"People who see themselves primarily as victims are doomed." -- Louise Erdrich, "The Sentence"

Saturday, May 14, 2022

It Costs How Much?!?

     We toyed with the idea of taking a special vacation this summer. Back in March my daughter in Wisconsin talked about traveling to Italy and wondered if we'd like to join them for a few days.

     A vacation in Italy? Sounded pretty cool. I checked American Airlines. A round-trip ticket was $985. Expensive, but doable.

     We didn't hear any more about the trip from my daughter, so we didn't do anything about it. Then last week, she brought it up again. I went back to American Airlines. Oops . . . now the round-trip fare is $1,359! It's gone up by over $300 per person. And if the airfare has gone up, so too have the hotels, restaurants and anything else we'd want to do.

     So we're not going to Italy this summer.

    We paid $504 to fly to Wisconsin in March. Now I was curious. So I checked. The price is now $622. I'm not sure if we'll be going to Wisconsin this summer either. (And with gas at $4.59 driving isn't any better.)

     It's not like we canceled our trip to Italy. We hadn't actually made the plans. It's just that we decided not to do it.

     I wonder what you're deciding not to do because prices have gone up.

     We are trying to save in other ways as well. We already cut back to one car last summer. And boy, it definitely helps the budget not to have to come up with that second car payment . . . plus insurance, registration, upkeep. And besides, with gas prices the way they are, we've actually been driving less.

     I don't think it's been a conscious decision. But instinctively, we've been walking more, batching trips, going to our local supermarket rather than making the drive over to Costco. I bought a garden rake and bag of grass seed at our local hardware store, because I didn't think it was worth driving down to Home Depot. I'd save a couple of bucks at Home Depot; but spend the savings on gasoline.

     We haven't let go any of our newspaper or magazine subscriptions. But we were remarking just the other day:  the Sunday NY Times now costs $6.00. For one lousy newspaper! We'll be looking at those subscriptions as they come up for renewal. Do we actually read them? Do we really value what they have to say?

     We will not cancel Netflix or Amazon. We watch a fair amount of TV on those two services. (I'm watching the latest season of Better Call Saul; B is watching Old Enough; and together we're watching Friday Night Lights.) 

     But ordinarily, we might be signing up for HBO Max or possibly Hulu. Not now. Netflix and Amazon have both raised their prices, and we surely don't need another streaming bill layered on top of everything else.

     I read recently that overall prices have gone up 8.3% since this time last year. The "typical" American family is spending $340 more per month just to keep up with the basics.

     The cost of food is up 9.4%. We're still eating pretty well. That's important to us, and so we pay the price. But we got out of the restaurant habit when Covid arrived two years ago. Lately, we've been thinking of going back now that the weather is warmer and we can eat outside. The other day we talked about going downtown to one of the outdoor venues. But then we thought -- nah, let's just do takeout. So we didn't drop $50 or $60 on a restaurant meal, we instead spent $18 for takeout from our local chicken place. 

     So to deal with inflation, we're cutting back on travel, driving, restaurants, streaming services. Are you doing anything to economize these days?

     A lot of us are on fixed incomes, so maybe you always have an eye toward economizing. Some people make a game of it -- whether it's clipping coupons, scouring Amazon or shopping the flea markets and seasonal sales. Others consciously limit their purchases to try to save the earth. If you don't eat meat, it not only saves money, it saves the planet.

     But for us these days, it's the prices that are setting the rules of the game.


Arkansas Patti said...

Covid and prices have made me change a lot of what I do. We just jumped over 4 dollars for gas so now I am really making trips count. We just have to be willing to adjust these days. I went to a restaurant for the first time in 2.5 years yesterday and was rather pleased with the prices. Luckily it was a senior's get together and we were given a room to ourselves.

Gail, northern California said...

Friends are going to Germany for three weeks. They're in their mid-seventies. They believe this will be his last trip back to his ancestral home. While they're away their dog will stay with me. It will save them the cost of a kennel. Not one-sided by any means. She supplies me with lovely produce from her garden.
I don't buy clothes anymore. It's pointless when the clothes I already have are fine.
In every way I possibly can, I support anything and everything that's local. Just today I got my car washed and vacuumed by the local Charter School kids. My $10 donation will help them with their sports programs, and I enjoy being around young kids. Win-win.

ApacheDug said...

After reading all of this, I can't get over the fact that your Sunday paper costs $6.00! I know the New York times is the cream of the crop, but I can't wrap my head around that.

Hjack said...

Not going to Wisconsin either. Our favorite places are Door County, Sheboygan (great and beautiful little town), and then on up to Marquette, MI and Presque Isle. Too far, too expensive.
We just returned from a 4 day trip to the Smokey Mountains of eastern Tennessee, northeastern Georgia and very, very western part of North Carolina. Just a wonderful tour of rural and southern America. Not too expensive either.
And we did it and never used the Interstate system. Just the 2 of us, moseying, and having a good time. Dear wife loves rocks so she spent a good deal of time wading in mountain streams and rivers collecting her jewels in the surprisingly warmish waters.
Maybe this fall to Wisconsin??
Another possibility is a trip to Vicksburg/Natchez, Mississippi and St Francisville, LA. this fall. Who knows.

Olga said...

It is a shock to grocery shop these days.

Red said...

I like your conclusion. It's now the prices and money that controls spending habits. You show quite a few easy things to do to cut down on spending.

Miss Merry said...

Staying home all that time during Covid really showed us how we fritter away money on small things. How much else did I pick up at Walmart when I went in for one thing? How many week nights did we head to a local restaurant for the "special"? Cooking at home is our new norm and filling our freezer with a side of beef means we can cook really good meals at reasonable prices. I averaged out the cost per pound and we are eating steak for less than two burgers and fries (and beverages and tip) at a restaurant.

We found we like staying home and still are a little leery about traveling. We are consolidating trips and sometimes it is just as easy to have Amazon deliver it than drive out of our small town to a city with the major box stores.

Of course we would all like to see lower prices, but we are using some of your same ideas to just cut back.

Tom said...

Patti -- I've yet to find a restaurant around us that gives a senior discount; but the grocery store takes off 5% for seniors on Tuesdays. Hijack -- Was in Door County last summer; great place. Olga -- But you gotta eat! And Red -- Yeah, but who said it was so easy?!?

Hjack said...

Hi Tom. I remember that you were in Door County. Now you have to return with your grandchildren because you missed the restaurant with goats on the roof!
BTW, we live in Charleston,SC and we love our road-trips. Always avoid the Interstates and travel the old “Blue Highways”.
Little bit longer but so much nicer.

Anonymous said...

This winter I kept the thermostat lower and dressed warmer; I'll do the reverse for this summer. I eat a mostly plant based diet (for health reasons) but even the cost of fruits and veggies has sky rocketed.
Once a week I travel 2 hours away to help my niece with child care. Wouldn't change this for the world. But I've turned my driving habits into a contest (with myself) to see how fuel efficient I can be.


Rian said...

We don't get out much these days except to pick up groceries or something necessary for house maintenance... maybe twice a week... so the gas prices haven't hit us too hard. We fill up only once or twice a month.

Groceries have definitely gone up quite a bit. What we've had to do more is cut out traveling to see our family and budget out home maintenance projects to extend them out over the year.

Our big purchase this year was a home generator as we have little faith in the Texas Grid. And we're not too worried about another Arctic Freeze... more about triple digits in the summer. We do keep the thermostat pretty economical winter and summer.

Priscilla said...

We live at the beach in San Diego, so really no need for us to go too far anymore. I take the train 2X a wk to help my daughter w/daycare & it's a little adventure! We've made our home & yard a wonderful place to live in & have really begun to just accept that life is good right here. Living within our means has always been a priority. We've lived & traveled to much of the USA & are pretty content now with not going far. Food's insane, as is gas. Costco gas is $5.78 gal & it really makes us think before we drive much. Hopefully, things will improve soon. Sure makes me want to hide under the covers most days!

AWmom said...

We live in Chicago where everything was high before this but now we time out sales and stock up whenever we see a good price ..The average sale has gone from seeeing things on sale every 4;weeks to 7 or 8 weeks. We also time our outings to off times mostly from 11;to2 with senior menus. Our family has decided to have more outdoor activities too.

Celia said...

I live in a small town and only fill up the gas tank about once a month. Still I was shocked when I got my fill up last week. The New York Tmes, I get it daily, including Sunday, on line for $4.00 a month. Might be worth it for you to look into. I do kind of miss the feel of a "real" paper from time to time recalling Sunday papers with my kids but then they are all grown up and reading online too.

David @iretiredyoung said...

In reality, it makes sense to think about what we're spending whether prices are going up or not, after all, what sense does it make to pay for something we don't value. But, for sure it is easier to be motivated to do so when we see things getting more expensive.

For me, I follow a vegan lifestyle and try to limit my use of plastics etc (very far than perfect on this though), and am often frustrated how expensive this can be. It seems that manufacturers and retailers realise that they can charge ethical purchasers a higher price, which doesn't seem right to me.

By the way, when you said that you checked American Airlines prices, is that all you checked, or did you look at the prices of other airlines too? There can be big differences, particularly if you are happy to not go direct which to Europe probably doesn't add more than a few hours (and being retired, we can generally afford a couple of extra hours!).

Rita said...

As a journalist, I'll argue that you continue to support The New York Times. Newspapers are having tough financial times due to reduced advertising. It's important to support newspapers to get the real news. It's disheartening and upsetting that Tucker Carlson on Fox News has the most popular TV program in America where he makes things up just to get ratings. Have you heard the one about laser treatments to up your sperm count

Jennifer (UnfoldAndBegin) said...

Last year, we were able to get back to Connecticut for vacation. We were able to see my son and his father and sister. Plus I saw my brother and sister and a lot of cousins. But this year, he just started a new position so I don't even know if he gets vacation time. I still have two weeks but I expect all will be staycations. Since moving to a beach town...I'm ok with that.

Linda Myers said...

For the first time in a bunch of years, we're paying a $1,650 hospital bill in 12 installments. Don't want to have to take out investment money at their current value. We used to get a massage once a week and now it's about once a month. My son drove our car from Tucson to Seattle last week (we flew with the cat), and with two ebikes on a rack behind, got only about 23 miles a gallon rather than our usual 37. So we're being more careful. Grateful to have the food and shelter we have, and things to do close to home.

We are going on a two-week Road Scholar small ship cruise in late June and early July, but those expenses were paid for several months ago.

Laurie Stone said...

You're not alone. Randy and I are also thinking of ways to tighten our belts. Amex is always the biggest money grabber so we think twice about restaurants we really don't care about or spending on anything frivolous. It's amazing what you can save being more conscious.

Jackie M said...

I'm with Rita. Support the Times, even online, and whatever local paper you have in your area. Newspapers are disappearing, either going out of business due to increased expenses or being bought up by conglomerates that will strip it down within a year and control the content.

Rebecca Olkowski said...

Those airline prices are so discouraging. If they are that expensive flying from the East, I can only imagine what they are flying from California. I usually fly with my daughter who uses points because she travels pretty frequently.

Wisewebwoman said...

I make a lot more soups to freeze and if I'm having a wonky day, I just sit down to peel and chop the veggies. I try and tie all trips in car down to one. I was staggered that a bag of apples, in the Before Times were $4.99 are now $9.99. I am conscious of waste so careful in how I plan my meals. On a fixed income it's enormously challenging.