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.