Monday, April 25, 2005

Making Ends Meet...Livin' on the Cheap

OK folks I can't spend to much time on this contraption, so you'll be getting it in small bits. Before one ever chooses to live the simple homesteader, small farmer type life you need to be sure you really want to do it. You must enjoy it or you will be miserable. Enjoying the work is often one of the only rewards you get. If you a married, be sure your spouse wants to live this way too. Nothing can mess up a marriage faster. I've seen it happen, so be sure. Your marriage is more important than enjoying the simple life. That being said, I'll offer a few little ways that we "make ends meet" out here.

  1. If you don't need it, don't buy it.
  2. If you can make it yourself, make it.
  3. Barter with people in your community.
  4. Don't buy ANYTHING new.

Bartering is a great way to do business when you are cash poor. I have several arrangements with local folks. I trade waste milk for cheap pork. I trade raw milk out of my tank for bread. We trade the use of tractors, trucks and implements. Why own something you only use once in blue moon. If the guy down the road has one, you can use his and you let him use something that he needs of yours. Use Freecycle. Its great. People who need to get rid of stuff give to you for free. When we chose to use cloth diapers we were having trouble coming up with cash to buy them. We posted on freecycle and within a day we had about $250 worth of them for free! We never buy new clothes. I don't think I own a pair of jeans that cost more than 50 cents. All clothes are bought by the wife at summer yard and rummage sales. Don't ever buy new cars or trucks. We even get some of them for free. Folks get a new job or something and buy new ones. We have had several cars and trucks given to us that lasted a year or more. We couldn't afford health insurance anymore. We got involved with Samaritan Ministries cost sharing program and it works good and is more biblical than insurance. We still pay for doctor visits. We just pay so much a month. Tell the Doc you don't have ins. and they will nock off some of the bill. We do homebirths for the babies for more reasons than price, but you can't beat the price! Our midwife even nocks 10% off the bill because she doesn't have to deal with insurance companies! These are just a few things we do to live on the cheap. Anyone with any more ideas, feel free to comment. If I think of some more I'll put em there too.


At 4/25/2005 11:13 AM, Blogger The BadgerMum said...

Buy books at library sales. I can't describe the exquisite pleasure of bringing home a boxful of wonderful hardbacks for $1 each.

My favorite homeschooling-on-the-cheap resource is Classical Christian Homeschooling. It's a gold-mine of ideas, particularly their 1000 Good Books list, which I use a lot to help us pick out library books (since my children have gotten to the age they read faster than I can stay ahead of them). I bought the first edition of Mrs. Miller's book All Through the Ages several years ago and highly recommend it. You can teach your kids everything they need to of history and literature with these two lists.

At 4/25/2005 4:11 PM, Blogger The BadgerMum said...

Oh, and I'm assuming you don't have any debt.

Also, you built your house yourself, didn't you?

At 4/25/2005 4:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Scott,

I have recently started reading your blog. Got here in a roundabout way from Dry Creek Chronicles. I don't know where Lisle is but I live in Moravia, NY which is at the south end of Owasco Lake-- one of the Finger Lakes.

Your comments about living on the cheap brought to mind something I once saw.

Back in the late 1970's I started my own business as a chimney sweep and I got a call from a Mr. Letchworth who had a "camp" on Owasco Lake. Mr. Letchworth was a descendent of the wealthy NY Letchworth's--- the ones that Letchworth State Park is named after.

The camp was old,massive and stately, having it's own long, winding private driveway, and setting on a private and prime piece of lakeside real estate. It was a remnant of a bygone era and of a family that once had considerable wealth.

Mr. Letchworth (a friendly older man who drove a regular station wagon) joked about the grandchildren getting lost in the house.

I cleaned the fireplace chimney and followed Mr. Letchworth into the kitchen to look at another chimney. The room was very large, bright, and old-- and it was surprisingly spartan. I'm sure this kitchen had once bustled with the activity of maids and cooks and housekeepers, but now it looked as if it were hardly used. I recall the walls and woodwork were painted a light shade of yellow.

And the walls were adorned with absolutely nothing, except in one spot there was a simple frame. Because of the barrenness of the room, this one picture frame on the wall stood out. I could tell that the black wood frame and what was in it had been there for a long time. In the frame, printed very clearly in plain black letters on a white background were these words.....

"Use it up, wear it out, make do, do without"

So there's my contribution to this subject. I propose that it be the motto of all frugal agrarians.

Best wishes,

Herrick Kimball

At 4/26/2005 4:00 AM, Blogger reformed farmer said...


I like library sales too! Debt....we built a 50 cow dairy herd without any. Slow and steady one calf at a time. We Have had to take on a little debt becouse of the low prices we got for milk for over two years. The average cost of production in the north east is something like $16 cwt. We had a long spell of $9 milk. We sell breeding stock and some other things that helped us through without borrowing very much. We had to buy 10 milk cows last year but are lucky that we don't have to borrow from a bank. We have a good community. We are leasing the 200 acre farm with hopes of making a down payment and buying it. We do own the cows, tractors, and the rest. We started from scratch and try to pay as we go. Dad always said "Rome wasn't built in a day." The land on top of the hill my wife and I own. Thats were we are doing the Hertige Hill idea. It was raw land when we got it. I bought a really nice mobile home for $1000. The guy had to move it fast becouse his town was fineing him for having it. With help from the guys at church we have been working on it. We have power up there now but no water yet. We live in it anyway....moved in in febuary sometime. We try not to borrow money but sometimes we do take on alittle short term when times are impossible. The key is paying it off FAST. We don't have the kind of debt most people have.


At 4/26/2005 4:03 AM, Blogger reformed farmer said...


Great story, good advice. We are not far from you. My old hooftrimmer lives out that way. We are near Whitney Point. We will have to meet up sometime.


At 4/26/2005 8:17 AM, Blogger abigail said...

Better yet, buy books at library bag sales. A few times, John and I have spent the entire day at the library, building our stack of "wants" until the bag sale started. Voila! $3.00 a bag! Of course, the more babies one has, the harder this becomes. One can only carry so many bags when one's arms are filled with littl'uns.

Grow anything you can, and freeze+can your harvest for the winter. Even if you don't have wild berries nearby, you can go to a u-pick and make your own jams and jellies. Shop at no-frill stores (e.g. Aldi or co-ops)and only buy things at regular grocery stores that are on-sale bargains. Buy in bulk when you can. Skimp on snacks and other non-essentials. Cook economical meals (they don't have to be bland; think frugal gourmet).

I, too, think that the adage, "Use it up, wear it out, make do, do without" sums it up.

As more children (Lord be willing) are born, I'm sure the "do without" part will take precedence. So much that's woven into everday expectations is unecessary. We don't always find out that we don't need it, though, unless there's no way to pay for it!

(p.s. Scott--I meant to comment on your last Berry quote, but never got around to it. My favorite part was his comment on replacing germs with poison, too! We grew up drinking milk from Grandpa's cows, with a healthy distrust of the homogenized, pasteurized, chemical-tasting stuff stores tried to pass off as milk. Now that I don't have access to the real stuff, though, I guess I've grown used to the chemical taste.)

At 4/26/2005 12:17 PM, Blogger reformed farmer said...


To bad you moved so far from us. Larry the Pig Man has a snack route now. He brings all the old stuff over by the case! No charge. I am no longer skimping on snacks.....and it don't cost any money!


At 4/26/2005 1:40 PM, Blogger abigail said...

The Skinniest Man in the World can well afford to eat as many as he wants, along with the stick of butter and 10 pounds of butter a day...

The rest of us, sigh, might do well to steer clear of even free snacks.


At 4/26/2005 1:42 PM, Blogger abigail said...

make that ten pounds of 'TATORS, tho' you could probably get away with eating 10 pounds + 1 stick of butter every day.

At 4/27/2005 5:51 AM, Blogger reformed farmer said...

I use more than a stick but never have I consumed 10 pounds of butter. Tators.....well potatoes make me happy.



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