Disclaimer: These comments are intended to apply to those who are fortunate enough to not be living in poverty. The poor, being the most severely hurt by inflation, deserve all the help they, sadly, are unlikely to get. The rest of us are not worthy of pity.
When we invaded Iraq without provocation, the ultra-patriotic, flag waving supporters of that supreme folly, claimed to justify the lives and treasure we poured down that bottomless pit with the catchphrase “Freedom isn’t free.” The fact is, we were not fighting for freedom in Iraq and Iraq was no threat to us or our freedom. Ukrainians, on the other hand, are actually fighting for their freedom, and, if they fall, freedom all over the world will be threatened.
Tragic though our losses in the Middle Eastern wars were, the average American suffered no financial hardships as a result of them.
“Freedom isn’t free.” Let our flag wavers now remember those words, because the freedom of a nation that is actually democratic is hanging by a thread. Unfortunately, the sanctions we imposed to help Ukraine are driving inflation that was already on the rise due to the consequences of Covid.
Like everyone else, I am well aware of how much more the necessities of life are costing us these days, and, like everyone else, every time I pass a gas station or go food shopping I am reminded of it.
There’s something about the price of gas that gets people more upset than the cost of other consumer products. Let’s put it in perspective. First of all, the cost of gas in real dollars is not much higher than it has ever been, and, for decades, we have been spoiled by prices that are much lower than prices drivers in other countries have long been accustomed to paying.
How much more does $4-plus per gallon prices cost consumers? The average driver puts 14,000 miles on their car annually. That’s 1167 miles per month. If they are among the many who, for reasons I cannot fathom, are driving a gas guzzler that gets 12.5 miles per gallon, they use 90 gallons per month. If they are driving a vehicle that gets 25 miles per gallon, 47 gallons per month. If they’d had the good sense to purchase a hybrid vehicle, which can serve the needs of most people perfectly well, they are using 23 gallons per month.
At $3.50 per gallon the ultra-guzzler costs $315 per month to drive. At $4.50, $405. An increase of $90 per month, $1080 per year.
At $3.50 the medium guzzlers cost $164 monthly. At $4.50, $211. An increase of $47 per month, $564 per year.
The hybrid at $3.50 costs $80 and at $4.50, $103 monthly. An increase of $23 per month and a measly $276 per year more, less than the cost of one month of the average wifi, cable and cell phone contract ($344) that could easily by reduced by comparison shopping and giving up some premium features.
For the average person driving one of the two guzzler classes, the increase in the cost of gas might seem to be a lot of money. But let’s look at some other numbers.
Prior to current inflation, the average household’s per person monthly cost of supermarket food was $250 and their restaurant and take out monthly expenditure was $200. Suppose they cut their purchases of restaurant food in half. Savings: $100 per month, $1,200 per year. Guzzlers rejoice. Your increased gas cost is now more than covered. Yes, food is more expensive. But the average family wastes $1,086 per year on food they let go to waste and throw out. Cooking from scratch instead of buying convenience foods and a little more care and planning on how they shop and handle food would more than cover the higher food prices.
The typical bar tab per person is $61. If a couple reduces evenings out at a bar by only one time per month they save $122 monthly or $1,464 per year.
If a person smokes one pack a day they are literally burning up $200 per month while at the same time increasing their health care costs exponentially. Cut down to a half pack and save $100 a month or $1200 per year. Quit and you double the savings to $2,400 and get healthy to boot. This applies largely to lower income people who tend to smoke more than the better well- to-do. For them, just quitting cigarettes can literally make the difference between meeting rent payments and joining the ranks of the homeless.
The cost of going to a movie theater for a family of 4 including ridiculously expensive popcorn and drinks is in excess of $65 per family. If they attended one less movie per month the annual savings would be $780. Just skipping the snacks would save $300. in contrast, the cost of basic streaming and a DVD contract with Netflix is less than $20 per month, and all the movies eventually become available. If that family just waited a little while to see the latest blockbusters they would save a walloping amount of money, the exact amount depending on how often they attend movie theaters. Let’s say they go to the movies twice a month and stop going to them altogether. They save $110 monthly or $1,320 annually. While I find home viewing much more pleasant than theater attendance and have not been in a movie theater for years, I can understand that some people feel differently, but if you insist on spending your grocery and gas money at the theater, please don’t cry “poor” to me.
You can probably think of many more minor sacrifices that can save you money, But just looking at the examples above and doing the math should make it clear that most of us can cope with higher prices by simply putting up with a little, non-life threatening, self-deprivation.
Any degree of self-deprivation, of course, doesn’t fly well for the poor benighted souls sitting here in comfort and safety while their counterparts in Ukraine are being murdered. They just can’t fathom a life not filled with everything their little hearts desire.
Let me remind them of their own words: “Freedom isn’t free.”
They said it. Now let’s see them put their money where their mouths are.