I received my book, When The Banks Closed, We Opened Our Hearts yesterday and have had my nose buried in it since. I have ordered another book, We Had Everything But Money as well. I decided to buy these for my personal library after reading one of them from the library. The book had such a life changing impact on my perspective on homemaking and managing our money.
These books are filled with history I never learned in school, but should have, and has brought about a feeling of abundance and gratitude for just how wonderful our life is today. I will be using these to teach my sons when we start to cover American History.
Even if one is on welfare and food stamps, after reading these books, one will feel fortunate, almost guaranteed. However, it does also teach us a lesson that we should all pay attention to even in this present day of overconsumption and gluttony that blinds us to possible future troubles that may…or may not arise.
Back in 2008, we had a recession and many claimed it was worse than the Depression. I can not comment on this because I was living very humbly during that time and was hardly aware it was happening. I did see trouble coming because I was witnessing average workers buying homes from half a million and up. I thought to myself at the time, “I thought only the wealthy bought homes this expensive?” I thought to myself these people were not making the wisest of choices. And in the end, the land was filled with foreclosures and people that were out of a home.
The DotCom period was the same before that. Those companies were selling nor trading anything of substance or solid but lived like royalty and high on the hog. They bulldozed over the poor and made neighborhoods unaffordable. They crashed and many of the once wealthy twenty-somethings spent their days unemployed and crying in their lattes.
I was one of the foolish people who accepted a credit card everywhere I went and attended an expensive business school instead of a community college. I bought a used car at a car lot for far more than it was worth and I did all this on loans and credit. I ran up tens of thousands of dollars in debt within a year or so and it took over six years of working three jobs six to seven days a week to pay it off. And I had nothing to show for it. I never finished school, it was a rip-off, the car died after the last payment, and the credit cards bought useless stuff. I missed out on travel and fun in my 30’s because I had to pay “nothingness” off for years.
I have wasted away an inheritance and I haven’t always been so careful with funds as a wife and mother.
But I have learned from my mistakes and others. Are we headed into hard times again? Another recession? Depression? I don’t know, I’m no financial guru or one to follow the markets, but I have observed a few things that have raised a red flag or two.
First thing is that credit cards are being offered everywhere you go again. The housing market is just as high if not higher than before 2008. Banks are selling loans like bottled water again (this is from a friend who owns many properties), and it seems no one remembers or learned from the crash in 2008…and we only recovered a few years ago.
I see people leasing big cars, buying big homes with huge mortgages, carrying wallets loaded with credit cards, and moving to suburbia where they must drive everywhere to get anywhere. That is another thing, back around 2008 the news would have segments on the death of Suburbia due to escalating gas prices.
Suburbia is set up in the worst way. It is miles upon miles of homes with no character or flavor and then it is a desert far from town, cities, work…not even a train runs through. When gas prices soar and it cost $800 a month to fill an SUV because the suburban family has to drive to work, drive to a train, drive to the store, drive to school, it is foolish. There has been big talk on the foolish and unsustainable design of suburbia. Not only that, it is a very isolating and depressing neighborhood. No one is home during the day because everyone in the family works long hours to afford this monster house. You have nowhere to walk that is lovely and the town is too far to go on foot. It creates inactivity and isolation.
And yet, I live in the Sacramento area and I see them design more mass suburbias in the same failing, unsustainable way to accommodate the city folk moving here to afford a house. What the heck? These neighborhoods are more attractive but not close to a town, the town nearest them are all strip malls even though that has been proven to also be depressing, unsustainable and doesn’t encourage community. There are no nearby trains to commute to the city jobs and walking or biking is not easy with the eight-lane streets.
I have a feeling we may hit another learning curve and it may be more painful than the last.
I could be wrong. But for the heck of it, let’s say we will. How will we prepare so we sail through fairly unaffected?
One of the biggest things we can do (and many people do not like hearing this) is to downsize big time!
We bought a small cottage for $135,000 in 2017 when house prices were skyrocketing in Northern California. Our house is now worth twice that a couple of years later. We could have waited on a much larger loan in two months but something inside my soul said to take the smallest loan and make it happen.
Today our mortgage is tiny and if my husband lost his job and had to flip burgers, we would still be able to pay it. We could get jobs bagging groceries or selling tacos and pay our bills. This is a comforting feeling when you want to sleep well at night.
I had put my foot down about buying new cars or getting credit cards. We have old but well running cars and only one credit card with Home Depot that has a zero balance. I still have my credit card with Wells Fargo from when it was a secured card. I use it to buy groceries, gas and pay bills and it earns points for Target cards where I stock up on sale item toiletries.
But we went even farther; we had chickens and that didn’t work out the first time but we may try in the future. We did dig up the back yard and create a huge kitchen garden. This winter we enjoyed a bounty of winter greens and were so inspired that we dug up 3/4ths of the front yard for a second kitchen garden. We have 16 fruit, nut, citrus, and grape vines all in our small 5,000 square foot yardage. As we learn how to grow produce, we secure a future of free, organic fruits, vegetables, and nuts. We are learning free ways to improve our soil with horse manure from a horse stable down the way and making our own compost.
I’m learning to can and was recently gifted with a nice pressure canner, huge water bath, equipment, and another huge pot to simmer vats of my spaghetti sauce.
Another way I save a lot of money lately is by cooking almost completely from scratch. The grocery allotment is $500 for all groceries, toiletries, and pet food. This month I shopped at Grocery Outlet and Winco with $400 and, not only did I do the months shopping and beyond, I stocked my freezer and pantry. How? Buying all basic and clean food ingredients. Even the canned foods were just vegetables and the frozen were also vegetables. When you forgo the snack and premade foods you save hundreds.
We do most of our repairs and home improvement by hand and without paying others; cleaning, repairs of the house and car, plumbing, even electric. Thanks to YouTube we can learn how to do these things. I homeschool myself on all the homesteading and homemaking with YouTube vlogs and the library.
We are now on solar and I switched my gas over to another company that is half the price…we will see, sometimes things are too good to be true so you have to try it out and pay attention.
Other things I do to save money and prepare for any financial tightening of the belt; make plan B for all situations. We have a very old system for our AC and heating. If it kapoots I have decided that an AC unit in the window will do just fine. We have the Home Depot card as a back up for emergencies (such as the water heater breaking down). I already have Presto Dish Heaters that have hardly used any electricity and warm up the rooms very well.
What if the vacuum breaks down? I would roll up the one large living room rug and take to sweeping.
Unfortunately, we don’t have an extra room or garage attached for renting out. Garages can be converted to inlaws if attached. Rooms can be rented.
I could always babysit or start a small daycare. I’ve done it before. But I’d rather just find ways to save money and cut cost. If we stay small and humble we could live on very little money. If we had to we could even cut another $400 to $800 from our budget by not driving, getting rid of the cell phones (just keep the home phone), internet, the health club membership (which will be gone August 2), and cutting groceries even more as we grow our own food more successfully.
We often gasp if someone suggests we get rid of cell phones or the internet. But I come from a day and age where we didn’t have computers when I was a kid and you only had the home phone. We did just fine then and could again. We may even become happier, more peaceful and focused. We may even write that hit novel!
We gasp at the thought of not having a car, but what if gas prices spike again? Can you walk to work or the grocery store? Can you car share with a neighbor? Do you have buses to the town, city, or work? We were at peak oil six years ago, it’s amazing how they keep threatening this and yet we still drive like crazy and the traffic gets thicker and gas stations are still around. Could there be a day it just hits the fan?
We live in a perfect area where we can walk to stores, library, clinics, dentist, and even a school (we homeschool). Bali can walk to work and if he lost that job he could walk or bike or bus to many others.
I have a plan B and a plan C. I rest easy and stock up the pantry and my accounts when I can. Just recently we received our tax refund and that has stocked our savings. We now have an emergency fund for a few months. I would suggest having savings that would get your household by for a year to be safe. This is not easy when you don’t make a lot of money but tax refunds will jump start it and continuing to cut cost and downsize will help.
All the “sacrifices” we have made to live simply and sustainably so I can stay home have been blessings. The simpler my life gets the more I enjoy it. The less I have the more gratitude I feel for the small things in life. When we lived in Walnut Grove on a fruit farm and I only left the farm once a week to grocery shop in town, I loved it! I would treat myself to a latte at Starbucks and shop alone. This was like a holiday to me because my days were always at home with children and no help. I loved the most simple acts that were a change from my everyday existence.
I also remember those days fondly. Those were the most peaceful days for me back then. I spent my days uninterrupted by outside distractions and enjoyed nesting, reading, making my simple casseroles, baking, and being with two adorable babies. I rarely even got on the internet. I read piles of books and would watch an old movie on our TV that had an antenna.
I remember the slower paced life and I have chosen to go back to it more and more. We have no cable, only an antenna that is rigged up on the roof. I’m watching a black and white Western right now as I write this blog and sip my coffee that was made on the stove top.
I have deleted all my social media and invest all that time in learning about subjects I enjoy and that help me to run my home easily.
If life seems overwhelming and too expensive, think about making big changes. Huge changes even! Why not? What do you have to lose except all that stress. Don’t fret over what your neighbors will think when you put in a garden in place of a boring lawn and start hanging your clothes on a line. Put it in the back yard if you don’t want to upset the view or neighborhood.
Don’t worry about what your family and friends say when you sell that five bedroom monstrosity and buy a little three bedroom fixer upper. When you have a small mortgage and your family is having fun painting, planting, rebuilding and learning new skills from renovating this home you will experience a deeper side to yourself and your family, you will also fall inlove with a home that you brought back to life and crafted with your own hands.
Ignore the coworkers who laugh when you start riding your bike to work and dragging a cart to the store when you walk to Whole Foods. As you gain health and vitality they will start to wonder if they might be missing out on something.
It’s a new movement that has been in the works for a long time now; people beginning to homestead in town and suburbias, others trading in cars for bikes (very big in parts of Europe now), families trading the McMansions for the tiny homes. See what works for you and be inspired by a new, easier, cheaper life with literally less stress and more life!