Tuesday, February 23, 2010


"Early to Bed, and early to rise
makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." (Benjamin Franklin)

"Live on a penny, and rule over much,
it takes but wisdom and a homemaker's touch."  (Me)

I asked old Ben if he'd like to join me in writing to you about how you can live victoriously on just a little. Well, I guess he was so excited that he was speechless, so I took that as a "yes", and included a quote from him, above.

First, there are some concepts that you have to learn to love.  A good place to start is by opening your eyes to the truth about what things are necessary, what things are important, what things hold true value.  And,
right here is a good place to start...

Now that we have laid the foundation, let us begin to build, a little at a time, a good, and sufficient life. More than that, an abundant life. A life lived in such a way that you can put your head down on the pillow at night and sleep like a baby. Where the only debt you owe is the debt of love, which the bible instructs us to keep on paying to God and others as long as we live. Which by the way is a debt that will make you rich, indeed.

If I were just starting out as part of a young couple, or if I were to find myself as a single mother who needed to get by on very little, I would sit down and do some thinking over a big cup of tea made from a generic, store brand tea bag. And I would look at a few facts. The facts are, I would surmise, that we need a safe place to stay, wholesome food, and decent clothes for our backs.


I would first ask family members if we could stay with them and contribute to the work and financial needs of their household.  If that was not an option, I would rent a room in somebody's house.  Yes, I would. It would cost a fraction of what a regular apartment would cost, and I would do some research and find the best neighborhood I could find for the money that I had.  When I say the "best neighborhood", my priorities would be safety, a decent school if I had children, and accessibility to stores and amenities - places I could walk to. Now in some places that might only cost me $200 a month, and in some it might cost me $600, and if the Lord willed, it might cost me nothing but what I could offer them as help around the house.

The thought of starting off married life or single parenthood like this seems really repugnant to many folks, I'd imagine.  How you can you be happy in just one room with a only a few possessions. But people, in my opinion, really overestimate the happiness that owning lots of stuff can bring. Whatever you own will take up space and add more responsibility to your life. It has to be guarded, cleaned, maintained and fretted over. And sometimes needs to be insured. Which costs money.

Procuring the necessary space in which to keep one's unnecessary stuff also costs time, money, guarding and fretting over.  Look, everybody needs a certain amount of space and stuff, but after a certain point the returns begin to diminish, the stuff turns to suffocating clutter, the space is difficult (physically and financially) to maintain, and we become slaves to this stuff, and its low-life kinsman, Debt.  This is how stuff and debt come to own you.  How wonderful for us if we assess the situation before we and our stuff are unceremoniously tossed out onto the sidewalk by a sheriff with an eviction notice.  But you know, if this happens, you might as well look at it as a grand release of responsibility and a chance to have a picnic in the park on a Saturday, instead of doing all that mowing, washing, and waxing.  On Sunday afternoon, you can sit and read a library book and take a nap after church instead vacuuming 10 rooms and milling through stores in search of more stuff to pack your house with.

Now if you can afford more than one room, wonderful! But whatever you do, you should be looking for ways to maximize ways in which to live a good life, WITHIN YOUR MEANS.  Living within one's means is such an old-fashioned concept, and the way, no doubt, your ancestors kept things going along until it was time for the world to receive you onto its stage. It requires some hindsight, in the form of learning skills and systems that have worked in the past,

and foresight, in terms of planning for possibilities and eventualities.



Living within one's means in terms of shelter, means that you can live in your place AND still provide for the other necessities of life on a reasonable level.  About 40 years ago and before, banks used to figure that your mortgage/taxes/house insurance should not exceed 25% of your pay. So, if you make $3000 a month, your shelter should not cost you more than $750 a month. This would ensure that you could make your mortgage payment and still live a decent life and not be house-poor. To put it in archaic, ancient terms: you could afford
to live there. Now, we all know that the cost of housing went totally crazy once bankers stopped demanding that people be able to afford their payments, resulting in astronomical prices for houses. Ye olde housing bubble. Which is deflating, it seems to me, but not bursting. Yet.

So now there is a lot of suffering going on in America, because people are losing their homes, cars, and other possessions left and right. But really, isn't a lot of the suffering mental anguish, based on losing Stuff? And hurt pride because we have to go about our lives in reduced circumstances. But not abject poverty. How poor is poor? Is it not being able to afford a big-screen TV? Is it having to live in a smaller house, or rent  instead of owning? Is it eating macaroni and cheese at home instead of ordering out for pizza? God forbid, but we might not be able to afford that most basic of human rights, a cell phone.

I am not saying that people are not suffering, but could some of this suffering be alleviated by looking at things differently?

I have found a lot of joy in looking at an economic downturn as an adventure.  (Yes, I know I am missing a few horses off my merry-go-round, but) I find it kind of fun to figure out ways to turn my problems into projects. There was a time in my life when we were awash in money, and I actually found it kind of dissatisfying to instantly attain what I wanted, with no effort, or no figuring out how to get the best deal on it. Well, God in His wisdom soon took that burden from me!

My burden now is point to a few ways that will encourage you in your quest to live a happy, "needs-met", and moreover, abundant life if you keep your priorities in order. These are: God, others, making the most of the free things in life (see video, above), and gratitude for all. Another tip: if one is good, you may not need 10.

Then ask for wisdom and a sense of adventure in how to build upon these great foundations.

More to come on this large subject, including wonderfully low cost and easy ways to maintain your home, and an introduction to that vast and awesome part of life - food!


  1. Anonymous11:23 PM

    Me again, over from HomeLiving! I loved this post. Thank you for the inspiration! Have a nice evening!


  2. Anonymous1:32 AM

    Part of it is being content. No one seems content with what they have,,they always want more and more. Our parents and relatives had the same furnishings all the years I knew them...hardly ever getting new things. I even thought back and can never remember them making any comments that they felt deprived of anything. Their homes were comfortable ,clean and homey. ... and everyone was always welomed warmly. Homes filled with love. Good memories include people...not the decor of the homes. Money had nothing to do with it. Sarah


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