Friday, July 13, 2012

Getting By in a Tough Economy

We're living in very economically challenging times.  Of course it's not the first time our country's had it rough financially. It's fascinating to read about stories from the Great Depression and how people learned to live with less. Those folks were really innovative when it came to living frugally. 

In fact, if you haven't checked out Clara’s Kitchen you are missing a real treat. She has great stories and creative recipes from the depression era and she is delightful to watch.  I've tried her "poor man's meal" and it was very good.

Here are some ideas for managing your home on a tight budget. Maybe you will find a couple of them helpful for your own household.

·       If you live a ways from town, try to fit all your shopping needs, library trips, etc into one trip to conserve gas.

·       Eat most of your meals at home.

·       If you can, grind your own grains for making your own homemade breads, muffins, cakes, flatbreads, rolls, pies, etc.

·       Homemade ice cream and yogurt is cheaper and healthier than store bought.

·       Build or buy a cold frame to grow veggies practically year round.

·       If possible, keep goats for milk, and chickens for meat and eggs. Back yard chickens are becoming increasingly popular. If your city ordinance has laws prohibiting this, consider getting it overturned.

·       Keep the air conditioner set high, and the heat low. If you’re lucky enough to have a wood stove, use it in the winter time for heat. Keeping a kettle of water on the top will provide some healthful humidity in dry winters.

·       Everything that uses electricity continually draws a current even when not in use. Consider unplugging the unnecessary ones. 

·       Unscrew light bulbs that are seldom or never used.

·       Learn how to mend and fix things instead of replacing them.

·       Keep away from the mall.

·       Check to see if thrift stores or craigslist have what you are looking for before buying new.

·       Use cloth instead of paper napkins. The one below shows one of six that I made myself using some fabric I had leftover from another project. They are a snap to make - just a square of cloth hemmed on all sides. Best part - make them to match your personal decor! (They should be laundered within a day.)

·       Cancel cable television altogether.  Play parlor games for your evening entertainment instead. You’ll grow closer as a family, make lasting memories and have a lot more fun.
·       Cancel all unnecessary memberships and subscriptions.
·       Ditch the costly activities and let your kids have fun in the back yard and at a local park.
·       Forgo the salon, and team up with a friend for manicures, pedicures, hair color, highlights, etc. If you wax, consider using a home kit.
·       Keep an eye out for free community family activities and events.
·       Increase the use of cleaning cloths and save paper towels for really yucky spills like raw egg or meat spills.
·       Hang dry as much clothing as possible to save energy on running the dryer.
·       Dilute whole milk with water, especially when cooking and in cereal.
·       Use cloth diapers and wipes instead of expensive disposables.
·       Clean countertops with plain white vinegar. (This won’t work on tile because vinegar is an acid and it will slowly eat away at grout.)
·       Don’t waste money on dryer sheets. Clothes soften beautifully in the washer with just plain old vinegar. I fill that middle dispenser cup with vinegar and the clothes turn out perfect every time.
·       Moisturize with extra virgin coconut oil. Ounce for ounce, it’s much cheaper than pricey beauty creams and best of all its antimicrobial properties make it awesome for anti-aging and glowing skin.
The popular saying during The Great Depression was:

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”
What a concept! Saving money does take some creativity but it is worth the effort. It’s like a little game to find out of how far you can stretch a dollar. When I was growing up, I was taught to use things sparingly. A dab of toothpaste, scrape your dinner plate, use every last drop of everything.

I teach my children this concept. Make do with what you have, or learn to live without it. We’ve come to realize we can live pretty happily without a lot of things. Most of the things people think they absolutely need, they really don’t.
We could learn a lot from the things many folks did in the Great Depression.  Here are some of the frugal things they did back then:
·       They used Sears Catalogs and old newspapers instead of toilet paper. (Praise God things haven’t gotten that desperate yet.)
·       They made clothes, aprons, diapers & underwear from old flour sacks. Three sacks were enough to make a housedress.
·       They “cut down” old worn out clothes into smaller clothes for babies and children.
·       They didn’t accept charity. They worked an honest day for honest pay. Government welfare was a humiliating last resort. We could use more of that mindset today for sure!
·       If their shoes wore out before a year, the children went barefoot.
·       They bartered and traded for both goods and services.
·       They mended worn out socks using a darning “egg” and weaving in thread to fill in the hole.
·       Loose strings from clothing were saved and added to a string ball for future mending and sewing needs.
·       Every scrap of material was saved for making quilts.
·       When they had nothing left to eat, they ate lard sandwiches, fried dough, weeds and sometimes even from garbage cans.
Those were desperate times! A must see movie is the The Grapes of Wrath with Henry Fonda.  The film does a good job of showing us what it was like for those in poverty back then. I think it was a really well done film. 
Reduce your spending.

Reconsider all that you think you need. Even if you don’t need extra money right now, you may be suddenly without an income some day, and anything you put away now for a rainy day will be a blessing to your family. Of course, skills are true wealth. It’s good to learn how to economize, but skills are priceless. For example, knowing how to find wild edibles.
So what do you think? Do you think any of these ideas could help ease the burden of a tight budget? Care to share what are you doing to get by in this tough economy?


Jessica said...

What is the water-to-milk ratio for diluting whole milk?

Great tips! For several years my family of 3 was living well, WELL below the poverty line (under $13,000 a year) and we were comfortable because we did a lot of what is suggested here. We even ate almost 100% organic (we found out that one of the grocery stores offered 20% off on Thursdays if you brought in a student ID)!

Jessica said...

Wanted to add - we were in a pretty low cost-of-living area. No debt either (we used a credit card to build up credit, but would pay it off within 2 days of making a purchase so we wouldn't get stuck with paying interest). We used our tax return to pay off our car 6 months early so we'd be free from that bill.

Simply Keeping Home said...

Hi Jessica! Wow, you guys are doing great - good for you! :) I think diluting milk varies depending on the use and personal taste. For cooking, a 50% dilution is acceptable. But I wouldn't dilute my kids drinking milk unless in desperate circumstances because they need to the fat and calcium.
It's amazing how you managed to get organic on such a tight budget! I'm impressed!
Thanks for stopping by! :-)

How to Get Rid of Anxiety

Have you noticed how much we're hearing about anxiety lately?  Soooo many people are expressing their battle with anxiety. I do not want...