Practicing Austerity at Home

With the news of political unrest and potential default in Greece swirling around our own trip to Greece, it was impossible to not have conversation some of the austerity measures being considered by their government.  According to an article in the International Herald Tribune, some of the measures being proposed include:

  • "Solidarity" tax of 1 – 5% on all households to help defray the debt payments;
  • Increased excise taxes on such items as gasoline, tobacco and alcohol;
  • Special levies on on high-value properties and high-income individuals;
  • Increased mandatory retirement age;
  • Decreased educational and healthcare spending;
  • Cutting of temporary contracts by government;
  • Sales of public infrastructure to the highest bidder, which you should read as foreign highest bidder.

Given our tendency to chat with the locals, we got an earful of what it actually entails to average Greeks and we made it a point of sharing that with the kids.  They have to have a sense of what’s coming down the pike since their generation will have to contend with the lion’s share of the clean-up work.

It’s also important to discuss austerity because we’re now having to practice some of our own to pay off the bills from the trip itself.  We’d saved for more than two years to pay for the trip and the airfare and most lodging was already paid off, but that didn’t count a fair amount of food and incidental spending and when I viewed the amount charged online, I winced.  While I intellectually understood the exchange rate of $1.42 to the Euro, it was a different prospect to see how that translated to actual dollars on the statement.  Likewise, I wasn’t prepared for the foreign transaction fee charged by the card company for each transaction that occurred overseas and the cumulative result was sobering.

We’ve now decided to practice austerity at home while the outstanding bills are brought back to earth and this has been made clear to the kids.  For instance:

  • Youngest is now playing a midsummer baseball tournament and instead of spending money on bottled water at the concession stand, we’re making sure that we take a half dozen bottles in a cooler;
  • Any requests for money by the kids are now met by the comment about Europe and the question of whether I’ve been repaid on the time that’s owed me for the backyard project and that’s managed to squelch several requests;
  • Greater attention is being paid to the home cooking and restaurant meals are now out of the picture.

The bills aren’t overwhelming, while shocking, and nobody’s going to lose their home over it.  But while my mother always repeated gotta pay the mortgage first during my childhood, now I can simply say Europe and the same message will be understood.

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