By Joe Rector

After the last column on battling inflation, I was surprised that folks contacted me to ask about sharing some of the things Amy and I did to get through the tough times. Of course, then can’t compare with the mess we find ourselves in now. Price gouging and inflation that put a gallon of gas at more than $5.00 sends shockwaves through all of us. What we did in our time of struggle might not work for you, so take these suggestions and modify or ignore them.

As I said before, we set a budget. Amy did most of the work on this. She listed our monthly bills, and then we ranked them in order of importance. The mortgage, food, and utilities sat at the top. She also listed smaller items, such things as entertainment and eating out. We also listed church donations and savings in the budget.

Many of you might recognize this budget plan as one that Dave Ramsey made famous. I don’t agree with the man on most things, but I know that on two occasions in our life, his budget saved us. The key is to assign every penny of earnings to a category. We used the system where the allocated money for each category was placed in an envelope. This works well in two ways. People tend to spend less when they see a finite amount of money. Second, an empty envelope screams that it is for a particular category.

We lived by the saying “It’s good enough!” This lesson teaches children the importance of things. When money is tight, buying a brand-name article is impossible for a family on a budget. A good pair of tennis shoes that isn’t stamped with a brand mark will serve the same purpose at a cheaper price. The same thing goes for a bag of chips, a can of beans, or a new shirt.

One of the most important things we learned was to question every purchase we made. Our chore was to look at the item we wanted and then determine if it was a need or a want. If anything is identified as a want, folks don’t spend their budgeted money on it. Living without that item might be disappointing, but folks must realize they are in a war against high prices and gouging.

Living on a budget isn’t the end of life. It might be the end of wasteful spending and the beginning of awareness of how to correctly manage finances. At the end of each month, the envelopes are emptied of any remaining cash. The sum can go into savings or to paying more on outstanding bills.

Yes, we are facing some tough times. Our government representatives don’t seem to want to work together. As for the economy, other generations have experienced much worse things. The Great Depression and two world wars demanded many sacrifices from people. They became smarter and tougher. They also learned the importance of reaching out to help others. I am sure that times will be better. Hope and faith in something bigger than ourselves are key ingredients in getting past a crisis.

Keep your faith and find your own way to get through to the other side. Be a cheerleader for anyone who is in a bad place. Let’s reveal those characteristics that identify us as Americans. It’s time to toughen up and use our energies toward reaching a better tomorrow.