Choosing to stay poor? Or how much wealth do you really need?

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I am opposed to any poverty consciousness talk or actions. Certain ways of thinking, talking, and behavior keeps people trapped in a constant struggle for funds. Choices that are unwise keep the harvest disappointing if not detrimental.

But what if you choose to live on a small wage. What if you have heard the woes of friends with money and decide that claiming that small sum during tax time is not such a bad thing after all?

I used to be driven to make that money. But mo’ money, mo’ problems.

I don’t know what they want from me
It’s like the more money we come across
The more problems we see

-The Notorious B.I.G.

We make very little. The spouse makes a bit above today’s minimum wage in California. I make some royalties from self publishing my books. There is a small payment for fostering. I make about $1.37 an hour for being a foster parent.

However, we thrive. We eat organics and live in a very nice area. We are surrounded by natural beauty and one charming, old town after another. We could play tourist every weekend for decades.

Our house is over a hundred years old, but sadly, they didn’t keep all the original stuff. Each room has some cheap renovation from recent decades; the 60’s and 70’s (which were not the best years for architecture or home decor) and some 80’s. Old items were replaced with cheap modern items. I have a 70’s sparkly sink in the bathroom, we all know that look. A boring, budget updated kitchen that was done with faux granite top…maybe not even faux, just painted plastic. My stove is so old it lets me know when and how it will be working each day. So far we have a good working relationship. Some ceilings are nice plaster, the kitchen has the old lumber but the living room and my bedroom are cardboard type floating ceilings…or something like that. The only thing not updated was the tube and knob electrical wiring and the lack of insulation.

But the fun thing with an old, funky house is all the things you can do with it. It’s so imperfect that you could do some outrageous things and if it turns out weird, it’s still an upgrade.

The other fabulous thing about an old, funky house is a small mortgage. And land. Old houses had bigger yards because people had to grow food back a hundred years. Sometimes you even score a few old fruit trees and if you love on them a bit they will produce for you.

We are fortunate to make just under the limit for Covered CA insurance so our insurance bill is affordable. We do pay higher taxes which many people run from California because of this. I think it balances with the benefits we get in this state.

I used to be driven to make a lot of money. We worked so hard and did make enough to move to our area of choice but I feel like we work incredibly hard and the earnings are very small in the end.

Today I don’t fret over making extra money. I don’t care anymore. We can pay our bills easily and tuck a little away for savings. We have a little play cash during the month. What more do you need?

There is an epidemic worse than any Covid 19. It’s called “never enough”. People talk about having millions in the bank and it’s still not enough. Alcoholics are like this, “one drink is too much, a thousand is never enough.”

We all suffer this to some degree and with some habits. It could be food, drugs, drink, money, shopping, stocking up. It leads to hoarding, obesity, cirrhosis of the liver, losing out on time, joy, balance, family…can even ruin your life and take it all from you in the end.

So, I’ve really pondered how much money do we need? How wealthy do we want to be? And what does wealth look like?

I would love to do some renovations on this house. I love to play and create with my homes and I want to live here forever…or a long time. Either way, it is a canvas to me and I have ideas. Those ideas will take more than a weekend of my partner and I painting the rooms with left over paint. We do things for little to no money now because that is the budget. $0 to $500 for renovations. However, one day I want to do things that will require a carpenter and some quality materials. It’s good to dream.

But would I be ok if that money never materialized? Yes, I would find ways to decorate and redo things by hand and with recycled materials. It actually brings out far more creativity when you have to hunt and peck about for things and think outside the box to get stuff or accomplish a task .

Our roof doesn’t leak. That is a big joy right there. The chimney leaks ever so slightly.

I have a safe, cozy house in a good neighborhood. I have a big porch we love to feast and celebrate and hang out on. I have lovely views out each window. That is all we really need. My kids have great co-ops and schools they love and thrive in. We have good friends and family we adore. We go to bed at night with no fear or stress or worry. The worst thing that happens in the night is the darn dog that has to go out around 2 AM.

If we had a fortune, would we want a fancy house? Maybe at first but then would we be happy in it? What would the neighbors be like? Probably not around, they would be too busy working. And how boring is a house that is perfect and doesn’t need some tweaking and work?

A new car…I wouldn’t resist that. If we get another car now it would be off Craigslist and gently used. We would sell one of our cars and pay in cash. I never, ever want a car payment. That was 7 years of hell when I bought my first used car from a dealer. $6900 turned into probably double that by the time I paid it off.

I definitely want our paychecks to allow us some freedom of choice. I like that I can shop at the grocery store and try new sauces and products, buy organics and plant based alternatives. But if the grocery envelope is very small, there are ways to enhance it. Growing as much as you can will make the food money stretch. If you grow herbs you will never have to buy them and a bottle of seasoning can be $3 or more easily. That is $3 you just saved for something else. I have learned to make my own alternatives such as faux baloney and steak, soy and oat milk, and all our own breads. I save a couple hundred a month just from that.

You can have it all! But you will have to be easy of spirit, surrender to the big picture, and learn to make a lot of things by hand. I’m not so handy. I can’t make clothes or install a window. We don’t want to raise chickens or goats. I have learned to garden and can and that is a big skill and money saver. It takes years to master the gardening but you can literally grow organic produce two to three seasons out of the year depending on your zone and if you have a green house.

We are getting older so it’s best to get the hard chores done now and set up the house and garden for easy labor in the future. I mean, we still have a good ten years but I’m not so into the working hard all day thing. I’m getting more into other things.

I like having goals and challenges. If we were handed all the money we would need for the rest of our lives, where would be the inspiration to write, build, create, do?

I write books and publish them for money to pay bills, get extras now and then or save. We could live off of my spouse’s income but it would be tight. The writing money gives us space to breath, save, and play a bit. Fostering can’t be counted on. Especially if it turns into adoption. Then it becomes an extra expense.

Since putting the focus back on the home and family, making it my top job, I have found many ways to save money and get the extras. I have used gift cards from the Amazon affiliate program to purchase games and items for the house and kids (games such as magna tiles, chess, and bad mitten). We are doing much less media all the way around so the board games, puzzles, and library books have been upped. I have given away 90% of our stuff but did sell some items and made a little cash. I’m finding fantastic deals on furnishings and tools on craigslist. Cooking all the time and 85% scratch. Stocking the pantry, stocking the toiletries. Then I found some grants for the kids schools, funding for clothing and supplies. I have time to forage now.

I love foraging and pecking about. I don’t know that I would want life to be just handed to us. If we had piles of money we would just order online all the time. That isn’t fulfilling. We work to find what we need and we keep to what we need and not much more.

And we do treat ourselves to all sorts of wonderful gifts. Weekly bags full of library books, watching free movies on Roku with all its channels. Stocking up on board games that we really enjoy. We have Chinese checkers and chess, both fun, Mahjong (can’t figure out the game but I know it’ll be fun once we do). Walking trails is something we truly love doing. My kids never say, “I’m bored, I want to go home, I want TV.” That is the smart part of downsizing media. They want to be out exploring.

When you don’t have much cash to spend, you find other ways to have fun and it turns out those ways are far more fulfilling.

15 thoughts on “Choosing to stay poor? Or how much wealth do you really need?

  1. I am on board with everything you said. Finding our “slightly more than enough” was huge for us. We live simply but humbly. Because we have more than enough,i
    f the car breaks down or we need the roof repaired, we have the money, as we do for christmas, birthdays and when a loved one needs help. Because of credit cards points [ I always pay them in full every month] and online surveys we are able to go on a cruise about every year and a half [our onr expensive passion. I am a little sad because cruiselines might go bankrupt but we’ll deal,] When circumstances happen that force us to use much of our savings, the Universe has recently reminded me that we will be provided for.

    According to the charts, we are on the high end of poor or the much lower end of middle class.

    We live in the mountains of colorado, on the side of a mountain, and we have chickens and Nigerian Dwarf goats for eggs and milk. It is the perfect place for my disabled and seriously ill adult son. I have friends whose income is 4 or 5 times higher than ours, who say “I would do anything if I could live like you do.” I mention their income and ours and say “Well then, why don’t you? You have the money that you wouldn’t even have to go without water the first six months as we did.” They say “Oh, I wish I could, but I can’t” They just don’t ‘get” it.

    There are some things I would buy if we had significantly more money. None of them are worth taking time away from my family, or my dogs, chickens or goats. None of them are worth sleepless nights worrying how I will pay the bills, and none of them are worth taking a chance on no longer feeling the gratitude I do for what we do have.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This post really resonated with me. We always try to live below our means and stay out of debt. But this blog really gave me a boost of positivity about my life

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I also have a very old and quircky home. There is a room above the detached garage. It wasn’t until we bought it that we discovered the room was actually the home of the original settlers. It has a woodstove, and later the first electric westinghouse electric stove was added. This totally excites me because my favorite long- dead, probably Autistic person is tesla. Tesla was working for Westinghouse during this time so was easily the creator. This especially excites me because I am Autistic and have a 5 day by and for Autistic retreat every other year and have had 2 of them since living here.[AutHaven is the first and only by and for Autistic retreat in the world affordable for all who attend. Before we bought this house, we rented out a nudist resort near conifer Colorado in the winter, now we can have the retreat any time of the year]

    The garage with original living space is at the bottom of the mountain. We have 47 concrete steps [we had to replace each one by hand our first year] with old wagon wheels from when our village was settled in the 1870s’ which we use as hand rails.

    Our basement in our home is the original house after the settlers moved up the hill. Then other parts of the house were just stuck on here and there. When I tell people that our home needed major upgrading, they were thinking 1970s’ shag carpet, etc. No, we are talking the most recent upgrading was in the late 1930s’. We even have an outhouse, a 2 seater!

    Our house was super inexpensive to buy. We have very low property taxes and a low heating bill. Like you, if I mess up on my renovations [thank god for youtube tutorials and knowledgeable Home Depot employees!] it is still an improvement.

    Another awesome thing about living in this old cabin, not only is there no pressure to keep up with the decorating trends, but people would be dissapointed if I did that rather than keeping it looking like a beaautiful old cabin.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I love the description of your house! My old house was added onto room by room also. Some have different floor heights. My basement steps are huge stones and used to be outside the house, but a piece was added onto my bedroom to enclose them – yes, my basement steps are inside my bedroom closet. And my basement was handmade out of sandstones and is only about 6 and a half feet tall. But I love all the history that goes with it and the sturdiness of it that has lasted well over 100 years.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Your home sounds incredible too! I feel a respect and a desire to honor those who lived here so many years ago. Yes, we did change it from a 1 bedroom with Murphy beds all over the place [which are now part of our raised gardens] to a 3 bedroom with a bathroom that has a toilet, sink and shower.

        All of the work we do on it, though, I find myself first asking if this would please the memory of those people [ I am Autistic, so I do think differently than “normal’ people]

        Our home is mostly dug into a mountain, so opening the backdoor was an immediate slope. Since Covid isolation we built a retaining wall, so that we could have a patio to sit and enjoy the forest behind us, another retaining wall behind it, and we built a stone waterfall beside it. I love it, and it just hit me that someday someone will be relaxing on that patio, wondering about the people who built it, and hopefully, as they build new things, wishing to honor those who had lived here before them, even us. The thought gave me tingles down my spine.

        Liked by 3 people

  4. Kate – I love that you said you thrive! Being rich is a mindset. Sometimes I would get discouraged listing all the repairs/upgrades that my old house needs/wants. But then I joined a couple online groups about old houses. And, wow, some of the things people are tackling are huge, but they wouldn’t change it for the world because living in an old peaceful house where they want to be is a dream come true. I know it is for me. I see so many people burnt out from living in the rat race, but with the financial positions they have put themselves in it would be very hard to change things and live on less of an income. But it can be done. Mindset and priorities. The last few years when I worked in corporate America and lived in a beautiful condo on the ocean were miserable for me. I loved the work I did, but it was mentally exhausting. And living in an area that was always busy, where people just wanted more and more material things so the merchants were always raising the prices, and all the time spent in traffic depressed me. Because of an unforeseen health issue I’ve now lived on a monthly fixed income (which is very low – my monthly income is less than my rent used to be) for the past few years, but I am wealthy. I live where I want in a small peaceful area, have a yard big enough for privacy, a garden, flowers, and entertaining. My house is my nest of beautiful second hand finds. I’ve had fun navigating through finding the inexpensive resources available around me. There is such freedom in being this kind of rich that I know those who seek it would never regret going after it. I have a joy in my heart and soul that you couldn’t put a price tag on. Although I’m sure my income is below the poverty level, that word has never entered my mind. Mindset and priorities.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. When we were first married we both worked and made a lot of money. It slipped through our hands though because we took no thought at all on buying things. Then, I took the leap of faith and quit my career and became a keeper at home. Living on one income was a shock to us for sure! We had no clue how to manage money but we were not turning our back on our joint decision of the man and woman’s roles.

    That was over 20 years ago and we have learned to live very good on one income, with a family now too. We bought our first house almost 4 years ago and it was the best decision for us after having rented for 16 years. We would have bought before but we’ve moved all over the US and probably wouldn’t have been the best.

    My extended family is amazed at how we live on one income. I’m the only one ever to do that on both sides of my extended family. I’m weird lol! I love being weird cause normal is horrible!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. It’s true that money can’t buy happiness for you, and it is a fine line between enough and needing more. Sometimes that line gets blurred. I always think what would I do if we had xx amount? I’d pay off the mortgage, set aside some for future taxes, tithe, and set up stuff for my kids. But I think trying to live like you don’t have that extra money is always good! 🙂 BTW – try out some online Mahjong games first to get a handle on the game – that might help.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Isn’t it funny how some people don’t get it. They would rather be uber stressed, full of debt, have expensive cars, homes they don’t enjoy because of long hours of work to keep up. We have family as well who judge us for how we live. They joke about our frugality, yet we live so happy and content. We spend much time together with our kids, and that same family complains how miserable they are working so much, never having enough time with there own family. There is always a way for change. Eye opening post! Thank you 😊

    Liked by 4 people

  8. I think the most fun we’ve had this summer was a free rummage we walked to. I saw the listing on marketplace. In one photo was a beautiful tea set. We double timed it over and got that tea set along with a large picnic basket, a blender…just all kinds of treasures. it was just me and the kids and we laughed the whole time because as my teenage son said ” you took the whole rummage!” She was happy to be rid of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. We are grandparents now, I’m 68 and hubby is 73. We had a modest income and I worked part time but truthfully, we always struggled. The expensive years are ahead of you, these early years when children are small are less pressured. Enjoy them, and you are. But life is always difficult, there are always going to be problems. I ran my own business for awhile and on Mondays I’d ask myself, well, I wonder what the problems will be this week. And that gave me the right mindset to deal with them as they came along. In our mid 50s our jobs disappeared and that is when faith and ingenuity really kicked in. Week by week we saw that unexpected things happened and little bits of money came in. We sold things on eBay, invested in some small rental houses, and put in a ton of hard work for years. When things stabilized and we got bored we started a little hobby farm with donkeys, horses, dogs, cats, goats, ducks, and chickens. Today we work pretty much full time at home. We think about cutting back but where? We’re attached to them all. This year we put in a garden and it took off. It’s been quite a year. But now hubby’s health is declining and I am taking on more of a caregiver role. Some of our children and grandchildren are not in our lives. So there are always problems, but there are always wonderful blessings too. The beauty of nature, the interactions of the animals with each other and us, it’s all just amazing.

    Kate, I would suggest to you that you teach your children how to do things around the house. Maybe you do this already. Have them work alongside you. Practical skills will see them through no matter what life brings their way. Our kids are incredibly hard working and talented at taking care of everyday jobs with their homes, vehicles, both inside and outside the house. They’re very independent and it’s good to know how to do things yourself and not hire others for everything.

    You don’t need my advice but I just felt led to share my story with you. I’ve not done this anywhere before and hope I’m not overstepping.

    Hugs and blessings to you and your family!

    Liked by 2 people

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