a "been-there" mom of six offers encouragement
to wives, young mothers, and those not so young,
and simple common-sense approaches to
the "ings" of life:
child-rearing (hints and helps), homemaking (all areas),
cooking (simple, cheap, and do-it-yourself)
making (toys and gifts), preparing (for the unexpected),
maintaining (sanity and peace in this increasingly crazy world) and more---
all aspects of making the most of making do on little---
and having fun in the process.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011



Becoming Creative and Cheap --- part two

Two days ago I wrote that while we have been broke most, if not, all of our lives, you would have to call it “intentional.” That really needs explaining. I doubt if it will be what you are expecting.

I am not going to give you “the plan” for living broke and usually enjoying it. I can’t. Times were different “back then” and making changes to return to those times could be difficult, and in a few cases possibly even impossible. However, any changes, even little changes—even one or two changes— to simplify your life to create more time as a family is well worth it.

Our world and our life styles create stress! Previous generations experienced physical stress. Tough, physical stress, for the most part and for the majority of us,  is not part of our daily lives. I think what has replaced it is worse.

How is Was
We were pretty much two average people when we met— average in every way.  Getting married and having very little was hard at first. But I took it as a challenge. And I think, if I could choose just one word that made our life rewarding and good it would be CHALLENGE. For the most part I didn’t let things, or rather lack of things, get me down. I took it/them as a challenge. To me, having a challenge is something I can tackle — it is an action word that overrides “not having.”

The Five Words and Three Steps


and we can emotionally raise to new heights easily by---

1. Changing our way of thinking.
2. Looking at our glass as half full rather than half empty.
3.Counting our blessings of all that we have, rather than focusing on all that we don’t.

Three simple no-cost things we can concentrate on to change our situations!

Happiness is not having all that you want.

Happiness is being happy with all that you have.

And no matter how little we have, no matter how trying our circumstances, the poorest  in the United States of America have far more than the richest of those in most other countries.

Dave was in the Army National Guard when we married and was home on a ten day leave. At that time we made three important decisions about our future life:

1. He would go back to college as soon as his National Guard responsibility was over, working towards a teaching degree in English.

2. We would move away from our families and start out on our own. This may seem weird because we got along great with our parents and new in-laws but we just felt it was important to start off totally on our own, learning to depend on each other.(Because of an illness we only lived  “far away” for six months but it did give us the start we wanted, and we have recommended it to each of our kids as they married.)

3. When we had children, I would be a stay-at-home mom, if at all possible. (It was easier to do back then, I admit, but definitely do-able.

You notice, by Dave’s major that we never had high expectations of wealth!

Our First Few Years
Dave went to school and I worked.
Heidi was born 18 months after we got married.
I stayed home, Dave worked during the day and went to school in the evenings.
We wanted our kids close together so we set about bring this about.  (We thought a one-year-old would be grown up---I am not kidding you about this—we were, euphemistically speaking naive.)
RD was born on Heidi’s first birthday!!!!  Heidi wasn’t even walking!
Dave’s work and school schedule stayed the same for a few months.
We decided that was too slow so Dave started back to school full-time days and I started working full-time swing shift in a factory while he watched the kids and studied.
After a while I became ill and had to quit work. . .so, Dave had to quit school and go to work full-time. We put the idea of a teaching degree out to pasture. He applied to, and after grueling training, graduated from the Los Angeles California Sheriff’s Academy.

The Next Years
We hadn’t liked the time we had to be apart during this work/school period but we knew it was for a relatively short time, and for a worthy goal, so we accepted it.

With this new career we made our 4th important decision. If/when optional over-time was offered he would always refuse. We would make do with what we had. His co-workers clamored for any over-time they could get and thought Dave was nuts. They couldn’t understand how we valued our time together as a couple and as a family more than all that extra money could bring in.

This simple stitchery reminds us that truly, no matter who we are or what our circumstances,
 "The greatest work  we will ever do will be within the walls of our own home."

After seven years, employment took us to the Mid-west where we stayed for 20 years. The pay was much less but we continued with our no-over-time policy. It wasn’t easy but we felt, and still feel, it was well worth it. Sometimes we had to find small part-time jobs but we worked together and as the years went by our children worked with us (four years after RD, we had four more boys at two-year intervals).

Okay, that is our life and obstacles in a nutshell.

Yes, life was simpler and gentler in those days.

Simpler because we were just beginning to get “modern conveniences” to ease our housekeeping responsibilities and gentler because. . .well. . .because it just was.

We didn’t have minute-by-minute stresses from throughout the entire world because we didn’t have instant satellite reporting on everything bad throughout the entire world—24 hours a day. And when there was something important  happening we had to physically sit by a radio or television to learn about it! Or, we received the news from someone by way of our cord-attached-to wall telephone, when we were at our home.
We weren’t hounded with constant media hammering of all the things we had to have and/or the credit cards to satisfy this impulsiveness.
And, we did not feel entitled to anything we didn’t earn or couldn’t afford.

Today we have a great number of wonderful, time and labor-saving devices. (Dishwashers in our day, were our children, even when they had to stand on a stool.) But, you must admit, we have many more unnecessary (Notice I am not saying useless— there is a difference!) gadgets, things, and stuff than we need.


Following is a list, not in any particular order, of how it was “in those days.” As you read each, you can make the comparison and the decision as to which way (yesteryear's or today's) is best in the long run.

Dinner was regularly a sit down meal at home at a consistent time.
Fast food places were just coming into being (our area had one of the first McDonald’s and In-and-Out’s; Pizza and Mexican foods were in speciality restaurants.
Eating out was a special occasion and/or treat, not a way of life.

Kids did not have every hour of every day filled with planned activities.
Participation in high school sports, cheer-leading, and other activities did not require previous years of organized teams and classes as a prerequisite.
Neighborhood pick-up games were common, and for the most part, unstressful. (There was an occasional fight!)
Children did not have to be entertained--- they found things to entertain themselves
There were very few channels/stations on the television and most went off by midnight.
Holidays were celebrated on the day they occurred, rather than an excuse for a three-day week-end.
Play clothes were for play and not for school.
Children used their imaginations.
Graduations and Recognitions/Trophies were reserved for real accomplishments.
Not everyone was automatically “a winner” of some sort in every situation.
Toys were toys and clothes were clothes—NOT advertising gimmicks or extensions of movies or such..
Play and toys required inner creativity, rather than being  “scripted” by commercialism.

You didn’t regularly “Shop ‘till you drop.”
Malls were non-existent.
Clothes shopping was a special occasion, usually reserved for back-to-school and Christmas.
Sales were occasional and “real” and you waited for them. Specific items went on sale at specific times of year (i.e. You waited and bought your sheets, towels and such at the annual January white sales.)
Stores closed at five Monday-Thursday. They were open until 9 p.m. on Fridays, 6 p.m. on Saturdays, and were never open on Sundays. And, everyone was able to get their shopping done.
The day after Thanksgiving was the start of the Christmas season.
The week before Christmas stores stayed open until 9 p.m. every night, except Sundays.
Mail-order catalogs were rare — the main two being Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward, and they were treasured and dreamed over.
There were no credit cards.
Stores had lay-a-way, where you could put a down payment on a dress, etc., pay a little on it each week, and take it home when you paid it off.
●     Stores didn't have bridal registries that printed off pages and pages of items the store had enticed and assured the young couple they "must have" at all costs (even the necessity of various utensils in a variety of sizes and huge serving size pieces for a crowd), basically turning a sincere gift-giving occasion into a gimme of commercial "this is exactly what I want and I want it now!"
When you started out on your own, you made do with a few simple pieces of hand-me-down furniture and slowly worked up, paying as you went, to “what your parents had obtained over the years.” You did not even consider starting off with everything.
Home ownership was something for the future when you had a down payment and the money to make the payments, and hopefully, a reserve for upkeep and emergencies.
Large families lived in small houses, shared bedrooms and bathrooms, didn’t have play rooms or family rooms, or theater rooms----and did just fine!
Sharing provided/taught many positive attributes.
The television was in the living room and families decided together what they would watch, and they would watch it together.
Purchases was needed, not just wanted.
Basic models did the job just as well as top-of-the-line models—with less to go wrong.
Items were built to last and to be repaired. When something did break, homeowners at least tried to fix it before they replaced it or did without. Sadly, today most things, in all areas, are built to be un-repairable, and even more sad, no one even tries.
The “blessings” of air-conditioning, home entertainment and garage door openers curtailed the blessings of neighborliness and community.
Family outings were usually participatory activities, not spectator---hikes, playing at the park, lawn and board games. . .

How Change Can Be Made---Rate the following in your life.
1. Can you honestly ascertain between needs and wants?
2. Can you categorize the things in your life between  necessary and luxury? 
3. Are any of the things in your life, in reality, an intrusion?
4. Would life, in every aspect - time, money, etc. - be better without some of these things? 
5. Are instant gratification and instant communication really all they are promoted to be?

Our Later Life:
We continued this pattern of living even to the point of Dave retiring 24 months early, at a significant loss of retirement funds----because there were things we wanted to do while we still had the energy to do them. It was still hard and for us it was still worth it.  Dave is now accepting  “overtime.” He is over the “Biblical" allotment of years - 3 score and 10  (Psalms 90:10). And I am not far behind.

And we honestly, both the good and the bad, wouldn’t change a thing! It is hard to believe that anyone would be thankful for difficulties but we are hopefully stronger and  better, for them.

We are thankful to report that none of our kids have “gone in to debt.” They have gradually acquired their needs, and their wants, as their incomes have allowed. Their kids have also shared bedrooms and bathrooms and bikes and cars, and most everything. They have moved up in home size or enlargement as needs and money were available.

No matter how bad life may seem at times, life is generally good. I hope these cost-nothing ideas and thoughts will help your day-to-day life. I hope they have helped you see that "free" is also priceless!

Until next time,
I am Simply, Gail


Elan said...

I love this blog! And this post really made me stop and think. Thanks, Gail...for a timely reminder about what is really important!

Simply, Gail said...

Elan, I am glad it was helpful and appreciate you letting me know.