Who needs to be frugal?

Being frugal about food expenses is not just for those who are living on limited budgets now.  The future is always uncertain, even when it looks bright.  The blunt reality is that most food you buy in a grocery store has used enormous amounts of petrochemical energy to come into existence and appear in a rack for your choice.  With the climbing cost of oil, food prices will be going up.  And up.  As will the cost of heating and cooling and transportation and healthcare supplies.

Most of us in the global north hope to retire someday, yet the Center for Retirement Research reports that 53% of workers age 30 and over are not going to have enough money to retire if they do not change their behavior.  Only one in five private sector workers have access to a defined benefit pension plan, and very, very few younger workers will have access to one.  Social Security, even at current payment levels, will be inadequate to make ends meet and it seems likely that benefit cuts, real or in proportion to inflation, are in the future.  Currently the average Social Security benefit for retired workers is just $15,144 per year.  A few percentage points begrudgingly allocated to your 401k will not make up the difference; you need to find funds to save for retirement if you aren’t already.  Try one of the many retirement calculators online to see how you are doing.

We’ve already met Gardener Jane, but let’s meet Pat and Sam now.  Although they both make good money and have no dependents, they are only a few years from retirement and concerned about living on a fixed income.  Even though they have been faithful savers, there’s no guarantee they won’t hit hard times ahead, or even that they will stay employed until their desired retirement date.  Pat and Sam have money to spend now in infrastructure and long-term investing on their 10 acre property, but they also have the challenge of preparing their site so they can continue to raise food as they get old and face mobility issues or just can’t work as hard as they get older.  Preparing now to have access to healthy food which is free or cheap is a part of their retirement planning.

Meanwhile, the average American household spends 15.74% of their disposable income to service outstanding debt (24.12% for renters and 13.9% for homeowners).  That debt is money spent yesterday that those households didn’t have, and is now added to their expenses today.  If your debt is getting bigger, your digging yourself a deeper hole.  Put a fig tree in that hole!

Food probably isn’t the biggest expense in your budget, but growing, foraging and hunting food can free up funds to pay down debt, put money aside for emergencies, save for retirement, put your children through college or other necessities.

Who needs to be frugal?  Just about all of us.

(By Nicole Castle)

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