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February 2009 - Posts - Workin' It
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Workin' It

"Workin' It" is the blog for working parents who are committed to the frugal lifestyle. This blog addresses some of the issues working families face in keeping their lifestyle frugal, including childcare, work expenses, and the constant trade off between time and cost. The author and her husband, both law school graduates, work full-time; the author has a law firm, and dear husband a property management business. They also have an eight month old. Despite all that we have on our plates, we're still committed to living life frugally.

February 2009 - Posts

  • Lest We Forget...

    What it's really all about!

     Laura Ingalls-Wilder put it better than I ever could, in her book Farmer Boy:

    Father looked at him a long time. Then he took out his wallet and opened it, and slowly he took out a round, big silver half-dollar. He asked: "Almanzo, do you know what this is?"
    "Half a dollar," Almanzo answered.
    "Yes. But do you know what half a dollar is?"
    Almanzo didn't know it was anything but half a dollar.
    "It's work, son," Father said. "That's what money is; it's hard work. You know how to raise potatoes, Almanzo?"
    "Yes," Almanzo said.
    "Say you have a seed potato in the spring, what do you do with it?"
    "You cut it up," Almanzo said.
    "Go on, son."
    "Then you harrow - first you manure the field, and plow it. Then you harrow, and mark the ground. And plant the potatoes, and plow them, and hoe them. You plow and hoe them twice."
    "That's right son, and then?"
    "Then you dig them and put them down cellar."
    "Yes. Then you pick them over all winter; you throw out all the little ones and the rotten ones. Come spring, you load them up and haul them here to Malone, and you sell them. And if you get a good price, son, how much do you show for all that work? How much do you get for half a bushel of potatoes?"
    "Half a dollar," Almanzo said.
    "Yes," said Father. "That's what's in this half-dollar, Almanzo. The work that raised half a bushel of potatoes is in it."
    Almanzo looked at the round piece of money that Father held up. It looked small, compared with all that work.
    "You can have it, Almanzo," Father said. Almanzo could hardly believe his ears. Father gave him the heavy half-dollar.
    "It's yours," said Father. "You could buy a suckling pig with it, if you want to. You could raise it and it would raise a litter of pigs, worth four, five dollars apiece. Or you can trade that half-dollar for lemonade, and drink it up. You do as you want, it's your money."

  • Sometimes it's bad...

    And sometimes it's worse.

     Hofpapa and I call Kentucky our home. As you may have seen, Kentucky has frozen into one gigantic, crystalline Ice-Beast of a state. Half a million people without power, and a bad situation all around. Thankfully, Hofpapa and I were able to ride it out in relative comfort, thanks largely to preparation. Unlike a lot of folks, we have:

    * Plenty of food that doesn't require heating, although thankfully, we didn't have to use it. Cold cut sandwiches are yummy! And definitely better than being hungry or having to brave ice-encased roads. We also had some water put away...when the power goes down long enough, yucky stuff can happen with the water.

    * Warm clothes, blankets, and a general tolerance of cold. Being the cheap souls we are, the house is normally on 60. While it wasn't terribly comfortable when the heater shut off and it dropped to 45F while we were asleep, it wasn't the huge difference that a lot of folks we know felt going from 75 to 45. 

    * A well-insulated house. This is largely luck, because the previous owners reinsulated the house and replaced the windows with energy-efficient ones. Some steps we've taken since buying the house include keeping up with our caulking and weatherstripping, and installing little foam draft-blockers in the power outlets (given free by the power company!). We further improved it while the heat was out by closing off rooms and hanging blankets over windows in the living area.

    * Alternate heat sources. I haven't yet gotten my much coveted wooden cook stove, but a kerosene heater still keeps things toasty warm. 

    * Candles. Flashlights. Awesome emergency radio-alarm-cell phone charger with plenty of batteries. Sitting in the cold and dark stinks.

    * Board games, books, and a general willingness to sit around and just hang out as a family (as a large extended family after an aunt and uncle and their kids showed up once their power went out!).

    * Self-employment. This might seem like a strange item to include on this list, but it worked out wonderfully: we simply stayed in, worked on projects that didn't require us to go out, and continued/rescheduled things that would require driving on an icy road.

    Most folks use cost as their main reason for not being prepared in case of an emergency. That's beyond silly, that's dangerous. After all, no one says you have to blow $5000 and do it all at once. You can add a couple of cans of food to the weekly shopping budget fairly easily. A house can be insulated with a $5 tube of caulk, free foam inserts for power outlets, some nails, and some quilts from the Goodwill. Candles can be gotten quite inexpensively, a few at a time, by watching the circulars (I've had great luck with RiteAid for tapers) or again, checking the thrift store. Water? Give those empty soda bottles a good washing. 

    Now then, some things, such as a kerosene heater, are a decent-sized investment (ours ran about $200 plus the kerosene). If it's important, though, you can do like Granny did--decide it's important, budget and save for it. $200 is only two and half months at $20/week. 

     The most important preparation, beyond anything you can buy, is attitude. Was fourteen folks in one little house ideal? Well, not unless you think about it as a chance to spend time together. The teenagers, after moaning and groaning about no Internet, took advantage of all the snow and ice to sled for hours on end. While we didn't lose our power, thankfully, we knew it was chance. We made sure things were in place as best as we could before the storm hit, and then simply resolved to ride it out, together, doing what we had to to make sure everyone came through it okay and well taken care of. That's something anyone can decide to do, no matter how much they have in their pantry.

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