Monday, March 08, 2010
The Underground Economy, Part 3
Living in what he called the underground economy is part of what I have called "living off the financial grid". Just as most of us do not move off the electrical grid, most also never intentionally move completely off the financial grid as did the author of my "forgotten title" book. Some of us have been forced off the financial grid while others choose to learn skills to stretch our income.
The financial grid is economics as we were taught and grew up in (most of us)... the making of money and the spending of money... usually at full price or the occasional sale. When we live a pantry lifestyle (in which I have a gazillion posts under "deepening the pantry" with more to come), we begin to step off the financial grid. Whenever possible, we purchase food and other items on sale and stock the pantry... then "shop" from the pantry as we need the items.
When we begin to carry this lifestyle over to all parts of our lives, we are then shopping the underground economy. Like many people, I first entered this world by "shopping" garage sales for Stephanie's clothing when she was a preschooler. I soon came to realize garage sales were the way to save lots of money for household items... buying for pennies on the dollar of their original price.
I should mention that my mother had already taught me to shop the end of season sales at the "shops which sell purple" (those being the high end department stores). I believe Manuela mentioned she can find good buys at these sales and we've also found great sales. Both my dress winter coat and my down winter coat were 25% their original prices when purchased. Both were $200.00 coats I bought for $50.00 in the 1990s and both are in great condition.
While not thrift store cheap in most items, it is possible to find new items at these sales for a few dollars. For some people, this is the best way to save money... especially those who do not have the option to spend time searching thrift stores. It is not all or nothing and perfection will never be achieved so it should never be a goal. We do the best we can given our circumstances.
I didn't start shopping Goodwill until after Stephanie was married and she mentioned to me her great purchases. I had the same opinion of Goodwill many people I know still do... that they carry people's castoffs as one would find at a bad garage sale. She told me the same thing I have told others, think of what you have given to Goodwill. Hmmm... since then I always shop Goodwill (and the Mission Thrift store where one does have to sort through not so great items but jewels in the rough can be found) first. When I was looking for specific needs, I would stop in at Goodwill a few times a week (having lived near Goodwill stores twice).
Other "underground economy" places to shop are library book sales and used book stores. swap meets, flea markets, antique stores and antique malls (yes, some are pricey but I have a few in my town that have excellent prices on vintage items), Craig's List and similar online services, Habitat for Humanity and similar nonprofit stores, garage sales given by churches and other nonprofits (which often sell items very cheap at the end of the sale since they don't want anything left), and even getting friends together to swap clothing and items.
A new-to-me way of getting off the financial grid is building a raised bed garden and growing veggies. Hubby and I were thrilled with the results. When we have available funds, we also shop the farmer's market which is open May through September... these items not being the cheapest available but always fresh and good and we're supporting local farmers and gardeners.
Which reminds me that one also needs a community of skilled craftsmen for those skills we don't know how to do. For instance, we have kept cars going for years and years over their expected demise because of our excellent mechanic. He has even fixed minor problems for no cost because he knows we'll be back for the big repairs. Buying used cars is one of the biggest ways to save money. (New cars still under warranty must be repaired by the dealer unless otherwise indicated.)
This is also a good time to mention comments left in Part 1... that being one has to be aware of community building codes when doing your own home improvement. Both where Stephanie and her family live and the college town we are near have strict housing codes about who can do major home repairs and remodeling... as in they must be licensed. Stephanie and her husband have found it cheaper to sell their house and move to one that is larger because of the expense it would require for the changes they needed to make in their present home.
I don't believe where we live in a rural area the rules are so stringent. Hehehe, the country does draw quite independent minded people. Even then, we live in a neighborhood in the country so we must pay attention to what is appropriate. For instance, should we decide to keep chickens in the backyard we'd have to check to see if that is allowed where the farmer down the road doesn't have have close neighbors and has more freedom.
Just as one becomes familiar with living a pantry lifestyle, the more we learn about the underground economy (purchasing for pennies on the dollar, doing work ourselves, learning basic skills, etc.) then the more freedom we gain over our life. If we can learn to live on far less than we think is necessary, we aren't stuck in jobs we hate just to pay for what we own... or what owns us. Even if we love a job, learning to stretch our income will enable us to have margin in our finances. Margin brings peace. It sounds simple but when one has grown up with different thinking... there is that ah-ha moment.
Not everyone can quit their job and become completely self sufficient but everyone can do something to become less dependent on the world's system of working to buy and working to pay full price and working to pay on the high interest credit cards. Learning to be happy with less stuff and then enjoying the rich life that comes with becoming more skilled each year in the underground economy is well worth that lifestyle.
Oh, I should add... I have been teased quite a lot about praying before I shop garage sales and thrift stores (library sales, etc.) but I get the last laugh when I find exactly what I'm looking for. He blesses the hunt. :)
Picture: John Bull magazine; allposters.com