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.