California Drought; Food Prices On the Rise

I’m not sure if you caught this or not.  I suppose if you live in California you might have heard quite a bit about it.  If you live far from California, like I do, you maybe haven’t heard much about it at all.  But, apparently, California is in the midst of one of the worst droughts on record.  The California drought is so bad that the governor of California has declared a drought emergency.  During what is traditionally California’s wet season…  Take a look at the U.S. Drought Monitor.

If you live in another state, you might ask yourself why the dryness of California should concern you.  Well, take a look at these numbers compiled from the 2007 Census of Agriculture.  California is the primary provider of a lot of the produce (fresh, frozen, and canned) that you buy.  They produce 99% of the Artichokes,  90% of the Avocados,  83% of Grapes,  79% of Lemons,  76% of Tomatoes, 73% of Lettuce, 65% of Nuts, 59% of Strawberries, and 59% of Spinach.  And that’s just a sampling from that list.  They also grow 100% of the Pomegranates.  With no water to irrigate all those crops, some farmers are resorting to bulldozing (literally) their crops and leaving fields fallow.

California DroughtWhat will happen if 10-50% of the production in California is lost?  All those produce items that they contribute so much to are going to get really expensive.  This article on CNBC is reporting that prices are expected to rise by 1.25-1.75% across the board.  And it’s not even clear if that increase takes into account the drought in California.  Even at an average of 1.5% increase, that’s a pretty significant hit to the wallet.  Imagine if it gets closer to 5%!  What if it gets worse?

The truth is, it’s not just the food cost that might be on the rise.  Power could be affected too.  Low water levels due to the drought could me a pretty significant drop in power generation at hydro-electric dams.  And those power generation shortages could mean power shortages, brownouts, and will most certainly mean an increase in the cost of electricity to users.

While the cost of power might stay somewhat localized, the cost of food is going to be universal across the country.  As the cost of produce increases, more and more people will buy less of it, and switch to eating more affordable food sources.  Except, there might not be any more affordable sources.  If cattle producers can’t water their pastures, there’s less grass for the cows to eat.  And if there’s less grass to eat, they might have to start supplementing with grains.  Which will increase the demand on grains, and raise the price of grain as well.  The price of meat and dairy is likely to rise significantly too.

We’ll see, of course, just how bad it gets as the summer season progresses.  Many of us will be desperately finding ways to stretch what produce we can buy, and create extra room in our budget for extra food costs.  It’s not going to collapse the economy, I don’t think.  At least not yet.  But it is very likely that it’s going to create a very tight summer in many budgets.

Would You Encourage Your Child to Try to Be an Olympic Athlete?

The Olympics have been on for a week now, and across the world, young children are watching and finding themselves thinking of Olympic glory.  Every time the Olympics air, young children are inspired.  If they’re already in a sport, they may work harder, dreaming of Olympic gold.  If they haven’t yet started a sport, they may want to begin to see if they, too, can be like their Olympic idols.

Yet, as parents, should we encourage these dreams?

The Financial Toll of Pursuing an Olympic Dream

Being an Olympian extracts a heavy financial toll on a family, not to mention the time commitment.

Is this a worthwhile dream for our children, or are we setting them up for failure?

When I was young, my teacher was friends with a family whose college-aged son was training to be a speed skater.  His family had to hold fund raiser after fund raiser just to pay for his training.  Meanwhile, because of the time commitment for training, he was unable to hold a regular job, so he also needed money for living expenses.  In the end, he didn’t make it to the Olympics to compete, let alone try for a medal.

Was all that time pursuing his dream a waste of money and time?

The Financial Rewards of Being an Olympian

Olympic AthleteThe glory, the fame, and the money from endorsements are only for those who receive a medal, usually a gold medal.  Those who reach this pinnacle can expect a handsome return on their time and money investments.  Take Michael Phelps, Olympic swimmer, who is reportedly worth $30 million thanks to endorsement deals.  Shaun White, two-time Olympic gold medalist for snowboarding, brings in an estimated $7 million a year in endorsements (The Examiner).  Yet, the chance of reaching the pinnacle of your sport is very rare.

Is this a worthwhile dream to pursue?

If an Olympian doesn’t win gold and reap the endorsements, she can often find herself able to create a job as a sports commentator or as a coach.  These can be good jobs that keep the athletes in the field they love.  But is all the money they spent to train for the Olympics worth the career choice?  Can being a coach really help justify the money spent to pursue an Olympic dream?

Many people may argue that the point of the Olympics is not about the finances.  The Olympics are about pushing yourself and trying to reach your goals.  They’re about training to become the best athlete you can be.

This is a noble goal, but is it worth the expense and sacrifice to family, friends, and athletes?

A Better Way to Pursue an Olympic Dream?

If my child were to express an interest in being a world class athlete, I would encourage him to train as he could when he was young, but the goal for me personally would be for him to receive a full ride athletic scholarship to college.  If he could reach his Olympic goals from there, wonderful.  If he couldn’t, then at least he would have had the chance to compete at the collegiate level, and he would also have an education.

Would you encourage your child’s Olympic dreams?  If so, how?

How Much “Stuff” Do You Own?

Every few years or so the discussion in my house comes back around to how we’ve seemingly outgrown our house.  It’s about 12oo square feet, and there are currently 2 adults and 2 children living in it.  It can get cramped.  Sometimes more than others.   But, I try to remind myself that the people we bought the house from somehow managed to raise 4 children in the home.  How?  I have no idea.

We have a bunch of “stuff”

I think that one of the major differences between the couple that lived here before us raised their children in a different age.  It was an age of far less consumerist tendencies.  And, even with our increased awareness of consumerism, we still seem to accumulate stuff regularly.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I contribute almost as much to the problem as anyone else.  I’m frugal to a fault, but there are plenty of things that I accumulate that fit within those frugal means.  Books would be the primary culprit.  I’ve been better lately, buying books for my kindle more often, but I still have quite a bit of books that are hanging out on shelves.

Aside from the books, we’ve also got an entire shelf full of DVD movies.  We probably only watch about 4-5 of them with any sort of regularity.  And they’re all kids movies.  I can’t tell you the last time any of the adults here watched any of the adult DVDs.  It’s hard enough for us to find our time to watch The Walking Dead.

There’s so much other “stuff” that we just don’t need.  Every so often, we go through and clean a bunch of stuff out, and minimize a whole bunch of “stuff” out of our lives.  And, slowly, it all creeps right back in.  Either through gifts, or through replacement with other new things, it eventually grows to the same size.  I suppose it’s because it’s not really a “necessity” that we keep the minimalism up.

It’s nice to have a certain level of creature comforts around.  Things that we simply don’t need, but that we use once in a while.

Too Much StuffHow wonderful would that be?  Nothing that isn’t specifically useful, or that you don’t think is beautiful.  Of course, that means you’d have to find out how you define useful.  Beautiful is easy to define, even though it’s definition is a little different from person to person.  Useful, though?  That’s a different story.  At it’s simplest, you can probably define useful as something that you use daily.  Or maybe it’s something that you use weekly.  Or monthly?  Well, maybe it’s not so easy…

What You Want Balanced By What You Need

If you’re reading this article, you’ve likely read other articles.  And if you’ve read other articles, you’ve likely also read a few about people who live in incredibly small spaces.  Those are people who’ve really, really managed to discover just how much they really need.  The rest of us likely are living with so much “stuff” we don’t really need.  And, if we’re living with so much “stuff” that we don’t need, maybe it’s just the natural path of things.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want to believe that it’s just “natural”.  I think we accumulate “stuff”, even if it’s subconsciously, just because we can.  Because we don’t have any good reason to live minimally.  That would require work.  That would require some commitment.

And frankly, work and commitment are something that most of us aren’t willing to give to our “stuff”.  We’ve got better places to put our time and efforts.  But, we can take small steps.

What steps do you take to make your “stuff” more minimal?