Tag: budget

A New York View of the National Debt

New York City offers a unique snapshot of what it means to be American. After all, Ellis Island recalls the historical arrival of many of our ancestors to “the land where dreams come true.”

Snapshots give a glimpse at something. And many people choose to only share the happy and positive peeks at their world. Such a one-sided view could be the root of much of the selective ignorance that abounds in our country.
My guides in New York reminded me that New Yorkers repeat everything three times. Basically because no one is listening to the announcements. Or each other. That simple fact could preach its own sermon.

One of my guides was quick to point out all the examples of mediocrity. In the four years he’s lived there, he’s found that most of New York is a study in mediocrity. There’s no, “If you’re going to do it, do it to the best of your ability.” It’s more like, “Just get it done already.”

Sadly, I think that’s becoming the American way.

The National Debt Clock

I might have walked by the clock without paying attention. From a distance, it’s just a stream of digital numbers that change in a random pattern.

Our guide pulled on my arm and pointed it out. I had to snap a few pictures because…the number kept going up.

This is a full-frame of the first snapshot I took.

Here is a brief history copied from Wikipedia:

The National Debt Clock is a billboard-sized running total display which constantly updates to show the current United States gross national debtand each American family’s share of the debt. It is currently installed on the western side of One Bryant Park, west of Sixth Avenue between 42ndand 43rd Streets in Manhattan, New York City. It was the first debt clock installed anywhere.
The idea for the clock came from New York real estate developer Seymour Durst, who wanted to highlight the rising national debt. In 1989, he sponsored the installation of the first clock, which was originally placed on Sixth Avenue between 42nd and 43rd Streets, one block away from Times Square. In 2004, the original clock was dismantled and replaced by a newer clock near 44th Street and Sixth Avenue. In 2008, as the U.S. national debt exceeded $10 trillion for the first time, it was reported that the value of the debt may have exceeded the number of digits in the clock. The lit dollar-sign in the clock’s leftmost digit position was later changed to the “1” digit to represent the ten-trillionth place. In 2017, the clock was moved again to One Bryant Park, near its original location.

A little bit closer view of the second number: taken maybe two minutes later.

***Inquiring minds want to know HOW MUCH the deficit increased in that short lapse. $4,726,692,000 (nearly 4.75 BILLION in a couple minutes). I wish I was kidding.

Watch it running LIVE here.

Living Outside a Budget

Our government is a poor example of living within its means. Seriously, as much as they tax everyone and everything, there shouldn’t be a problem meeting their expenses.

It’s not like they hand out free healthcare on the corner. Or offer up free college educations to anyone and everyone.

And if you’ve spent any time inside a public school (believe me, I have), you know that the money isn’t being spent there to improve the education of one of our best resources: children.

But, what should we expect? Most people don’t even know what a budget is. Or if they do, they don’t have one. A Gallup poll says only 32 percent of Americans maintain a household budget. That’s only one-third of the millions in our great (if highly indebted) nation.

For more information on this, read the article I reference on debt.com.

There weren’t any statistics on how many of the Americans who had a household budget actually lived by it every month. Based on the free-spending mentality in Washington (DC), I’m thinking it might be another low percentage.

If we want to shake our head at the government’s poor planning, we need to take a closer look at ourselves.

As goes the citizen, so goes its government.

Externals or Internals

The problem isn’t just about budgeting. It’s about priorities.

We’ve become a society fixated on the next new gadget and making everything ultra convenient.

Ten years ago, no one would know what I meant if I said, “Looking for a dog sitter? There’s an app for that.”

Because phones were still NOT all that smart, and not everyone had access to the Internet in their pocket (or purse).

But these days, we don’t even wonder or ponder questions. We just Google it. And Heaven forbid if Google is wrong. It might take a million signatures to verify that inaccuracy.

This mindset makes all the external niceties in life the focus. Where we’re going to eat dinner takes precedence over if we can afford to eat dinner. Or better yet, if we SHOULD go out to eat because it might not be the best for our health.

Internal things like deep relationships are exchanged for fleeting interactions on the latest social media application. Oh, I sent my dad a SnapChat photo on Father’s Day. He knows I love him.

Is that really how we express our internal emotions? Or have we become so shallow that we don’t appreciate the years, and work, and emotion, and sacrifice our parents contributed to our lives.

Really, a phone call only takes a second. And it even uses fewer keystrokes than sending a text message.

Putting Numbers In Perspective

Let’s face it, our mind cannot even comprehend a billion dollars. Most of us believe a million would solve all our financial woes.

Our biggest personal debt is probably a home mortgage. I choke at my nearly $200K one, but my oldest son owes closer to $450K. In that case, a million dollars wouldn’t even pay off that bank once Uncle Sam took his cut.

But what about tens of trillions of dollars? Or HUNDREDS of trillions of dollars? That’s how much money the United States of America owes to its debtors.

And we can’t fathom how much that is or where that money will come from or how it will ever be paid off.

Here’s a little comparison in something we might understand better: Time
113,052,009,072,912 seconds would be 1,308,472,327 days. Which translates into 3,584,855.69 years. Still can’t fathom it?

Using the worldwide average life expectancy of 70.5 years, this 3.5 million is equivalent to the lifetimes of 50,849 people.

Makes me wonder if it will take that many lifetimes before our country can pay off this debt.

And still, the national debt counter continues to rise.

Budget vacations and how a timeshare spoiled them for me

Like many people, my life drastically changed when I had children. In fact, I don’t think I went on anything resembling a “vacation” for the first four years of my children’s lives.

I’m not complaining. We had our own home, and I was able to quit my job after my second son was born and become a full-time domestic engineer. My situation blessed me and my sons. I know plenty of other mothers wish they had a similar option.

Recently, I posted about scrapbooking some of our family vacations. The first one in the book is a camping trip my husband and I took with our six-month-old son to Fort Stevens.

This trip never would have happened if: 1)Jeff’s parents hadn’t loaned us their camper; 2) gas prices were then what they are now: and 3) renting a campsite cost as much per night in 1991 as it does in 2014. Good grief! Even for just water and electricity it’s as much as half a hotel room back in the day.

My childhood vacations were few. They never varied. We would take our canvas tent into the woods and pitch it near a stream where we could fish for trout. We dug a hole for our “bodily functions” and ate what we caught.

Okay, one time we took a road trip to Oklahoma. Best time I ever had once we got there, but the trip itself is probably why the idea of being trapped in a vehicle for a thousand miles gives me stomach cramps.

My sons have great memories of camping. Sleeping in a tent is an adventure to every boy on the planet. Seriously. They would ask us to set up the tent in the yard so they could “go camping” at home.

Image from tripadvisor.com

Because this was our main vacation outlet, my husband and I purchased a trailer. (Need I mention that we had to purchase a new TRUCK first because the old one didn’t have enough torque to maintain the speed limit up steep inclines? *rolls eyes*) Camping is fine, but camping in an RV is my preferred method.

 

Top reasons why I prefer an RV:

  1. I always have to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. Walking a few steps in the trailer beats clonking across a spooky campground. Nothing wakes you up faster than coming face to face with glowing eyes in the middle of your sleepy-eyed trek to pee.
  2. Cooking with an RV is much easier than fighting with a propane-powered camp stove. Also, a microwave expands snacking options. Yes, we still want a campfire for making s’mores.
  3. Sleeping on a real bed makes for a more alert me. Even with an air mattress, sleeping in a tent on the ground is sleeping on rocks. Yes, I am the Princess and the Pea princess. Plus, have you ever known an air mattress to hold its shape and size under the weight of two grown adults?

All of my contentment with camping changed when we bought into a timeshare. Seriously, no packing up all your dishes, towels and bedding and then unpacking and washing it all on your return. Isn’t that a big enough selling point?

Of course, there have been drawbacks to the timeshare – not getting into the place we wanted. No condos near a destination we wanted to travel. Thousands of dollars up front and then yearly maintenance fees that keep going up year after year.

As far as the accommodations during an actual vacation? We have never been disappointed with either the property we owned or one we rented by exchanging ours. We have been in condos in Palm Springs, Phoenix, Anaheim (and it superseded the earlier trip staying at the HoJo by a landslide), Orlando, West Yellowstone, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Leavenworth, Long Beach and Seaside.

Other than the whole laundry landslide, having a kitchen so you don’t have to eat out every meal is the biggest plus (aside from clean sheets and a private bathroom).

What is your idea of a “budget vacation”?