Trickling Economics

Well, gosh Beave. Since everyone else is talking about economics these days, it’s time for me to throw my (gorgeous, handknitted) hat in the ring. While I do realize that I’m not a lettered expert in the subject, considering where the experts are getting us these days, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

While I love being in the midst of nature, there aren't a lot of people out there, so I do a lot of my networking in the grocery store. Last Light in Zion by Steve Henderson

Today’s pontifications originate in the grocery store, my preferred locale of random human intereaction, where I fell into conversation with a woman who mentioned a new eatery in town.

“Oh, the prices are reasonable,” she assured me. “A half-sandwich, a piece of fruit, and beverage came to just over seven dollars.”

Maybe it had something to do with my surroundings, but I’m thinking that I could slap some deli lunch meat on a piece of bread, grab an apple, do my teeth a favor by skipping the pop, and have several dollars left over for the “I need more yarn because I never have enough” fund.

Does this sound weird to you?

I ask because, through the years, we get incredulous looks from people when we admit that no, we haven’t tried out the new pizza place. We make soup from scratch. Haven’t seen the latest movie yet because we can easily wait nine months and rent the DVD, which by that time won’t be assessed New Feature charges any more.

“Don’t you people live?” we are constantly asked.

“Don’t you people budget?” I have always wanted to retort, with that sweet, gentle smile of mine.

Bill and I just don't fly around in the same circles -- there are far fewer empty pizza carryout boxes in our trash than there are in his. Heading Home by Steve Henderson

It is fundamental reality that most of us are not related to Bill Gates — unless you want to go all the way back to Adam and Eve, but I don’t think Bill takes this seriously — and we operate under limited funds, the majority of which are already designated for property/income/payroll/sales taxes, auto/life/health/insurance payments, utility bills and their roster of attendant fees, gasoline, the monthly mortgage, and dog food. Are we having fun yet?

What’s left over we splurge on stuff like prescription glasses, a visit from the plumber, four new tires, and light bulbs for the bathroom.

Oh, and there’s food.

While I don’t go around asking other people what they make, I do hear complaints about how it never goes far enough, and I am properly sympathetic — because of that tax, fee, and insurance premium thing — until I notice the year, model, and number of vehicles they drive; the quantity of empty carryout boxes spilling from their overflowing garbage can; the regular garbage bags of really nice clothes that they pass on to our tribe not because their own progeny has outgrown them, but because the stripe on the side is a different color this season.

I understand the desire to have new, fun stuff, and if we weren’t already obligated to pay for demanding intangibles that we can’t see or really enjoy, then I’d probably splurge on more of it, but with the little bit we have left over, we make soup, setting aside funds — for emergencies, for a highly anticipated family outing, for an automobile purchase five years in the future. We try hard not to be judgmental, but at the same time, we find it hard to be sympathetic when the same people who call us boring moan because their hours got cut down, and they’re seriously considering cutting cable TV. (Our TV, a cast-off, lies silent until 99 cent DVD Thursdays.)

This is economics: most of what we make is taken up by purchases that do not directly benefit our daily lives.

Much of our paycheck is pre-designated to areas that have no direct impact upon our daily lives. Summer Breeze by Steve Henderson

Because individuals — unlike government — cannot create more money out of nothing, we are forced to make do with what we have, meaning that

1) We can’t buy everything we see, but

2) We can still have special, beautiful things if

3) We don’t fritter it all away in little increments first.

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About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. In addition to her This Woman Writes blog, Carolyn writes a regular art column for FineArtNews, an online newsletter for artists and art collectors.
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4 Responses to Trickling Economics

  1. Wow. I really relate to this post. My husband and I moved up here to a more out-of-the-way spot seven years ago because we were able to afford to have two acres and build my art studio with money saved by NOT getting a place where property is expensive. We travel once a week down to “civilization” to purchase what we can’t grow in the garden and visit the library for DVD’s which is what we watch on television, having eliminated the satellite and/or cable connection quite some time ago. We make our own soup, sphagetti sauce, stir frys, casseroles, pies, cookies, and other things – a lot is from canning stuff from the garden ourselves. We are vegan so buy no meat or dairy. Drive a six year old hybrid car and Bob has a five year old pickup truck with a cap for his chimney sweep/ property maintenance business. We go canoeing or biking in summer but not anywhere on cruise ships. I last traveled by plane to visit my son in Rochester, NY two years ago…hope to save up to see him again soon. We both READ all the time too…and I paint in my studio…give lessons…meet sometimes with a group of fellow art enthused people down in the civilized world. I sew and knit and embroider…find stuff at second hand shops if we really need something. Bob downloads music and has an impressive CD collection; plays his horns and guitars and our piano often. People wonder if we’re bored too! We are never bored. We hike with our three dogs every morning on our mountain trail. There is no time to be bored. And we believe in living within our means and not getting things that exploit others whenever possible. We couldn’t care less if we never saw another shopping mall again!

    • Reading through the many and varied things that you do and enjoy, I sit agape that anyone would even THINK that you get bored. What is it that people are doing, or not doing, that your array of interests and acitivities would seem boring? You sound happy, busy, and content — and more people are looking at what you’re doing than you could possibly imagine. I hope that they can catch the virus of your vivacity!

  2. Jana Botkin says:

    Dyn-O-Mite, Carolyn! You are singing my song (a sandwich or yarn? Yarn every time!) We make pizza from scratch and don’t know how to use the DVD player which was a (ridiculous)gift (from us to us) a year ago, so no need to rent movies!

    I’m reading a book called “Weird” by Craig Groeschel and just finished his section on this very subject.

    And, here’s my take on stuff. The more stuff I own, the more stuff breaks, the more I lose, the busier I feel, and the less I am able to enjoy the stuff I already have.

  3. Jana — the more stuff you own, the more it has to be dusted as well. Except yarn, of course, which can be neatly stored away until its intended use.

    Some people dream about spending the night in a grocery store, eating their way through all that food. Me? I think it would be cool to spend the night in a yarn shop, just looking at and touching all that amazing fiber!

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