Saturday 7 July 2012

The Costs of [developed world] Living.

There is hardly a day that goes by that I don't wonder how most middle to low income families get by these days.
Every time something breaks around here, if I can't fix it, it costs quite a bit of money.
I am not talking about the frills.
I mean the appliances, the house, and the vehicles.
Sure, people in most other parts of the world get by without any of this stuff.
But here, it's difficult to be part of the system if you don't conform to the average standard of living.
Ownership may be fraught with pitfalls, but paying rent and using the laundromat are a guaranteed income drain with no hope of breaking even;
there is no easy choice.

Living rurally, a vehicle is a necessary possesion.
We have two now, though we did only have one for a long time.
There is a truck and a van.
The van is for moving the family, the truck is for moving supplies and materials.
Having two sets of wheels means having a back-up in case one is taken out of service.
Since breakdowns of some form are inevitable, we often return to one-vehicle status.

This time, both the car and the truck are troubled.
They both work enough to take the kids to the hospital if need be,
but really, they are not reliable.
The van is on the road now, but the truck has a fuel tank suspended by a strap and shouldn't be driven.
The protective skid plate has rotted off, and unfortunately,
it also helps hold the fuel tank up.
I priced out new parts: almost $1000 for a new skid plate and strap.
There is no way I would be paying that much for a couple of pieces of formed recycled steel.
So it was off to the junk pile to find an alternative.

Several years ago, someone lost the tailgate to a trailer while driving out the road here.
I left the piece leaning against a tree for a long time, hoping that the owner would get it back if they came back this way.
It was never retrieved.
But, it was a perfect match for the new skidplate; just a few modifications.

The front part of the assembly is carefully built to fit the underside of the truck.
It had some integrity left, so I thought I would keep it for the sake of simplicity.
I used an angle grinder with a quality cut-off wheel; it will cut through anything.
With a few strategic cuts, it was time for the old welder to be put into action.
I added a few other small lengths of scrap steel to help strengthen the repair.
Everything I used, other than the welding rods, electricity, and cut-off disk,
was scrap metal that would normally be sent for recycling.
It's worth keeping a modest collection of materials if you are able.
There was also some leftover primer from an older project to help seal up the metal from corrosion.

The job isn't finished yet.
There is still the strap to build.
That will be a strip of steel with some rubber around it;
I'm sure my junk pile will oblige me.
If I spend an entire day on this job, it will still be worth the time spent.
For those people who make less than a thousand a week,
time is often more valuable than wage.
With the repairs we have had so far this year, there is no way we could keep up indefinitely.
As economic dynamics evolve, there are remarkable gaps that will cause hard-working people to fail, through no fault of their own other than depending on money to maintain a typical living standard.
My hope is that as the economy sickens, families will learn to rely more on themselves and less on the paycheque.
For many, that will be the only way they'll survive.

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