A while back my husband asked that I be more careful with the money. I laughed heartily. You see, we are on one small income and we live in Northern California. I want to make this real clear. The land of million dollar homes and high taxes. We live in a small old cottage that I found and bid on with a tiny loan during 2017’s skyrocketing housing market and I feed, cloth, and make do with around $2,000 a month. I don’t mean to get so personal and transparent but what do I have to hide? Our wealth? Hahahaha…eh hem. Anyway, this is what I’m working with.
Now, I do bring in some money with my YouTube Channel and the royalties on my books. Not a pile of gold, but enough to afford some luxuries like organic food to keep my family healthy, a health club membership for the family, and some programs that I donate to such as animal welfare and feeding other persons.
Other than these nice items, there are no pedicures, salon visits, Friday nights at the pub, Saturday night dinners at the local steak house, vacations at Disney land, lunch dates with the “girls”, shopping sprees, days wandering the mall. I don’t buy anything new, I wait five months for popular novels through the library because everyone and their grandmother now use the library thanks to us frugal teachers. I also have a cheap antenna rigged up on my roof for local channels and I have a $15 Italian stovetop espresso maker to do my own lattes.
A vacation to me is visiting the godparents and bringing my Wok and a bag of groceries and cooking for everyone. Shopping sprees are at thrift stores.
Now, I will admit that I was trying to get really tight with the grocery budget and got a bit lazy with the convenience foods. Lord love that convenience food. Sadly, it made my family ill. We are used to quality and the preservatives and junk really took us down. I went back to scratch cooking and organics and I decided to only shop at the nicest stores; Whole Foods, New Earth, my beloved Briar Patch. I wanted to be surrounded by beauty and luxury.
That was when the money was going out a bit faster and I was reprimanded…or gently asked to be more prudent.
I retaliated in words but kept my actions in check. Then a community member on the channel pointed me toward this book We Had Everything But Money, a collection of photos and stories from those living and growing up during the Depression Era.
It was a heartwarming book, omitting the really hard stories. You could guess that times were brutal back then with the Depression being combined with the Dust Bowl and severe drought of the heartlands, influenza that wiped out half a million people, banks closing and people losing every penny of savings within a day, and all this sandwiched between two World Wars. Not a very nostalgic time. It was a hard, painful, terrifying time and some of the photos show the wear of poverty and stress on the parents’ faces.
But this book had the stories of open hearts and family strength, of people finding the true meaning of community and life. There were stories of mothers using such creativity and thrift it would put us all to shame. It was life changing. I read stories of wives who made homes out of nothing; one woman started a business in a rental after losing their home while she was pregnant and had four children already. She was successful in these hard times and bought the boarding house and a second home at that. Can you imagine how hard the family worked and how good she was with money management? Another wife hauled clay from the river to plaster the walls of the drafty farmhouse they rented to keep them warmer and make the home more attractive.
These women worked with nothing most of the time and still came up with a loaf of bread and fried potatoes. They built furniture if they didn’t have it. They sold homemade jam from berries the children picked on the side of the paths to make money for salt and flour.
I suddenly felt upper middle class instead of the lower class the government guidelines say we are. $24K is the average poverty level, $34K is the federal poverty line. We are in between those two magical numbers. But after this book, I felt upper crust for sure!
We have so much, we eat such variety, we shop so often, even if it is thrift…and a health club membership?
I was inspired beyond boundaries. I did try to cancel the membership but it expires in August so we will just enjoy until then. It may be a hot summer after this wet winter.
However, I did get to work on other areas of this new use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without mantra. I made up my own saying to start…because I’m a writer and that is what we do, of course. Mine was “make it, bake it, sew it, or grow it”. Yay!
And I got to work. I purchased a small greenhouse with some of my royalties, stocked up on seeds and purchased another fruit tree ( I just bought another today, it’s sort of turning into an addiction). We dug up the front yard to make a second kitchen garden. I planted and researched, I emailed my master gardener friends in my neighboring zones. Bound and determined to grow, can, and cook every single, dingle thing from my yard and from scratch, I planted like a mad woman. A bit too early, but I’ll figure it out.
I have yet to bring in the sewing machine or start mending my torn linens…but I swear that is on the list. Learning to knit is second in line. I may not be a seamstress anytime soon, but I’m thriving in the kitchen! So, let’s look at that, why don’t we. Come on, let’s put down the yarn and go into my cafe.
Someone even sent a Cafe sign that I have hanging in there now.
I have been baking wheat bread, and loaves of Amish white bread, making tortillas from scratch, and granola bars for the kiddies. I’m slowly moving away from any premade or convenience foods and I’m stocking my pantries.
I still won’t compromise on organics because I don’t have to get that crazy, but I’m finding all the deals and stockpiling. I find that without buying any junk foods, premade meals, boxed or convenient dishes, I’m saving a bundle. I am buying canned and frozen produce and tomato sauce for now but when summer comes I will can my brains out.
Recently, I shared this on the channel and a woman came to my home and blessed me with an All American pressure canner, a huge water bath pot, another huge pot to simmer my spaghetti sauce this summer, canning tools, and a few more storage buckets for my bulk foods. I scored a deal on seven boxes of canning jars off Craigslist. I was also given links to the University of Sacramento Master Gardeners site and top tips on gardening from a pro.
I feel that God and this glorious Universe is supporting me in every way.
As for my home, I’m scrubbing and rearranging and decorating with what I have. I’m so grateful for this home and the bit of land we do have. When I clean and nest I’m saying, “thank you.” I show love for my home with the work and making it as cozy and charming as possible. I have also been decluttering and giving toys, books, and items to others or donating. Less is better. I can clean quickly and easily keep the home tidy with less clutter. I’m cleaning like my great grandmother probably cleaned. Deep and thorough and with all that elbow grease.
I buy nothing. We pay the bills, mortgage and that is it. I realize with deep clarity that we really DON’T need ANYTHING! Whatever I “think” I need I can make, grow, sew, bake. I may have to omit sew…but we have so many clothes. I don’t need clothes for the next decade.
We are also back to homeschooling. I just didn’t feel the whole homesteading vibe with Arjan in public school, but that didn’t work out. He got his taste of it and now we can resume homeschooling through a wonderful independent program with a charter in Nevada City. I’m loving it. We spend mornings doing our studies, I sip coffee and plan my menus or more ways to save money and teach my little ones to read and write.
We have a full, vibrant life. And it’s fairly inexpensive. Our days have routines, music, chores, good books, mugs of coffee (not for the boys, obviously), gardening, baking, and writing. I look forward to all parts of my days and I am excited about each season now that I’m a master gardener in training with my two big kitchen gardens and greenhouse.
We don’t go out much but we certainly aren’t missing out on anything. We have rivers and forest to explore that are free, we have enrichment classes through the school for free, the library, and we have a home that is filled with activities.
For those of you who are now curious or just need to be reinspired after years of frugality and you want to take it up another level, here are some great blogs and books that will motivate you to a new lifestyle.
Rhonda Hetzel, Down to Earth
We Had Everything But Money
The Complete Tightwad Gazette
Mrs. Sharon White, Living on His Income
Connie Hultquist, Dear Kitchen Saint’s
Blogs to inspire:
gdonna.com generations before us