Hard Times, part III

No doubt almost everyone reading this is feeling the pinch. You’re most likely paying more than $4.00 per gallon for gasoline; you’re also paying more for everything else as a result of record-high oil prices. On the heels of the housing and mortgage crisis, the oil crunch could not have come at a worse time for some people. (The Iraq War isn’t helping any, as American forces are burning an astonishing 3 million gallons per day in the effort.)

As a result we are all tightening our belts. The blog hostess at Benedicamus Domino – another northern California Catholic blog – would like to know what you are doing to cut back. Indeed, she has an impressive list of her own – do give it a look. She writes:

Rather, keeping in mind those who (especially now, with food shortages) have far less than we, and striving to avoid gluttony and idolatry, we should try to imitate the simplicity and humility of the Holy Family. This isn’t a left vs. right thing, or a commie vs. capitalist thing, or an atheist vs. believer thing. True, many of the ‘green’ ideas out there have been entangled with misanthropy and made-up goddess Earth theology. But at their essence, there is no reason why a Catholic cannot embrace practices that are thrifty, don’t pollute or pollute less, and try to best express the commandment to ‘love thy neighbor’…

So let’s strip away all of the earth-goddess, human-hating detritus and get down to one question: the essentials are becoming increasingly expensive. What are you doing to save money these days? Of course, the follow-up statement to the first statement is that it shouldn’t take an empty wallet to make simple, humble and charitable choices about where you spend money. We should aim for this moral trifecta even in times of plenty.”

Wise words, these. As for the Culbreaths, the changes we have made have not been made from lofty motives. I can say that we are definitely driving less. I normally like to meet my clients face-to-face because it is always more productive, especially when collecting documentation. But lately I’m using fax and e-mail even if it takes longer, even if it means doing without originals and using compromised images, even it means taking longer to establish good client relationships. When I do meet clients, I try to avoid meeting them for lunch. As a family we’ve stopped taking our occasional leisurely drive around the countryside. We’ve stopped making impulsive trips to town for this or that little thing we might “need”. We don’t really have an entertainment budget, so there’s nothing to cut back there. But I’ve had to put some farm projects on hold. The truth is that we haven’t really sat down to figure out what could, or should, be cut back, so I appreciate being reminded that a material crisis can be a spiritual opportunity.


2 thoughts on “Hard Times, part III

  1. Here’s an irony for you: Just as gas got so crazy, we were scheduled to go into Eldest Daughter’s driver’s ed. In Michigan there is a marathon process for teenagers to get a license. First they have to go through quite an intensive driver’s ed course, which is involving our driving her over and over again down to the mall both for classroom hours and for behind-the-wheel hours. Fortunately we’ve worked out a carpooling arrangement with her girl buddy’s family, but it’s still more driving than we normally ever do. But that’s just the beginning. Once she passes the written test (which I’m quite confident she will) this Thursday evening and then goes to the DMV and gets her learner’s permit, she must log _50 hours_ (you read that right) of driving with us or with someone over 21 with a license that we authorize before she can take her actual on-the-road test. Oh, yes, there is also a second and entirely separate 6-hour classroom session. She’ll probably take that next summer.

    50 hours, which must include 10 night-time hours. So just when everyone else is starting to cut out unnecessary driving, we will be making up totally unnecessary drives to take with her so she can practice. We just don’t drive that much in the ordinary course of life. Our church and my husband’s work are on the order of 15 minutes from home, without going on the highway. I go to the store five minutes away. I figure that with the hard winters we get around here (when none of us drive more than we absolutely have to) we’ll probably take something like two years to get in the fifty hours.

    So I’m afraid we’re moving up rather than cutting back, but not willingly.


  2. Sad story, Lydia! The way things are going maybe your daughter ought to forget the driver’s license and learn to ride a horse. Looks like the wave of the future! Be comforted in knowing that, out here in the California boondocks, we can knock out 50 hours of driving in two weeks.


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