Making it Stretch. Small Budgets in a Changing Time

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It is April’s Camp NaNoWriMo time! I have my NaNoWriMo writing nerd shirt on and I’ve begun the project for this month. I decided to write a novelette on adjusting our lifestyles and budgets to fit in an unemployment check as so many are being laid off right now in droves. I don’t have the funds to pay my editor or buy a book cover so I thought, “heck, I’ll just post chapters on my blog for free!”

This advice isn’t for everyone. Have fun with it, let it inspire you, take what you like and leave the rest.

(and remember, I didn’t have my editor to look it over, it will be sloppy)

Chapter 1



So, here we are with a virus that is terrorizing the world, shutting down commerce, laying off workers in the masses, and locking us in our homes.

This is a bizarre happening, I’m sure we can agree. It is also a very stressful time for many. Millions have been laid off as I write this and by the time I’m done with this little booklet, millions more will be sitting at home wondering how they will pay for the cost of living.

Unemployment will come for many, and stimulus checks are supposedly on the way. But for a lot of people, this will not cover the cost of the rent or mortgage, the leased car, or mass amounts of credit card debt. This is a big and brutal wake-up call for a lot of people. Some of you are living single and the struggle will be your own. Some of you have families and that adds layers of fear when you have others to worry about.

I feel for all of you. I have been there with debt, loss of work, even homelessness for short periods of time. Fortunately, I had a family to take me in and I was willing to work any job; auto parts store counter clerk, Denny’s waitress, house cleaning…I’ve had the plush jobs and the grueling jobs. I’ve had mass debt and paid every penny back. I’ve married and become a housewife with a new baby only to have the husband be out of work. We have lived on one income made up of a wage only a bit higher than minimum wage. I’ve created jobs at home with my imagination.

With each hardship, my skills of frugality and thrift were honed. Now I will share that with you. I have many books out there but this time calls for a quick book…a novelette on the craft of living on a new budget in a new age.

It’s hard to swallow still, being so fresh, but this is the beginning of a changing time. We may be entering a recession far surpassing that of 2008. A second Great Depression in this modern day.

We have all been racing about in this rat race, trying to increase our incomes, get that promotion, earn that raise or increased pay rate, meet the quotas…we live in a time of too much work and stress, pollution, traffic, crowding, and commuting.

Not many of us experience rising naturally with the morning light or truly getting off work at 5:00. We don’t walk home or ride our bikes to the grocery store to load up our basket with organic produce, and not many of us spend that much time with our children.

What many of us are doing is spending hours in a car commuting, worrying about child care, working late hours, getting divorced, not having enough to pay our debts, running up our credit cards, and developing an addiction of some sort to escape it all.

Now we are living in a different time. We are now scared of a virus and being unemployed for a length of time. We are fearful of bankruptcy, foreclosure, homelessness. These are things we think when we can’t pay the mortgage for a few months or we have to decide between paying the 10 credit card bills or having groceries.

Oh, and groceries. Let’s talk about the empty shelves we all glimpsed in the panic of shut-ins. That made our reality very clear that everything we need will NOT always be at our fingertips.

So, what now? Is an economic collapse coming? Are we beginning the next Great Depression?

Who knows. We can run about waving our arms and panicking or sit and drink whiskey straight out of the bottle while watching the news (and it will surely make you want to drink something hard)….or we can get busy in the most productive ways possible and start shifting and rebuilding a lifestyle that is unsustainable. I like the latter option. Better for the liver as well.

My husband and I had a dream to live in a charming mountain town and I tried to save for two years to no avail. I made mistakes right and left and wound up with an empty savings account each month. I’m not a big spender although I enjoy throwing items into my virtual cart on Amazon. I don’t gamble, we don’t drink, we don’t go out to eat or shop at the mall. So, what was going wrong?

Then one month it all became quite clear.

A friend needed to borrow a substantial amount. This was a good friend that had helped us many times so we were quick to get what we could to him. We cashed out Bali’s paycheck and handed it over. But then the 2nd paycheck of the month had to go to renew his work permit, a big priority, and all then there were no paychecks coming that month.

I always pay our mortgage two weeks before the month it’s due so that was covered. My royalties from my books and my YouTube channel can be around $800 combined. We had to make it due with the royalty payments for the month and we did it. We paid the bills and purchased groceries that month without tears and drama. We were a little overdrawn, but to be $35 overdrawn whilst working with $2,000 dollars less that month was pretty impressive. I knew right then and there that all this talk of “paying yourself first” was the magic potion.

We have a bank with our savings and checking, but Bali has a separate bank he’s had for years. We immediately turned that into our special savings bank, added my name and vowed to never touch it. Each month we put the first check into savings. The second check paid the mortgage for the next month. We lived off my royalties.

In the beginning, it was tricky because we had a few little depts; HomeDepot, Amazon, and others I can’t remember. I will be honest that we were overdrawn and struggling by the end of each month. We walked everywhere, baked our own bread instead of store-bought and I changed the way I shopped and cooked drastically to reduce the gas and grocery bill. With that extra money, we paid off the little debts and living on $1,600 to $1,800 or close to that amount, became easy.

There are sacrifices. It takes time to adjust to the lifestyle that goes with extreme budgeting. But do you get used to it? Do you grow to love the new lifestyle more? Yes and yes. There are many hidden gems and delights in this new lifestyle.

I used to run around with the boys. We’d stop at a fast food place, shop, go to a park, visit family. This was fun but costly. We still can do parks but we don’t visit family as often when trying to wrangle our budget. It sure doesn’t hurt us to cut out the fast food and shopping is always expensive.

How do we spend our days? The boys play endlessly. They read, draw, make up “movies” with their toys, build cities. Now that we have a huge yard they run around outside, climb trees, ride their bikes…build cities and make “movies” outside.

I write books and blogs, listen to music, watch TV while folding laundry, make bread, make vlogs for YouTube, garden, clean, chat on the phone, and read.

All this is free.

It was not easy getting rid of the Health Club, I loved going there to swim and exercise. I had a couple hours of childcare and rest. It took some time to let go of Netflix, we kept finding series that we just loved. It’s not always easy to force yourself out the door on foot when the vehicle is out in the drive.

We have moved since then and we now can walk everywhere and get free exercise in nature. I’ve discovered that VUDU offers so much more than Netflix. It saves a library for me with unfinished movies and documentaries, we can order and rent anything! Even classics that Netflix never had. I can pay a small price for seasons of PBS and Sesame Street. And thousands of documentaries!

I have come to take great pleasure in the daily task of working in the soil and watching my seeds sprout or kneading bread. I feel fortunate to do work I adore such as my writing or making videos. These tasks are free and produce money and savings for us.

This will be a short book to jump start those of you starting unemployment or facing a new income that may not cover your previous lifestyle.

I don’t know how possible it will be to sell, move, or downsize a house or car at this time, but learning a new way of living that cost very little is a start.

We live on an income of $30K to $40K, however, when we decided to move to a town that we loved and needed to save to buy a house, we adjusted our lifestyle to live on around $20K that year. We reduced our income by half.

This advice is not for all of you, I understand. We had a small mortgage and our cars are paid in full. This makes a huge difference. We had only a few hundred in debt. Most have thousands in debt.

Please use this book to inspire you. Take what works and leave the rest. I could only write from our experience and I can not cover every persons’ situation out there in the world. Some people aren’t willy are able to make big changes right now but in the future can start to make small changes. Some of you love your lifestyle and don’t want to change it but have to in order to survive. Pride, ego, and reputation gets in the way.

We sleep well at night because there is no worry. Bills and mortgage are paid with ease, our needs are met. Life is peaceful. My husband can work 40 hours and call it a week. His commute is short and pleasant.

Now, we don’t do a lot of things other people enjoy. We don’t travel or go out to dinner often. I don’t frequent a local coffee shop or have lunch dates. We live in a house that is over a hundred years old and has all the quirks of an elderly house.

Sure, I would love to travel about and I’d love to redo my whole interior house. I’d love to hire help for everything and have a maid come clean twice a week. But right now we have a small income and our biggest dream was to buy a second home and live in the mountains…or a little mountain town. So, we save, I clean my own house, I decorate from the mismatched collection of furnishings and drapes that I’ve collected from thrift stores over the years, and I’m cooking from scratch 95% of the time.

We also homeschool and now with the shut-ins I feel like I want to lock my children outside all day but for the most part, I love having them close by and I could not send them to a public school all day. I would truly miss them too much. I also know that my children would not thrive as they do at home creating, building, and playing all day.

To each his own. You have to find what works for you and your family. I’ll just share my ways, tips, and advice and you glean the good stuff for your needs.

8 thoughts on “Making it Stretch. Small Budgets in a Changing Time

  1. well said. honestly our life won’t change much. the only thing is my husband is home all the time which i love . we plan to triple the gardens. get livestock. on the treadmill calming the anxiety as i just got off the phone with my daughter who is in new mom fog processing all this.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you Kate!
    You inspire me so much.
    We will all get through this and will come out the other side more content and appreciative of what we have!
    Love to you and your Family xo

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bravo, Kate!! You did an excellent job without an editor. I only counted 8 proofreading errors. Most of them were verb tense, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. However, this was an excellent piece. As usual, I have learned so much from you. Thank you! Your ideas are much needed in these difficult times.


  4. .Thanks for sharing this with us, I can’t get enough of your writings.
    I finished the sweet life in homemaking yesterday, I enjoyed it so much. Since discovering your work 18 months ago my life looks very different and I find the more I read the more it changes.


  5. I am loving your advice. I do know what you say about homeschooling and how you would miss your boys if they were in a school classroom . I loved our homeschooling years and could not even think of sending them to a public school. We homeschooled through high school. Both kids were so creative and I loved the fact that they had time to pursue their interests.


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