I was talking with Money Mom last night and watching some of her latest videos. She is doing a Tightwad Gazette Monday and in one video she made a crock pot meal from Dump Meals by Cathy Mitchell. And did this bring back some good memories!
In my old channel I talked about The Complete Tightwad Gazette all the time, along with my favorite cookbook, Dump Dinners. These were the two books that started off our very frugal lifestyle. I would love to go down memory lane with all of you.
The Complete Tightwad Gazette and Dump Dinners, along with advice from Miss B, was the beginning to a very frugal lifestyle that would help us live on less than $3000 monthly for the next 8 years and, not only live well, but save enough to buy two properties. We now live in one house and the other is our rental. Fortunately, we have a good tenant.
Today I read memoirs of the Depression Era from those that were raised in that time or lived through it; When The Banks Closed Our Hearts Opened, We Had Everything But Money, and Tough Times, Strong Women. These books are so inspiring. They talk about a time that was beyond what we are experiencing today. They had WW1 that was horrific and didn’t end well, then that was followed by the Spanish Flu that wiped out 100 million people when the population was only a bit over 2 billion. That was followed by the dust bowl that was a drought and wind storm that lasted 10 years and with it the Depression joined in followed by WW2 and food rations. Oh my, talk about tough times. It makes this day and age look like a stroll through the weeds.
I’m inspired by how families made it through, how hard they worked. Women washed piles of clothes by hand in all the weather, they grew huge gardens and canned all summer to make sure the family was fed through the winter, they rose with the sun and baked loaves of bread and pies. The men would plant truck gardens but the women always had a huge kitchen garden. Even the city folk had huge gardens if they had a yard at all. These stories inspire me to work harder, complain less, and work with what I have. What we have compared to what our great grandparents had is abundant, even if we are on food stamps we have more than most of them had.
These stories make me feel rich.
I remember our beginnings into the frugal life. We used to make a lot of money and then things happened; a job was lost, we moved for other work and Bali fell into a job paying only $10 an hour. I found TCTWG and began making buckets of laundry detergent, learning to make bread, reduced my grocery envelope, and enjoyed free TV with an antenna and all the library books I could read. I loved Dump Dinners because I only needed 3 to 5 ingredients and one pan. With two babies and being on my own most days, this was a dreamy way to cook and it was comfort food. I was homesick for our coastal town and reading a lot of Amish fiction, making casseroles and pies were my happy place.
Through all the years our income changed up and down. We enjoyed the more abundant years but kept our living expenses around $2500 or less. We kept honing our skills by learning to garden, canning, really baking everything, cooking a lot from scratch, stocking up on reusable items such as cloth napkins, cloth feminine products, reusable straws, Berkey filters, bagless vacuum, steam mop, old rags for cleaning, brooms, clothes line, and many things I can’t think of right now.
We even bought a super cheap house during the inflated housing market. It was ugly and in a town not many rush toward. But we made that house adorable by scrubbing, tearing out old carpet to expose old wood floors, painting everything, planting fruit trees and putting in kitchen gardens.
At one point we decided to move and needed money for a down payment. We hadn’t done that well at saving over the past two years but I was ready to move on so I set a crazy goal to save a thousand a month. We went hard core and lived off $1600 a month including mortgage. We were able to save over a thousand a month. But we had help. People sent money gifts, WinCo cards, and homemade dishcloths, books to inspire. I made every gift, card and penny count. We lived out of the garden as much as we could and as long as we could and Bali took every double shift and extra hour he could get. We saved so much that year, I can’t even remember how much but enough to put a down payment and do some work on the new house.
The key is to always live as small and light as possible. Some advice that worked miracles for us; learn to live on one paycheck and try to live on the smaller of the two paychecks (if there are two). Live below your means and when you make more, invest or save the extra. Pay yourself first (real game changer). Have a separate bank for savings.
And frugal living is not about being cheap or going without. It is about giving up a lot of extras that don’t really matter much to enjoy the real treasures of life. It means some sacrifice for a bigger goal. It turns out the sacrifices aren’t that at all, giving them up improves the quality of life.
It takes time. Today I’m much better at saving and being wise with the funds than even a couple years ago. I know the last year of living on a shoestring budget to get to the new house really helped me get over a lot of issues with spending unnecessarily and online shopping. I don’t have many wants these days.
DIY is another big money saver. After our second house and second round of awful handymen (well, the first one was great but disappeared halfway through) we now do the work ourselves. Bali always says, “It’s easy! We just do this and that…” So, he then does the floors or paint and we enjoy the work.
Today we live in a house over a hundred years old. After lots of scrubbing, painting, planting a small orchard, putting in a 1,200 sq ft garden, and new floors found on clearance (the old ones sadly were too damaged), we are settled in. I clean and write, cook and homeschool. Bali works two part time jobs. We don’t order online unless I’ve earned a gift card on Amazon with my affiliates program. I have focused on stocking the pantry, cleaning items and toiletries. I am back to reading my books and living a slow paced life.
I make my own lattes and mochas, cook all our meals, watch free movies, read free library books, and clean my own house (wouldn’t mind a cleaning lady but can’t justify it). We have come so far on a small wage and some small royalties. I’m very proud of my husband and myself for working so hard and building a dream the old fashioned way. Now we just have to put our focus on paying down the mortgages.
Life is good.