Monday, February 02, 2009

Recession Ponderings -- Living off the financial grid

I've been pondering how to explain the way I've had to learn to live and shop over the years. It came to me yesterday after reading a few favorite "simple living" blogs about living off the electrical grid. Eureka! That's it...
living off the financial grid
...that's how to explain it.

Years ago I read a book about a guy who left his high paying job (he had a PhD) and moved to the country. His standard of living improved so much that (at the time) he had not returned to a "normal" lifestyle.

He and his family all developed do-it-yourself skills and tried to do everything they could by growing food, bartering, buying used, etc. Now, this choice was made because in the 1970s and early 1980s, inflation and increasing payroll taxes combined to take huge chunks of the average person's take home pay before they could spend it on necessities.

There was a lot to learn from his family, even for those of us who continued to live and work in "town". I wish I'd kept the book, it had become outdated by the 1990s... or so I thought.

However, I knew of just the person who could give me good ideas. I pulled the first
Tightwad Gazette off the shelf (I have volumes 1 and 2... someday I need to get the 3-in-1 volume). I propped the pillows up on my bed and read until my eyes started closing more than they stayed open. If there is anyone who can tell us how to live off the financial grid, it is Amy Dacyczyn. I'd forgotten how much gold there is to mine in those books, not only her ideas but tried and true suggestions from readers.

Another great book is Frugal Luxuries by Tracey McBride. I love this book, it is one of my"comfort books" I pull off the shelf when I need frugal inspiration. Tracey's main blog link is on my sidebar. Unlike Amy's book, it offers more advice about surrounding oneself with elegance and beauty on a very tight budget. They compliment each other with lots and lots of good advice.

I have progressively lived off the financial grid and I wish I'd done more sooner. Would you believe I hadn't stepped into a Goodwill store until we moved back from Detroit? It was a combination of Stephanie telling me her good buys (before moving to New England) and the Goodwill store opening a new location close to my grocery store that hooked me. I had images of the thrift stores my mother took me to as a child... dark and musty smelling. Was I ever wrong!

However, like many of you I share the title of "garage sale queen". Garage sales started during the horrible financial conditions of the late 1970s. I remember how odd they seemed at the time but they were the way young Mom's were able to buy and sell off the financial grid.

Both of my children were trained in the art of garage sale shopping (or tag sales as they are called in New England). When Christopher was little, he received a small allowance during garage sale season, which he used to make purchases at garage sales... great training.

I had a comment left at one time, telling me I "bragged about my thrift store finds". You betcha! I won't deny that even though it was obviously meant as a cutting remark. I brag because I want to share with others about living off the financial grid. Once you learn just how well you can dress and decorate your home and "live well" on pennies... you can't go back.

I don't have the money to shop at Goodwill very often these days so I'm there only a few times a month now, with my mental list of needs and desires. In the past month, my husband and I each found a sweater (his Ralph Lauren still had the tags on it, mine was Talbots), a very nice pair of shoes he desperately needed, and a Wilton Christmas cookie baking pan in its' original box.

A couple months ago I had been at Goodwill for awhile and decided to make "one more trip" down the aisles. There... tucked away on a bottom shelf... was a
brand new... never been used... roasting pan that I very much needed but it was $7.95, which is rather high. I picked it up, looked for the brand name... and immediately recognized it as a gold standard brand and put it in my cart. When I arrived home, I looked up the price on line and it was $149.95... yes, as in hundred.

I'm continuing to learn about living off the financial grid. My section of
Bloglines I titled "Simple Living" continues to grow each week as I subscribe to wonderful blogs about gardening, canning, purchasing food cheap, etc. That is where I'm getting an education, along with gardening and canning books.

I've belonged to food co-ops off and on but growing my own has been limited to an herb garden and a few tomato plants here and there.
Living off the financial grid may become more of a necessity as time goes on for some... an immediate need for others.

It can also be a lifestyle that brings great financial rewards... and fun.


The Tightwad Gazette
by Amy Dacyczyn

Frugal Luxuries
by Tracey McBride


Vee said...

Course we're pretty proud of Amy up here, but she used to live an extremely bare bones lifestyle that would not be comfortable for the vast majority. I'm glad that you've also included Tracey's link, which I will be checking on.

Wow! What a deal on the roasting pan. I still never find bargains like this at our Goodwill stores, but if one needs a candy dish or some clothing, it often is a good alternative.

Keep on bragging, Brenda! I love it.

Suze said...

I've been a thrift shopper and garage sale-a-holic for years. I won't buy purses new - I've gotten the nicest ones (I don't care about designer labels and all that - just functionality) at garage sales for practically nothing. Same thing with decorative candle holders, baskets of all kinds, doilies...

I also buy most shirts at thrift stores, although my pants I usually buy at Walmart.

Suze said...

What kind of cooking pots do you have - I remember you writing about the fact that they last forever......I just bought various size pre-seasoned cast iron cookware and I would like to make sure I have a few pots that I know will last forever, too. I don't want to have to make these type purchases again, so I want to buy the best (and hunt for sales and Goodwill bargains in the process of buying the best).

Vintage Girl said...

Brag away! Those are two wonderful books. I believe that we can still have beauty and elegance in our homes when we are "living off the financial grid". AWESOME post, thanks so much. Blessings, Heather

scrappy quilter said...

Tracey's book is my all time favorite book. It not only talks about being frugal, however is shares how to be frugal with beautiful things. I love her book. She also has a blog.

Another great book is The Busy Mom's Guide to Simple Living by Jackie Wellwood. I wish she would have wrote more because her book was the first I read on living this lifestyle. Another awesome book.

We shop thrift stores, yard sales and live of the financial grid. We live on a fixed income that society says is living in poverty. Oh how sad it is that they think that. We are rich, have no debt and are content with what we have.

You keep right on bragging about your thrift store or yard sale finds. We will all join right in with you.

the pleasures of homemaking said...

I LOVE Tracey's books and she's such a sweet person! I admire Amy because she was always thinking outside the box and really analyzing things - there's no one like her around these days and I wish she'd come out of retirement. She should start a blog!

Amazing deal on the pan! I'm not one for garage sales mainly because I hate getting up early on a day I don't have to. But I stop at the thriftstore at least once a week because it's across from Kroger.


Anonymous said...

Like Vee's our Goodwill stores or any of the thrift stores never have good deals like that but enough to help us out never-the-less. The stores used to have better deals ...but now they say they sell the better stuff on e-bay! :-( Most everything we own was used and most we have had for years. We make it a game to see if we can find things we need used or make do or repurpose something we already have. Food is either grown, gotten at the dint store or gotten at supper sales. And we eat Very well!! People admire our antigues when they visit but all except a few inherited things were gotten at thrift stores or garage sales. Most were not purchased cause they were antiques but needed things like the hand egg beaters etc and they were oldish when we got them then we aged further along with them!! ;-) If we had to buy things at the mall we would be bored to tears. Things there are all the same. Our home was furnished a piece at a time and each has a story behind itto add to the fun of woning them. We took our time and got things as we fell in love with them and as I said, almost everything is used...and cheaply bought but very well made. Yes brag away anytime Brenda! We are all happy for you!! We know how good it feels too!! Jody

cheri said...

Love all those books, Brenda. Both the Living More with Less books helped shape my thinking about spending.

For me, the biggest money saving advice I could give would be to learn to be content. We really need so little to be comfortable.

That and I really like to see how long I can go without shopping! Make it fun, make it a game and a challenge! (My two cents....)

lynda said...

We could also have a swap. I've thought of it. Spring crafts and books, decorative items. I love hearing about bargains you know that. I can hardly wait til next coffee time. (:
You can spend a lot without realizing it.