Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cutting the fat in these economic times

In the old days to cut the fat literally meant to cut the animal fat (ie. butter, cream, salt pork) out of the diet because there wasn't money for it, or it wasn't available.  Nowadays to cut the fat literally means budget cuts and families, schools, cities, states and countries around the world are having to do it.

The economy in our neck of the woods isn't great, it's not as bad as some places in the US because we're less than an hour from a major city, Seattle.  Not everyone has been directly affected by this economy, but if you have a home you have most likely been affected by decreased values.  If you have a job, lucky you, be thankful, hopefully it's one you enjoy and not one you're just doing because you have to bring home the bacon so to speak.   Many people including ourselves have been hit hard by the downturn in the economy, both of us having careers in the housing industry.  We don't see how the economy is going to get better any time soon, at least the housing which is at the heart of so many things.  My husband has been a carpenter his whole life and had never been out of work, there were always jobs and referrals for new jobs.  Now carpentry work is scarce, we have some jobs as Spring nears that are hopeful, but this time of year is lean.  Together we talk about the economy and are concerned about what's happening, we don't let it drag us down, but we're acutely aware that it could get worse before it gets better.

In the midst of it all our family is still strong, healthy, and financially sound, we have a scrappy adventuresome attitude... it's called Faith, and it's the all important daily ingredient!  Our overhead is low and we don't have to work ourselves to death just to maintain, we have more time than money, but it's our choice how we productively spend that time and how we spend our time making money.  I recently had someone who knows me well mention that maybe I should go get a job at Boeing because they're hiring.  I thought inside to myself, me at Boeing?  I would wilt, that's not my dream, vision, or calling.  Sure we'd have more money, but what about quality of life, I wouldn't have much of a garden, how would I do all the things I do around the house and tending to every one's needs.  If we were in dire straights, yes I would do it and make the best of it, but we're not in dire straights, we're just cutting the fat, staying home more and making it just fine.

Our choices to cut the fat and our overhead make it where we can live this life we have chosen, one of self sufficiency without having our hand out to anyone.  I've talked about this topic some already but wanted to share again because I feel it's important to hear what other's are doing to survive right now in these challenging economic times.

So what have we cut, the first to go was tv and movie rentals several years ago, we now occasionally check out movies from the library.  The second to go was cell phones, when I got out of the real estate business two and a half years ago, we had 2 adults and 2 children on the phone plan and another one wanting one, so it was a big expense and not one we wanted.  Now if you need a cell phone for your business that is important to keep, we have done just fine with a land line.  We cut back on sporting events, and now just focus on school sports which is nice because they usually last 3 months verses select soccer year round.  We rarely go out to eat and almost never go to movies, we try to stay home more and drive less, and we really coordinate our outings to do as many errands grouped together as we can.  We're a ways out of town so this is important for us.

We've had to cut back on buying meat, nuts, boxed cereals, and luxury items like good cheeses, wines, and ice cream.  Now on the rare occasion when we do get these items we truly savor them.  Maybe you're getting a picture of why I'm dreaming of making my own artisan cheeses, brews and ice cream.  I like this kind of fat and now I want to learn to make my own, so it's not cut, it's created.  I love good artisan bread, but it's expensive, so I learned to make my own.  We cut buying a coffee at Starbucks while out, we make our own at home.  We cut buying new clothes, furnishings and household goods, and buy used at our local Goodwill.  When we need building materials we go to the salvage and scrap yards, most of our buildings my husband has built with our own trees milled, and he's used materials from the salvage yards. 

We're careful with our power and water use and are taking shorter showers, turning lights off and doing less laundry, if it's not dirty don't throw it in to be washed.  Our children are good sports and understand and they are not deprived in any way, they're all warm and well fed and have plenty of time themselves with us and each other to grow and develop. 

We don't have credit cards, the last one we paid in full and shredded several years ago when things started getting tight, so we are never tempted to buy things we can't afford or don't need and we discuss daily where we're at and what we need to do.  We've made choices to invest our money into fruit and nut trees as long term investments, and farm animals into shorter term investments.

Being scrappy has taken on a whole new meaning for us these last couple years as I've watched my husband take jobs he never would have normally have taken.  For years he had bigger homes and barns he was creating, now work consists of small carpentry jobs, tree work (he's a good lumberjack) and whole variety of other things.   He's done many hard physical jobs where at days end he's dirty and exhausted from head to toe, I like to make sure he has a hot meal as soon as he gets home and let him know how proud I am of him and his work ethic that's so strong and diligent.  The fun part is I also get to see him have time to work on projects at home, happy and free, and time to be together and plan.

Come the first of April I get to go back to my plant nursery job on weekends, a job I enjoy and for that I am thankful.  So you can see it's not all roses, this life of ours, but it's real and we're scrappy, and through Faith and hard work it pays in another kind of richness, one of simplicity in home and family, where you can sleep through the night and have peace in your heart.


Rosalyn said...

I just very recently found your blog and wanted to let you know that I think that this was an important post to write. As someone who is just starting out on a path to self-sufficiency (and for whom finding meaningful employment in my field is very difficult at this point in time) I appreciated the reminder of the things that we don't "need", some options for making do with a little less, and focusing on what is really important, like faith and family and thankfulness.

Olivia said...

We have done some of the same things to live more simply and within our means in part, because of the economy but also because we dont want to be in debt! Part of country life I think is to plan ahead to prepare for whatever the future holds. The idea of storing up pantries full of good things and learning to be self reliant have always been a staple in country living. An interesting post! Thank you for sharing openly because it makes your blog all the more friendly and welcoming!

Jewel said...

Thanks Rosalyn and Olivia for commenting and sharing, it's not always easy to talk about the nitty gritty, but often it's some of the most important things for other's to hear. Being frugal and underspending is a way to get out of debt and stay out of debt.

Glenda said...

That was a good article and we agree completly.
We will retire shortly (6/2013)God willing. Going back to basics is what we want to do.
If you read my first blog you will understand what we have planned.
Living in our 30" travel trailer for a few year has been hard and I find myself looking for clothes at Goodwill. If it isnt worn badly I will buy it. If it can be made into something else, thats even better.
I am thankfull I learned a lot of skills as a child, because we will need it.
Great article.

Jewel said...

Thanks Glenda, I do remember you commented a while ago and that you're living in a travel trailer. I used to live on a 34' boat so remember those days well. As long as you can park it in a nice place so you can be outside in some beauty that would be important. Hurray for you to only have a year to retire!
Thanks for sharing and encouraging.

Kim said...

precious....you inspire me