Living Poor on Purpose

As always in a household with one income today things always feel a little tight. I have been considering weekend work so that we can continue homeschooling our children, and still have some money to save for land in the future. This thinking has brought to mind some basic questions; is it possible for us to cut any excess on our homestead to create savings? is there anything I can do from home to create extra income? just how much (or little) did many families exist on during what most of us consider the worst economical climate in USA history?

I decided to do a bit of basic research. First, what was the average income for a family in the 1930’s?  If one person was working, the average income went from $2,500 per year to $1,500 per year. Now I had to figure out how that compared to today. I am assuming that most families consist of around 4 people, 2 adults and 2 children. I found a neat inflation calculator to help me figure this out. You can too by going here. $1,500/year in 1930 would equal $20,359.13/year in 2012, roughly half of what my husband makes today. This was somewhat shocking considering that we spend so little on extras, but the fact is we DO spend on extras!  It’s hard to look at it objectively sometimes, but those little extras really do add up, from a new shirt, to a boat, to a camera. When you think about it, you come to realize there IS a possibility for saving, it’s just not as comfortable. In today’s society the rule seems to be “do for your pleasure, you have to do that or life isn’t worth living”. So, many of us feel that if we can’t reap pleasurable rewards like those extras from our hard work then life is all work and no play. This really isn’t true, though. When I was growing up my parents often told us life is what you make of it, and you can take pleasure in anything with the right mindset.

Now, with all that said, I want to see us save. My husband wants us to save and have back-up cash. We don’t go to movies, subscribe to magazines, or go out to eat. However, we do buy “fun” things, usually pretty big ones, with the qualifier that we intend to use them to make money in the future. That’s not all bad, but we need to start the making money part with them! We used to do really good with “thinking poor” to keep ourselves on track, but we have slacked off and need to jump back on the wagon. To start this, I am going to really limit our budget. Already we are changing our food buying, living right now on what I put up last year and what we are getting from our animals, and buying very little except beans and rice. It’s a little boring until the garden get’s going good, but it is a bit less costly.

Canned goods, at least some of them. Room for more as I am still canning. This is 21 quarts of deer stock and 10 jars tomato sauce.

I have been telling the family we are going to have to live on what we grow this year, and in an effort to find enough space for growing things I have been carefully composting animal bedding and creating more raised beds in any space I can find. I carefully selected more heirloom seed so that we can avoid the expense of buying more next year. I am stocking up on canning jars and am trying to sell excess furniture so I have space to build food storage shelves. My goal is to get to where we are living on the same amount of money as a family during the great depreciation (adjusted for inflation of course) and put the rest aside, which would give us a hefty backup of funds. I am going to keep production records of the food we produce on our half-acre, and share it with you. While it will probably take a couple of months to really get going, once our garden starts producing we should really see some improvement. And one more thing; I am going to remember to “think poor”! I was sent a link for an Adobe photography software available to teachers at a very low cost, and I have to say I was tempted. Yet, I decided to think poor; did we need it? Was it going to recover it’s cost within 30 days? Do we already have something that will do those things or close enough that it wasn’t necessary to purchase something? Turns out we already have a free photography program called GIMP that does very well, it just takes a little more work to figure out, we would never recoup the cost of the software the way things sit now, we really don’t have the money to spend on it, and it isn’t a need for our survival. So, guess what? I’m not “cashing in” on the opportunity, because for us it is not needed. It’s going to be a challenge, but I think if we can do it we will be happier than the way we live now, pay-check to pay-check. That’s not the place to be, and we have been foolish to allow it. I hope that by the years end we can be proud of our financial improvement!



About nigerianmeadows

I am a homeschooling mother of 2 autistic children and cook gluten-free, I homestead on 2.5 acre and raise goats and chickens for dairy and eggs, I garden, cook, quilt, and take photographs. I build, paint, scrub, and dance on tables. I am the ultimate WOMAN!!! Oh, yeah, and I like my husband a whole lot (he is the one that makes all this possible, and he loves me like no other!)
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11 Responses to Living Poor on Purpose

  1. cindy says:

    I love reading your posts and this one I can really identify with because my husband and I have decided to do the same. The true blessing in living this way is that our wealth is in the treasures that the Lord has for us and we don’t live for the treasures that the world has! Cindy L.

  2. laura little says:

    My husband and I have grappled with the decision to have me stay at home many times. During our 28 years of marriage I have only worked outside the home for nine years and that was at night on the weekends so that my husband would be home, the kids would be asleep and my absence would be minimal. It can definitely be a challenge, but the payoff in the quality of the character of your children is well worth the sacrifices that it entails. We have made very good money this last year due to a Over The Road driving run that sort of fell into our laps, but it has been a tremendous loss to us as a family. My hubby recently went in and asked for an additional day off each week, which is a loss of income but a gain to the family. What a delicate balancing act to get it all just right! I applaud you for working so hard to achieve your goals and I know that you will reap the rewards of it in great measure!

  3. LindaG says:

    I don’t know a lot about the Farmer’s Market in Raleigh, or the Flea Market at the big intersection by the ag type school — not much help, but maybe you recognize where I am talking about; but I am thinking that you could probably sell your milk there. If you bake bread, I am sure that would sell well. Do you make things? Knit, crochet? You could probably sell that there as well.

    With two 20 year-olds living at home still/again, it is terribly hard to save any money. I feel for you. Good luck with your plans.

  4. Amanda says:

    My problem is not having the ability to do some things. We have a huge plot for gardening, but the last several years, I can’t seem to get anything to grow. I Inherited my grandmothers canning pots, but have no idea how to use them. I like to make clothes, but I can’t get the zippers or darts right. I want to knit, but I can’t figure it out from books or the internet. I really would like to be able to do this stuff. I was able to get our budget to work mostly.( We tend to have a major fin.ancial crisis every year that wipes out our savings.) But I have been able to stick with only spending a certain amount for groceries and gas. A Dave Ramsey course helped me a lot.

    • laura little says:

      Amanda, I’m so glad to see other people struggle with growing things. We don’t get much sunlight, so we too are limited. Someone gifted me with Mason Jars, but I’ve used them for storing dry goods as I don’t know how to can either. Making clothes is expensive and frustrating! I constantly ponder is knitting or crocheting really ‘worth’ it in terms of return on investment? My, my. Good to know I am not alone!

    • I helped a family last fall with chicken killing, teaching them how to do it. It surprised me to find out that they didn’t even know what to do with it once it was in the fridge. They had a garden, their first ever, and it produced really well, but the lady of the house didn’t have a clue how to use the fresh veggies. Her neighbor showed her how to cut a fresh tomato and eat it. What I’m getting at is that you don’t have to know how to do those things, you just pick one and start. Finding a mentor really helps, especially when it’s all so foreign to you. Chickens (laying hens) are probably the easiest place to start. They are easy to keep and feed, with good return in eggs. From there you can learn to turn their droppings into compost and make a small garden plot with easy veggies like lettuce and tomatoes, maybe a few herbs like basil and parsley. And then it goes on, little by little, until you are surprised one day to find someone asking YOU for help!

      Some things are not as cost effective, like sewing and knitting. They are more for pleasure or to repair things, or maybe turn something partially worn out into something else you can use. Gardens give you a really good return if you take it slow while learning, as of course do chickens. Goats and other livestock are a little more work and take a little more knowledge (also something you learn as you go) but can be very rewarding. Just don’t give up if you can’t do all the “homestead” things, you will learn what matters most to you. I knew how to garden, but the livestock were all learn-as-you-go for me. I also had to re-learn how to preserve my food. Helping my Mom in the kitchen as a child did not really prepare me to be doing it on my own. You can do it, just remember maybe learn one thing each year (or two if you need to!).

  5. Sarah Grove says:

    I think this is one of the greatest ideas you have ever shared! I LOVE it! We have been trying very hard to keep our homesteading farm as “lean” as possible by avoiding anything that is purchased brand new and saying no to frills and anything considered a luxury. We are about to disconnect our land line phone and just use cell phones. We are also having our Dish Network discontinued and opting for only Internet since it gives us news, weather, and necessary information that only TV could provide years ago. Our ultimate goal is to have our buckboard wagon and antique surrey wagon restored and pulled by a team of our own trained Dexter Steers. People have scoffed at us, but they won’t be laughing when we have transportation that doesn’t require gas! Lol! We learn a lot from the Amish and Mennonite folks who live nearby. They live happily without all the materialism so many of us think we can’t live without. We at Cedar Grove Acres Farm applaud you! By the way…I started my own goat milk skin care products company last August. I am having a ball with it and am turning a good profit in just 6 months. I’m also going to be selling some heirloom plants this Spring that I am growing from seed in my greenhouse. I know you’ll find some extra way of earning some extra cash. You are very smart and thrifty! Good luck to you and yours!!
    (((Big Goat Hugz!)))

  6. Linda says:

    Thank you for the reminder about life being what you make it. We can be content with “little” when our perspective is right. It is a blessing from God to be able to eat from one’s own garden. I know that when your garden is growing and giving, you will be able to take so much more joy in providing that food for your family than you would have in providing them store-bought foods. And your industriousness in canning the surplus will benefit your budget throughout the winter. I wish you the best in your effort to “think poor.” I know I need to be reminded that I have a choice to NOT spend on unnecessaries. It’s hard to do, though, isn’t it? Let’s keep trying!

    • The garden is growing and it feels so good to see those plants! We are really looking forward to the bounty, and it’s so nice to know others that agree with being content with less!

      • Sarah Grove says:

        I have yet to plant my garden because I fear one of those horrible killing freezes that often times happen in mid April in West Tennessee. This happened 4 years ago and it was devastating to all farm folks who raise fruit and nut trees, fruit-bearing bushes, and gardens alike. :o(
        Do you do Heirloom seeds and plants? I am doing more and more of this so that I can harvest my own seeds. By doing this, I have plenty for myself and even some to sell to nearby neighbors. I like the old-fashioned veggies that I grew up with and have had problems with some of the fancy new hybrids that are coming out.
        Here’s wishing you happy gardening this year!! (((Hugz))) from our farm to yours!

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