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As I embark on this journey in poverty I am finding a deeper understanding of the values of a budget. I have for the most part been conscience of the amount of money coming in and the amount of money going out. One vital aspect I did neglect was the amount of money in a savings. Taking a closer look at my financial history I see that a majority of my income was consistently needed to pay the immediate bills. At age 17 I was married and had a mortgage. That combined with a youthful way of determining need from want I was already on the road to poverty. My then husband insisted on having cable, a nice TV and good food to eat. Being young I was fairly new to cooking, not very excited to cook, nor was I any good at cooking. So needless to say we ordered out a lot, at least 4 times a week. We paid for wants and griped about paying for things like electricity, gas and our mortgage. I always cried poverty never realizing that with some adjustments my mind could have been easily freed of constant worry about how we would pay the bills. By age 21 I found myself single with two kids. Money was the least of my worries. Pure survival was my daily goal. For the next seven years I learned some valuable money saving skills. The first skill was how to float bills. At the time I had: rent, utilities, gas for my used car, food, clothing and absolutely no extras. I received no alimony or child support, so all the money coming in came through me. I quickly learned that most bills have a grace period and I would wait until the last possible day to pay my bills. Food shopping was done at the bread outlet and the crush and dent section of the grocery store. The biggest factor in lowering by food bill was learning how to cook. Growing up my Mother and Father were both really good cooks. Everything was from scratch; gravy, mac n’ cheese, pies, cakes, bread you name it. So I figured I must be genetically designed to be a good cook as well. I rolled up my sleeves and began cooking. The art of cooking was a slow learning process and mostly trial and error. I was a very willing participant because I was motivated not only by hunger but mainly by the fact that I could control my food bill. Unlike the rent that was $750.00 a month I had control over how much I spent on food. The more I cooked from scratch the less money I was paying out. This theory spilled over into other flexible bills. Spending on heat, water, electricity and gas for my car could be controlled according to usage. Purchases of clothing, shoes, household items and more could be controlled by where I shop. I found that if I took the time I could locate all the items previously listed at thrift stores and garage sales for a fraction of what they would cost retail. My kids had brand name sneakers and clothing. We had nice dishes and quality furniture all second hand. Soon this mentality money became a way of life.

When I remarried in 2000 I continued to live the same way even though I was in a two income household. In the ten years since then I have tailored and fine tuned my money saving skills.  The most important piece is the budget, making a reasonable budget and sticking to it. The majority of our clothing, books, household items, shoes and the like come from local thrift stores and garage sales. Recently I have pleasantly discovered the benefits of consignment shops. This evolution came as the economy swiftly emptied pockets and these wonderful little shops popped up all over. I have three consignment shops near by and the all give cash and/ or store credit. I have actually made money. Say I purchase a pair of jeans for $1.00 at the thrift (once a month all clothes are ½ off and the jeans are $1.00) I decide that maybe these aren’t the best looking jeans for me, so I take them to a consignment shop and if they are in good shape, a popular size then boom! I get $4.00 for the jeans. I just made $3.00. This can be very fun and addicting.

This is work, don’t get me wrong. And it is a sacrifice. We do not have cable or video games and since October 2008 we have not had a TV. We rarely eat out. Although we swap dinner with relatives once a week. Which is better than going out to a restaurant because there is no bill. We have older snow machines and both of our younger sons ski. We enjoy hiking, card games and radio shows. Garrison Keillor is one of our favorites. We have a lot of time to spend with friends and family and we have found that is really the most enjoyable way to spend our free time. Money has become a bother and a burden. I have found a deep sense of peace just by having less bills, controlling the bills that I can and by greatly reducing the movement of money in my household. Spending money is a free will activity and some of our bill paying is also. Keep this in mind as you cruise through your cable channels on your flat screen TV.

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Summer on the back porch

Summer on the back porch