How to be poor and love it.

You see this here living room? Charming in a shabby chic way, I know. Not everyone’s cup of tea. But with some searching on Craigslist and using what we have, it cost $125 to redo. This is just one example of all the things we do to make our money stretch.

Right now many are living on extended unemployment in the amount of $3600 a month. I was talking to a friend last night who shared of some family members balking over the amount and how it just wasn’t stretching. Oh boy. Well, to be fair, the bay area has become so expensive that this amount is rent money to many. But I, personally, feel that $3600 should be more than enough if you’ve been playing a good hand of cards with your finances.

We live on far less than that. I’ve let go of 3 streams of income and one other decent stream shall be released soon as well. We will be living on less than unemployment as it is today. And we will thrive. We’ve lived on less in the past and what I learned early on, and actually followed this advice, was to live far below your means and if you start making more, put it all away in savings. That has helped us purchase our first ramshackle cottage and now our second.

Nothing we have is new, except some fun tshirst I purchased lately and some magna tiles for the kids. Everything we own is used, passed down, hand me down, thrift, garage sale, Craigslist. Even our homes are very old; one being 80 years a senior and the other being 120 years a seniorette.

Let me share what I’ve shared a hundred and fifty times, but it never gets old and with things the way they are right now, it’s needed. Not to mention that all my old blogs with the advice is gone, so lets start anew.

First, I want to say this. I know we are in an economical downturn. However, I believe that there is a huge, enormous, thriving, vibrant green and sustainable economy and future ahead of us. We just have to get rid of these old crones that want to keep things the way they have known them for decades. We could learn all the wonderous things from other countries on water filtering, getting rid of plastic, land management, making affordable electric cars, making products from bamboo, hemp, natural materials, using garbage for energy, learning to repurpose and recycle anything and everything…oh how I could go on!

Until that golden age arrives we must buckle up and make that paycheck stretch and start doing our part.

I recently redecorated many parts of my elder home. I wasted nothing, disposed of nothing. It was tricky as I had a very difficult L shaped couch that was cream colored and showed it all. I bleached, scrubbed, boiled, polished everything and sure enough, other families are giving all my old furniture a third life (as I gave them all a second life). And then I took on furniture that was being given away or sold for a song. I also made do with items I had in the house and even on my porch. Tons of recycling and repurposing here.

I have been investing in sustainable and reusable items for years. Every time I had extra cash I would purchase a Berkey water filter (my advice is get a big one the first time, not the travel size as we did). Next were items such as reusable straws, cloth menstrual pads, vacuums without bags, stove top percolator and stove top Italian espresso maker that required no bags or filters or K Cups. We use only cloth dish towels and napkins. I do not buy any paper products.

I use old towels and torn t shirts for cleaning, and even my cleaning tools are reusable; steam mop, cloth push mop, broom, and the bagless vacuum. I have saved spray bottles for making my own cleaners. I don’t always make all my cleaners, sometimes I like those chemical stove cleaners and Ajax, but for the most part I have a surplus of vinegar, baking soda,and gallons of Dawn.

I have found that painting a piece of furniture can really bring it back to life. A can of spray paint and new nobes and you have a new dresser. I have no talent in reupholstering but I find fabulous couch covers such as the red faux velvet one you see on my couch. You can purchase very nice, well fitted covers for couches, over stuffed chairs, even dining room chairs and make things look new.

I have used hundreds of tips from the The Complete Tightwad Gazette and many other wise men and women. I have observed how some live that impress me. And it all works to make the money stretch. You may not notice for a few months but then one day you will be paying bills, checking the accounts and say, “why, the money covered everything this month and there’s some left over! Holly cow!”

There are so many things I don’t have to buy anymore. Thus saving me hundreds a season. Even a month.

I get bummed sometimes with my funky house. But then I see someone with less than us and how they take such pride and love in their home and I’m reinspired. Much like all of you say about my blog and channel. We are humble for sure but I find much fun in the sport of making do.

I went to a laundromat to wash all my pillows before we moved. I was very inspired by the laundromat. It was old and shabby with peeling 70’s linoleum floors. But the lady that ran it kept it so clean and sparkling. She used colorful rugs everywhere, faux plants (real plants would have really done the job, but hey), the walls were painted warm yellows and toasted oranges. It was very cozy and charming for a laundromat despite being old and having ugly floors.

I am going to tell another story of my friend that lived on practically nothing. She passed six years ago, but I still miss her and I try not to forget all she taught me. I didn’t really pay attention to her advice and way of making ends meet until I was a housewife with two babies and a husband working a $10 an hour job. It was then I call my friend, we’ll call her Nancy, daily for counsel on how to stretch a buck and discovered The Complete Tightwad Gazette. I’ve told her story many times but since I deleted my old sites I have to start over with the her good ol’ stories as well.

I won’t go into the hows and why’s of her being poor. She was. And because she was, we will learn much.

She lived in the same house for a good 12 years or more. It was old and shabby. The linoleum in the kitchen and bathroom were far older as was the wall to wall carpet. Everything in that house was very old. But Nancy kept her house scrubbed clean and neat as a pin. She would sprinkle baking soda or such on her carpet to keep it smelling fresh and vacuum often. Her bathroom was always washed clean without hair or rings in any of the tub or toilet or sink. Everything was wiped down. The dishes were always washed and put away.

She had very old hand me down furniture as well. With several of her grandmothers afghans thrown over the couch or recliner, scented candles glowing in the living room and on the dining room table, some plants, a table cloth, the smell of a fresh cleaning product and vanilla, maybe a pot of coffee brewing, as she loved her coffee too, and all the beds made nicely. Her house was cozy.

She lived for sales, finding the huge clearances on everything. She would wait for her local Hospice to have big sales and stock up on her nice t shirts for .25 cents or scented candles for .10 cents. She would then go over to Food Max and buy 5 bags of groceries for $50. I don’t know how she did it but she had a sixth sense for the sale days all over town. She prepared for Thanksgiving and Christmas all year and found all those clearance sales when they were knocked down to nothing. Nancy would then store all the goods for the holidays in tubs and boxes under her bed.

She didn’t have money for a fantastic wardrobe, but what she did with a few simple items made her always look good and smell wonderful.

She would wear a simple t shirt and stretch pants or shorts, flip flops most of the year or walking shoes. Her clothes never had stains or tears, always clean, fresh smelling and ironed if needs be. She would wear a full face of make up from the Dollar store, her long, curly hair in a big clip, earrings, lots of gloss, and a scented lotion. Everything was from the Dollar Tree, Grocery Outlet, Hospice thrift. She felt Goodwill and Salvation Army had become too expensive. She did a lot of Church flea markets where you could stuff a bag for a dollar and garage sales.

During the holidays she always had a spread on the table of delectable she would find at Grocery Outlet, such as brie baked in crescent roll dough or baked garlic on sourdough sold on discount. She baked plates of sugar cookies and fudge for everyone during Christmas and she always saved up for a real Christmas tree. That was her one splurge. She filled stockings from discount stores.

She loved her ice tea and coffee. She made her own ice tea by leaving a huge old jar of tea to brew in the sun and always found the cheapest coffee.

Was she health conscious? No. Was she organic? No. She did the best with what she had and nutrition wasn’t a big priority in her family. But we can take some of these ideas and make them work for us. Be inspired to save, to economize to the best efforts, and be grateful for what we do have.

I’m grateful to have a home right now when every year in California homes are devoured by flames. We all have soft, clean beds. Plenty of clothes that we enjoy wearing. I have a cupboard full of my beauty products. A full pantry. All the kitchen tools I need to cook, preserve, can, and dehydrate from scratch. We have the beginnings of a huge garden to grow hundreds of pounds of produce, there is a small orchard with cherries, apples, pears, mandarins, lemons, pomegranates, and blueberries.

I hope this inspires you today to live more humbly. More to come…


  1. I know you don’t discuss or allow politics in your blog or channel and I respect that. That being said I find it ironic that both sides are unable to respond in a real way to the homeless people living in the streets in San Francisco, Los Angeles, other cities. Homeless people are invisible to the politicians in California sadly. They live in ivory tours in the expensive neighborhoods in California, work in Washington where they have their other residences and they ignore the homeless as if they are invisible. Thoughts?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey, old can be wonderful – take from me – an older person!!!
    Kidding aside, I keep hearing people “I can’t wait for things to get back to normal”. That makes me sad. If things go back the way they were before, then people have lost a fantastic opportunity to learn and grow.
    Before wasn’t really working all that great – so let’s all learn and have fun and make things even better!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Hello Kate, I never get tired of reading about Nancy. She seems like such an interesting person and a wonderful friend to have had. I love hearing or reading about such inspiring people. I hope you will continue talking and writing about these things that matter so much during these unusual times. We get enough negativity from people who thrive on it or the media which makes money from controversies. I like your blogs and vlogs because you tell us like it is, no frills, no hype. You cover topics that is important like home making, budgeting, spirituality, nature, the importance of family and a green, sustainable life. Thank you that. Hope your area is safe from those fires. It broke my heart to see people losing their homes and animals that were caught in it. Sad. Take care. Stay safe.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Kate, I love your blog and look forward to reading it daily. I was, however, shocked at your statement, ” we just have to get rid of these old crones…….” I
    I find it so unlike you to judge others with a different opinion than yours. The lack of tolerance for opposing ideas is why our country is torn apart right now. Perhaps, those who are against some changes have a good reason that we need to listen to for understanding. We might not agree, but dialogue prevents hatred, anger and misunderstanding.
    Change is hard for many people. Once someone understands that change isn’t going to hurt them and there is nothing to fear, they are much more open. Let’s please try to be the olive branch that brings understanding and peace and not like those that hate and want to shut down those who don’t always agree.
    You are a compassionate, deep, sincere, caring person, so I think, such a statement, is out of character from all I have read that you have written. Please understand that I am not criticizing, just bringing awareness forth. I think we all have more stress than we realize right now. You have so much to share and valuable information EVERYONE could benefit from reading. Best wishes, Kate


  5. Kate, found your blog as well, cheers to new beginnings! You keep inspiring me to be creative with saving money and thriving with little

    Liked by 2 people

  6. No, this is another side to me that I’d rather not hide anymore. I truly feel there are some old crones in government that need to retire and move on so fresh ideas and new starts can begin. I appreciate your thoughts but this time around I’m going to share the way I feel and not pretend to be always loving and compassionate. I, too, get tired of things, people, and government. I won’t bore any of you with my thoughts but once in awhile I will speak freely if only in a sarcastic moment (and I do have a very sarcastic side, I’m no saint). Sorry if this ruins things for you. I’m only human.

    Liked by 6 people

  7. It’s horrific. The homeless are getting worse and worse and lining the streets and bridges. I see all the old, abandoned buildings just sitting there that could house thousands and thousands instead of letting them crap and litter the streets and rivers and forest. Set them up with some shelter and dignity and then set up a system to govern themselves and run their own community for pride? I don’t know. I think about it often. If I could be queen for a few months…

    Liked by 4 people

  8. I just read an article that was talking about how some times a perfectly decorated home can feel cold and lonely and a funky, not fancy place can feel warm and inviting. It’s all about the energy you bring to it. You bring so much good and inspiring energy to your place (and blog and channel) that it has it’s own brand of beauty. Always love hearing about your friend. xo

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I am questioning the $3,600 monthly unemployment check figure as being current (August 25, 2020). That’s more like the average back when unemployment was being boosted by $600 per week thanks to the CARES Act which started back in March but came to an end on July 31. No one is getting that amount now.

    Now it’s back to the average of $250- 300 per week for California. Avg unemployment is back to peanuts now.

    As for the “old crone” remark, amen! But I’d use the word “Crony” as in “crony capitalism.” The old way of fossil fuels not giving way to new, innovating green technology is due to Big Corp or, you guessed it, crony capitalism hindering the way, is my guess, rather than old people or “crones.”

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Glenda, You are obviously a warm and compassionate person. As an old person, though, I totally agree with Kate [who I consider quite young] While many of my generation are constantly complaining about the younger generations, looking at Millenials and Gen Z gives me hope I wouldn’t otherwise have. Genersalizing, these young people have fresh new ideas [which are actually old ideas that so many of us have abandoned] and priorities that need to be embraced if our world is to survive.

    Though I am old, I like to consider myself progressive, but I know that at my age, when there is a problem, it is so easy to slip into old ideas that are no longer working

    . And the energy level. Like many people my age, I like to think to think I am high energy. But I am not. Not all that many years ago, when I said “I am so tired. I could just drop,” what I actually meant was “i am so tired of this long, hard shift at work and when I get off work I am excited to [fill in the blank.] Now, when I say I’m tired I am hoping that I have the energy to fix myself a nice glass of iced tea before I drop my tired self onto the couch for a few hours.I cannot imagine being my age and having the energy a world leader in times like these needs to have.

    If you are thinking that i am belittling my old age, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I love being my age. There are so many awesome aspects to it, which include “handing the torch” over to a younger, less jaded generation. A generation, which, as a group, understand the need to nurture the earth rather than repeatedly rape her in order to be “successful.” A generation that puts experiences over “stuff.” A generation that is aware that the larger the divide in a nation between the rich and the poor, the more likely it is for that nation to become a :banana republic. A generation, who when they speak of fairness they do not mean “OMG COMMUNISM!” [why so many people choose to believe that is the case, I will never know]

    Now, I would not use the term old crone, simply because it generally refers to a nasty old woman. I prefer the more politically correct “old fart.”

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I so agree with keeping a clean and tidy home, no matter your income level is what makes things cozy. Not stark white clean, but what you describe about your friend. I’m a home health nurse and I’ve been in a LOT of homes. I’ve been in some of the poorest homes, where the people have various disabilities and still their homes are welcoming, inviting, pleasant. Likewise I’ve been in some huge homes with all the bells and whistles that are filthy, unloved, and not at all pleasant to be in. And of course there are the “ perfect “ homes where the occupants try to keep it as if no one even lives there. So many homes. And the best ones are the ones that are well tended, clean, and inviting. And none of that has to do with income level.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Lol, old fart would have been perfect. Sigh. Next time. And you are right, the younger folk are just bringing back to life what our grand mothers and great mothers (and fathers did), organics, natural products, reusing everything, growing gardens, minimalism. It’s all old hat being revived. Thanks. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I wholeheartedly agree with Kate on this. I am not talking about any certain party, but I will never understand how someone can hold high political offices for 30 to 40 years and become millionaires while in office yet allow their districts to go to pot. Why are they getting richer while the amount of homelessness and drug use is getting higher in those areas? Aren’t they supposed to be by the people, of the people and for the people – all people? Change needs to happen in these areas and soon. A lot of it seems to be needed mental health help and simple education.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Loved what vicky3vicky added to this conversation. Inspiring blog Kate. I think more and more young people are embracing a simpler lifestyle. Realizing that more stuff and bigger homes don’t bring joy or satisfaction. ‘Viva la revolucion’.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Oh, Kate! You honor your friend each time you speak of her. I love to hear how she lived. She died much too soon. We do, indeed, need to humble ourselves. When I hear of people not being able to “make it” on high amounts of income because they “deserve” more, they are better than that, I think of that old phrase – “Where were you when God created the earth?” We were all created equal. How we progress through life is up to us and our circumstances, but at no time are we better than anyone else.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Sorry, I didn’t mean to be so harsh, but I get so sad seeing people live like this year after year/


  17. I think your living room looks lovely! We bought a few things new for our house but 95% of everything we own has been from hand-me-downs, yard sales or used. I love old used things. I also like the old ways. I remember growing up there was a thing called “blue laws”. Everything was closed on Sundays. The only thing open was a little mom and pop store where you could buy your sunday bread and pastries and the newspaper and they were only open half a day. Everything else was closed — banks, grocery, department stores (very few malls if any). It was wonderful! Instead of going out, families spent time together. We took family drives to nowhere, listened to music on the radio, ate the noon meal together, visited other family members or they came to see us. Much slower paced and much less stressful than today. We were forced to relax and take it easy, even if only for one day. I wish they would bring those laws back. One day of rest won’t disrupt anything. I loved hearing about your friend on your old vlog. She was definitely very inventive with what she had and what she could afford.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Your friend was a wonderful example for all of us, just like you are. I think that an attitude of gratitude is reflected in your writing.


  19. I was excited to find your blog. Now I am disappointed that you will be going away again.

    See, your not the “best” cook, homemaker, Mom, etc but you are us!! You know the majority of women who are not trying to keep up with the “Jones’s”. The ones that need to be inspired to know that there are more like us.

    People usually hate what they are afraid of……and as my Grandmother would say those that live in glass house, shouldn’t throw stones. How many of those on gossip bakery have “fake” lives? Marriages that aren’t strong, mortgages that are ridiculous, children who are spoiled, etc.

    And those criticizing your writing style, how many of them have written books or blogs? Monday morning quarter backs most of them! Meaning they aren’t even in the game.

    You are real, just like me and many other women on here and we appreciate you.

    Soar with the EAGLES and let the turkeys alone.



  20. Thank you Kate for another thought provoking blog. I needed to be reminded of some of these things today. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and insight with us!


  21. Actually, shabby chic does work with a cup of tea. I always think of tea cups and saucers when i think of shabby chic. The new living room looks wonderful. It is hard to move to another house and make the old stuff work.


  22. Your story was very inspirational! Loved hearing about your thrifty and the references to the Tightwad Gazette. I loved Amy!


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