Saving and survival in hard times

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Our family has been struggling with financial difficulties for some time now, and what has enabled us to survive, stay out of debt and keep our heads above water are, among other things, these money-saving strategies:

1. Food: we keep chickens for eggs, have a herb garden, and grow and gather some seasonal produce, but naturally, this isn’t enough for all our needs. We have learned to choose the cheapest and most nutritious foods we can get, and cook long-lasting, economical meals such as soups and stews.

We stockpile and try to venture out shopping less often, making do with what we have in the house. The less you pop into stores, the less you will buy!

Another useful strategy is, whenever you find a defect in any store-bought product, don’t pass, complain. If you word your complaint right, you might get not just a refund, but all sorts of coupons and gift cards as compensation. Lately we have complained about a bag of wormy rice, and got two bags of rice and a bunch of canned goods as a gesture of goodwill.

2. Utility bills: reexamine your electricity and water usage and scrimp as much as you can. We have a solar water heater and I try to make do with it even in winter – we still have enough sunny days to shower every other day or so. Shocked? A daily shower is a privilege, not a need, especially in winter (in summer, we have plenty of hot water from the solar heater to shower every day). Wash full loads of laundry, line-dry your clothes, turn off lights and appliances, and wear extra layers of clothes rather than heat your house.

3. Gas: gas and car maintenance are expensive. Stay home as much as you can. Schedule all your errands for one day. Try to get people to drive over to see you, rather than go to them.

If you live in an area with reliable public transportation, consider going without a car. We can’t do without a car, unfortunately, and furthermore, we’ll have to upgrade in the near future as we grow to be a family of six and a standard 5-seat vehicle is no longer enough for us. Of course, we’ll sell our current car to help fund the next one.

4. Clothes and shoes: hand-me-downs and thrift stores will keep you clothed for next to nothing, and often you can get very nice brand-name gently used clothes that will last a great deal longer than cheap new clothes you might have bought at the mall.

5. Housing costs: if you rent or are paying a mortgage, it’s a huge, stress-inducing drain in hard times. Many people have been able to downsize to a smaller, cheaper, easier to maintain home, without any material reduction of comfort. We are lucky enough to own our home free and clear, but unfortunately, the local taxes are killing us. We are praying for an opportunity to sell and move to an area with lower local taxes.

6. Health: we have reexamined our health insurance to get a more affordable plan that covers nearly as much. It’s still a huge expense, and we might have to give it up altogether if things don’t improve soon, because it’s absurd to have a health insurance and starve, but for now we’re holding on.

At the same time, keep yourself in as good health as possible, because depression and physical weakness make it more difficult to handle a financial crisis. Eat as well as you can, get your sleep, be out in the fresh air, and take exercise in the form of walks, riding a bicycle, or working in the garden. It’s healthy and free.

7. Shopping and entertainment: just close your pocket and don’t buy anything you can survive without. Limit your entertainment to free stuff – walks, hikes, bonfires, friendly get-togethers – and moreover, stuff that is within walking distance or a very short drive, because gas costs money too, remember? Swap books with friends or use the library, reexamine your mobile phone and internet plans, and if you still have cable TV, cancel it.

8. Alternative money making sources: as important as saving is, sometimes you also need to think how you can earn a little extra. My husband fixes computers while he’s getting his company established, while I write fiction and nonfiction, do freelance editing and proofreading, translate, and do occasional nutrition counseling for people who are prepared to make it to my neck of woods.

It’s hard when you’re on a tight budget, but it’s possible to survive and even thrive by judicious management. Read more on frugal living strategies here.

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9 thoughts on “Saving and survival in hard times

  1. Lovely list dear!! GOOD JOB!! When we were young and poorish…poor some years, we did a lot that you mention plus I sewed and made gifts so much as I could. Young children especially can be just as happy with such as store bought. Sewing with so many children would take more help from your husband or other kin, that is for sure…but if more money would help, that is another helpful thing. I find however today, most fabrics here in USA are not worth buying. However, if you like cottons as I do, quilt shops here have the best…and you could watch for the sales. Also, with children, find good adult fabric in ready made clothing in thrift shops and REMAKE!! I wish you all the best!! In the end of things, the time you spend and the love you give your children will go the most distance anyway…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much, Elizabeth. I don’t sew, but I do crochet, and most often use old giveaways of yarn or recycled yarn, because good quality new yarn gets expensive. It’s good to see the perspective and look at the light ahead of the tunnel: things will improve, hopefully, and in the meantime we need to stay well-fed, healthy, and out of debt.

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    • Elizabeth, so right that there are very few good fabrics to find in the USA. Thanks for the tip about quilt shops having cotton. It seems everything is synthetic blend. I just received two sewing machines from my mother in law she was donating! So excited to get started making some projects with the bolts of flannel and scraps I’ve been saving. Also would like to learn how to “remake” clothes I find..that’s a good idea. Your comment and the this blog is inspiring me to rethink and revise 👩‍🌾

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You are so right in your observation that the less you pop into a grocery store the less apt you at to buy things. I’ve found the best way to avoid spending money – what I call the “$5 gallon of milk syndrome” is to put in my pocket only what I estimate I’ll need for whatever it is I’m buying. Aldi’s has milk for about $1.70 a gallon, so I stick two dollars in my pocket, jam my purse under the seat, lock the car and sally forth. I may be tempted by cookies but I don’t have the money to buy them, and by not even taking my purse I can’t grab my credit card.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Along the lines of sewing for cheaper…I check the thrift stores for sheet sets in good condition. Solids, plaids, and some of the floral prints would look fine as clothes, you get yards of matching fabric for a couple of dollars, and if you cut carefully you can even skip hemming in some cases.

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