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  • Things I wish I Knew 20 years ago! (or...RUN from debt!)

    When dh and i married 20 years ago we were full of all the trappings society gives us: credit card debt, new car debt, student loan debt and materialistic wants. The wants came natural to me, dh aquired then from a lifetime of going without, being the oldest of a large poor family. There are so many things we should have talked about, worked out, and planned back then but OH we were in loooooove. It's all Ok as long as we have each other LOL. Oh to be young and silly.

    Well we're still a little silly but much wiser now. the other day dh looked at me and exclaimed how he wished we would have figured this out when we first got together...we'd been so much further ahead in life, doing what we love and not worrying about losing a house or a car if the income drops. back then it was unfathomable that after working for a company for years your income would actually go DOWN or STAGNATE.......after all every year brough new raises for the both of us.

    Well things change. Looking back these are the things i would tell my younger newly married self:

    1. PLAN to stay home. Don't just have a baby and then tearfully decide you can't leave him in daycare without figuring out the details first.

    2. Don't buy a house just because everyone says so. No its not a good investment, no its not always building equity, and no its not a cheap loan ...i don't care how much the bank says you're worth it's a ball and chain debt. It is not the American Dream like in Its A Wonderful Life.

    3. Don't feel that you have to have your kids doing every class and sport their friends are doing...that doesn't make you a good mom and they really won't care about it years later. Save the money and take more family trips that you always said you couldn't afford.

    4. Figure out where you want to live and stay there at least 20 years.....with NO mortgage! Do what I'm doing now....buy a $20,000 foreclosure dump and make it into something pretty. You can do alot of fixing every month when you aren't paying for a car or a mortgage or a HELOC.

    5. Plan on a home based business...or two! I feel the new wave of the future is in enterprneurship. If businesses cut back on hiring, work for yourself.

    6. Life doesn't always turn out like you plan....so roll with the punches. But PLAN.

    So I tell these things to my teen and almost 20 yr old sons....and it falls on deaf ears. ((sigh)) Why do we seem to know everything at age 20 and at age 40 realize we knew nothing at all?

  • Making the Most of Your Tax Refund

    Now that you have a windfall coming, how will you use it? Will you buy some things you've been waiting for....like a new TV, stereo, BluRay player? Or will you use it for a needed car or home repair? Will you pay down consumer debt with it? Pay off a car loan?

    Let's look at some other ways to make the most of your tax refund and make your money work for you.

    First of all, by paying off debt you are gaining money and peace of mind. You are no longer spending hard earned cash just in interest charges every month. If you pay off a car loan you gain that $$$ each month that you can either snowball or put into savings or an IRA.

    How about making an extra house payment with that tax refund? Think of the interest you will save as well as being one step closer to owning your home free and clear. Even one extra month's payment every year adds up.

    How about saving some of that refund for pantry stocking? When there is a good deal on meat for the freezer or basic staples for the pantry, you can stock it and then shop from your own resources each week, instead of running to the grocery store or convenience store.

    For some of us, save the cash to buy heating oil or deliveries of wood in the off season, when fuel prices are low.

    Give to a local community charity...they are in dire need this time of year with so many unemployed and monetary donations down. Then write it off on next year's taxes.

    Don't forget your regular savings and emergency fund.

    Personally, we are using ours for debt repayment, giving, savings, and a few other things: buying chickens and buying a butchered hog for the freezer! Buy investing $100 in chickens this year, we have enough for eggs, for butchering, and for sale. By buying the hog from a local farmer, we will have almost 200 lbs of packaged pork in the freezer for .99-$1.05 a pound, all costs included. That means farm fresh ribs, hams, bacon, sausage, chops, steaks, etc etc whenever we want it without waiting for a sale. For us it is a good use of cash.

    Try to make your money go as far as possible, and make it work for you! Just start thinking and get creative.

  • My Life Housing the Homeless

    Taken from a thread i started on the Dollar Stretcher Community Forum, this temporary situation is becoming more and more permanent. I have since found other friends that have had to take in homeless, underemployed friends or relatives. This has become something of an enigma of the recession.

    It began with an unemployed 20 yr old friend of my 17 yr old son's. He was out of work and out of a place to live, except for his 1990 Subaru. He has since found work although is seems to only be 18 hrs a week, and it is seasonal. But it is something. He has not contributed much monetarily, but he has put in some time here with chores, trench digging, roof shoveling, garden work (before the snow came), and helping dh with side jobs. He sleeps on the couch or on the floor, as the 4 of us barely fir into our 1000 sq ft cottage.( There is an attic room that increses the space, but it is unheated and only has access from the outside, so it is used as storage most of the year.)

    The second homeless boy came to us via his father who works away and is home only 1 or 2 days a week. The young man had been left home alone all week and weeeknd long after his stepmom had to go away for an unspecified period of time. the young buy's father felt he needed direction and supervision and a family to be a part of. So he is here. The boy's father contributes to my grocery budget, for which I am very thankful!  The boy sleeps on either the love seat or the floor.

    I would love to find some roll-up mattresses...that would make it so much easier to roll bedding up and get it back out again at night.

    My groceries, electric, and gas expenses have gone up.

    I have a friend that will be having her sister and her sister's teen move in with them because she is unemployed and is losing her home in foreclosure.

    I have another family that is part time housing a man from their church that lost his home and job and now lives in a place without hot water, and only an electric heater for heat. I didn't know these places still existed!

    My friend down the road is now housing her friend and son, at least temporarily until they find work again.

    I think before this recession truly is over, we will be seeing more communal living out of sheer necessity. I just wish my place was more suited to that kind of thing!

  • Frugalness or Self Suffiency as a Religion

    Some folks see frugalness as living life simply. Or simply living life. Others seem to immerse themselves in a religious-like furvor and truly become frgal zealots. Then there are those that are frugal with a self-righteous tone about them and no one that can come up to their standards of religious frugalness should be allowed near them, in real life or in forums.

    C'mon down off your high horses. I'm sure I've been convicted of the same thing at times. Pride does come before a fall. Just like spiritually, everyone is at a different place in their lives. Just when you think you've got it all figured out something can happen to pull the rug out from under you and you may find yourself changing your tune a little. Suddenly all that bad mouthing people that have credit cards comes home to roost...and you have to use a credit card to live on briefly because you already went through your emergency funds after losing the good job you had for 20 years....one day it's guarenteed and the next you are pink slipped with nary a severence pay. I've had it happen to 2 good friends this year.

    Personally, I've done everything I could do to be self sufficient out in the backwoods. But now we have had to let the goats go because feed has become too expensive while income for goat kids and products are at an all time low. So now I buy milk in the grocery store. I used to bake bread but now I buy cast-offs from the local sara lee plant. I used to sew my curtains but this year I bought them. I used to make homemade pizzas but now I order take out or buy frozen. My family is just in a change in lifestyle as the kids approach adulthood. I thought wed never use credit cards again but this summer and fall have been hard in many ways and credit has picked up the slack. I've had to eat my words often this year.

    So I no longer wear a badge of frugalness or self reliance in religious fervor. I'm not perfect and I don't always make all the right choices. I hope I've never once in my zealousness implied that I am all that. I have been offended at times by those that do. Once you've walked in other's shoes there is a great understanding and compassion that comes from it.

  • Making Hard Decisions

    Haven't been around awhile on cyberland; it's a busy season here with gardens, fields, animals, and a multitude of marryin' and buryin' ceremonies. Life has come down to some hard decisions.

    The unemployment rate here is 15.2 or 15.6 % (I've heard 2 reports) and dh is not happy with his $5 an hour payCUT job. I feel bad for him, and I wish I could help him more. He's found the older he gets, the less patient he is with nonsense, especially at work. We are barely making it on the new wage, but we are making it. He finds that the other jobs he applies for are flooded with people looking for work and willing to accept less money than he is. It is an emloyer's market right now....if the employer is still staying afloat, that is. We know that his job has no security, it's just one week til the next and we are thankful to have a paycheck, albeit missing any benefits.

    The field we planted at a friend's father's property in speculation of harvesting the corn, grinding and feeding our animals.......well we've lost it. the friend and her father had a loud disagreement over something else, and well all our corn is gone. It's still there, and he gets it, but we'll not be able to be on the property to harvest. We were depending on that as the price of feed keeps skyrocketing and the money I get from eggs, milk, cheese just doesn't cover it. We will either get rid of all our goats by September, or cut back to one milker and our buck and see how that goes. Chickens and rabbits are cheap to feed, we will keep them.I have 2 goats and 6 rabbits in the freezer right now.

    This has been the worst year ever for our garden. The insects and the weeds keep taking over. I've never had pests start so early in the season; I've never had the garden grow so slowly! It seems at least 3 weeks behind, mostly due to cold weather all season. I have done a count of what I have left canned in my canning room downstairs, and what I'll need for a year. I am concerned that the garden will not produce what I need, and I'll have to buy some at the store during the fall sales....which are terrible sales compared to years past. I will be content with whatever we can glean from the garden...and learn to be happy with it! Dh has suggested doing like the Bible says, and every 7th year let the garden rest. The thought of going a year without a garden sent shivers down my spine, but perhaps we can claim another area of land to till next spring.

    I did a mortgage calculator recently. The problem with adjusting to a new income is that my mortgage doesn't adjust. We pay $884 a month. On dh's old income we could do $975 a month. (So to critics of foreclosures, we didn't buy too much house, duh) On dh's new income we can do $625 a month. AHA there's the rub. I was online figuring if we could fit any of the housing stimulus plans that Obama started last February. Unless I have a FannieMae/Freddie mortgage or are already 4 to 6 months into the foreclosure process, I don't qualify. There was another program, but I was disqualified from that by $9. From what I've read, the banks don't HAVE to offer any of these refi plans either. So most banks would not want to mess with someone that's already struggling to meet bills. They'd rather write a conventional mortgage to a steller buyer. At this rate, we cannot afford to do the needed structural improvements (ie roof and foundation repairs). So coupled with the ever-present possibility of job loss, well we may as well move out of state where there's work and let it go back to the bank, like so many others that have left Michigan. I will risk losing our fantastic credit score.....but hopefully I won't need it.

     IMO, these housing-mortgage-stimulus programs are absolutely worthless to most people. The people ... and states..that truly need the help most are the least likely to get it.


  • Ways to Save When You Grow Your Own

    Growing your own isn't always the cheapest way. It's rarely the cheapest way. But it is the healthiest and everything you grow yourself tastes better and makes you feel better knowing YOU did it!

    Some ways I've saved in the garden:

    1. SAVE THOSE SEEDS! In the fall harvest and dry as many seeds as possible from your NONHYBRID plants. When well dried in a safe place (one year the mice ate a plate of pumpkin seeds) store in a glass jar in a cool dry place or refrigerate. We had pumpkin, melon, cucumber, watermelon, summer squash, winter squash, radish, mustard, peas, indian corn, and green beans seeds saved that we planted this spring. I get the best germination from saved seeds.

    2. COMPOST! Actually all my compost goes to my chickens now. When we used to compost, everything from the kitchen except meat and cheese bits, went into a compost pile. It was 4 pallets nailed together under a tree. Hay went in first, then scraps, then more hay or grass clippings. Some water from the hose. Turn it, do the layers again. Spread on the garden in the spring. Wonderful and full of earthworms! Now our compost is the all the barn cleanings. We clean in the spring and late fall, and pile it for the winter. In the spring it's broken down and ready to spread.

    3. SAVE WATER! We use soaker hoses, it is less taxing on the well, i don't have to move a sprinkler, and you can run them overnight for best results.

    4. START SEEDLINGS! I almost forgot this on. Buy seed or use saved seed. Plant indoors in March or April. Miracle grow makes an excellent seed starting mix. When they sprout, put near a full sun window or scrounge a 4' shop light and install 1 cool white and 1 warm white bulbs to cover the full spectrum and make your own grow light. Plants need light about 14 hours a day.

    5. DON"T PLANT MORE THAN YOU CAN CARE FOR! That is most important. Why waste the money if you won't have the time-energy-motivation to care for so many varieties?

    6. SELL WHAT YOU GROW! Sell your surplus at a road side stand. Barter your surplus.

    7. CAN/FREEZE WHAT YOU GROW! Save your surplus. You easily have a years worth of food to make until next harvest season.

  • A Slice of Heaven...at a Cost

    A couple of ladies on the Dollar Stretcher Community referred to my lifestyle as "a slice of heaven" a few days ago. OMG heaven?! After struggling with things not going right with the animals, tractors, and children....and needing a new septic...I wasn't thinking of heaven exactly.  I ALSO got my husband's social security statement today...again not heaven.

    Well the animals and children got in line, the tractor got fixed, the garden got tilled, and we found a way of doing our own drain field for $390. I sat down on my bench under the tree in the barnyard watching the animals and and smelling fresh tilled earth and thought, well it is a heaven for me. I'd rather be here than anywhere else. Certainly more so than than stuck in an office all day working for a man other than my husband. It's well worth any amount of sacrifce or cost. Anyone venturing into the self sufficient lifestyle needs to remember it's not all glory days. There are setbacks and discouragements, some that make you feel like throwing in the towel and going back to the city way of life. There are pros and cons to every choice in life. We choose to preserve our way of life even if it costs us. To have me go back to work before the kids are grown would increase not only our income but our heartaches at this point and it's not a change dear husband or I wish to make. Our lifestyle is something that makes us uniquely us, and what we truly enjoy working at.

    I moved my seedlings outside to the the mini greenhouse from the basement where they had sprouted under grow lights 6 weeks ago. We have 2 month old baby goats, 1 month old chicks, and as of 2 days ago we also have 7 baby bunnies. Everyone seems much happier now that the last of our snowbanks have gone and the days are longer and warmer. I am looking forward to getting the cold weather crops in the ground this week as well as several acres of field corn for the animals.

    Now to the lovely social security statement from the Feds....I should have realized it sooner, but that wage drop my husband had to make to get a job after being laid off, well it was more than just the $5 an hour loss. Looking at the statement and taking into account months worked vs unemployment it shows that we are making $14,000 LESS PER YEAR. The last time dear husband made this wage our boys were in diapers and my mortgage was less than half what it is now. Gosh no wonder things feel so darn tight!

    In the meantime a friend called with a job opportunity at a town 45 minutes away. I told her I'd look into it, as it is short term this summer and then again this fall. The question is if it pays enough for me to drive that far with a 8 cyl truck. My oldest son is working full time at a nearby resort lifeguarding, so that means my youngest will be home all by himself. He can do it fine of course, but should he? Will it be good idea to leave him alone for 40 hours a week?

    Like i said, every choice as pros and cons.



  • Brave New World

    Things as we know it will never be the same. The sooner we get used to that and move on with life, the better.

    Sorry to be a drippy raincloud on everyone's parade.

    I have been trying to adjust both mentally and financially to the new life-as-we-know-it for sometime now. At first it was temporary, the economy just being in a set back reading to rebound. As soon as it rebounds, well life will get back to normal, my husband will get his $5 an hour paycut back, gas and grocery expenses will settle back to normal, and our Vanguard Funds will see to upper stratosphere of earnings as the the Dow makes it above 12,000. We can start spending and saving again. My house and property will be worth something again.

    Yeah right. Boy have I been in denial.

    I don't know how many ups and downs the money system in America will have to endure this year, but I do know that in the long run we will have to adapt to what life is right now. We have had to scale back our expenses substantially, including getting rid of my vehicle and sharing our truck between dh and I. What started as a temporary solution is fast looking like the new norm. We have always lived a very frugal, rural life but having to stretch the dollar even further than before ....and knowing it may be the way things are from now on....is very stressful. It's at the point now that we must decide whether to get rid of our animals, because we can't afford to feed them. Yes, they feed us, but they cost money. And we can't afford a "hobby farm" anymore. The grocery store meat and milk will probably kill us in the long run compared to fresh organic meat and milk, but I'm looking at the NUMBERS right now, not health benefits. We will have to make do with one vehicle for us. I have not been able to find work in the past 4 months, and dh's hours are getting cut...it's hard to make a 40 hour week right now. I have a son almost ready for college, and we can't afford to send him.

    Things will rebound for the better for sure, but life will never be the same again. Who would have ever thought GM or Chrysler would ever go under?

    Some serious decisions need to be made at our house the next couple of months. I hope everyone else makes some wise decisions too because this may be the way life is for quite some time.


  • Party Like It's 1929...in Narnia

    Lately it feels like I live in Narnia: where it's always long, cold Winter, never Christmas, all because of the White Witch.

    Maybe because I live in Michigan? Because my Vanguard funds are ever evaporating? Because generic boxed mac and cheese is now .50 each? How about all of the above?

    What I wouldn't do for a little Turkish Delight in my life right now....

    Whether you consider this a depression or a recession, one thing is certain.....it will last a long time and it will hurt. every sector of society will feel it. Experts (that didn't predict this downturn to begin with) are speculating it will last until the first quarter of 2010. So we have a year yet of "a fine and pleasant misery". (Patrick McManus anyone?)

    Have you been on YouTube lately? There is a grandmother that grew up during the Depression producing video streams of depression-era knowledge. I believe it is Cooking with Clara, or something like that. She has such 1930something favorites as Poor Man's Meal, consisting of hot dogs, hash brown potatoes, and onions. Mouth watering yet? At any rate, she is getting lots of hits, and the savvy granny even has a Facebook page. I love it. Gone are the Starbucks latte and Gourmet grapefruit days, hello Hoover meals and a chicken in every pot.

    If the road ahead is going to be bumpy for awhile, we should all be educating ourselves on the frugality of living well.

    In the meantime, I have dug out my box of saved and discounted seeds from last fall for the garden. I have made a list of what I need yet, and in the next few weeks will be starting our garden seeds in the basement under grow lights. It does a gal good to be thinking of spring things! I am still awaiting the birth of newborn kids (Umm GOAT, not human LOL) and either mail-order or home-incubated chicks.

    I'm ready to send the White Witch on her way.....Angel


  • Be AntiAmerican with that Tax Refund or Stimulus Check?

    The past administration seemed incredulous when, upon receiving the stimulus check last spring, the American public paid bills with it, saved it, or paid down debt with it. Shame on us for not blowing it and supporting the economy!Hmm

    With thousands of people being laid off regularly, what do you think we're going to do with it? If you can't make your mortage payment or buy groceries you are not going to spend $1200 on a big screen TV. I am glad that most of us still have some common sense.

    So I am here to be anti-American I suppose. I say save those checks that will be coming soon! I am even paranoid enough to say save them as cash, in an envelope in a fire proof safe. I really don't think a stimulus package will help the economy one iota anyway. Sure, we'll see a small surge in consumer spending when tax refunds begin arriving, but if you looked close it's not on electronic gadgets and down payments on new cars....it's at the dollar store or Walmart for groceries, it's at the propane supplier for heating fuel (it's -13 here as I type, I love my wood boiler). I'd like to see how much of that gets spent at thrift or resale stores. The economy I am afraid will have to rebound somehow on it's own. It's become a large green snarling monster and we think by keeping on feeding it that it'll go away! Throwing money that we don't have at it will not solve the problem.

    So I'm here to be against the tide of popular thought. When you get a windfall, no matter how small, save it or pay down debt with it, or better yet..both.

    There is no feeling of security like a full pantry, a full woodshed, and cash in a safe in the house.Wink

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