latest delusional pitch. So don’t wait to find others who can lead the way towards better spending habits. Assume that YOU are the one who needs to step up and BE that example to others. And don’t worry if you’re not perfect about it. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. So don’t wait until you’ve got the perfect formula before you start blazing a trail to fiscal responsibility. You’ll help a lot of people right off the bat, including your family, long before you’ve perfected your disciplines.
The “I deserve it” mentality is nearly as dangerous to our fiscal world because the problem is that yes, folks deserve the good that comes their way, but very few actually know what good is, and so they settle for a lot of worst case scenarios. There will always be a cacophony of convincing voices to support us in our rationalization for needless spending. But the voice that folks need to hear is rationale, sound, and so obvious. While the McDonald’s commercials tout their newest 1/3 pound Angus burger for only $5.99, a person who has their head screwed on properly will recognize that this means they’re paying $18 a pound for meat which has the added weight of water as well as a substantial side of ammonia to prevent e-coli poisoning. $18 a pound? I don’t even pay that much for filet mignon cuts from Omaha Steaks! And here folks have been convinced that McDonald’s is the “every man’s restaurant.” Really? How many men do you know that would be willing to pay $18 a pound for any kind of a meal, let alone one that’s rife with a proven history of compromised health?
When it comes to price gouging in the food industry, I feel that we are definitely our own worst enemies. My goal this year was to cook more and spend less on food regardless of my mood, time restraints, etc. For starters, processed foods typically only consist of 40% actual food and the rest is comprised of fillers. (See Taco Bell’s latest food fiasco, revealing that their “meat” only consists of 35% actual beef!) So when we purchase these items we’re automatically volunteering to pay a sizeable increase for the actual “food.” Once I finally realized that I could cook a high quality meal in less time than it took me to go through a drive-thru and for less than 30% of the cost, I decided it was high time I stopped destroying my own power over the dollar. I used to go to a restaurant that made amazing risotto. I even craved it and didn’t bat an eye paying $8 for it—quite reasonable, I thought. But when I realized that I could make even better Italian four-cheese risotto in only 10 minutes with my pressure cooker and for a quarter of the price, my awareness of my spending habits became a bit clearer. Even if I have a particular craving for a dish for which I may not have all of the ingredients, it still costs me less to send the hubby to the store to get what I need, in both time and money.
It’s a bit ironic to me to hear folks claim that they can’t afford to purchase sufficient items for preparedness, particularly food. And yet these are the same people who volunteer to pay $18 for a pound of hydrogenated garbage only to wash it down with a half liter of carbonated aspartame. I frequently hear the argument that freeze-dried food is too expensive, and yet a little bit of math and logic will show a person that a #10 can of freeze-dried blueberries at even $35 is substantially less expensive than an equivalent amount of fresh blueberries but comes lacking in the pesticides and other nasty chemicals, requires no refrigeration, and won’t bruise and go to waste in only a couple of days—all while maintaining a higher percentage of nutrition than even some of the fresh produce available.
If the size of the product we purchased at fast food and other restaurants reflected only the REAL food product contained therein, we’d undoubtedly never go back again. Purchasing poor quality food devoid of any nutritional merit is just one more way that we volunteer for a nasty price gouge whipping. Surely none of us would tolerate a 300% increase in our fuel prices and yet we embrace this kind of increase in so much of what we buy otherwise. The same goes for our entertainment, clothing, household goods, medical expenses, and groceries. The day before the day that I bring home 6 containers of my preferred deodorant and bath soap, was the product in a superior condition or larger or more pure? Then what happened to the product to cause it to cost me only a 20th of its original price overnight—thanks to a well-timed sale combined with some coupons? What’s the difference in value between the $98,000 worth of medical testing just to identify the problem versus the everyday products I could use to control and prevent the problem from ever becoming an issue?! Such foolishness on my part has a very costly consequence not just in the medical bills, the co-pays, the increase in my insurance every year because of so many other dingbats just like me, the quality of life and productivity that I missed out on because I didn’t take time to evaluate the real cost of my slothfulness, the cost of the medications, and also the consequences of the chemicals I’m prescribed to put into my body which bring their own set of complications. Ah, the difference between one and the other is self-respect, discipline, awareness and a commitment to stop playing the role of the foolish victim.
Look, I firmly believe that we are in for some pretty steep prices in our food costs soon as well as a continued degradation of the quality of that food. So how about we get our lives in order now and start being smart with our financial resources and focus on stabilizing the value of our dollar by stocking up on supplies, knowledge, and discipline so that we will no longer be an easy target for pillage and plunder? I’m game. Are you?
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