Saturday, December 11, 2010

Living on a shoestring

Had to laugh today.
It was reported that people on un-employment are living on $320 a week... *gasp* ... how can a family of 4 live on that?
We have done it for years. .. and when we were a family of 5! It makes me wonder if "those in the know" really know what the average person struggles with everyday. Sure, I'd like to have a lot more money, but we made choices that we are happy we made.

I have not seen the new program "Downsized", so I don't even know the premise, but my husband and I downsized when our first child was born. We had a beautiful 1910 Gambrel house with 5 bedrooms, an upstairs Florida room, living room, family room, den, enclosed front porch... you get the point.
We decided to sell the house and get an apartment. We moved to another part of the city because the prices of apartments were lower. Yes, Jim had to drive further to get to work - about 45 minutes more, but the price of having me stay at home was important to us.

We really wanted to see if we could make it on 1 small salary. And we have succeeded. It was NOT easy, and there were times we weren't sure we would make it. But we did. I began reading all I could on frugality, saving money on groceries and cloths for the children. I read how to save money by buying what was needed, not what was wanted, and to buy store brands, not name brands. Eventually I was able to feed a family of 5 on $20 a week. I can still come very close to that now, in this economy- (and am putting together a book on those meals, if you are interested send me an email and I'll put you on the list)
However, what we lacked in money, we made up for with sheer will to prove it can be done. We used to tell the kids that they could have anything they wanted... as long as it wasn't the "best". You can find things at Thrift stores, on sale, or even save up for whatever is important to you.

To "downsize" is not a bad thing. We downsized for the good of our family. Some people may think that eventually we downsized TOO much - after all, we eventually made the choice to live without electricity, and we still collect our water in cisterns. We built our house completely by ourselves... which is still an on-going project.

The work-in-progress that is our house is now getting a new kitchen. Jim is building the cupboards and making the cabinet doors himself. We have some walnut boards we have saved for a few years, just in case we would want to use them. They will be the cabinet doors.
We have an old porcelain sink that I got out of someone's trash back in 1992. We are using that as the kitchen sink. Yes it has some dings in it... but that gives it character, as far as I'm concerned.
The piece of bowling alley lane from a dismantled bowling alley in Columbus Ohio in 1987, will be incorporated in as a tabletop. We are making our own tile counter tops with tile that was on sale because it is going to be discontinued, but we figured the price is almost half of what a counter could cost.

The sink in our bathroom came from a store that was going out of business. We bought 2 sinks in 1991 for $20. One is in our bathroom, and the other we used in 2008 when we added a large addition to our house for my mother to live.

The point is, planning and figuring out what is important to you. You don't have a 5 bedroom 2 full bath house to be happy.

It always surprises me how young adults can't seem to give-up or sacrifice for what they claim they want for their children.

"Actions speak louder than words". "Where there's a will, there's a way"
It seems like those adages are no longer in use. But those are 2 we have lived by.

The commercial part of Christmas has always been difficult. We wanted to give our children everything they would like. It was very hard to budget and try to stick with it.
One Christmas when our daughter was four, she said "This is the best Christmas ever!" and she had just opened her stocking... She hadn't seen the presents under the tree yet.
That statement made me realize that "less is more". Children are satisfied with less.

At one time in our lives, the song "Mary and Joseph's Boy" by Alabama really brought me to tears because we hadn't yet figured out how much more we needed to downsize in order for us to be happy.

"There were times we didn't think we'd make it through the year
The bankers tried to take our farms but somehow we're still here

I don't know how the crops survived the drought and then the rain
It must have been a miracle how else could you explain."

My mother always quoted "This too shall pass", and it did. It will for you, too!

Have a great Christmas... and "don't sweat the small stuff"!

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