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…