Monday, March 08, 2010

The Underground Economy, Part 3

Okay, I know I've put too much thought into remembering the title of that book when I dreamed about it last night and awoke quite frustrated.  The one thing I did remember about it was a few years after I had read it, the author had a regular weekly feature on The 700 Club which was filmed at his place and gave loads of great information (at one time The 700 Club was a great resource for learning basic skills).

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;


Vee said...

Our pastor friend is always sharing stories of how the Lord has "blessed the hunt." I agree. He does.

Now this post is making me rethink my rather strong urge to purge. My darling husband is a collector of all things thinking that this or that will be useful one day. I think that there's not enough room to collect it all and that there's a fine line between hoarding and being practical. There's also something to be said about picking something up that is a wonderful find for someone else. I'm not talking a lot of money, rather what may be found very cheaply or even free. So much to think about, Brenda!

The Working Home Keeper said...

I'm new to your blog - found a link through Like Merchant Ships Food for Thought.

Love this post and I can't wait to read more!

Mary Ellen

Mrs.Rabe said...

Thanks for these posts Brenda...very encouraging.

Cathy said...

I can't tell you how many times I have found "exactly" what I wanted and or needed at a garage/thrift sale. I try to have a prayerful attitude all day and I know beyond any doubt I am blessed with gifts from him. Just last weekend I went to a rummage sale and found a ton of tupperware! A total of 25 bowls with lids in like new condition. $3.00 for all. I would never EVER have bought them new. It would have been hundreds of dollars-but I really needed them and there they were! I also found 3 new home interior candles that will be lovely tucked in with tea and honey for gifts. 50 cents each. I have an attitude of I can have most anything I want or need if I am patient and wait for it to arrive. Usually it doesn't take long at all. And usually it is only pennies. How can you complain about that? Love you posts. We are all learning together and how wonderful to have an attitude of reusing. On my frige I have a hanging that states the old adage:Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without" We should have never stopped repeating that to ourselves. Thanks for a lovely series on the underground economy.

Christy said...

I love this series of posts. Thanks so much for writing them. I hope you figure out the name of that book - because after hearing you mention it so many times, I want to read it myself! :) Thanks again. God bless.

Frugal Scholar said...

Love your posts on this topic. I would suggest a term different than "underground economy," however. That has the connotation of tax evasion--i.e. people who work off the books.

What you're talking about in these posts is something quite different.

By the way, I think I read the book you're looking for. Sadly, I have no idea of the author/title. I used to read all the books in the saving money/frugality section at the library. Perhaps you will find the book you seek there.

Found your blog via Like Merchant Ships. Much wonderful reading. Thanks and I'll be back.

Anonymous said...

Living on Less and Liking it More is the name of the book I was trying to remember....not sure now if it is the one you were speaking about. It was written by Maxine Hancock.

Anonymous said...

It would be a good idea to pray before going out to shop alright...I remember to sometimes, and other times I feel led to change my plan and it pays off. This happened the last time we shopped for groceries. We did not need much, so I told Hubby I felt to go to a smaller store we do not frequent much. We found some bargains...some half what the bigger stores charges. And some items I had almost given up finding (bought 15 cans of that!!). When we got to the car, I had to say THANK YOU to the FATHER for HIS provisions. It seems we should be more in tune with HIM even in the less important things of life.

You are encouraging me to begin shopping thrift shops more again!!

Anonymous said...

I read your comments on home repairs being done only by licienced repair men. We could put our own new roof on but if we did the insurance company would not insure it! Not good! We can take off the old roof and so get it ready for the new one but the shingling has to be done by a licienced company. This makes sense in a way. That licienced repair men need to be there for smaller fixes or changes does not :( This is another thing for all those looking for a new home to check out first isen't it!!

Anonymous said...

Now that you have remembered the 700 Club connection maybe it will jog someone's memory of the book. I remember when I read Your Money or Your Life and the sequel Getting A Life it sure changed my thoughts on money forever. I was already very used to being frugal but it was a real eye opener. The Best. Bartering is also a wonderful way of saving money and using the skills God has given us. A skill for an object needed or a skill swapped for another's skill. Or an object given for an object needed. So many variations! :)

nanatrish said...

Brenda, you continue to inspire me about finding bargains and realizing how blessed we really are. I, too, pray for 'good finds' and I think it makes sense. The Lord knows what I need and what makes me happy. I have to catch up on all your posts in the past week. I'm glad to be back in Georgia. It was beautiful in California, but I was ready to get home. Our weather today was so pretty.

Anonymous said...

You are such a good reminder of weekly pantry stocking. I do love good garage sales, too. My husband thinks it's a bunch of junk, but I've saved lots of money on clothes, household goods, yard art, etc. Just recently bought a GORGEOUS winter coat at a local resale for $22.

Anonymous said...

How right you are. I thought I was the only one that prayed before I went inside the thrift store. This week my daughter was looking for a inexpensive pair of black workout pants. Went to Value Village, prayed, and only had $10.00 to spend, and only 10 minutes to find them. Found a pair in 3 minutes for only $7.99 praise God!!