June 9, 2014

The Austerity Diaries

Sometimes, life just happens and all of your best-laid plans go awry.

We recently incurred some unexpected, major expenses in our family that have forced us to rethink our lifestyle.  No matter how carefully you plan, sometimes fate has other ideas for you and you discover that you have to reset your sail and change course to go with the winds. Thankfully, we enjoy excellent health and fortitude, so we’re embracing the detour as yet another adventure on our journey. To do this, we have chosen to accept change as neither good nor bad, just different.

It’s times like this when I am so glad that we, as a family, have embraced frugality. My kids have been brought up with a somewhat different mindset from their friends. They aren’t big consumers and they aren’t into frivolous spending. They are every bit as happy with a cool item acquired from a yard sale as they are an expensive new item of clothing from the store. I’m also fortunate to have the whole-hearted support of loving friends who are like-minded – another key point when you are embarking on a frugal journey. When you are surrounded by spendthrifts it can be terribly difficult to adhere to your course – you always feel like you’re missing out, and however innocently, they tend to try and pressure you into making poor financial decisions.

I know that it isn’t just my family who is experiencing some tough financial downturns. The economy in North America is just awful. According to an article by Michael Snyder, half of the country supports a family on less than $27,000 per year. And to make matters worse, the cost of living has dramatically increased – and it isn’t finished increasing yet. An article written by Mac Slavo of SHTFplan predicts that the cost of living could more than QUADRUPLE over the next little while.  So if you think it’s bad now…hang on, you’re in for a bumpy ride.

But, before I lose you, this article is not about doom and gloom. It is about hope for a brighter future.

When we stop measuring our success by what we own or how much money we make, we can embrace the challenges that are facing us. We can learn a new kind of happiness, one where we feel that burst of competitiveness, us against the economy. We can learn to solve our problems creatively and leave the rampant consumerism that got our country into all of this trouble by the wayside.

The first step to moving towards a non-consumer lifestyle is to embrace your cheap side. I wrote about this last year, and it bears repeating: The key to success is your attitude.

Hard-core frugality is not just making a choice to buy the generic brand of laundry soap instead of a jug of Tide with scent beads.  Hard-core frugality is buying the ingredients to make 5 times the amount of laundry soap for half the price of that name-brand detergent, all the while LOVING the fact that Proctor and Gamble are not getting your money.

When you can cross that line between resenting the fact that you have to strictly budget to embracing the fact that by being as frugal as possible, you have a freedom you never dreamed of before, then you have begun to embrace your cheap side.

Being a black belt in frugality takes creativity and an optimistic outlook.  It should never be some grim, sad thing that you have to do.  It should be something that you choose to do.  By finding joy in your non-consumerism, you will be far more successful at it. It becomes a game that you win if you can do something for free that others spend money on.

When you feel like you require less, then you are happy with less.  This means that you have to spend less time working at things you may not truly enjoy to pay for the things that you never actually needed in the first place.  This means that the money that you have goes a lot further. (source)

So, I am setting forth on a journey of non-consumerism.  Our budget will be very tight over the next little while as we overcome the stumbling blocks that life has thrown us. We are setting up our own Personal Austerity Plan, and because we’ve done it before, it shouldn’t be too difficult.  We are going to drop our expenses radically, and we’re going to have a great time doing it.

Here are 12 cuts to consider, from a previous article.

  1. Move to a smaller house.  Contrary to popular belief, no child ever died because he or she had to share a room with a sibling.
  2. Relocate to a small town.  Is it worthwhile to commute to a job in the city from a smaller, less expensive location? This can give you the added opportunity of homesteading and providing for many of your own needs.  Click HERE to read about what you need to know before making such a move.
  3. Get rid of your late model year vehicle.  Look for a decent used vehicle that you can purchase with cash.
  4. Cut back to one vehicle or even no vehicles.  Sometimes public transit and your own two feet can provide all of the transportation you really need at a fraction of the price of owning a vehicle.  This varies by location.
  5. Stop using credit cards.  This goes for any type of lending system that requires you to pay interest.  Stop accumulating debt.
  6. Don’t eat out.  Limit meals out to no more than once a month or special occasions.  Even better, don’t eat out at all.  Dining out, even at a fast food place, is at minimum 4 times more expensive than the same meal prepared from scratch at home. (And far less healthy!)
  7. Look for free or low cost entertainment.  Consider a family YMCA or community center membership instead of gymnastics clubs or private tennis lessons if you need to enroll your kids in some activities. Go hiking, have picnics, explore parks, go to the library, and find out what’s offered for free in your home town. Learn to enjoy productive hobbies like canning, carving and needlework. Switch from cable to Netflix.
  8. Use the envelope method to budget for shopping trips.  For back-to-school shopping or Christmas shopping, decide how much you want to spend.  Put that money in an envelope.  As you shop, place each receipt in the envelope.  When the money is gone, it’s gone.  If there’s something else your child desperately wants, then they need to decide what item they’d like to take back to get it.  Be firm and stick to your guns.  This has the added benefit of teaching your children to budget.
  9. Reduce your monthly payments by cutting things like cable, cell phones, home phones, and/or gym memberships.  Look at every single monthly payment that comes out of your bank account and slash relentlessly.
  10. Shop using the stockpile method.  Shop only the sales and simply replenish your stockpile. (Check out my book The Pantry Primer: How to Build a One Year Food Supply in Three Months to learn how to build a pantry quickly and on a limited budget)
  11. Eat leftovers.  Have you ever stopped to think about how much food you throw out every month?  You can often provide a few “freebies” every month by carefully repurposing your leftovers.
  12. Stay home.  By spending more time at home, you will spend less money.  You won’t be grabbing a bottle of water, going through drive-thru for lunch or putting fuel in the car.  Learn to treasure you time at home with loved ones – it’s worth more than money.

Financial downturns happen. And they’re going to be happening more and more often. They are nothing to be ashamed of – sometimes circumstances are beyond your control, sometimes you make bad decisions, and sometimes you are just propelled along by a floundering economy. It doesn’t matter how or why your financial issues occurred – it is your response to these occurrences that sets the course for a happy life.

I’ll be getting away, somewhat, from the news stories.  I’m going to be documenting our lifestyle changes in a series called “The Austerity Diary”, which I hope that you will enjoy.  This website is made wonderful by the contributions that many of my favorite readers leave in the comments, so I can’t wait to read your ideas about the different topics discussed. Health still is, and will always remain, a priority.  Frugality doesn’t have to mean Ramen noodles – we can still eat a mostly organic diet, even on a tight budget.  Preparedness and an awesome pantry full of nutritious food will see us through the rough spots.

Over the next few months, I hope that you find inspiration from our journey to leave consumerism behind and lead a life that is even more self sufficient than before. I don’t have a big farm in the country, but a tiny little house in a small town. I think many of us may be living in a place that is not our ideal location, but this doesn’t mean that we must sigh and write off our dreams of self-sufficiency. Don’t allow yourself to be limited by your geography!

The best way to resist the ever-encroaching government is to live your life in a way that they become completely unnecessary to your existence. Refuse to take part in the nation’s economic collapse. Take control of your life by taking control of meeting your own needs. Forget Wal-mart and the Big Box stores, say goodbye to Big Food – live simply and well, on your own terms.

Daisy Luther

Please feel free to share any information from this site in part or in full, leaving all links intact, giving credit to the author and including a link to this website and the following bio. Daisy Luther is a single mom who lives in a small village in the mountains of Northern California, where she homeschools her youngest daughter and raises veggies, chickens, and a motley assortment of dogs and cats.   She is a best-selling author who has written several books, including The Organic Canner,  The Pantry Primer: A Prepper's Guide to Whole Food on a Half-Price Budget, and The Prepper's Water Survival Guide: Harvest, Treat, and Store Your Most Vital Resource.  Daisy is a prolific blogger who has been widely republished throughout alternative media. On her website, The Organic Prepper, Daisy uses her background in alternative journalism to provide a unique perspective on health, self-reliance, personal liberty, and preparedness. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest,  and Twitter,.

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