R and I live on a little less than $10,000 per year. It seems like an impossibly small annual income, however, neither of us feel poor. It actually gives us quite a bit of freedom. I suppose that we don’t have a lot of material things but we have a nice house, vehicles that run and neither of us are starving to death. While it isn’t something that we usually publicize, the people who know often ask how we do it.
It does require some sacrifice and I am sure that there are more than I could possibly think of. It means that we have to live simply. Here are a few of the sacrifices that we have made:
- Debt. We have sacrificed having debt. It’s quite simple, if we can’t afford to pay cash, we don’t buy it. When we needed a truck, we raised the money to buy it and we bought what we could afford. I watched craig’s list for months for a truck that would meet our needs and for which we could pay cash. Even then if we hadn’t needed it for the farm, we probably would have waited as the truck was a quarter of our annual income.
- Waste Not, Want Not: I could live well on what most people throw away. We throw away very little. What we can no longer use is either sold or recycled. Leftover meat and vegetables go into a soup pot that is frozen until needed. Bones are often saved for making meat stock. Things that are broken are usually repaired. If they can’t be repaired, they are taken to the recycling plant and sold as scrap or taken apart to use for repairing or building something else or given to friends and family who can use them. Giving things away might seem wasteful but you will find that when you give, people give back. It’s usually not big things but it still helps.
- Buying the latest, greatest: There are few things that we buy new. If we need something we search for it used before we ever consider buying it new. If I can find 5 pairs of servicable jeans at a yard sale for $15, I would prefer to buy them rather than one new pair for $45. If we need a new microwave, I can usually find one at a yard sale for $20 rather than $200. We do rather well because so many people want the latest and greatest new toy. I don’t mind last year’s model if it accomplishes the task I need it to do. The computer I am using was purchased used on eBay. It was purchased for about a quarter of what it would have cost new. It does everything that I need it to do plus it has some whistles and bells that I wouldn’t have gotten if I had bought a new one.
- Prepackaged Foods: I can’t tell you the last time I bought a packaged or frozen meal. I can’t tell you the last time I bought a cake mix. We eat well but we generally cook most things from scratch. It takes a little bit longer but it tastes better and it’s better for us.
- Service: This is somewhat related to convenience but a little different. If we can do it ourselves, we don’t pay to have someone else do it. We cut our own grass, we work on our own car, we do the household repairs that need to be done if we can. I cut R’s hair and have let mine grow out. If we can’t do it ourselves then we try to barter for it; sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t.
- Living Without: Again, this goes back to debt but deserves it’s own mention. There are things that we NEED but live without. The biggest thing that I can think of is a tractor for the farm. Right now, we are mowing 19 acres of pasture with a 20 year old lawn mower. I can think of 20 ways that a tractor would make our life easier but until we can pay cash for one, we will live without it.
- Freshness: This sounds bad but it actually enables us to eat very well for a lot less than most people spend. I make it a point to buy reduced meat. I can generally find Rib Eye steak for less than most people spend on hamburger. It gets repackaged and frozen immediately. We also shop sales. When chickens are reduced to 59 cents a pound, I buy as many as I can afford. When vegetables go on sale, I buy them and freeze them.
- Time: Time is probably the most important thing that we sacrifice. We spend a lot of time doing things ourselves. We spend a lot of time shopping for the best deal. We spend a lot of time growing our own garden and cutting our own wood for heat. Making the time to save money is probably the hardest thing for most people. Saving money takes time.
- Convenience: We sacrifice convenience a lot but the biggest thing I can think of is the wood furnace. It provides free heat and hot water from October through April but we have to cut the wood and stack it. We also have to go outside and put wood into it twice a day. If we go away, we have to make arrangements to have someone else check it daily. We hang our clothes on the line rather than using the clothes dryer. We only run the a/c during the hottest part of the day. It gets turned off in the evening once the sun has set.
- Eating Out: I thought this was a sacrifice until I realized that I like our meals much, much better than anything I can get at a restaurant. R and I share the cooking so it isn’t a chore or a drudgery. We cook most meals out on the fire pit. We have even given up the gas and charcoal grill.
- Health Insurance: The one thing that I would like to get is health insurance. Unfortunately it is totally outside of our budget. It is the only reason that I even consider returning to work outside the home. A doctors or dentist visit puts a serious dent in our budget but it’s still less expensive than the $500 per month it would cost for us to have health insurance.
Living simply also provides many benefits. We count them in small ways but they are important as well:
Health: The vegetables grown in our garden are more nutritious than store bought. We don’t eat a lot of fast food so there is very little trans fat and preservatives in our diet. Our health has actually improved since we changed our lifestyle.
StressFree: There is some stress in our life but nothing like it used to be when we worked outside the home. We make our own decisions and have control over our lives and finances.
Appreciation: Both of us are thankful for the things we have. We really don’t need anything more than what we have. There are things that would make our lives easier but we get by well without them. When you have spent weeks watching the corn grow and waiting for that first fresh ear of corn, you enjoy it ten times more than if you ran out to the store and bought it. There is a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
Quality Time: I mentioned that we cooked out on the fire pit most nights. We spend the time talking and enjoying each other’s company . The children and the neighbors stop by and visit. Often instead of watching tv inside, we will sit and visit outside after dinner. It’s a simple thing but it is one of the best parts.
Sometimes I miss the days when I could go out and buy new clothes on a whim or slip in for a massage or a pedicure without a thought to the cost but for the most part, I wouldn’t go back to that life. The things I have gained are worth so much more than the things I have given up.