Wednesday, April 8, 2009

So, What's Up With This Damn Economy Anyway?

Dollar Sign Pictures, Images and Photos So, I'm seeing that the whole "job thing" is desolate. My brother is
now heading out to California to work for a while and I've got friends worried about whether
or not they can hurry up and pay up their mortgage in order to only be one or two months
behind! It's not just in the US, either. Europe's job market can be described in a word: sucky.
Egypt has always had a fairly high unemployment rate....but now even Supermarket owners
are complaining that people are cutting back on food!!!! Now THAT is crazy. My question is
this: WHY is it that so many people are complaining about how broke they are and STILL
can afford cell phones, internet services, new clothes, shoes, Botox, new boobs, and fast food
meals each week?! Clearly, SOME of the people complaining about the economy are in fact
still living life as they have with little to no change. I'm one of those weirdos who can adapt to
any society (practically) and any situation. We moved to Egypt seven and a half years ago.
Having moved around all over the world my entire life, I never considered it to be more than
a slight headache or at most, a severe case of the hiccups. Most of my friends and family
thought that living overseas outside of the military or diplomatic community would bear to be
too much on us and the novelty would wear off and we'd be running back to the land of golden
arches, Wal*Mart (damn them all) and pantyhose sold in plastic eggs 24 hours a day. They
were wrong. While yes, I miss the hell out of most of the modern conveniences that I grew
to consider "normal", I have realized that I CAN live without them.
We have always lived "bare bones minimum" since we've been married. I think the only
extra we ever really had was a $24.00 a month satellite tv bill and an affection for flavored
fru-fru coffee beans. Still we always bought generic store brands vice Starbucks. Now that we
are in Egypt, we're even more skeletal in our purchasing. We own our flat outright. Paid for it
with cash in full 6 years ago. Great investment if you can pull it off. When we bought this place,
the price per square meter was a little under 1000 Egyptian Pounds. Today it's 3 times that!
Also, since we live in a city full of public transportation, we do not own a car. This saves a ton of
money on car payments, insurance, maintenance and gas. Of course, in the US, outside of New
York, downtown Baltimore, Boston or Chicago, this is not just an inconvenience. It's stupid.
Suburbia requires a vehicle. But NOT a Suburban or some other gas-guzzling SUV.
In Maryland, I bought ketchup on sale. In Egypt, I make my own. (Really easy, too. I mix equal parts of sugar and tomato paste, add a pinch of salt, pepper, cinnamon, ground cloves, cayenne pepper and 1 T of vinegar a little water to desired consistency and mix.) Now maybe
you're thinking, "How much can she possibly save making her own ketchup?" Well, here ketchup
is pretty pricey. So I can actually save quite a lot. One jar of tomato paste costs me the same as a small bottle of ketchup. That jar of tomato paste can make me the equivalent of 6 bottles of ketchup. I also have learned to make brown sugar (they don't sell it here) and clarified butter (just wanted to learn.) I bought a sewing machine and make my own bedsheets (fitted ones too)
and curtains and throw cushions and big cushions so the kids will stop fighting over "my seat"
when watching tv. And I'm no Martha Stewart, either. I did try to make a dress once. It took me
a year and a half and it came out really funky. Not bad on a first try but not anything I'm patient enough to try again anytime soon.
At the end of the day, I guess I probably average spending about 60 dollars a day here (if you look at the Egyptian Pound as equal to the US Dollar...which it isn't actually. That'd be 10 dollars
a day....but if you think of it this way...the amount of work to earn 1 dollar is the same as the amount of work to earn 1's all same.) That daily average covers food, bills, incidentals like dentist, medicines, stitches for the kid who refused to stop swinging like tarzan on his belt he'd attached to the hinge of his closet door, etc. Not bad, huh?
Granted I could quite easily return to the days of Sonic burger drive-thru trips once a week or pre-packaged shredded cheese from the grocery store and buying an automatic drip coffee pot with an alarm clock in it at 3 in the morning JUST BECAUSE I CAN.............but why? Why
not use the money for something better like spending a fun day at the zoo or the beach with my
kids and my husband. Really, it's all about prioritizing.

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