A dollar sure doesn’t buy what it used to and most middle class Americans are feeling the squeeze. Most of us are seeing a financial decline in our life and whatever household income we have. A trip to the grocery store can be a depressing event when working within a budget because food has gotten more expensive. We either see a direct price increase or we see smaller packages with less of the product inside. Even going to and from the grocery store has gotten more expensive. When we get gas for our vehicles, we see that gas has doubled in price from just 4 years ago. Electricity has gotten more expensive, too, and many of us are looking at alternative ways to use less. Then there are those nifty items that we would like to purchase but can’t because there isn’t much money left after paying for necessities. How could this be? We keep hearing that we are in an economic recovery but the data does match up with real life. The decline of the middle class is real and it keeps getting worse.
New unemployment numbers have just been released and although it appears that the U.S. businesses are hiring and the unemployment rate is improving, all of the data is not being provided to show what’s going on all across America. For one, people who have stopped looking for work have been removed from the statistics that affect the unemployment data. As well, for those people who actually do find a job, they have often settled for a lesser-paying job. They’re employed, yes, but earning less money and perhaps only working part-time with no benefits. Welcome to the New America…a repeat of the Great Depression.
Without a full-time job, or the benefits that a full-time provides, many middle class Americans are being forced into a different lifestyle. We are living in difficult times. Some of us will adapt readily and some will have a very difficult time with the changes they face. There is no doubt that having to do without or settle for less is not the American Dream, but it is the American reality now. There are millions of Americans who have lost or will lose the home they once paid a mortgage on.
Middle class ‘wealth’ has plummeted in recent years and even those figures, and the price of homes are artificially inflated. At the start of 2013, 4 million homes were in financial distress (not yet foreclosed on or on the Multiple Listings) and are now considered part of the shadow housing inventory. This enormous quantity of homes not-yet-on-the-books has manipulated our ‘wealth’ even more through inflated home prices.
This is not good. And it won’t turn out well. Some middle class families will not recover and will be forced to file bankruptcy. Others may only need to budget their money to make ends meet. But the majority of middle class families will be forced to live on less money.
But make no mistake — no middle class family is immune. We are all affected.
Savings, retirements, property assets, and life plans have been affected in recent years. And now we are dealing with the issues involving the Federal Reserves money-pump known as Qualitative Easing. It’s too much! (And we haven’t even gotten to the real economic crisis and subsequent crash yet.) For most middle class people, the American reality is difficult to accept but what other choices do we have?
Well, for those of us who are able to do so, we must take control of what we CAN control: we can live on less. Since we are all feeling the income drop from the 2013 payroll tax and we are all seeing the devaluation of the US Dollar, we don’t have much choice about the problem — we must learn to live on less money.
There are many articles to help people figure out how to live on less money. Most of these articles are action-item oriented and they provide the expected list which always includes the modified budget, bargain shopping, DIY projects, and frugal tips. But most of the articles written on this subject neglect some of the most basic factors that can help people live on less. It’s about having the proper mindset.
A great deal of our personal happiness and success come from the right attitude. And being healthy also contributes to our overall outlook on life. Simply put, we need to be content within ourselves. We want to feel that we have a purpose. Some of us are laid-back while some of us are high maintenance, but no matter what our personality type is, we can all learn to have the right attitude to pursue our lives.
Frugality goes a long way when learning to live on less money. And bartering, otherwise known as swapping stuff, can also help to live on less money. Help neighbors: many hands make light the load.
Also, learning the difference between a “need” and a “want” is critical to learning how to live on less money. Before we decide to buy something we want, we must meet our needs.
If we get rid of our long list of desires and wants, we actually have very few needs. The important needs are shelter, food, water, health (mental, physical, spiritual), and safety. By focusing on our important needs, we can teach ourselves to live on less money. And the next time we are lured by an advertisement or we see something that a friend bought and we would like to have one, too, we just ask ourselves if that item is one of the important needs. Chances are, it isn’t….it’s an object or some type of a “want”, but it isn’t a necessity.
Once we can identify the differences between a “need” and a “want”, the consumer-driven lifestyle will fall to the wayside. At that point, everything seems so much simpler. Have you heard the phrase “a simple life”? People have been doing this for centuries.
When we have changed our mindset, our goals change and everything becomes simpler. And honestly, we CAN live on less.