Sunday, April 20, 2008

Deficit Spending

The snow has almost disappeared from our yard, leaving several ponds in its wake. Now we're waiting for the 4 feet of frost to melt out of the ground, so this water can soak into the soil. The snow's disappearance meant we had grilled steak for dinner last night. Ambrosia!!

We normally go out for a char-broiled steak dinner a couple of times each winter. This winter, we couldn't afford any meals out....not even Hardees or Subway. Every restaurant in our small town is feeling the squeeze of our faltering economy, including the one we work at. Eating out is the first thing to go when budgets are tight.

We've been squeaking by with $300-$400 days at our restaurant. My Boss needs $500 days to show any kind of profit. That's right; we've been struggling to break even all winter! My shift generates over 2/3 of the days' sales. My tips run between 15-20% of our sales. This means that I've been bringing home $30-$50 in tips every day this winter. Our paychecks cover the $1250/month we pay for property taxes, utilities, garage loan, and insurance. My tips pay for food, clothing, vehicle maintenance, gas, and anything else that comes up. Our tax refund is always earmarked for home repairs. This summer we MUST replace the roof on our house!

This winter our insulated garage has paid for itself. We haven't had to warm up our vehicles once, not even on -30F days! We've managed to get by on 1/4 tank of gas, every 2 weeks. We used to burn a 1/4 tank every week during the winter. We've also saved on our electric bill by not having to plug in our vehicle's block heaters.

Now that spring has arrived, new necessities are popping up. Z can't continue wearing his winter boots outside, so he obviously needs a larger pair of shoes than he was wearing last fall. He also needs a new windbreaker for rainy days. Fortunately, his sweatshirt jacket still fits.

Last Monday, I made $34 in tips. My Avon order also arrived that day...$20 worth of sunscreen, deodorant, and the only hand/body lotion I'm not allergic to. Then, my fund-raising order from the local 4-H Club arrived...$15 was the lowest priced item. Profit for the day $-1.

Tuesday, Hairry had his annual heartworm appointment at the vet's office....$80 for the test and 6 months worth of heartworm meds. I made $40 in tips that day. There's another $40 in the hole!

Both of our vehicles are 2 months overdue for oil changes. In addition, L's car is leaking antifreeze.

Fortunately, I save up $700-$1000 each summer to cover my reduced tips in the winter. With the rising cost of groceries, that fund is down to $100 now. $50 of that will pay the co-pay on glasses for Z and I tomorrow.

It looks like L will be having his cataract surgery in June. His optometrist thinks they will have to operate on both his eyes at once. L has weird eyesight, which probably won't balance correctly if they operate on one eye at a time. I'm certain that this will involve time off from work. We're hoping that the eye surgeon that travels here will schedule the surgery here, so that I won't have to take a day off to drive L 100 miles to the surgeon.

Thank God we're debt free, other than the $6000 remaining on our garage loan! We do have savings put away, but I hate to dip into that fund. Our small town economy doesn't show any signs of improving in the near future, so I'd like to leave our savings intact.

Summers are usually a busier time of year here. However, tourism is dying. In the 26 yrs my Boss has owned the restaurant, tourism has declined a little more each year. People just don't take family fishing vacations anymore.

Business picks up a bit when the snowbirds return. I wish they'd stay home and support OUR economy in the winter! Rather than tourists, we now have a group of summer residents from the Twin Cities, Chicago, and other areas. These people have artificially driven up the price of lake property so that locals can no longer afford a home on the lake. Oh well, at least the summer residents can afford to eat out once in awhile. With the high price of gas, we're not expecting a very busy summer season.

15 Comments:

At 4/20/2008 9:58 AM, Blogger Hammer said...

Eating out is the first thing to go here as well. Everything seems to be slowing down.

For your radiator leak a bottle of Bars leak poured in the radiator should clear up your problem and save you a few hundred dollars.

 
At 4/20/2008 1:31 PM, Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

People just don't take family fishing vacations anymore.

I think it's partly due to the media convincing Americans to be scared of fellow Americans. Too many people don't even leave the house.

I've noticed in my lifetime, eye contact gets worse every year.

As for economics, I think the whole country is in the same boat. We're seeing a huge decline in the middle class. It's actually quite scary.

 
At 4/20/2008 2:54 PM, Blogger Courtney said...

Montana residents can echo the same sentiments, except tourism is not declining. One of the reasons I didn't go back to school this semester is that we only had one car (we just bought a new one, though). Dan works 14 miles away (commutes are pretty common here), some days I would have to drive him to work and pick him up to make it to class. It would cost about $22.25 just to go to his workplace. We were going through about 2 1/2 full tanks of gas a week. Now we're down to about 1 to 1 1/2.

And I don't even know where to start about part-time residents driving up property values. I think it's only in MT where you can see a huge, multi-million dollar home next to a run-down shack. It's not that people don't care about their properties, but the part-timers drive up the property values. So people whose property has been in their families since the homesteading days, can't afford anything but they're taxes, if that. Most families eventually have to give up their properties to the rich -- or starve. That adds another huge house to block views of the lake.

Sorry, had to kvetch a little. ;)

 
At 4/20/2008 4:26 PM, Blogger Squirl said...

Prices keep rising, but wages don't. Michigan's unemployment is, I think, the worst in the nation. I don't know how people are supposed to make it. I sure hope your restaurant business picks up really soon for you.

 
At 4/20/2008 4:53 PM, Blogger Jeannie said...

The future sounds scary - isn't there anything that could boost tourism? People may not fish so much any more but vacations haven't. Our summer spots are crazy busy - the one I grew up with has grown with retirees. Stores and restaurants that would only open in summer are open all year now. The local politicians have to get on the ball.

 
At 4/20/2008 8:26 PM, Blogger Pam said...

I'm working part-time again and it's a 30-mile round trip drive... filled the van last week and it was almost $60... Ouch.
:-/

(Glad you finally got those steaks on the grill though! 70 degrees today -- how 'bout that??)
:-)

 
At 4/21/2008 2:23 AM, Blogger SME said...

I know how ya feel. Our condo and parking fees just go up up up, and now Child Maintenance says that even though Aaron is 18, Richard still has to pay the full amount he was paying for two kids.

 
At 4/21/2008 10:19 AM, Blogger tweetey30 said...

On Saturday we were driving around and I noticed a few places that we go to once in a while is gone. Either tore down or just plain assed empty. Its a shame. Gas is almost 4 dollars a gallon here. Something like 3.53 a gallon..

 
At 4/22/2008 9:44 AM, Blogger tweetey30 said...

I lost my comment some where yesterday.. LOL... I was just saying that places Jeff and I would go to once in a while are gone now. I know what you mean. I am actually looking at going back to work. We could use the extra money right now so I am looking at going through a Temp Agency. They find work for you. Its easier and faster here.

 
At 4/24/2008 7:26 PM, Blogger Bridget Jones said...

Geez we are all in the same boat. Canada at first bleated that it wouldn't be affected by the turn-down in the US and now we're in a recession. The price of gas and food is insane, and there really doesn't seem to be an explanation that makes sense for either. Hope that the cataract operation goes well. Just found out that my little bro got one replaced too (here they like to do them one at a time). He's 52.

You guys are wizards with money, and thank God for that.

Hope that you can catch a lot of breaks this summer, all of them good financially.

Great news about that garage. Hey re the roof, is there any possibility of 'black/grey' economy (paying less in cash or barter?)

 
At 4/25/2008 6:53 AM, Blogger Gardenia said...

Our economy has taken a horrendous hit!!!! And I don't see it getting better any time soon. Starbucks went crazy here and built a bunch of stores within a few blocks of each other and now are complaining about going out of business.

The movies are hurting - everywhere. We went and bought lots of rice (supposed to be rationing) among dire predictions of decreased food supplies and rationing like in World War II. I don't know what the middle income and lower income families are going to do.

Our vet too charges as much as my medical specialists.

I am scared too - this is a time to plan the best we can, take one day at a time, cut back where we can, and try to stay positive. I just keep saying to myself, God will provide, He will! I have to!

You guys really did have so much foresight with the garage - not only has it helped in so many areas with cars, etc., but you have also done your part in "going green!"

 
At 4/26/2008 8:48 AM, Blogger tshsmom said...

Hammer, THANKS, it's worth a try!

ZS, I've noticed the lack of eye contact too, especially in cities. A lot of that can be blamed on cell phones.

Courtney, same kvetch here. Sad, isn't it?

What kind of GM product did you buy? ;)

Squirl, what really scares me is all the politicians that want to raise minimum wage, and require ALL employers to provide health insurance. Those moves would bankrupt thousands of small businesses!

Jeannie, the biggest mistake our "powers that be" made was to not allow a casino here. In MN, lakes with casinos are booming tourist spots.

Pam, I can't imagine how commuting families pay for daycare AND gas for their cars!

The steak was AMAZING!

SME, WTF?! It must be comforting to know that his money is going toward a home that Demi doesn't get to live in while her mother shacks up with her latest boyfriend!

Tweets, temp agencies are a great way to find a job that suits you!

Bridg, we have bartered in the past. Unfortunately, our contractor has no need of any of our skills.

Gardenia, I totally agree!! Lately, my most fervent prayer is "give us this day our daily bread"!

 
At 4/27/2008 10:24 AM, Blogger Courtney said...

Heh heh... A Chrysler. :P

(Dodge Neon, you can't really call it a 'car' per se, but it'll get us around.)

 
At 4/27/2008 3:35 PM, Blogger VV said...

Your budget sounds like mine. It seems that I'm constantly living paycheck to paycheck and saving whenever I can. That money in the bank always goes to either car repair, kids' medical needs or home improvement project. Extra money? What's that? Also, I found out 2 weeks ago I'm likely to be out of a job by July 1st. So now I'm looking for another job, plus looking at the possibility of hanging out my own shingle. Sounds great, costs way too much. Still in the figuring out my options stage I guess. Hope the recession is over quickly, I'm getting too old to keep living like this.

 
At 4/27/2008 5:22 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

Courtney, the Neon should be good on gas. ;)

VV, that sounds all too familiar.

We keep waiting for the American dream to kick in. The dream where you work hard, pay your bills, and live happily everafter. NOT the nightmare where we work hard, pay our bills by robbing Peter to pay Paul, and don't know if we have a job from one day to the next. Then we have the added bonus of working 'til we drop, because we'll NEVER be able to save up for retirement.

 

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