Cache in my chips

It looks like the time has come to upgrade at last.  Hrothgar, my trusty desktop for four long years, is on life support.  I now spend more time coaxing the computer to turn on than fulfilling my browsing habits.  This is an untenable situation.

Unfortunately, Hrothgar’s next of kin will set me back a pretty penny.  Normally I would be able to budget an expense of this magnitude easily, but bathroom renovation is expensive (even for do-it-yourself types).  So I have to make a few decisions I’d prefer not to make, such as ‘how fast does my computer really need to be?’ and ‘what can I cut back on to afford this?’.  The previous question is more difficult than the latter (in this case), but it makes me wonder whether or not this type of problem is becoming more common for the swath of humanity known vaguely as the middle class.

I’m quite fortunate that my budget is tightened by tangible luxuries, rather than the rising cost of (insert noun).  Others have much grimmer prospects, choosing between healthcare & transportation or the choice of Nintendo & Playstation 3.  The one common thread that I detect is the disheartening realization that we (in a generational sense) will not live as comfortably as our parents did.

This revelation is not the end of the world, but it certainly is a smack in the face.  From the time we can tie our shoes, we’ve been led to believe that hard work & a good education are as good as gold (maybe even better!).  With those two feathers in your cap, success is guaranteed*.

*Maybe I just didn’t read the fine print?

These days, hard-working well-educated Americans are defaulting on their mortgages and stealing gas.  Things have gotten so bad the the government is giving money away, hoping that people will spend it on something (rather than save or pay off debt).  There are a million (plus or minus) reasons why this has happened.  Since the effects are so much easier to pin down, I’ll stay away from the causes for now.

An especially perverse effect is the shrinkage of the middle class.  By my own definition, the middle class must possess the financial wherewithal to purchase the things they want without depriving themselves of the things they need.  People who once lived at the fringes of this definition have now descended into the lower class, which provides only for the things needs or deems necessary (like expanded cable).

Where do I fall?  I’m likely still in the middle class, but ostensibly because of my lifestyle (some optimistically call it voluntary simplicity), not because of my salary. I sometimes imagine my life lived as a typical suburban existence- I’d drive more, get cable, have a gas mower, a new(ish) home to live in, etc.  All of those things add up to an obscene amount, which increases much more frequently than salaries do.  I don’t think I could afford that life, and I’d slip into the lower class as well.

So what’s the solution?  There isn’t one.  Things are looking shitty, and they might get shittier.  The good news is that this country survived one Depression (did they call it a recession at that time, too?), and it made us resourceful in tough times.  Can we do it again?

First thing off the shopping list…..$300 F@#$()@! for Microsoft Office.

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