Doing the Thrifty Thing

The ability to make a small income go a long way can be a make it or break it factor for a simple life at home. It can be the one thing that allows you to stay home with your children, helps your family get out of debt,  or enables you and your husband to pursue your dream of starting a self-sufficient homestead or starting your own business, rather than doing the daily 9-to-5 grind until you retire. It can tide you over a lean period, or help you save towards owning your own home. And in a way, spending less is more than earning more, because there’s no government tax on what you save.

I have had many people tell me that living on one income is “impossible”. It is not. In our family, we have gone through not so much poverty, but financial instability – periods of nice paychecks followed by some pretty hard times. We always made it, though, and not just survived, but thrived – and learned a lot along the way, too.

‘OK, OK, I agree with you. It is possible to live on one income. But why would you want such a miserable life? And why do you want to deprive your kids of everything their friends have?’

 

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t see anything bad or immoral about liking nice things, wanting to be dressed in pretty and fashionable clothes or to go on vacation. The problem starts when we become enslaved to these things. When we become so wrapped up in them that we forget what’s truly important.

 

What about children? Won’t they feel deprived because their friends have more brand-name clothes and go on vacations more often? Since I’m not a mother yet, I can’t know for sure. But here is my experience. I was raised by a single mother who worked very hard to support our family. We only had her small income and had to make it somehow. Occasionally, I wished I could have more new toys or clothes. But this is not what made me miserable as a child, and indeed, it isn’t what matters in the long run!

 

Frugality isn’t about being miserable. It’s about creativity and challenge. It’s drawing the line between what you need, and what you can do without. It’s homemade presents and costumes made from altered old clothes. It’s not signing up to a dozen afternoon activities, and instead having a blissful opportunity to explore freely and with curiosity. Playing outside. Climbing trees. Spending time at the local library. Drawing and writing, making stories, playing games… I loved doing all that as a kid, and I was never bored! My children, in turn, love it too. Who said a child needs a big house and a heap of expensive electronic gadgets to be stimulated? Look at us. We have lots of things. Does it make us happy?

Home education made simple

I had one woman tell me the surplus of her salary, gas costs deduced, is only enough to pay for daycare for her two-year-old. For this family, daycare for a two-year-old was believed to be an unquestionable necessity; not for a moment did they stop to consider the possibility of just keeping their boy at home. Why is that? Because we were led to believe that “properly trained” people are better at caring for toddlers than us, their own parents. In Israel, especially, it’s very unacceptable for children over a year old to still be at home. It always boggles my mind to think how many families with two children under three (in religious families, this is nearly a status quo for many years) could afford for the wife to be home if only they considered keeping their children at home as well. I’m not even talking about full-fledged homeschooling, just the delay of shepherding the children off to institutions from very young age.

 

Generally speaking, though homeschooling is not necessarily cheap – in fact, I know homeschooling families who spend a great deal of money on extracurricular activities each month – educating your children at home is very compatible with a frugal and resourceful mindset. You are the one who decides how much to spend and on what, and can provide a rich educational background with a wide selection of excellent books, inexpensive field trips, science experiments conducted right in your kitchen, extensive use of your local library and other local resources, and bargain-bought craft supplies.

 

What you need in order to teach your children at home

 

“We can sum up very quickly what people need to teach their own children. First of all, they have to like them, enjoy their company, their physical presence, their energy, foolishness, and passion. They have to enjoy all their talk and questions, and enjoy equally trying to answer those questions. They have to think of their children as friends, indeed very close friends, have to feel happier when they are near and miss them when they are away. They have to trust them as people, respect their fragile dignity, treat them with courtesy, take them seriously. They have to feel in their own hearts some of their children’s wonder, curiosity, and excitement about the world.

 

And they have to have enough confidence in themselves, skepticism about experts, and willingness to be different from most people, to take on themselves the responsibility for their children’s learning. But that is about all that parents need. Perhaps only a minority of parents have these qualities. Certainly some have more than others. Many will gain more as they know their children better; most of the people who have been teaching their children at home say that it has made them like them more, not less. In any case, these are not qualities that can be taught or learned in a school, or measured with a test, or certified with a piece of paper.”

 

– John Holt, Teach Your Own

A few homemaking do’s and don’ts

 

Do make to-do lists and approximate schedules. It will help you stay organized and focused in moments of confusion, when a myriad of things are demanding your attention and you aren’t sure what to do next.

 

Don’t get addicted to crossing items off your to-do list. Life isn’t a neat little list; sometimes unexpected and urgent issues will arise, someone dear will call you for help, or you’ll just want to take a break and do something special with your family. The world won’t collapse if your dishes sit in the sink for another two hours while you take a walk and watch the sunset.

 

Do work hard during the week and give the best of your energy and productivity.

 

Don’t be tempted to think that by working seven days a week, you’ll be able to accomplish more. You’ll only exhaust yourself and be less productive in the week ahead. God knew what He was doing when He gave us a day of rest! Our soul needs the peace and tranquility of spiritual refreshment.

 

Do practice hospitality and open the doors of your home – and your heart – to others.

 

Don’t do it at the expense of your health, peace of mind or the time you dedicate to your precious family. You’ll end up exhausted, overwhelmed and frustrated, and that won’t do anyone any good. Carefully evaluate how much you can give without damaging your spiritual life or family time.

 

Do aim for advancing your creative skills, such as cooking, crafts and decorating.

 

Don’t drive yourself to discontentment by comparing yourself with others. Someone’s cakes will always be fancier, and no matter how hard you try, someone out there will have shinier windows. It’s not about ‘having it all together’ – what really matters is the spirit of joy, peace and love in your home.