If There’s No Inflation How Come Our Insurance Premiums are Exploding?

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Within the past 30 days we’ve gotten two pieces of disturbing news on the insurance front. The first is that our health insurance premium is going up by about 25% for 2019. The second is that our home insurance just tripled. They’re not just rising, our insurance premiums are exploding.

Now all the “official sources” are saying there’s no inflation out there, or something close to it. According to US Inflation Calculator.com the year-to-date inflation rate for 2018 is just 2.5%. That figure is certainly based on official statistics, like the change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

If There’s No Inflation How Come Our Insurance Premiums are Exploding?
If There’s No Inflation How Come Our Insurance Premiums are Exploding?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve become increasingly cynical about official statistics. According to John Williams’ Shadow Government Statistics, the real rate of inflation is about 6%, based on the way it was calculated in 1990.

That’s closer to the truth, but it still doesn’t capture the inflation rate in certain broad categories. When you look at what’s happening with health care, education, utilities, and certain types of insurance coverage, the numbers are well into double digits.

I’ve written about the likelihood of bogus inflation statistics in the past, but the continuation of this farce is frustrating.

It’s another of those topics where I’d rather be wrong.

Our Health Insurance Gouge

Fortunately, we have our health insurance coverage through my wife’s employer. We’re responsible to pay only the employee portion, and not the entire premium. In that respect, the increase isn’t as bad as it seems at first glance.

We’ve experienced the crushing burden of paying a monthly premium of nearly $2,000 in 2017, after my wife lost her job and we had to go on the COBRA plan. (I often wonder if the sponsors of that program ever considered the irony of that moniker, and how truly “venomous” that program would become, but I digress.)

What’s perhaps most disturbing about the increase is that there’s been no corresponding increase in benefits. We’re still on the hook for up to $5,500 per person out-of-pocket, and still we got a 25% increase in the premium.

And even though the increase is minimized, only applying to our portion of the total premium, there’s still plenty to be concerned about with that increase.

I don’t want to paint our situation as unnecessarily dire. We’ll absorb that increase. But there are two factors looming in the background that can’t be ignored:

  1. Double-digit Increases in health insurance premiums have become routine. This year’s 25% increase may be followed by a 25% increase in 2020, or maybe even 50%. The trend is downright predatory.
  2. If my wife loses her job, we’ll be stuck in another COBRA situation. Should that happen, we’ll experience the full weight of the increase on the entire premium. That’s in addition to the fact that a COBRA plan administrator is legally entitled the tack on a 15% administrative fee.

There are no alternatives either. My wife and I are too young for Medicare, which will send us to the health insurance exchange. More misery awaits there.

The Home Insurance Gouge

The percentages on this increase or much uglier, but that’s mitigated by the fact that the premium was much smaller to begin with. But a tripling of the rate?

As best I can tell, that’s the change in premium after I cut back on certain coverages. If I kept it at the level it’s always been, the premium increase would have been four or five times higher.

We’ve had the same home insurance for the past four years. But about a month ago we got a notice from the carrier informing us we are being dropped. And mind you, we’ve never had a claim.

We could shop for a new carrier, at least in theory. But there’s a complication.

Our home insurance is bundled with our auto insurance. Our auto insurance carrier isn’t the home insurance carrier. Instead, they contract home insurance out to another provider. The reason our policy was dropped was because our auto insurance company severed its ties with the home insurance company.

Whatever we might save in switching to a different carrier, we would lose from the bundling discount we get for having the home and auto policies together. Checkmate!

When I contacted our auto insurance provider about this situation at the very beginning, they assured me the rate on the new home policy would be comparable. I guess that was a canned public relations response. Reality certainly went in a different direction.

You’ve gotta tip your hat to these insurance companies. They really know how to lock us into no-way-out arrangements. They’ve got the lid on so tight that while you “always have a choice”, you really don’t.

The Silver Lining: Our Auto Insurance Premium Dropped

As proof of the saying “God will not give you more than you can handle” (loosely from 1 Corinthians 10:13), our auto insurance premium is falling on renewal.

It’s slated to drop by about $30 per month. But to put that in perspective, that represents less than a quarter of the increase we’re experiencing with home and health insurance.

It’s also worth noting that the auto insurance premium isn’t dropping out of the goodness of insurance company’s heart. It’s only happening because a moving violation my son had about four years ago is finally falling off our collective records.

We’re certainly glad for any relief we can get. But as you can see, one doesn’t offset the others. After crunching all the numbers, we’re still taking a big hit on the net increase.

Where Will This End?

I’d love to say that price spiral will come to an end. But that hasn’t been true during my conscious lifetime, which goes back to about the 1970s. We had inflation then, and we have it now. It declined from the 1970s to the 1980s, and it’s generally been better behaved. But it hasn’t disappeared.

A big part of what has changed is the way inflation is being reported. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has employed a number of techniques to produce a lower inflation rate, starting in the early 1980s.

In addition to substituting less expensive alternatives for certain categories (for example, that people might switch to chicken from beef), there’s also a neat strategy called hedonics. That’s where the BLS “adjusts” price levels to accommodate higher product quality.

There are two problems with this practice. The first is that improvements in quality are highly subjective. For example, the price of a particular product rises by 10%, and they say there was an 8% improvement in quality. That means the net price increase was 2%. Taking it to the extreme, they can even say the quality improvement was 12%, resulting in a 2% decline price.

The second is that it doesn’t account for a lack of alternatives. If a particular product has no alternative, and the nominal price rises by 10%, that’s the real rate of the price increase. Since I don’t have a choice to buy a cheaper alternative, I’m stuck paying the higher price. That’s the real rate of inflation no matter how it’s manipulated.

Those are just the technicalities of inflation. The very fact that the BLS employs those techniques is deeply disturbing in itself. If the real rate of inflation really was low, that kind of manipulation would be completely unnecessary.

Why Inflation is a MUCH Bigger Problem than Just Rising Prices

The very word “inflation” sounds almost trivial. But the outcome of it isn’t. This is especially true if the real rate is manipulated. If the official inflation rate is 3%, but the real rate is 5%, we face the following outcomes:

Inadequate pay raises. Pay increases are largely tied to the inflation rate. A 3% inflation rate means a 3% raise. But if the real rate of inflation is 5%, you’re falling behind by 2% each year. Over 10 years, you fall behind by 20%. This is why everyone feels the pressure of an economic squeeze. It’s not our imaginations, even if we can’t see what’s happening.

Social Security increases. Same situation here. Benefits are increased by increases in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). If that index reflects a 3% increase, but real price level increases are 5%, you just got a 2% reduction in benefits.

Income tax brackets. Tax Brackets are “indexed” for inflation. If the BLS reports the CPI is up 3%, the income levels for a particular tax bracket will increase by 3% to adjust for inflation. But if the real rate of inflation is 5%, your taxes are going up a bit. When you multiple that “little bit” by several years, you begin to appreciate the squeeze it produces.

Long-term planning, including retirement. Americans are obsessed with retirement. There are boatloads of retirement calculators and articles telling you how much money you’ll need to retire comfortably. Some take inflation into account, but when they do, it’s the lower official rate.

If the real rate is higher, you’ll arrive at retirement with inadequate savings. Worse, once you retire, the real rate of inflation will gradually eat away at both your retirement savings and income.

What’s the Right Strategy to Deal with “No Inflation” Inflation?

Unless you work in a job or a business that enables you to increase your income rapidly, inflation is a serious trap. I believe it’s one of the major reasons for all of the distortions and dysfunctions occurring throughout the country. People are struggling against an invisible economic force they neither understand, nor can recognize.

It puts us in a situation where we need to be perpetually engaged in two strategies:

That’s been the reality for at least the past decade. It seems it will continue for the foreseeable future. We don’t really have an option – we either continue working both strategies continuously, or we must get comfortable with a lower standard of living.

Do you have any similar inflation “war stories” to share? Expenses where inflation is being understated? What are you doing to deal with the problem no admits exists, but is our day-to-day reality?

( Photo by Paul Keller )

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69 Responses to If There’s No Inflation How Come Our Insurance Premiums are Exploding?

  1. I have also noticed that the size of most food products are shrinking but the prices stay the same or even rise slightly. I have doubts that the fact you pay the same for less is counted in the official statistics.

  2. Hi Brian – My wife and I were just talking about that yesterday. One pound of frozen vegetables is now 14.4 ounces, a 10% reduction. Guaranteed that’s not being factored into hedonics calculations. They’ll just cover it up by saying those vegetables are 10% better quality to offset the size reduction. And a lot of times the price goes up even as the quantity goes down.

    I’m also guessing that along with our health insurance premium increase there are also some reductions in service buried in the mix. They can take advantage of the fact that no one really understands a health insurance policy, or even reads it. But then who has time, or the ability to understand the technicalities. I have a friend in that business who I call or email every now and again when I come across provisions written in ancient Egyptian. That helps, but it doesn’t change the outcome.

  3. Prices don’t need to rise for their to be inflation. Let’s not forget the fact that are so called money ( paper ) is not real. It’s not pegged to anything. It looses value every year.

    If money we’re still pegged to gold their would be no inflation. Supply and demand would dictate price.
    The value of money would stay the same because you could not print more without the equal value of gold in the vault. If things become scarce then the price goes up. If their is to much of something it the price goes down.
    It used to be simple. When overall savings went down, interest rates went up to encourage savings. When nobody was spending rates started to fall to encourage spending. When rates fell it was a time to build. It was a a natural balance. Now with a free floating currency and zero percent interest rates their is no natural balance anymore.
    Now their is no correlation to value or supply of a product or service.

    You can go ten years without filing a claim. So your price should go down. Logic says your a lower risk. In a fiat currency regime like now. Price is a false indicator of value.

    Somebody explained to me once that inflation is just the year over year increase in the amount of dollars being printed. Prices are not rising as much as your money is losing value year over year.

    Everything will continue to rise year over year.

    Are money system is totally corrupt.

  4. The thing you describe with the bag of chips. It’s a good way to hide the inflation. They say look are prices don’t go up. Just put a fraction less filling in the oreo cookie. Or make the cookie part just a fraction thinner. Nobody really notices.

    We’re saying the same thing. You just say it in a more logical way that’s easier to understand.
    LOL

  5. Hi Tim – There’s also manufacturing goods with inferior parts. For example, I’ve noticed computers are increasingly subject to malfunctions. Same with washing machines and refrigerators. I’m hearing cheaper components are the cause. If they were balanced in the use of hedonics, it would reflect quality declines as well as improvements. That’s how we can know it’s a bogus methodology aimed at making the numbers prettier.

    I know what you mean about inflation from your first comment. Rising prices are just the end result. Increasing the money supply is the actual cause. In truth, if the money supply increases by 10%, the true rate inflation is 10%. What complicates it is that the price increases aren’t uniform. A gallon of milk stays at $2.59 for years, while health insurance, education, and utilities like cable, electric and cellphones go up in double digits.

    What also hides is it that we substitute. If beef is more expensive, we buy more pork. If salmon is more expensive, we buy haddock. If a new car is more expensive, we buy a used one, or hold on to the old one. By necessity, we all have our own strategies to minimize the effects of higher prices. I’m even hearing of people forgoing medical treatment because they can’t afford it. Or people doing self-repairs on cars because mechanics are too expensive.

  6. So count the ways
    Plastic in cars, not about light weight and gas savings. It’s cheaper for a car company to build a 1000 bumpers out of one mold.
    Plastic bottles instead of glass.
    Paperless billing, your told it saves trees. It might but they don’t care about trees. If you don’t have to print 1000’s of paper bills every month think about what money that saves.
    There are thousands of ways inflation shows up that people do not think of.

    Your right on the money about all the inferior parts used in everything now.

    There are many ways companies get around this. That’s the same way we should run are personal lives.

    I’m in the printing business. Ink is crazy expensive. I can’t keep raising the price of things so I’ll make the design a fraction smaller. It saves thousands a year on ink. Other wise I would cost myself right out of business.

    Your insurance premiums will never go down. You get less benefit or the same while paying more.
    Does not matter if you ever need it or use it.

    It’s a hidden tax. NY holds the line pretty good now on property taxes. So there is a thousand other ways they collect the same or more. Gas tax is 30 more cents a gallon here. A pack of cigarettes is 8.00. All the fees they charge to register anything. Thurway tolls. Are roads here are a mess.

    Inflation shows up everywhere. We don’t notice it or when we do it’s to late. Insurance and Health care put no shade on it. They know you have no options. Except to cancel and take your chances.

  7. You’re preaching to the choir here. The whole self-service concept – which is being sold as a consumer benefit – is squarely to benefit vendors. It means they need less staff, postage, insurance – everything.

    Tolls are one of my pet peeves. Over the years I’ve watched some go from $1 to $5 by raising them 50 cents a year at first, then a dollar. In time we’ll be paying $20 for a toll. NY will take the lead.

    Also, back in the last recession, municipalities and counties were have cops issue more traffic citations, and at higher levels, to offset declining property tax revenues (from foreclosures). In the process, they turned cops into de facto tax collectors. I don’t know if they’re still doing that. They were when we left Georgia in 2014, but I haven’t seen much of it in New Hampshire. The point is, those who can charge/collect more, will. And there’s not much we can do about it.

  8. Yes, the police presence on are roads are downright exhausting.
    NY is insane period. The Dailey fleecing that goes on this this state is exhausting.

  9. You made a point of having no choice but to deal with the unwanted premium costs rates which points out the problem that was mentioned but ignored by our lovely politicians. Healthcare insurers were dropping out of areas leaving a single insurer who “claims “ they need to increase premiums to be able to cover everyone. I won’t get into re-argument about this “claim” but if the healthcare marketplace would allowed the consumers (us) to choose any insurer rather than limited choice those premiums would have to decrease. I know that is totally contrary to plan in place which is why there has been such a blocking effort in place because of the extensive lobbying by the big insurance companies as they threaten to take away their ( our politicians) special reduced cost full coverage plans. No disrespect to the former Senator McCann but the main reason he voted No was the fact that he would lose the coverage he needed for his cancer treatment. There’s no concern for general public who have to pay market value costs. Remember that we are paying for our elected politicians coverage and for everyone classified as having low income ( able bodied, included).
    I hope that you detail out your coverage Kevin, down to every dot. Sounds like your state was one of those mentioned that would have double digits increase in premiums. I kind of follow this because of how it effects Medicare. My main argument in discussion goes back to the lack of transparency upfront in costs and the big discrepancy between individual states for same basic services. For example—a flu shot costs the same to make as they all come from the same producers but the cost to us consumers differ by geographic location. I am sure Tim can verify about how costly healthcare is here in New York compared to other areas. I used to laugh at the people commenting about how little they were paying in healthcare costs because that wasn’t true by me.
    As long as the insurance companies are allowed to increase their premiums unchecked, costs will rise. We have to be effective consumers with these costs . Question every procedure recommended by doctor to insure that it’s a covered procedure and question the insurance company how to insure that it is covered repeatedly. I noticed that it takes them 90 days to process any claim and I go through each monthly report with a fine tooth comb looking for charges not told me upfront.
    I suggest you get in touch with state representatives (even though you stated you don’t vote) and complain about the rise in premiums as they are supposed to be working with the insurers. Also look to see if they increased the Medicaid coverage plans for the state which is using borrowed money to fund.
    I also hope there’s some non-profit medical clinics nearby that offer services. Make sure any medication prescription needs are covered with the least amount of out of pocket costs to you.
    I just hope that they don’t raise costs again.But I believe the mandate surcharge to have insurance has been eliminated so you can find alternative methods for healthcare needs coverage.

  10. Hi Maria Rose – You used the word “transparency” and I think that’s at the root of all these problems. We get bills from all over the place, but none of them are clear and concise. It you want to challenge something you first have to figure out exactly how they’re sticking it to you, which is usually shrouded in mystery. This is a bit off topic, but one of the problems with computers is they allow the generation of massive amounts of paperwork and disclosures. We can get lost in that. Even the people who issue it all don’t get it (believe me, I know from the my mortgage days). I think these providers are aware of that and do it on purpose. They build a labyrinth around everything, so we don’t even know what we’re challenging.

    But that does emphasize the lack of transparency. The problem for us on the health insurance side is that it’s an employer plan, so we have only the choice to accept it or go without. The ACA policies are prohibitive. As far as the home insurance, I don’t know where to start, but we’re trapped there by the auto insurance bundle. If we get cheaper home insurance, we pay a lot more for car insurance. It really is a checkmate situation.

  11. One more point I want to make Maria Rose…I do believe if the current pattern continues, we’ll eventually reach a point where people will start dropping out. If you’ve ever read Ayn Rand’s “And Atlas Shrugged”, that’s exactly what she predicted would happen. The productive people would fold up the tent and disappear. She never explained where they went in the book, but we can assume they either left the country for someplace cheaper (and calmer), or they went under the radar or off the grid, something that was much easier to do in 1957 when the book was written.

    I can see that happening soon. It gets completely frustrating trying to do “the right thing” but always coming up at least a little bit worse for the effort. I can fully appreciate why 18 million men and 5 million women have simply disappeared from the job market. For many, it’s no longer worth the effort. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the minimalist movement, but it’s a concept that’s becoming increasingly attractive. And I wonder if that movement isn’t the beginning of the drop out movement.

  12. I’ve heard of it. They have some good stuff and they make sense.
    I can tell you that I am on my last car. I will not buy another one. I live in the city so I’ll take public transportation.
    I have even given thought to getting rid of my phone. I don’t need it. I rarely use it.
    We have a business phone. If I keep one I’ll go back to a pre paid service.
    If I was faced with your issue I would start with that. I mean start thinking about what you really don’t need. You work from home, can you get away without a car? Maybe having one for your wife who works elsewhere. Maybe drive her to work

    Just thinking out loud. I got rid of my cable three years ago. I didn’t need it. I don’t think about it anymore. My expenses are so low there isn’t much else I can get rid of. I find things I thought I needed we’re really burdens when I got rid of them.

    I take some pride in not needing things society says I need.

  13. We’re already down to one car, or two cars for four people. You’re right, I only need a car occasionally. We’ve been doing this for three years, and I’m fine with it. The only problem with fewer cars is they need to be later models. You can’t afford to have them crapping out and needing a lot of repairs. I’m pretty low on the expense level myself. But insurance is probably the major irritant. It’s become that “can’t live with it, can’t live without it” deal. It’s frustrating because insurance is a major expense we have progressively less control over.

    Also, I agree with you about not needing things being liberating. I hear people talking about their toys and their extravagant lifestyles and adventures, and it makes me happy to be me. Not to sound arrogant, but maintaining all that stuff and the high cost lifestyle seems increasingly pointless to me. And the older I get the more I realize how little it really matters, and how little it contributes to your happiness. With all the complication that surrounds us, simplicity becomes an art form.

  14. My first thoughts here are…the ‘hornets nest or bee hive ‘ has really been disturbed here. I’ve heard an expression that Insurance premiums are basically ‘a license to steal ‘. I really think logically this can’t be far from the truth. I learned a shocking fact some years back from a we’ll to do retired Insurance agent – friend of mine. Apparently a portion of the auto & homeowners insurance premiums I pay goes toward there retirement!… isn’t that swell…I mean deceptive, devious and plain dishonest. This is in addition to the general known fact that Insurance agents make commissions both initially and for annual renewals! Anybody upset yet. Back in the mid seventies I paid like $15.-$20. a month as a college student. Of course today that’s ten fold and rising…. it seems there exspenses keep going up ! Remember the top executives keep making millions more in bonuses & salaries.
    I’m sorry to say ( even though some readers are aware) …we don’t have an honest money system anymore. That you can blame on ‘tricky Dick’ back in 1971 when we cut any ties to our dollar being backed by gold. Because of the Federal Reserve system , if you carry any green cash on you…your really carrying something known as a F.R.A.U.D. or federal reserve accounting units of debt. In my mind Money as it was & worked honestly well in this country upto the 1970’s has been (gold &silver) replaced by what I’d call a ‘digital illusion ‘ . This would be the digits we see on our computer screens. I know this because I grew up with silver coins and prices stayed very much the same year in and year out.
    I decided not to delve into taxes because in many ways our current so called money system is nothing but an increasing taxation on most working Americans. The whole system is set up to benefit the top 5-10% of Americans at the exspenses of the rest of us.

  15. Hi Mark – I agree with what you wrote about insurance. The whole thing has turned into an often legally enforced racket. The ACA mandate showed that the government sided with the insurance companies over the people. That’s just the way they sided with the banks during the Financial Meltdown. The pattern is clear.

    But what I really want to focus on is the inflation part of your post. I studied finance in college and learned about the workings of both the monetary system and the Federal Reserve, and have kept studying it since. I do so because it’s probably the most important but unknown “force” affecting modern life. The Fed was created to act as banker to the US government. That alone opens all kinds of flood gates. In 1933, the government monopolized the money supply and removed gold from domestic circulation, but kept it for foreign backing of the dollar. In 1968, due to foreign governments wanting gold rather than dollars, Lyndon Johnson “closed the gold window” for good, and effectively ended the link between gold and the dollar. Nixon formalized the separation in 1971. He gets most of the blame, but he really just put a period on what FDR and LBJ had already done.

    At that point, the dollar was floating. But by the mid 70s the dollar was unofficially tied to oil – the so-called petro-dollar. Hence we see this close alliance between the US and Saudi Arabia that no one quite understands or condones. The end result is the ability of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve to create any amount of money they need. This is why we’ve had inflation since the late 1960s, and why it will continue indefinitely.

    As things stand today, I don’t think we can or ever will go back on the gold standard. It would require a level of fiscal discipline modern politicians are unfamiliar with. It would also see the sudden end of a lot of popular spending programs, that would be politically intolerable. Right now about 20% of the federal budget is in deficit, and that would have to end. But even if we did go back on the gold standard, none of these distortions would end. That horse left the stable a long time ago, and it’s not coming back. It would change the whole dynamic of government that two generations of Americans have come to know and love.

    Add to that the fact that not one American in ten knows this about the dollar. To them a gold standard would be exotic. And the only thing most people care about is that they get their benefits. The end of those benefits, due to a return to the gold standard, would cause chaos and probably armed revolt.

    Best to be on your own gold standard by owning some. But don’t expect miracles from that either. Everything is so distorted, so it’s hard to know how it will all play out going forward.

    Simply put, there are no easy solutions to our problems. Going back to the past won’t solve much. The only way we’ll go back to a gold standard will be if paper/digital currencies were to collapse and gold were to come up as a grass roots substitute. But that may not work either. Gold may be so high in price by then as to be totally unsuitable as a currency. Silver would have a better chance due to it’s lower value. But then we now have cryto-currencies, so the future is a great big question mark. I wouldn’t bet against gold, but I wouldn’t count on it as a financial savior either. The world is MUCH more complicated than it was before 1971.

  16. The published inflation calculations are complete horse-puckey, but you already knew that.

    Shop your home and auto insurance around. That’s the only way to survive. Shop it every year.

    The health insurance racket is a conundrum. I have no suggestions on that. In Canada we wait longer, especially for non-urgent care, but at least it doesn’t bankrupt us.

  17. Hi Neil – I do check auto insurance about annually, and the policy we already have keeps come up cheaper. We may have more options when our kids go off our policy, but to take them off now (before age 25) would doom them to high premiums. Plus we get an attractive multi-car, multi-driver discount. This is what I mean about “you always have a choice” but you really don’t.

    As to the health insurance, my kids talk about moving to Canada, and we’re close to the border, so maybe that’s a possibility. Maybe we’ve unknowingly begun preparing ourselves for that transition by moving to New Hampshire. We have some Canadian connections, and my partner on this website is in Alberta, while the site is hosted in Toronto. Anything is possible.

  18. Kevin, Here is a slide show from the website Cheapism entitled “15 Things That will Cost More in 2019!: It speaks to your current topic. https://tinyurl.com/y7cewrdz
    Notice that Comcast is raising some of its fees again to as much as %250.00 a month for some premium subscribers. I wouldn’t pay that much for TV if I was as rich as Jeff Bezos! That is way past normal inflationary rates; In fact, it is, in my opinion, gouging. They have caused there own pain by constantly raising rates to the point that many sensible people cut the cord and use either no TV or only local over the air channels supplemented with streaming media.

  19. That’s a good slideshow Mary. But notice how the official inflation rate is carefully set at 2.3% – the same as 2018? That’s proof it’s bogus. Prices are rising everywhere, but that 2.something number seems set in concrete. We have to assume there are practical reasons for that specific level.

    It doesn’t surprise me about Comcast (my carrier). I’ve been reading they’re raising fees to compensate for people cutting the cable. Which guarantees more will do the same. This is what happens when you become a monopoly. Comcast is a monopoly, and when that happens you also become the market. If people decide they no longer want cable, your monopoly falls apart. My kids have already abandoned cable, and I don’t watch much TV. But I’ve got my wife paying the Comcast bill, and I’m hoping when it gets high enough, she’ll finally decide cable isn’t worth it.

    But that still leaves us with Comcast for internet, so we’re still stuck. They’re the only provider in our area. But getting rid of the cable portion will bring immediate relief, even if we can’t cut the internet cord. But maybe by then another internet provider will be here. We can dare to hope.

  20. Well, as a consumer, I can completely agree with everything said here. But as a business owner, I can also see what’s happening. We make things out of raw material, steel, aluminum, brass, etc. The cost for the raw material to keep our business running is skyrocketing because of tariffs and just plain old inflation. Obviously, we have to pass that cost on to our customers. One customer was wonderful, saying “hey, we get it, no problem, just send the bill.” They’re passing it to their customer. Another customer carried on, told us we were gouging them, threatening to go elsewhere (bye). In the end, they stayed. My point is that it doesn’t matter if you’re the consumer or the producer/supplier. Somewhere down the line, someone is making big money, and it isn’t all of us. We try to be fair in pricing, and often times we’ve lost money because we under-quoted a job, but we’ve never gone back and raised the price after quoting. We wouldn’t stay in business. We have to eat that loss, so to speak. We need to make allowances for those errors along the way. But for our small business, it’s becoming harder and harder to make ends meet and stay in business. It’s almost not worth it anymore, going back to what Tim said about licensing, costs, angry customers, etc. The minimalism lifestyle sounds just fine to me, and every day it’s getting closer and closer to believing that’s what it’s going to come to for many of us. Insurance costs?? Like all of us here, it’s becoming prohibitively expensive to keep up, both from the consumer end and from the small business owner end. Everyone wants somebody else to pay for it, me included!

  21. Damn, I wrote a really long comment, and it didn’t get posted, I must have screwed it up. Anyway, I agree with all these comments.

  22. Your comment got caught in my spam filter. It isn’t consistent, and I haven’t figured out how to make it work better. But if I deactivate all kinds of weird and interesting stuff will turn up.

    I get what you’re saying about business costs Bev. In truth, small businesses are really consumers/providers. Which is to say we’re providers who are at the end of the supply chain, subject to all the cost increases that we are as consumers, but being blamed for them as a result of being at the point of sale. It’s not even the suppliers who are benefiting either. They’re just pass through businesses, so it’s a problem for businesses everywhere, even larger ones. Meanwhile, the thin level of overseers and those in a position to gain from the price hikes – who are usually wealthy investors – reap the benefits, while paying less money for labor to the serfs who run the economy.

    And what really gets me isn’t the products businesses. They have to increase prices to deliver product. What gets me is the biggest increases are coming in service businesses like healthcare, insurance and education. As service businesses, technology should be lowering their operating costs, but it seems to do the opposite. Someone a lot more well versed than me on this topic said historically technology has led to a lowering of prices. But it’s not working that way today. New technology is introduced, and still the price goes up. That means this latest iteration of the tech revolution is having the exact opposite affect of the Industrial Revolution. Instead we’re getting lower wages and higher prices. If that doesn’t sound like a conspiracy I don’t know what does.

  23. Mark,
    I’m not sure many people really understand that that one act by Nixon really changed the course of history. He, with the stroke of a pen, rendered all paper currency in the world useless.

    It’s a well-known fact if you look at history once the money system is corrupted the country or society collapses. We have the whole world right now using corrupted fake money.

    This is the main reason, and not for investment that I buy P.M. period.

    If you really asked me this is what people should be protesting. The inflation and all the other things that happen are byproducts of this.

    We have a completely fraudulent money system. I just can’t say that enough.

  24. Tim – That really is the root cause of all this other chaos. But no one understands it, so you can’t get it going as a political platform. All we can do is work around it as best we can. And no, it wasn’t just Nixon. The whole of government wanted the gold standard gone. FDR took it out domestically, Johnson took it out internationally. But the time Nixon did the stoke of his pen, it was a done deal. He was just looking to clear the way for an alternative, which happened just after he got run out of office. But they all wanted it because it took the limits off government and raised it to deity status. Unlimited money = unlimited power = deity. I don’t think it’s an accident that America has gradually become a more secular and troubled nation. We’re violating the First Commandment – “You shall have no other gods before Me” – Exodus 20:3.

  25. Bev, I just wanted to comment on something you said.
    I never do a job for a loss. I just don’t take the job. It’s ok, we operate on zero debt so I don’t ever feel pressure to do that.
    If I closed tomorrow it would be fine. I have no lease on my production space. I own it outright.
    That’s one of the ways we can stay out of the system. No debt.
    We have actually referred people to our competition. We know what the job costs. If somebody else takes it we know they are not really making any money.
    I might loose some sales but I don’t loose money. I’ll take less sales with more profit. What good is retaining customers if it isn’t helping your bottom line. It’s just busy work then.
    Especially in our business their isn’t any loyality. People go where they get the cheapest price.
    I have grown steady the last five years. So as long as it’s that way I’ll continue to operate this way.

  26. Funny thing is. Those people that we have done that with always end up coming back to us with the next job.
    We are honest with them and straight forward about price and I think it goes a long way.
    I have actually showed people are numbers of what I would cost in time and profit. Once they see that they admit they wouldn’t do it.either for that.
    I don’t do that regularly but I have done it a few times.

  27. Sorry,
    One other thing. We have had those same businesses refer people back to us. On several occasions they have been hugely profitable jobs. Most small businesses don’t know their numbers or get too busy to pay attention.
    I know a ton a small business owners here who really don’t have control over their business numbers.
    If your air tight with your numbers and understand cost and time then you are light years ahead of other small business owners.

    By referring people to other businesses it builds up good will and trust between us. We are not trying to undercut of drive anybody out of business. I’m simply trading less profit for more.

    Sorry, I got way off topic here.

  28. I think a good point you’re making Tim is that you have to run your business like your personal finances. That means low cost and no debt. That not only makes it easier to weather the ups and downs of the economy, but as you say, it enables you to say “no” to certain jobs. It’s a good position to be in. The days of paying big money to buy an existing business or move into a capital-intensive business are over, at least for the small business person. I feel totally blessed to be in a low-expense business that I can run out of my house. The solopreneur thing seems to be the wave of the future. My guess is in time (in the next recession) we’re going to see an explosion in the number of solopreneurs, especially part-time ones who are looking for extra income and some kind of future in a world where jobs become increasingly scarce.

    On that same point, and in a different direction, I’m already noticing a trend toward full time employees struggling to maintain a 40 hour schedule. Some are working variable hours, like 33 hours one week, 28 the next, and 43 the third. But on balance it’s working out to being a net reduction in both hours and pay. What the heck is up with that???

  29. Great explanation Kevin of the gold standard. I do know all your talking about there but do not necessarily know all the in’s and out’s. I guess it doesn’t matter to me which shyster did what. I just know what exists now.

    Your right, we will never return to the gold standard. I don’t see it for the reasons you described.
    I have tried to do exactly as you say, I have created my own gold standard.
    I have never bought it for investment purposes. Silver neither. I have always bought it as a kinda of insurance. I figure if the currency collapses I’ll have something to work with.
    However, A guy I know once told me, I buy guns. I’ll just take your silver if it comes to that.
    So who knows if it will ever be any good to me. If it goes up enough in price and I sell it then that would be ok.
    I don’t know how it plays out. I guess we will find out.

    I do know I feel better owning it than not. That’s all that matters.

  30. So I have a question. I am totally naive about crypto. What gives it value? Isn’t basically the dollar in digital form?
    I’m not sure how its value is determined?

  31. I admit also that I don’t trust it. Anything that is totally digital can be wiped out with the stroke of a keyboard.
    You can’t hold it in your hand. Gold, silver and cash you can.

    It’s the same reason I don’t trust banks either.

  32. I’m a bit wobbly on cryptos myself Tim. I only mention it because it’s another alternative and it’s developing for a reason. As much as it may not make sense physically, it may be that it becomes the default medium of exchange on the internet if paper currencies fail. Diversification is always the key. If you’re thinking a baseline strategy, maybe some gold, silver, cryptos and barterable items. I think you’d be covered come what may with that line up. But I don’t know that it will come to that. Some have been predicting it since the 70s but it has yet to happen. None of us should be ready to give up on the dollar. It may be so well entrenched that even if it takes a beating, it will still be coin of the realm. Look at how the Ruble recovered after the collapse of the USSR. We need to be ready for anything, not the least of which that WE may be wrong in our future projections.

  33. Tim, thank you for your comment. We operate same as you, no debt, but we just got that way. Our machinery is very expensive, so obviously we had to have loans to buy and use it. Due to our age, we are scaling back and not replacing older equipment but just use them sparingly and baby them. When we lose money, it’s mostly because we quote a job at what we believe it will cost, using our numbers, as you said, but things happen. Perhaps what we thought would work is now not working, or my husband makes a mistake and misjudges the time factor, or any number of other things. It’s not often it happens, but my point was that we don’t go back to the customer and say now we want more. We gave a price of x dollars to make something, and that’s what they expect to pay. If it costs us x plus y because we made the mistake, then we have to eat y. But back to Kevin’s article, if we raised our prices like the insurance premiums, cable companies, etc. are doing, we’d be on the street. We’re all in the soup together! And no, there is no loyalty anymore.

  34. Don’t get me wrong Bev. I only learned this from trial and error. I totally understand what you mean. I guess I just got to the point where I can tell by looking at it. Yes, we also have expensive equipment. All I do with that is take a three year payment schedule and pay myself that amount put away for replacement. So I kind of try and act like my own bank. I loan my business the money from my personal money. Then I pay it back. I hate banks and would rather live on the street than ask a banker for anything.

    I understand. Just that your making a living from your business is something you both should be proud of. It looks different for everybody. I’m rather extreme according to my so called friends. LOL

    Yes, I also agree, you can’t go to the customer and ask for more.

  35. Bev – You’re last line is so true. I found that out in the mortgage business years ago. If someone else was a little bit cheaper than me, they got the deal. A lot of times they were lying. They still got the deal. The consumer has no loyalty, he or she only wants the cheapest price. Charles Hugh Smith refers to it as the WalMart Economy. All anyone cares about is low prices. WalMart proved it by using that strategy to become the world’s largest retailer, and run hundreds of thousands of small businesses out. Now Amazon is using the same strategy.

    Unfortunately, we’re increasingly drifting toward low cost providers like WalMart and Amazon in a desperate hope to compensate for rising prices elsewhere. We can’t live with WalMart and Amazon, but we can’t live without them either. Once again, it’s that illusion of choice.

  36. I understand about crypto. I just don’t trust it. I know it went up but I stick to the mental beating my father gave me 40 years ago. If you don’t understand it, don’t buy it. I can still hear it all these years later. LOL

    I think it will take a huge issue for the dollar to fail. I think way more than all these so called experts say.
    Your right about the ruble.

    Like you said, who really knows. If I knew then I would be god and I’m very far from that. I’m not fooling anybody there. Especially him.

  37. Kevin, James Altucher puts out some good basic info. on Cryptos. You have to be careful WHICH Cryptos you buy. Some are good, some are over-priced if you didn’t get in early (BitCoin) and some are owned by the government and/or various corporations. Still others are just bogus or doomed to fail. It’s kind of like the early tech sector boom, in that respect.

  38. James Altucher is an excellent source. I agree, there’s a lot of churning out there in cryptos, especially in 2017. But it seems to be settling down now, as prices come back to earth. But I think the speculative gains in that area might be played out. It may no longer be about looking for the one that’s going to take off in price, but rather the one(s) that will survive and go on to become widely accepted mediums of exchange. A speculative investment can’t be a medium of exchange because the value can’t be firmly established. And if a crypto isn’t a medium of exchange, then exactly what gives it its value and purpose? If one or more rise up and fill that roll, it might be as important to hold a crypto or two, as it is to hold gold, silver, bank accounts and stocks.

    One of the many distortions we have going on today is this idea that investing is first and foremost about getting rich. It’s causing people to do crazy, irrational things, like pour money into stocks that don’t even have any earnings, or pretend the market never goes down. That’s just greed. The real purpose, the rational one, is to grow your prosperity over time. You don’t need to get rich to do that, but you have to tune out the many get-rich-quick apostles.

  39. After reading all of these posts and digesting it, one thing stands out to me in a big way: reading this one would think that we are from a third world country where we have to live as lean as possible because the government (and its corporate cronies) is taking away too much of what we own, whether it be by way of taxation, price increases, gouging, or monopolies (not to mention working to take our guns away as well). I know that we don’t need much to live and be happy, but it’s still sad that it has come down to this when things should be so much better in this country.

    Inflation has been lied about for so long, along with unemployment rates and other gov’t statistics, that I truly don’t think anyone believes any of it any more. We are all feeling the reality of high inflation, high taxes, and price gouging. I am self employed and my husband is retiring in one year. We will lose our health insurance through his company, which means paying $1,500 per month for a crap health insurance policy with a $15,000 deductible. Our house insurance has been increasing every year even as they try hiding it on our renewal documents. We are at the point of doing without health insurance and home insurance and putting that money away toward any future incidents that may occur.

    I had to laugh at Cortez preaching about how her health insurance is much cheaper now as a government representative than when she was a waitress. She is simply rubbing our noses in the fact that they are all exempt from the disaster that is Obamacare and will most likely never do anything to change it once she starts getting kickbacks from the insurance companies to keep it that way.

    One other thought I had was how the cost of technology used to decline once it became outdated, yet try purchasing a decent computer for under $800 how many years later after they were introduced. We paid around $1,000 for one back in the 80’s when they first came out! The cost of cell phones seem to keep going up, as do our cell phone plans. Why? Because they know we will pay it, as it has become a way of life that we don’t think we can do without. We are also noticing that sellers on Amazon, the giant retailer who still receives billions of dollars in subsidies, can watch the carts of its customers to see if an item is sitting in someone’s cart without being purchased and then raise the price. If the item is not purchased after a period of time, the price goes back down again. We’ve seen this play out several times now. It seems to be exactly how all big businesses work now—if they will pay $xxx, they would certainly pay $xxx, so let’s raise our prices! Monopoly or no monopoly, this is how most larger American businesses work now. Raise prices, lower quality, lower quantity, lower size. So yes, we do need to try and do without these things to send a message to these businesses; however, are there enough of us who are willing to do this and go without? Not in these times of keeping up with the Jones’ (the I Want syndrome). And even if we do, our wonderful gov’t will be there to bail them out!

    I wish I knew what the right answers were, but right now I am right there with you and your frustration, Kevin!

  40. Hi Linda – The problem is that the assault is coming from all directions. You almost do have to drop out (or close to it) to survive on a middle class income. And then by definition you aren’t middle class, because heaven knows, we’re defined by our consumption patterns more than anything else. And I think that’s part of the problem. As long as a person has a smartphone (preferably the latest version), a loptop, a car, and a flatscreen TV, and can afford daily lattes from Starbucks (at $4.50 a pop), they carry on as if everything is normal and life is good. You have to wonder how many are living with their parents, are deep in debt, and have no savings.

    This isn’t me dribbling on either, it’s supported by data – 78% of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck.

    I think that’s a lot of the problem. People are coping and “getting by”. But they’re coping by consuming, and it seems to be all they want. If most of those 78% would cut the recreational consumption in half, and start zeroing in on the big picture stuff we’re discussing here, we’d starve out the big companies, and put pressure on the government for better treatment. If they keep going along as they are now we will become a third world country.

    Heck I have a flip phone, I don’t buy lattes and I don’t even own a car, yet I’m happy in my life. I just don’t get the need to have the latest and greatest. I think TV and the social media are driving a lot of that. They’ve become everyone’s sandbox, and they measure themselves against what they see there, instead of turning off the phones and plugging into real life. Do you notice how everyone now takes selfies of everything they do, and everywhere they are, as if they’re the stars of their own shows? I think we’re in danger of losing our souls.

  41. I was able to get a decent computer from Tiger Direct AND a smartphone cheaply because I bought certified refurbished items. I kept my old monitor and just bought a new computer. My cellphone is also a refurb. I got it for 59.00 and got about $7.00 back from Ebates. I use a non-contract pay as I go cell plan that costs me about $30.00 every few months.
    I would never buy an Apple computer because they are so proprietary in their technology and expensive to repair and upgrade. A lot of the so-called superiority of Apple is hype aimed at hipster Millennials.
    I think you do not have to live like a peon to do okay, you just don’t buy into the massive consumerist culture that is America today.
    Speaking of that: Christmas, which is supposed to be a celebration of the birth of our Lord Yeshua Christ, has become a yearly shopathon with shoppers trying to out do each other. I see toys, even at Walmart, that cost over a hundred dollars. No kid needs that! With all the massive debt accumulated, you would think the holiday is about Satan, not Christ!

  42. Good job Mary! But don’t get me started on Christmas. It’s really the ancient Roman Bacchanalia, having little to do with Jesus any more. And look at what they’ve done to Thanksgiving? Now it’s just a part of the real holiday, Black Friday. Not only is it a consumption orgy, but it also tears families apart as people are expected to work on the holiday. Then there’s Veterans Day and Memorial Day, two days dedicated to solemn remembrance, but overwhelmed by Big, Big Sales (buy now!).

    BTW, I’m with you on Apple. I make a comfortable living working on my $400 HP. It’s not perfect, but I’m not paying $1800 for a status symbol just to fit in with the cool crowd. I feel cooler with an extra $1400 in my bank account. But then many would say I’m odd…

    (It’s more fun being odd.)

  43. Mary, you are right and I do buy refurbs, even as an IT Consultant, as my clients don’t want to pay the ridiculous costs of IT equipment, either. You’re preaching to the choir! However, I was comparing new equipment costs between the time it comes out as a new technology to years later when it is even cheaper to produce (thanks to overseas manufacturing) yet just as expensive. I am the queen of finding the best price and refuse to pay full price for anything anymore.

    As for Apple, I have no choice but to have an iPhone to support my clients. Not one of my clients, however, have Apple computers, thank the Lord.

    As for Christmas, I agree, and it’s sad.

  44. Linda, when I first read your comment, I thought you were going to disagree with all of us in discussing inflation and increasing costs. But as I read further, I see I was wrong. It is happening to all of us, one way or another, and it’s frustrating beyond belief. Sometimes it feels like it’s not even worth working hard or trying to do better. That’s why I like Kevin’s blog so much, because the comments are always civil, and there is help in listening to others and what we’re all dealing with.

  45. What I find most interesting Bev is when you put your thoughts out there, what you really believe is happening, you find others who see the same thing. That’s reassuring. I mean, at least we know we’re not going mad. Plus we can support each other in our frugality and alternate living strategies. Heck, we all need support groups. I find that when I bring these things up with strangers, many see the same thing. But what’s sad is how most go home, and just keep coping. They don’t look for groups of like-minded people.

    That’s a big part of the American problem. As Charles Hugh Smith wrote, Americans don’t have enough of a sense of identity and community to pull off an Arab Spring. Instead we buy into the myth that everything’s great, and if we’re struggling it’s our own fault. So we suffer in silence, unaware others are experiencing the same thing. It reminds me of that depression commercial where the lady walks around with pie plate smiley face when she’s with other people. (BTW I hate that commercial on a number of fronts, but it makes a good illustration of the culture.)

  46. Bev, I had to laugh when I read your comment! I don’t think I’ve disagreed with anything that Kevin (or anyone else) has posted, which is why I love reading and responding here. We are all in the same boat and I love that we can all talk without attitude or fear of being demeaned or laughed at. This is truly a community looking to find happiness in the better things in life (family, friends, and community) rather than falling for the hype of having the latest hottest gizmo or paying exorbitant prices for cable, cell service, etc. I have learned quite a bit here and love the ideas for living the minimalist life. My only issue is that I HAVE to have high speed internet service and other such amenities due to my job (I work from home as an IT Consultant and travel every 3 weeks to clients). I have to have a well running car. I don’t retire for 12 years yet, so until then, I’m stuck. That is why I am trying to find other ways to save, which I have found here. Thank you for facilitating such a wonderful forum, Kevin! Have a great day everyone!

  47. Thanks Linda, I’m speechless. You make a good point about certain expenses being inflexible. I’m in the same boat with high speed internet. I’m stuck with Comcast because they’re our only provider, at least with high speed. So I moan and groan and deal with it. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We all need a certain amount of “business infrastructure” for our occupations. We have to pay it to keep earning a living. So we work around it, and find ways to save in other areas.

    There are three things we all need to make a living in the 21st Century – a good running car, a cell phone and a computer with a good internet connection. We can skimp everywhere else but not there, otherwise we’ll impair our ability to make a living. Of course, we should also add a 4th – if we can afford it – health insurance, but that’s becoming increasingly questionable with each double digit premium increase.

    I sometimes joke with my wife that we need to take our car, cellphones, computers and high speed internet – and health insurance if we can afford it – and move to a trailer home in the woods where we can also grow food and raise chickens. Then we can blend 21st Century occupations with a 19th Century lifestyle, and for a lot less money.

    I can dream.

  48. Having endured years of financial beatings my father bestowed on me. Here is another one.
    He always said a savings is not a savings unless your pocketing the difference and saving it.
    So an 800 dollar cell phone bought for 200 is not a savings unless the 600 you saved actually gets saved. Otherwise he always said you just spent 200. Ok yes you saved 600 but it is not measurable unless it shows up in your savings account.
    I always hated articles that used to say people would save 600 dollars a year if they quit smoking. Well unless your bank account goes up that amount you didn’t really save anything.

    So I have a monthly budget. If I budget a certain amount for food a week and I go under it then the difference goes to my savings account. Same with everything I do or buy.

    I also operate with a cash back card. The money I spend yearly measures to about a 1000 back each year. It pays my city taxes. That’s a 1000 more in my pocket yearly for doing nothing but spending what I would have anyway.

    These are small things but they add up. That was my fathers way. He always said though, savings isn’t savings unless the difference is being actually saved where you can see it.
    Of course it doesn’t solve the bigger ticket items that Kevin speaks of which will bankrupt a ton of people as time goes on.

  49. Just understand. If you need a phone of course it is better to spend 200 than 800. Even if you are not doing what I described above.

    I have documented on here many times, my father was extreme when it came to finances. I had this stuff drummed into my head from early on.

    So here is a crazy example. When I was 10 I wanted to buy something in the store. It was like 2.99. It was on sale a dollar off. So we went there and I knew it was on sale so I had the sale amount of money. Not the original price.

    When he asked me where the extra dollar was to save I said I didn’t have it. I had the sale price amount. He then say’s, you can’t afford it and we left without the item.
    Basically his thought was if you can’t pay full price then you can’t buy it. If you can and you catch the item on sale then you save the addtional.

    Urggg, it drove me batty at a young age but it paid off big in later years.

    So sorry, That is where I came from. LOL

  50. Tim, that sounds extreme, but I completely agree. The idea isn’t just to be shopping for bargains. That could have you out all day shopping for things you don’t need just because they’re cheap. Your father’s idea of banking the savings makes the savings real. The who point of savings is to become more liquid, and that happens when your actual savings grow. His methods may have been unconventional, but he was on to something.

    I use something similar, but simpler. Rather than bank what I save on any given item, I spend the month keeping costs as low as possible. The money I don’t spend goes into savings. And making that transfer into savings feels better than anything I buy or any bill I pay. They always say “pay yourself first” and I certainly get that. But since my income and expenses vary from month to month, I don’t want to put a bunch in the bank, then struggle and stress to pay expenses. In my universe, a budget shouldn’t be stressful or painful.

    I’m guessing your father wasn’t American born, because that strategy sounds like a cultural contradiction here.

  51. He was born here. He was dirt poor though. Yes, I’m a little more moderate and have tweaked it to more of what you do.
    I think his main goal was to instill a mindset.
    He was crazy, lol

    The smartest person I ever met and he’s been gone since I was 15.
    I spent my whole childhood up to then talking about money.
    That’s all we had in common, really. He was very tough and distant most the time. He was in two wars and hated excuses for anything.

  52. War experience changes people. My father and his twin brother were both in the Army. My uncle went to war, my father went on tour. The two had very different approaches to life, despite being twins.

  53. I often wonder how he would handle the world now. It is so drastically different then when he grew up.
    Health care wasn’t an issue. He was born during the depression. The country still had a gold standard.
    He was a cash guy. One of those people that had all his money stuffed in his mattress. He hated banks. Hated the stock market. Hated debt.

    A lot of things he taught me I have used my whole life. Some do not work anymore.
    I think he would turn over in his grave if he saw the way people live now.

  54. Actually check that he was born before the depression started. Some of the living conditions he described were terrible.

    I don’t know if you ever saw cinderella man, the movie. I often think that is how he lived during that time.

  55. That’s my parents as well, and especially my grandparents. They were all the same way. Hold cash, stay out of debt, don’t buy anything you don’t absolutely need, and when you do buy it secondhand, and live a step or two below everyone else.

    What I do know from the lot of them is that you have to be born into that universe or raised in it to live that way. Most people today haven’t been.

    One disadvantage to that lifestyle though is that it was labor intensive. For example, we had a lot of shrubbery around our house, but my father never bought a power hedge clipper. He used old fashioned hand clippers. Their time was nothing, so there was always a lot of elbow grease, tinkering and plenty of cheap fixes. I can’t replicate that because I value both my time and my energy.

    I should also add that for their time in history, there were a lot of things you could fix, like a car or a TV. You can’t do that today. Part because there are so many more gadgets, but also because they’re way more complicated. None of them would have been able to touch a TV today, or even a car. You disconnect the wrong wire and you zap the computer.

    It convinces me that we were mostly all born at the right time for our skills and mindsets. They couldn’t live in our world, I couldn’t live in theirs.

  56. So if you feel like going way off topic here. Why is it then that my father seemed to have so much more time than I do.
    He worked 9 hrs a day at his job. Then drove an hour home. Yet, our house was always immaculate. The cars were always spotless. Yard was always the same.
    I work in our business about the same amount yet I don’t seem to have one minute to do anything. I haven’t washed my cars in ten years. My oldest son does all the yard work. I don’t have time. If I need work done I have to hire somebody. My wife has an assistant that cleans the house, runs errands. Cooks, basically do whatever. Neither one of us seems to have any time.
    I don’t get it. My life seems so much more complicated than his. Here’s one thing that drives me batty. I get bombarded with emails, all junk, sales etc. My phone always needs an update or I’m getting bombarded with notices on my phone about everything.
    I probably spend an hour everyday cleaning off emails. Seems like technology has made my life so much more complicated than what it suppose to do.
    Our house always seemed much calmer when I was a kid than it does now.

    Our life is suppose to be easier but somehow it seems much harder.

  57. I think you answered your own question Tim. Nothing today is easy, despite technology. In fact, tech has only made it harder. I find that I constantly need to redo this and that two and three times, because it wasn’t right the first time. In this new age of Self-Service, which is being marketed as a convenience to us, we’re being forced to do everything service providers used to do for us. That’s everything from pumping our own gas, to trouble shooting insurance policies, to arguing with banks – you name it. We’re blowing hours each week doing things we can’t even account for by the end of the week.

    I see exactly what you do. My father and grandfathers had a lot more free time than I do. And I do everything I can to uncomplicate my life. It’s not working. I think too a lot of it is that back then they weren’t worried about everything. Today, we’re trained to worry about EVERYTHING. A friend of mine used to say “if it is to be, it’s up to me”. On the surface that sounds noble and poetic. But if you analyze it, it sounds like a self-imposed jail sentence. I’m ready to hand off what ever I can, but there’s nobody to hand it off to!!!

  58. Tim, I think one of the reasons people are so damned busy is that about 15-20 years ago it suddenly became au courant to brag about how busy you are. It made people feel important and relevant to be hyper-busy. it then spread throughout the culture and is now considered a mark of success. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Ordinary people got caught up in the web of busyness and have had a hard time of getting loose, even when they want to.
    I never bought into that at all and have never been hyper-busy, even when I was working full time. Call me lazy and under motivated if you like, but I have always valued my free time and relaxation over being hyper-busy. I know people who are so damnably busy that they can’t get together with family and friends over the holidays.
    Now granted, I don’t have kids, so I have never had to spend the time, money and energy those with kids, especially young kids, have to spend. However, I know retired folks and empty nesters who have the same hyper-busy style as those with young kids.
    To all those who are Christian or Jewish on this site: God gave us the Sabbath for a reason. It is to be a day of rest and contemplation. If you can’t do Saturday or Sunday, do Tuesday! I don’t think God would mind!

  59. That’s good advice Mary. Sometimes the answer is to just stop and do something different. I believe that’s the definition of the word “repent”, to turn around and go in a different, better direction. But I do think there are more demands on our time than ever. Even if we do try to take it easier, there will always be forces pulling at us. Big picture, the world is definitely speeding up.

  60. I agree Kevin, I think technology has made my life way over complicated.
    Here is another issue, because of the internet people can do business 24/7. We have just as many sales during the weekend when we are closed physically as during the week.
    So we are never really off. I do set aside Sunday but it never seems to matter. Last week we got ten sales on Sunday. Those have to be accounted for by Monday morning so they can get done. That forces us to work even on Sunday.
    Easier for the customer but there is somebody on the other end of that who has to account for it.
    I know we have drifted way off topic but I have no real physical relationships with people. There simply isn’t enough time to hang out with anybody for longer than ten minutes.
    The phone has also become a major annoyance. For example, I used my map the other day. I got three emails after asking for feedback on my map experience, rate my visit would you like to post pictures in my map profile of my trip? God forbid I go to a restaurant. The menu pops up on my phone. Would you like to read reviews of the place? Then it’s reviewing my visit.

    Anyway, it’s just sick. I would get rid of my phone but I’m always afraid if my car breaks or something I can’t get help because there are no public phones around anymore.

    Sorry, Kevin. I’m rambling. This topic got way off from the blog post.

  61. You’re not rambling Tim. I often explain to my wife and kids that we’re now living in a 24/7 world. Just like we all want low prices from WalMart and Amazon, we want 24/7 service. That’s wonderful as a consumer (again, consumerism dominates everything now). But the provider side of us is being killed by it. It means working more hours, and always being “on”. That’s also disturbing our sleep patterns. Globalism is contributing to it. We’re often dealing with people from the other side of the world. Our Sunday is their Monday, and they’re already open for business, and clawing at us.

    When you add the low price obsession, we’re working for less money. So we work more to make up for less income, and do it 24/7. It’s creating a pressure cooker.

    I know some get ticked off when I introduce faith into these “real world” discussions, but there are strong connections. There’s a darkness overtaking the world, that’s so obvious even some atheists are seeing it. And while we can explain the individual sources mechanically, we have no explanation for why these things are happening, and why there are so many at the same time. In Ephesians 6:12 the apostle Paul tells us “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” I believe that more than ever.

    And here’s another Biblical connection: 2 Corinthians 2:14, “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” Have you noticed that a lot of this stuff that’s tearing at us, causing anxiety and other emotional issues, and pulling us away from each other, comes to us as something for our good? Look at technology, medical breakthroughs, self-appointed schmexperts, sports, entertainment, the talking head experts, 24/7 communication, the 24/7 economy, government promising to solve all our ills (by printing more money/inflation). On the surface this all seems good. But it’s destroying the traditional fabric of life by removing all the qualities that make us human.

    It’s right on topic because it’s keeping us distracted so we don’t pay attention to inflation and empty politics. In the middle of all the distraction we’re losing our ability to discern truth and what’s really important and even to maintain a healthy sense of identity. If I were Satan I’d say things are going right according to plan.

    I’m trying to deal with this by minimizing my involvement with the mainstream. I’m also trying to get to a point where I work a few hours each day, since I pretty much do have to work 7 days a week. So each day becomes like a mini-workweek. I work 6-7 hours, then take the rest of the day for other things. But I do know work has a way of overwhelming everything else, so it’s a daily struggle. I always feel best when I get my work done for the day, then have time for family and other pursuits. But it is a tough balancing act. Sometimes the work day goes 10 or more hours.

    BTW, if you need human connection, you always know where to find me. Phone isn’t face-to-face contact, but it is the next best thing. Human connection is fast becoming another casualty of this brave new world where we’re all assured we’re masters of our own destinies (with government help of course), if only we’d summon the courage to tap into it.

    (Too bad being a philosopher doesn’t pay. If it did I’d be a wealthy man.)

  62. Oh, Kevin, you hit the nail on the head! I just met with my spiritual adviser today and we spoke about this very thing. Evil and darkness has taken over our country as God is being removed from country, politics, and many homes. We look to empty things like houses, cars, and technology to fulfill our desires and, those of us with open eyes, find that the most important things are our family, friends, community and, of course, our Lord. I am working very hard to not let the evil of our world destroy my faith, although I have become quite the cynical person.

    As for technology, holy cow! You are dead on! As I sit at my computer working, I am bombarded with emails, texts, phone calls, and IMs, not just during the day, but non-stop 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, if not from my clients, than from my family and friends. It is exhausting! I was just baking Christmas cookies tonight enjoying the snow and Christmas lights outside, as my phone was going crazy with two phone calls, 7 texts, and 4 emails. You’d love to silence your phone, but then worry it could be “important”. I feel constantly pulled in 10 directions and have a hard time concentrating sometimes. I plan on leaving for vacation in a few weeks and must take my laptop in order to do a few things for a client that no one else can do but must be done. Such is owning your own business!

    God bless and MERRY CHRISTMAS to all!

  63. Being in business for yourself is something of an open ended obligation. You don’t just do your job, you live it. That seems to go with the territory. But I’m happier with that arrangement than most of the people I know who have jobs and live for weekends, vacations and retirement.

    But getting back to the distractions and dysfunction, I often wonder if God is allowing this to sift out the believers, kind of like a tribulation for the faithful. He’s calling us to see the emptiness and the destruction it leads to, and to choose another path. 20-30 years ago you could go along with the culture and still preserve your faith. But today, the choice is becoming more obvious, that we shouldn’t and can’t be a part of it.

    We’ll get pulled in by virtue of the fact that we’re physically here, we have to make a living, and we’re surrounded even by people close to us who are fully immersed in the culture. But we have to do our best to not let ourselves get enmeshed in it. We are, after all, called to be a lamp to the world (Matthew 5:14-16), and we can’t do that by being wrapped up in it. From where I sit, it’s best to be at least a bit of an outsider now.

  64. We are our own worst enemy! The home insurers have to charge more to pay for rebuilding houses in places where they shouldnt have been built to bigin with. The medical insurers have to charge more to pay for people who smoke and eat too much and want instant cures.
    Whats working for me is to own very little. No car, no house means no insurance, taxes or fees. No cable tv or internet ay home, I have to walk 3 blocks to the library to use their wifi so that helps limit screen time.
    I could replace most everything I own for less than 3 thousand dollars so why insure it? Most everything I own is second hand stuff from thrift stores and garage sales. My main income besides Soc Sec. is busking so I do have a small liability policy in case someone trips over a guitar case.
    Its not the “middle class” standard that “they” tell me I have to live but I “work” less than 10 hours a week and have lots of time for family and friends and neighbors.
    You dont own stuff-it owns you!

  65. Ric, I know a guy here in New Hampshire who lives a similar life (street performer) who says something similar. He says he lives one step above poverty but he’s happy with his life because he has no constraints. I’m trying to move in that direction, but it’s a slow process and difficult to untangle yourself from a lifetime of devotion to the theoretical middle class lifestyle. And of course it’s much harder to do when you have kids.

  66. I have given very similar thought to this in the last few years. Once my 11 year old is done with high school. It’s still six years away.

    So how would you go about it Kevin? Being a blogger I suspect you can do that from anywhere in the world.

  67. I’m considering different ideas Tim, but that’s all they are at this point. My adult kids are still home. Last night the six of us had a long discussion about our living arrangement. The kids are frustrated by high rents and other costs of living independently. My wife and I through out the idea of getting a bigger place where we’d all split the costs (cohousing). Not a perfect plan, but you know that’s a topic I’ve covered before. Another is to continue car sharing. Or maybe to move to a slightly lower cost area (good luck trying to find that). My wife and I also want to get rid of a lot of stuff to pare down the space we need. She also wants to get a place where we can grow some food, and I’d be open to raising chickens for eggs. My sister and brother-in-law already do that.

    But we keep coming back to the same limitations – health insurance, having a good internet connection, and living close enough to employment and amenities. I’m trying to encourage my kids to gradually move toward self-employment, but they aren’t jumping at it.

    In today’s world it’s actually complicated to get simple. The street player I referred to has been living that way all his life, isn’t married and has no kids. In his case, there’s nothing to unwind. It’s harder when you have family and you’ve been living a certain way. As the saying goes, old habits die hard.

    But yes, being a blogger, I do have a built in advantage. I have no commute, don’t need a car, and have very low operating expenses. But living costs are pretty much the same no matter how or where you live. Like once you get past housing and taxes, it isn’t much cheaper to live in small town America than it is in big cities. Food, gas, utilities, insurance, etc., are pretty much the same across the board. And sometimes what you give up by moving to rural areas isn’t worth what you save in housing and taxes. Like for me, a weak internet connection is a deal breaker.

    No easy answers, but I still feel strongly we can gradually move toward a simpler, lower cost lifestyle.

  68. This is the time to for your kids to make sacrifices to better themselves later. If they stay home and pay a lower rent than when on their own, it lets them save and helps get the family home paid for. They also dont spend all the money needed to furnish their own place. The other big thing is you know who your roommates are!
    I have a prepaid cellphone that costs about 30 bucks a month. It has enough horsepower to replace my old laptop that died a few months ago. I did get a portable hard drive for backup. If I need more computing power I use the library’s computers. I have always used their printers.
    I think you’re right about it being easier to downsize if you grew up lower on the food chain. My dad had a good paying job but raising 6 kids meant money was always tight. We were always making do, doing our own repairs and just plain waiting until money came in. We all knew how to change oil or hammer a nail. We also all knew how to cook,sew and grow a garden. I have been able to pass a lot on to my son, but my daughter is hopeless.
    I always tell them “Collapse now and avoid the rush”.

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