Coke and/or Pepsi? Now I’m Getting Serious About Frugality

Coke has always been my cola.  Yes, I can taste the difference!  I usually stock up on extra Coke when it’s on sale. But when Pepsi is on sale and Coke is not, I stayed with the Coke.

Just this week I’ve realized that brand loyalty is an extravagance I can no longer afford. Unfortunately, I’ve also noticed that Pepsi seems to be on sale a lot more than Coke. A few weeks ago I was able to buy two-liter bottles of Coke for $1 at one of those “dollar” stores. Then it went up to $1.25.

I’ve searched the supermarkets and the discount stores in the past week. The regular price for a two-liter Coke seems to be $1.79. The lowest price I found was $1.25. But Pepsi is on sale for 99 cents!

Breaking a lifetime habit, I decided I simply could not justify paying 26 cents more for the taste of Coke. Just like that, Coke was no longer an essential in my everyday life. Does this count as an epiphany?

Now I’m getting serious about thrift. You’ll know I’m deadly serious when I shake the cola habit and switch to water or tea.


Clarity on Health Insurance and the Public Option

Updated and revised, 07-31-2009.

The political and economic debate over health care in America is starting to clarify.

Congress is coming to the conclusion that the private health insurance industry is part of the problem. Tailoring American health policy to suit the private insurance industry makes no sense.

Health care policy should be designed to meet the needs of people and doctors, not insurance companies. Did you ever know a friend who liked fighting with insurance companies to get a claim approved? Do you know anyone who likes needing a referral to see a doctor? Do you know any physicians who like the paperwork that the insurance companies impose on doctors and their office staff? 

Finally, do you know any doctors who enjoy having the insurance companies tell them how to run their medical practice?  Do you know any patients who trust their insurance company more than their doctor?

President Barack Obama’s proposed public option is making more and more sense as an alternative for people who are sick of dealing with the private insurance companies.

Universal health care would also be a giant step toward simplifying life for millions of middle-class, working-class, and poor Americans. 

How nice it would be to accept a different job without having to give up your health insurance! What a relief it would be if, even when you lose your job, at least you don’t lose your health insurance! Your children could still go to their pediatrician, not the emergency room. Health care for all would be so . . . well, so equal. It would be so fair.

And for those of us in the graying generation, baby boomers who often find ourselves passed by in this fast-changing economy, what a relief if we at least had health insurance.

Medicare eliminated the specter of poor, elderly Americans unable to afford health care. What if we could do the same for all Americans? 

Health care is one of the essentials of life: Food, Shelter, Clothing, Transportation and Health Care. It would be so much easier to live a simple and frugal lifestyle, if essential health care was available for every American.

Thinking About Simplicity — The Essentials

Food, shelter, and clothing. In a simpler age, those three were the basic human physical needs. In this modern age, most of us would add two more basics — health care and transportation.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the essentials these past seven years, once it became obvious that my earnings had peaked and were sliding downhill. One clings to a familiar standard of living as long as possible, past the point of reasonable indebtedness.

I knew that I was spending more than I earned each month, resulting in slowly mounting credit card debt. I could not ignore it forever. And in my late 50s, as I bounced from one hourly wage job to another, I realized that my ability to work hard and long hours was waning.

It was clear that I needed to live more simply and reduce spending.  If I could reduce spending enough, I would be able to work less.

“What am I spending this money on?” I asked.  “And what are the absolute bare necessities?”

My three major expenses were not food, shelter, and clothing. Shelter, yes. I lived in one of the most expensive suburbs in America. The price of a decent house was outrageous. The cost of renting a decent apartment, almost equally outrageous.

The other two money pits were the car, including gas, maintenance, repairs, insurance; and health care. The health care piece came in the form of health insurance, which remained within reach as long as I had a job that offered health benefits.

Clothing has become relatively inexpensive, since most of it is manufactured by cheap labor in faraway places. I already had more clothing than I needed, so clothing expenses were negligible.

Food is nonnegotiable. Food is the last necessity you give up. You can be homeless and walk everywhere, but you still have to eat. Fortunately, food is still relatively cheap because of efficient modern agribusiness. Also fortunately, I do not consume large quantities of food. Conclusion: Not much savings likely in the essential food category.

By process of elimination, the big savings would have to come from  housing, car, and health care.

Thinking About Simplicity, to be continued . . .