When a John McCain campaign official referred to the U.S. as a "nation of whiners" because of the current economy, it reminded me a bit of the infamous "Great Malaise" speech delivered to the nation by President Jimmy Carter (in 1979). If you are too young to remember this speech, it was delivered on national TV by President Carter at the height of the energy crisis of the 1970's. Not only had gasoline and oil prices skyrocketed due to America's dependence on foreign oil and the Iran-Iraq War, but there was rationing and long lines at the fuel pumps. On the one hand, President Carter did call for less dependence on foreign oil (and you know how that turned out). However, he also basically said Americans were a "nation of whiners".

Those weren't his exact words, of course. What he actually said was: "Our people are losing ...faith, not only in government itself but in the ability as citizens to serve as the ultimate rulers and shapers of our democracy. As a people we know our past and we are proud of it. Our progress has been part of the living history of America, even the world. We always believed that we were part of a great movement of humanity itself called democracy, involved in the search for freedom, and that belief has always strengthened us in our purpose. But just as we are losing our confidence in the future, we are also beginning to close the door on our past."

I am old enough to remember this speech, and what life was like around 1979. Gas prices skyrocketed. Food prices skyrocketed. My father would come home from the grocery store complaining that the food budget was buying less and less food. We started eating a lot more hamburger, ring bologna and things that my dad shot when he went hunting. We also had our own Recession Victory Garden in the back yard. There was no money for anything but the basics. Unemployment was high, stock prices were stagnant and the U.S. dollar didn't have the same buying power it once had.

Oil prices during this time period set an all-time high...until this year. Adjusted for inflation, prices have never been as high as they were just a couple of months ago. You know what that means. Gas prices are up. Food prices are up. People are starting to grow their own food. They don't have money for anything but the basics.

Some say that "history repeats itself". The U.S. apparently got itself out of a tight spot following the energy crisis of 1979. What can we learn from that today?

Well, the good news is things aren't quite as bad now as they were during the oil crises of 1973 and 1979. The bad news is some economists say we are at the 1972 stage of things...before things really got bad. Unemployment now isn't nearly as bad as it was during those time periods, and there is no gas rationing or fuel lines.

One thing that the U.S. is experiencing now that we didn't have in the 1970s is the current mortgage crisis. People who once were able to use their home's equity to get them out of a tight spot are no longer able to do so.

In the 1970s, it was drastic government action which finally snapped the rising tide of inflation. Interest rates were jacked up to 20 percent, making it much more difficult for people to buy much of anything, but it did stem the flow of rising inflation. The U.S. also did take steps to pump more of its own oil, resulting in booming economies for oil-producing states.

Drastic government action will also be needed now. Something will have to be done about all of the foreclosures and bad mortgages which are currently weighing down the U.S. economy. Something will have to be done to address the problem of energy demand outweighing energy production. Until this is done, expect things to get worse before they get better.

There is a bright spot in all of this doom-and-gloom comparison between 2008 and 1979. Things eventually DID get better. When they did, it led to the huge economic expansion of the 1980s, when a lot of savvy investors made a lot of money. Those who invest wisely now may be in for some great returns down the road. The question is: when are we going to hit bottom, and when will the recovery begin?

I admit, even though I hold the line on spending and avoid purchasing things that I see on those "as seen on TV" commericals, every once in awhile I see a product that looks like it might actually SAVE me some money. Case in point: Debbie Meyer Green Bags.

If you haven't seen the commercial, Debbie Meyer (whoever she is) shows off an assortment of green-tinted baggies that she says have been treated with a "special mineral" (whatever that is) which will help you save fresh produce much longer than you can in a regular food storage bag. Since my family purchases a lot of fresh produce, but we only do our grocery shopping once every 2 weeks, we do wind up throwing out some of the produce because of spoilage. When my wife spotted the green bags in one of those "As Seen on TV" stores at the mall, we decided to give them a try.

She purchased the Debbie Meyer Green Bags for about $9.99 and was eager to try them at home. She put all of our produce in the bags...fresh broccoli, bananas, green beans and lettuce. I have to admit, I was skeptical that any of the produce would last longer than the few days to a week that it usually takes to spoil unless we eat it right away.

After some time had passed, my wife pulled the broccoli out of the refrigerator and made a stir-fry. The broccoli was just as fresh and crunchy as the day we bought it at the grocery store. "How long have we had that broccoli?" I asked. I didn't remember purchasing any for awhile.

The answer? Three weeks.

Needless to say, I was pretty impressed. Broccoli usually starts to get a bit brown in the refrigerator after about a week. Using the Debbie Meyer Green Bags, we were able to triple the storage time. Other produce did last longer, but not quite that long. The bananas were still good after a couple of weeks, and the green beans were still crunchy after a couple of weeks, too. I noticed the lettuce also stayed fresh longer than usual. If you don't have a lot of freezer space for your fresh produce, or you have produce that doesn't freeze well, Debbie Meyer Green Bags are a good option.

The bags can be rinsed and reused, and are good for about 10 uses before they have to be replaced. However, when you take into account the amount of money saved by avoiding spoiled produce, they are well worth the cost.

So, do Debbie Meyer Green Bags work? Yes, they do.

Note: this product review is the opinion of Savvy Frugality and was not solicited by Debbie Meyer Green Bags in any way. I still don't know who Debbie Meyer is, but I love her green bags!

OK, so you have blown it up to this point. You haven't created a spending plan and you have no emergency savings. What you do have are plenty of credit card bills. What are you going to do now? It's hopeless, right?

Not so fast. The first step in solving your financial problem is recognizing you have a problem. Then, you have to do something about it. Where do you start? Like the old saying goes: you start at the beginning.

That's right. The most important first step is just doing SOMETHING. Here are five things, easy things, you can do right now to start digging yourself out of that financial hole you dug for yourself.

1. Stop spending money. To be more precise, stop spending more money than you have. This might mean making some tough choices, like getting rid of that money pit of a car that you're still paying off, but you've gotten yourself in deep and it's going to hurt a little trying to claw your way out of the trouble you've gotten yourself into. Create a spending plan (I hate the word "budget". That's as bad as the word "diet"). Allocate money to food and shelter first. Then, the bills you need to survive, such as utilities. Shoot for living on ten percent less than you make, and eventually try to increase that to 20 or 30 percent.

2. Know what you owe. Go through your house and dig out all of those bills you have been avoiding. Get a copy of your credit report. This will give you an idea of what needs to be paid.

3. Prioritize your bills. Some people say pay off the smallest bills first and celebrate your little victories. I say pay off your bills with the highest interest first. Those interest payments can be killers. Get rid of them.

4. Be proactive. Don't wait for the bill collectors to call you. You call them. Tell them how much you can pay, or when you can pay. Don't wait for a bill to go to a collections agency. This will kill your credit score. If you don’t want to do this yourself, there are debt management companies that can do it for you.”

5. Pay cash...for everything. Stop paying for your stuff with credit cards. This goes for bill payments too. Yes, cash is less convenient, but when it's gone, it's gone. You can't go over your budget if you are paying for everything with cash. I use checks and debit cards, too. This helps me keep track of my spending. I check my online bank account each night and balance my checkbook. Yes, every night. How else are you going to know what you are spending? If you don't have that kind of discipline, stick to cash. Even better: use automatic BillPay for your monthly household bills. That comes right out of your bank account and you won't "forget" to pay your bills.

While you can start these steps today, you won't solve all of your financial woes overnight. It took you a long time to get into the bind you are in, and it will take time to get out. Just grit your teeth, put away the credit cards and be prepared to live a much more simple life for awhile. Eventually, the feeling of being debt-free will replace that sense of dread you feel when the phone rings or you go to the mail box.

FTC Disclosure: This post contains a paid link.

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of Savvy Frugality. I started writing this blog as a means of sharing my tightwad lifestyle of frugal living with others. I have received some great feedback and "met" a lot of really cool, like-minded people over the past year as a result.

As I have mentioned in the past, I did not start Savvy Frugality as a money-making venture, but rather a way of honing my writing skills and imparting some frugal living tips based upon my own experience. I have flirted with the idea of writing a "Savvy Frugality" book, along the lines of "The Tightwad Gazette". That my yet happen, if I ever find the time. For now, I am content writing Savvy Frugality.

The readership of Savvy Frugality has doubled over the past six months versus the first six months of this blog's existence. Either the readers really enjoy Savvy Frugality, or the economy has send many Google searchers my way, or a combination of both. I would like to think people enjoy reading Savvy Frugality and appreciate the information they find here.

Here is a list of the ten most popular articles on Savvy Frugality since it first got its humble start one year ago. Perhaps some of your favorites are listed here.

1. Grow Your Own Recession Victory Garden. I think a lot of people have started to offset their increasing food budget by growing some of their own food.

2. The Savvy Frugality Recession Survival Guide. Very good information considering the current state of the economy.

3. Little Things Mean a Lot. It is those small expenses that will catch up with you over time.

4. Why I Chose a Life of Savvy Frugality. This is an early entry which explains why I adopted my current lifestyle of frugal living. I really got personal with this one.

5. Ten Lessons from a One Income Family. I'll admit, it wasn't easy making the transition from a two-income family to one. Many families find themselves in this situation, which is why I think this article is in the Top Five.

6. Pawn Shops Doing Brisk Business in a Sluggish Economy. Just one more sign that families are struggling to keep pace with their household expenses.

7. Wal-Mart Expands its $4 Generic Drugs List. A good, handy reference guide to getting cheap prescription drugs at Wal-Mart.

8. Clutter Costs Money. Unpaid bills could be hiding under those piles of paper.

9. Bad Economic Times on the Way? Savvy Frugality first sounded the alarm last September. I hate it when I'm right about things like this.

10. Say Goodbye to Starbucks. Savvy Frugality pointed out the cheaper java alternatives out there, and made the point that paying $4 for a cup of coffee is just plain stupid. Judging by the fact that Starbucks is currently closing hundreds of stores, plenty of other people have figured that out, too.

I think it is amazing that the reach of Savvy Frugality is truly worldwide. There are readers in the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Malaysia, Spain and France, along with the thousands of readers in the United States. I appreaciate each and every reader who chooses to spend a few minutes of their day reading Savvy Frugality, and I look forward to continuing to write and share with you over the next year.

Savvy Frugality has been featured in a few carnivals this week. Budgets are Sexy hosts this week's Festival of Frugality, which featured Savvy Frugality's post Grow Your Own Recession Victory Garden. My own personal garden is just a small herb garden, but it has saved me plenty. Other posts worth checking out at the Festival of Frugality include:

Top Ten Tips - Taking A Staycation by Tip Diva. With gas prices and travel costs rising, many people opt just to stay home on their vacation time - hence, a “staycation.” My wife and I took a trip two hours from home earlier this year, rather than flying to Las Vegas. We had a great time and saved a ton of money.

When Fuel Prices Go Up, America Slows Down by Lisa Spinelli over at Greener Pastures. I laughed when I read the statistic that high fuel prices are even impacting Nevada brothels, but with the amount of business they get from truckers, it makes sense. Personally, I have been driving much less and walking more (no, not to Nevada brothels).

How to dine at fancy-schmancy restaurants on the CHEAP by sarah at SARAHSPY. Great post. I love to eat at fancy-schmancy restaurants, but I don't like to pay fancy-schmancy prices. Good advice here.

Greener Pastures hosted this week's Carnival of Personal Finance, which featured Savvy Frugality's post Pawn Shops Doing Brisk Business in a Sluggish Economy. Other noteworthy posts:

G Blogger from Can I Get Rich On A Salary gets secondary honors for his great article: Four Specific Paths To Automatic Saving and Investing. Great advice and details here. I currently sock away 10 percent of each paycheck automatically into my savings account at Emigrant Direct. This is the account I use as my emergency fund, which I have had to dip into three times this year for veterinarian bills.

DR from The Dough Roller gives us a detailed step-by-step tutorial entitled The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Money Making WordPress Blog. Great information here if you write well and are looking to start a money-making blog. I never started Savvy Frugality to make money, and it really doesn't make much. It's the first blog I started on my own and it has been a fun and educational experience.

Todd from Harvesting Dollars presents an article from his series, Is Getting an MBA Worth It?. I'm the type of person who enjoys learing, and I'm currently studying to earn a Marketing degree. An MBA, however, is not for everybody. Me, for example.

Debt Freedom Fighter from Discover Debt Freedom offers some great credit score watch-outs in Credit Score Killers: 5 Things to Look Out For. Good advice if you are looking to beef up your FICO score to get a loan.

Destroy Debt hosts this week's Carnival of Debt Reduction, which featured Savvy Frugality's post Little Things Mean a Lot. Other great posts this week include:

We're (still!) Debt Free! posted at not the jet set. My own personal debt has crept up this year due to medical bills, but I still hope to knock out thousands of dollars in debt this year. My wife is slowly getting on board with this idea.

NCN presents Life Without Credit Cards And The No Credit Needed Experiment posted at No Credit Needed. NCN details how they eliminated their debt and are living without credit cards. Their story is even featured in this month's Money Magazine. Great job!

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