Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Living On One Income

Minutes ago I visited a certain message board (which shall remain nameless), one in which the current topic was: Is it possible to live on one income?

Basically there were two groups of women posting:

Group A listed all the problems of living on one income (it wasn't working for them).
Group B listed all the good points of living on one income (it was working for them).

And never the twain did meet. Well, not really. It seemed neither group was actually--gasp!--listening to the other and both were determined they were right. Which, ok, is the way of most Internet message boards. (Hey, you know it's true.)

Anyway, I didn't post anything there, myself--I thought I'd save it for my own blog (safer territory--things were turning scarey over there...). And basically, all I want to do in this post is share a skeleton list of ways I save money while living on just one income. But hey... this is just a blog post, not a book. There's so much more I'm skipping.

It requires a whole different way of thinking to live on one income. You have to be willing to learn new, odd-to-you things and become very good at what you do. You have to do research. To invest time and effort and energy into making it work. You have to be intelligent and willing to do the math... (and gee, is there a lot of math involved!).

And I guess it goes back to my post about viewing problems not just as problems, but as motivating challenges, instead. It's too easy to drown beneath spend hours at message boards complaining rather than, more wisely, using those hours to scour the Internet for helpful hints and solid, usable advice.

It takes a determined, bright, motivated person to step-up to a challenge, stare it straight in the eye and conquer it head-on... to keep hopeful and optimistic when the sailing for the first couple years is not real smooth.

So here are just a few ways I save money and enable myself to stay home (where I, personally, want to be):

1. I often cook from scratch and make my own mixes. Yet, some things are cheaper to buy ready-made--I love to research that sort of thing and take notes (calculate energy costs of using an oven, etc.) and then decide for myself which way is cheaper and healthier. Oh, and I usually make homemade lunches for Tom to take to work.

2. We do not own a clothes dryer (by choice). I hang our clothes to dry in our basement or outside on a line.

3. We buy our clothes second-hand. Now, don't scream! If you know where to go, what looks good on you, and what to look for in these places, well, you'll walk away with some incredible bargains and you'll be complimented on your appearance. Trust me. Again, this is something which takes research and educating yourself and after you've saved a few hundred dollars you start to think of yourself as pretty darn clever.

4. Speaking of education, I use both the Internet and the town library to teach myself not only how to save money, but just about anything-- history, cooking, economics, writing, decorating and health. Forming a love of learning and discovery alone--outside of a classroom-- will help you leap hundreds of hurdles and keep you inspired.

5. We saved tons of money this winter by keeping the thermostat at 62 degrees (lower at night) and just using a small electric heater in whichever room we occupied at the time. I use other major appliances during off-peak hours.

6. For exercise I walk around our neighborhoods and also work-out at home (way cheaper and more convenient than a public gym).

7. I paint our rooms myself and do all my own decorating. This is another thing which has required much research and self-education over the years. Deciding exactly which look you're aiming for saves a lot of money, too. It leads to far fewer money mistakes and clutter which you'd rather not acknowledge.

8. We currently do not pay for tv cable (though we have in the past). Instead, we bought an antenna (a one-time charge of $50 ), the kind you place in your attic. It pulls in 14 stations which is plenty for us.

9. Only occasionally do we drive to the theater to watch movies--and the tickets are only $3.50 anytime day or night because it's a 'second-run' theater (I love that place--so 1940's old-fashioned). Our splurge, though, is that, for $15 each month at our local video store, we can rent three movies at a time any or all days of the month. Everybody has their favorite hobby, currently ours is movies, so this works out great (cheaply) for us.

10. I try really hard to pay our bills on time (and then try not to kick myself when I occasionally pay one late). I use my credit card only for online purchases and usually pay it off each month.

11. We keep a list of things we'd like to buy and then when summer comes around, we shop at yard sales for those things. We also use our income tax return for some things on that list and for major home repairs and improvements.

12. I grow a garden each year (container gardens are easy and require little space). We do all our own yard work, wash our own car, shovel our own snow and make our own coffee (well, 98% of the time).

13. We've tithed for 27 years (highly controversial when you admit to that on the Internet, I know!). But hey, I truly believe in 'give and it shall be given unto you' and I've watched that concept work for us these many years. It's made a huge difference in our finances.

14. And a big one--we've always bought only houses we could afford.

Again, that's just a starter list. Mainly, Tom and I try to be careful of what I once heard called "leaky hose spending." You know... all those little ways that money drains away from our hands and our home, swirling down the drain foolishly. But we've noticed it takes a lot of honesty to face leaky hose spending and to plug it up. Sometimes it takes help from God, Himself, to acknowledge where we've been careless and foolish and to forgive ourselves afterward. But then, that's partly what He's there for.

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