I recently wrote a quickie book called Dirt Poor and Lovin’ It! It was a mini hit. I have added more to it since I first published it and I keep adding when I get an idea or hear some great advice.
I believe that all things have seasons and that includes being poor. If you are smart about being poor and make it work for you, the tables will surely turn.
I was inspired to write this booklet when we started our own house search. We desperately wanted to buy our very own home and it just felt like it was time. When I worked with a lender for a pre-approval I was a little disheartened to find that we only qualified for $130,000. We live in Sacramento California where the average house is now going for $350K to $500K. A dumpy house in the ghetto would be $200K. So, I was feeling beyond challenged.
We have a large savings that we have been building for this purchase but it wasn’t looking like nearly enough. I began to get back into my hardcore frugal and penny-pinching mode. I was saving every nickel and dime.
I watered down my detergents, my shampoos, the bubble bath. I would just add fresh grounds on my old grounds to my coffee filter for days using the same filter, therefore, using less coffee and only one filter for 3 days. I refused to even buy light bulbs. When a light died I stole a bulb from another room where I never used that overhead light. I even swept the floor when I thought my vacuum was broken (turned out to just have a large lego lodged in the pipe). If I needed anything I would first look about and see if I could repurpose something I already had or borrow from the neighbor.
I stopped spending completely outside my rent, utilities, and groceries. I cut way back on the grocery budget. We went from maybe around $1,000 a month to between $300 and $600 at the most when I had to get toiletries, dog food, and diapers. I had some friends that had to do food stamps for a short time because times had gotten a bit challenging for them. They were allowed $400 for a family of 4. I was inspired to see if we could do that.
We have been living as though we have very, very little funds, as if we are on food stamps, and we have nothing to spare. I have put all the extra in savings. When we got our refund I distributed it wisely. Paid off a tread climber (the only luxury item we have purchased in years). I created what I call a ‘household savings’. We have the big daddy savings in another bank so we never touch it but we have no savings for our regular use. I opened one to connect to our checking account. I stocked up on everything. My pantries and bathroom cupboards are loaded. I must have enough toilet tissue for 6 months. I have enough soap and shampoo for months and months. My stockpile pantry in the kitchen is loaded.
I still didn’t buy light bulbs. Those and paper towels are a luxury right now. I’ve gotten super cheap.
Has our quality of life decreased? No. We are playing at parks, forest, and home. I have stacks of books from the library I’m really into. I have great music going all the time on Pandora. I have my coffee. I have TV and Joyce Meyer.
But you see, when you have been frugal and living on one income for years you learn to enjoy life’s simple pleasures. At first, it’s hard to go from a life of going out all the time, shopping for what you want when you want, buying groceries without looking at prices. It seems so restrictive and depressing. Then you get used to it and find that the quality of your life has increased 10 fold. You are now spending quality time with your family and enjoying life.
Then you take it up another level and just stop spending outside the bills and rent. And groceries of course. I prefer my homecooked food to going out. Most food that is convenience and packaged or diner food taste so lifeless. My food is fresh, hot, and delicious. I make my own versions of everything out there. I make my own frozen burritos, my own Ranch dressing, my own pizza.
I can even make my own laundry detergent, household cleaners, shampoo, and face masks for pennies and come out ahead and environmentally kind.
Then I got to thinkin’ even more. Just how broke could I handle getting? If my dryer broke down I would hang my clothes out. If it was winter I would hang them on homemade racks like the shower rod and chairs. I used to hang my clothes out but we moved into town and I have no clothes line and…I just got lazy ok?!
Even if my washer broke down and I had no money for the laundry matt…I would wash my clothes in the tub. Heck, our great, great, great grandmothers went down to the river or used a washboard and tub. The Amish still do.
As for groceries, you can just buy produce, meat, cheese, flour, and make a ton of great food from scratch. I love homemade food SOOOOOO much better than going out to eat. Well, at least where we can afford to eat. The HomeTown Buffet isn’t considered fine dining, I do know this. We also have kids and it’s no fun. Won’t be for years and years and years. We just use that $50 for a weeks forth of groceries.
We used to not have the internet and just an antenna. I loved the local channels. We pay a small sum for stripped down DirecTV package now and I swear that 95% of it is infomercials and reality TV that I detest. I loved all the old movies and westerns, the 80’s sitcoms. The antenna doesn’t work well in the city sadly enough or I’d still be with it. As for the internet, I used to just go to the cafe or library to use it. I would buy a cheap cup of coffee and enjoy being out in the social cafe scene. Now I do need it for the blog and books and I have the cheapest I can get that isn’t dial-up.
When my family and I lived on a fruit farm by the river I did hang our clothes on the line, I did make big buckets of homemade detergent, I only used vinegar and dish soap for cleaning. With permission, we picked the fruit on the farm. We had pears, cherries, lemons, oranges, plums, mandarins. It was great. We bought cheap eggs from the landlady.
We have been poor, poor, and poor. And we have never suffered. We live better than some friends of ours that are wealthy…or upper middle class. We don’t stress about money, borrow from Peter to pay Paul, wring our hands when bill paying time comes.
So, here I am tonight eating ice cream and celebrating our new house. We bid on a cheap HUD house and God was kind and blessed us. I had to get frugal and smart with the house buying and I’ll go into that with another blog. We have just enough left over after closing cost to get the work done on the home. And it will need some work but not that much. Old homes were built simply and solidly.
So, all that frugal and thrifty living has paid off. And once I got used to it, I have to say that it’s enjoyable. It sure beats having to work. Being a housewife suits me just fine. I did have to find an outlet and that is with my blogging and book writing. We all need a hobby and if it’s free and then starts making you some money….well, yee haw!