Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Financial Survival in Hard Times

Poverty Stricken Family in Appalachia

I don't think we realize how bad things are in this economy. Many of us have decent homes to live in and cars to drive. We even have furniture, computers, telephones, electric appliances and cable television. While we suffer without much money, we are able to enjoy some home comforts.

But things are getting worse. The cost of food and gas is skyrocketing. Yesterday, I drove to the grocery store and had only $32 to get through the week. I had to decide which meat to buy. I needed 4 meat items for 4 suppers. Then I needed eggs and bread. I still have some food at home, but needed to supplement what was already there. I had to buy a small can of coffee, rather than the large one I normally buy. When I got home, I reminded my husband that we must ration the rest of the sugar and all the coffee. It had to be enough to get us through until the next payday.

I quickly made a simple supper - hot dogs and beans. I did not have macaroni and cheese to go with it, like we normally would.  I ended up making a small batch of chocolate chip cookies so they would feel like they had a treat. I also announced to the family that "there is popcorn you guys can make later, in the air popper. There is butter to go with it." Then I made a batch of iced tea.

And that was our night... Tomorrow, I thought... God would provide for us again tomorrow.

Granted, we have enough money to pay all our bills. Yet that leaves us short for food and gas. It leaves us without any extra money for little bits of happiness - like buying an ice cream, or nice cold soda on a warm day.  These treats help cheer the soul.  . .  Now we must find another way to find that cheer.

Times are going to keep getting bad. In light of this, I wanted to share with you a few ways I have learned to "go without."

1.  I love Mary Kay, Avon and other name brand skin care products. But I don't use anything more than a steaming hot facecloth, and a little moisturizer to care for my skin. (No toner, No skin cleanser. . nothing.) I have been doing this for many years.

2. I buy make-up from the dollar store. I use it for months and months until it is gone. (I don't care that the experts say to replace it every 3 months.)

3. I wear torn and ripped up nylons almost everyday. But you can't really see the rips because they are too high up.  When I have a little extra money, as long as the children are happy and don't need anything, I buy a new pair.

4. My skirts, tops, dresses and sweaters (I never wear pants - they are too casual for me) - are purchased at nice stores in the mall  - on clearance in February and March each year.  I pay anywhere from $3 to $7 for each item. There are no thrift stores near me. We are in a very rural area.

5. I don't eat much. Most of my grocery shopping is for foods the children and my husband like to eat. If money is very tight, I will eat oatmeal, toast, hot tea, water and cereal for the day and be just fine. When there is money, I enjoy chocolates and cookies.  (This might explain why the mothers during the Great Depression were very slim.)  If I am really lucky, I get to enjoy a Freschetta pizza - my favorite!

6. I drive very carefully. If you go at a steady speed and avoid lurching, speeding up or suddenly slowing down, you can conserve gasoline and make it last much longer. 

Jobs are scarce. Many are out of work. Life is harder in America for a generation that is used to consuming and enjoying pleasant treats. We are in a time where we must learn to be creative and survive on less.

What ways are you surviving in hard financial times?

Mrs. White

We need this all year round - Mothers with Christmas Courage.

The Christmas I had no money and cried in the supermarket - To Encourage the Downcast Housewife.

A Little Motivation - Housekeeping Despite Lack of Motivation.

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Mama Said No said...

Dear Mrs. White--thank you again for a useful post. In our own family, we only have one vehicle. Since my son and I have to ride into town and basically stay there all day while my husband works if I need to use the truck, I have begun to pack a couple of back packs with what we will need for the day, and then after dropping my husband at work, I park our truck at a local truck stop, lock it, and then my son and I walk about town all day to whereever we need to go. It saves gas, and the exercise benefits are wonderful. Again,thank you for your blog, and please take care of yourself--you are a precious gift to many of us here on the web.

Anonymous said...

This is a very good post, Mrs. White. I would say that my appreciation level determines the success of how frugal I am. In other words, when I am appreciative of what I have; when I recognize the value of 'things' - then my vision of what is needed sharpens. With food, I tend to overbuy without realizing it. Getting better in that area. Gasoline? Over 4 dollars a gallon here in NYC. The good news for me? I live within walking distance of every store I could need. Hardware, pharmacy and grocery. So the car can 'sit'. Clothing? I believe we live in a country of gluttony. And I am chief. I have too many clothes. But some of that came from gaining and losing weight. It is a bad time for the economy, to be sure. But...with a thankful heart, and a true appreciation of the value of all we have and purchase, I believe, with God's help, He will see us through. All of us can cut back. All of us. Thanks again for the post.

nannykim said...

We eat a lot of bean and veggie dishes (vegan)--good for you and usually pretty cheap.

We have downsized to a condo and even though we pay a monthly association fee it is still cheaper than the house because of low upkeep, lower insurance and much lower utility bills.

Lori-Grace said...

Thank you for this post! This is something that, sometimes, I find people will shy away from talking about. To maintain keeping up with the neighbours? I don't know.

I've never felt shame in doing what must be done for my family. When my 3 kids were much younger than they are now, I learned very quickly how to be thrifty and frugal.

I made bread every second day, because it worked out to half the price of store bought. On the rare occasion I buy any of us new clothing, they are from a thrift store (we are lucky to have one in town.) All of my girls clothing has been either "thrifted or gifted."

The only thing I pay retail for is groceries - and I stick to loss leaders and sale items. When something goes on for a very good price that we normally use, I'll stock up - because in the long run it's cheaper.

I learned so many tricks from a big book called "The complete Tightwad Gazette." An amazing resource.

Again, thank you so much for addressing this! I think it's so important that we be proud of our efforts instead of ashamed.


Rachel said...

Thank you for this post. I have so much to learn! I really struggle with implementing frugality when I don't ***HAVE*** to. I want to be more frugal ALL of the time!

dwashburn said...

Take a look at the picture Mrs. White posted with this article. Now consider how we've been brainwashed to think our homes must be "a reflection of ourselves" or some nonsense like that. My husband came from a poor farming family and their house and decor was not even on the list of priorities. Their home served a function and otherwise, they lived to survive by farming and not spending.

Rocky Mountain Homemaker said...

In difficult financial times, it is so encouraging to read about other women in the same circumstances and to learn new ideas of frugality.
I love to garden and my husband and I both hunt for wild game, which helps our budget greatly.
One thing I have learned that many women don't know is that grain elevators can be a good source of low cost foods.
I have a mill and I get wheat, corn, rye, buckwheat and steel cut oats from a nearby elevator.
Steel cut oats are a good food for breakfasts. They are more substantial than storebought oatmeal and we don't tend to grow tired of them as easily
I also make yogurt in an electric yogurt maker, which is easy.
Now that our weather is warming up, we make it a challenge to see how much we can keep our car parked in the driveway, opting to walk and bicycle as much as we can.
Have a blessed day and thanks for a great post........Denise

sandy16502 said...

Thank you for this post. I feel like you wrote it for me. I have been feeling discouraged lately and needed a reminder that God will provide. My job is to do the best I can with what is provided. It also helps to see how others are doing things to remind me or help me learn of new things to do.

Alina said...

We are vegan so we don't buy meat or dairy (which is good for the planet too, incidentally). I buy no processed foods - they are not as good for you, and they add up the price. I cook all our food and bake all our bread and snacks from scratch. It is time consuming, but works for us. My friends and I recycle children's clothes and I buy all others at thift stores and reuse everything I can. We pay for no services, tend to our own garden, and do everything I can myself. I even built our own stone patio last year :) Once you do this a while, you get to enjoy it! Love this post :)

Julie said...

I just came from the store (WalMart) and went up and down the aisle looking at things to but and did not buy many, many things because the prices were so high. I spent $2.19 on some break, $2.00 on our favorite peanut butter, $1.98 on a large bottle of ketchup we like. I didn't buy the Velveeta I normally would because it was over $5.00 for the 2 lb box! I may go back and buy the skinless chicken breast that were $1.18 a pound and a pork tenderloin roast that was around $6.00. Anyway, my point is that I really am thinking about every purchase now.

Gas wise, my husband had been very complimentary of how few miles I am putting on our car. When I think of how frivolously I used to drive around town I can get disappointed in myself, however years of living have taught me we do better when we finally know better.

I am new to your blog and am really enjoying it. Thanks for your work.

melldot said...

I've really been enjoying your blog, thanks so much for posting. I'm the same way about nylons! Just a quick tip, a dab of clear nail varnish will help stop a small run from turning into a major one for a while :) Have a wonderful day!

Sheila said...

This is one of my favorite blogs to read because of the encouragement I get from you. While so many other blogs are showing vacations, crafts, and other things we can't afford, it's nice to read about someone else that just can't afford those things. I was very discouraged yesterday, your blog today was very inspiring. Thank you.

Ellen said...

I have learned alot in the past 1 1/2 years that my husband has been without a job...still more to learn in keeping prices down.
I look at "things" differently now..facial items like you mentioned..clothing...what are "needs" v/s wants?
Life needs to be viewed as not going without..but going within...ourselves and our walk with Him.
I think sometimes that we see others going to parks, on vacations and we feel that we are less because we cannot do those same things...everyone is different and our seasons of life change...
Thanks so much for this post!!

Janet said...

I'm a single mom, and know what doing without is. We also grew up like this, so it's all I've ever known. We may be poor by US standards, but compared to much of the world, we are very wealthy. I don't mind doing without to be at home with my children.

My girls have never had a real vacation, so it kind of hurts sometimes to hear of others who take vacations 2-3 times a year. My girls have said they are glad we are not rich, because there would be nothing to look forward to if we were rich.:) We do eventually get what we need, but many times we have to wait on it. If something breaks, we don't just go out and replace it; we have to put it on the list and wait until we get the money. It amazes me how much I think I need something right now, to find I got by without it just fine until I actually receive it.

God is faithful and kind and provides for our needs. We have to trust in Him. My girls have learned more about trust in God in our circumstances more than they could have without it.

Illinois Lori said...

Dear Mrs. White,

Thank you for always sharing from the heart. You speak for many moms, of this I am certain.

Hebrews 13:16 says, "And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." A couple of weeks ago, I was offered something that I didn't really need, alongside of something that I had good use for. I accepted the things that I did not need, thinking that "I can always give them to someone as a gift." It would bring me much joy to give them to you :-) It's not much, but I think you would enjoy it!

If you are comfortable, I'd love to have a snailmail addy to send them to...you can email me at tack6098 {at} mypacks {dot} net . You've been such a blessing to me, more than once...I would love to be a blessing to you this week, dear lady!

Many blessings,

Illinois Lori said...

Got it...thank you! So glad! I have a pile of things to take to the post office...I plan to go either Wed or Thursday.


Anonymous said...

we live close to a lake and our son is catching fish right and left at t his time, so we are eating lots of yummy fish for free:)

Creating Nirvana said...

I am sorry that things are tuff for your family right now. The good news is that it makes you appreciate the good times. When we went through really hard times, I ran into the same problems that you did. I rationed everything. I make all my breads from scratch. You can make sourdough or salt rising bread to cut out yeast. We have a garden that helps out a lot. I barted with a farmer for food in exchange for work. I make my own broths to stretch a whole chicken. I have a frugal meals tag in my blog if you are intested in seeing some low cost meals. http://creatingnirvanatoday.blogspot.com/search/label/frugal%20meals

Julianne said...

Another great post! I read through the comments and they all had great insight and encouragement as well. I think when the cupboards and fridge are getting empty it forces creativity in the kitchen. And I think God uses the lean times to make us appreciate more the not-so-lean times. I strive to always be a better steward with what the Lord has blessed us with, and your post was another good wake up call to just how blessed we are.

Emily @ Gourmet Mommy said...

Even though things aren't as bad here in Canada, and my husband has a steady job, the rising cost of gas and food has affected us too. We live out in the country about 50 km from the city where we do all our shopping. One thing we do is buy our meat in bulk every fall - we buy a hind quarter of beef and get it butchered, and about 20 chickens from our neighbours. This lasts us all year and saves a ton of money. I'll buy pork chops in club packs and divide them up if we want a change, and we have seafood once a week, whatever is on sale. I also try to have at least one or two vegetarian meals a week. We also buy fresh milk and eggs from neighbours, not only healthier but much cheaper than the grocery store.

Unknown said...

I'm doing a lot of planning and sticking to the grocery list. I'm foregoing the 13 yards of mulch my yard requires. I'm teaching the girls that they have choices - you can do a or b - not both. I'm listening to the girls - they really want to stay home this summer and play. They don't want camps - just VBS. Battening down the hatches of our money is definitely required in these times.

Debra said...

Great post Mrs. White! I admire your tenacity and giving spirit. In fact, your post inspired mine this morning. Thanks! You can read it here:


Hang in there .... with joy! :) Wishing you all the best, Debra

Lisa said...

"Jobs are scarce. Many are out of work. Life is harder in America for a generation that is used to consuming and enjoying pleasant treats. We are in a time where we must learn to be creative and survive on less."

Well said! We, too, are finding ourselves cutting back, being more careful on what we spend, consolidating trips into town (we live 30 minutes away), and other various and sundry ways of trying to save a few dollars to put a few away -- saving for a rainy day. Thanks for sharing. Blessings, ~Lisa

April's Homemaking said...

Thanks for the post, my husband works in real estate and I am a stay at home mom- we have gone through many tight times over these last few years. I can relate to your post- I have been in the same situation rationing coffee- deciding how to get by with $30 for a week of groceries- and your popcorn and chocolate chips treat is something we do also. God has always provided. It is nice to read a relatable post- Thanks! - April

Liz said...

I actually posted about this on Monday. I am sorry you are having a rough time, I can relate.
Here is my post...

Thepearsonfamilee said...

I really enjoyed reading this. It is amazing how little we really need especially compared to what so many others have in the world. I was reminded of this this last weeken when my brother was sharing about a man he met who has his garden growing on top of a garbage heap...and he said he was thankful to God for His provisions! Thank you for your reminder!

patty said...

A couple of years ago, my hubby came home and said they'd told him his position at the bank was being elliminated...we knew we had a certain window where the severance pay would be coming in and I was working part-time, so every paycheck I 'stockpiled' food so that in the event he didn't get a job right away, we'd have food to eat when the money had to go to the mortgage. He has since gotten a job, but with a huge cut in pay and we had to move to another town, so my income is gone now, too...but we have plenty of food still and I'm learning to stay home and make things to sell with all the craft supplies I accumulated when we weren't as concerned about money. But it's shameful, really, all the supplies I have...it was wasteful and I've asked God to forgive me for being so. Now, though, I will make things for gifts and to bless others with. Also, sell some on etsy and ebay to help out with some of our expenses. Even in 2012, times are still going to continue getting harder. This has got to become a way of life for us as Americans.

Anonymous said...

Your blog is a great blessing. Thisis how we live in 2016. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. What are your thoughts for 2016? As my family lives like this now. GOD BLESS YOU AND YOURS.