Thursday, March 04, 2010
The Underground Economy, Part 1
I wish I'd kept the book, I gave it to the library sales when I thought I no longer needed the wisdom it offered. I'd love to re-read it today... slowly and with a fine tooth comb (so to speak). It was this book which first opened my eyes to what he called the "underground economy" where one could live quite well on very little income.
At the risk of greatly underdefining (is that a word?) his lessons learned, he came to realize his quality of life became much higher when he left a high stress professional job where his take home pay was being eaten up by increased taxes together with a high rate of inflation. He started "doing" what he had payed others for in dollars whose value was decreasing all the time.... by simplifying their life and learning to live off the financial grid.
Some changes made were-- growing a garden, looking for needed items at garage sales and thrift shops; driving older cars; bartering; investing in classes to learn skills such as cooking, canning, sewing, carpentry, plumbing, mechanics, painting, well... you get the idea. His family learned how to take vacations with little money and send their kids to college for less. All because they found there was an underground economy where one learned to live life differently than what they had been taught... that being make lots of money and spend lots of money.
I've thought about this book often in the twenty-plus years since reading it (over and over). It came to mind a couple days ago as I walked through Goodwill and noticed all the beautiful clothing, shoes, household items, etc. one could purchase for pennies on the dollar from their original cost. I think of it when I am at the grocery store and see how much money is being charged for baked goods, processed items, and all pre-made foods (of course, not all being unreasonably priced).
It was this book which inspired me to take cooking, flower arranging, and quilting classes in my 20s and 30s (I wish I'd taken the time for even more skills learning). My husband was also influenced long ago, learning to do whatever he could as he had time. These skills became invaluable when we had no income (I have limits... he is not allowed near electricity and we're good friends with our mechanic). :)
The underground economy is nothing new for it is the way the generations before us lived each day of their life. There was a time in this country that only the wealthy could afford to pay someone else to do that which we take for granted today. When one learns there is life outside of paying full price, life can become less stressful and more creative... not always easy but well worth it.
Now, obviously my husband didn't quit his job but he did utilize every skill he learned. Our home is full of beauty and books and so many good things in spite of living on a very small income. I'll share more about our journey in Part 2.
Picture: Homemaker-First Issue; allposters.com