Wednesday, July 04, 2012
This Ole House
Well, I knew some of you were interested in these upcoming posts but I must admit I was a little surprised by some of your comments, or should I say, the enthusiasm expressed in your comments. As I replied to a couple of you, I just hope I actually have as much valuable and pertinent information as you all seem to hope I do! I will tell you what I don't have though. I don't have any magic formula to all this. I don't have some esoteric shortcut to creating the reality I want. Well, actually I do in a way; but I'll tell you about that at the end! At any rate, the majority of reason I am able to live this kinda life in this manner is 2 simple reasons: I am willing to work my ever-loving ass off at times and for extended periods of times. I do not follow fashion, trend, fad or common societal views. So, let's get down to business.
I always knew I wanted to build a house, so I soon as I had a job where I made enough to literally have a little left over after I paid my bills, I started saving. At first it was not very much and I cringe now at what I could have done if I had really been serious about frugality so many years ago but that's in the past and I can't do anything about it now. What matters is that I did start saving. It varied over the years but I always had around 10% of my weekly pay taken out of my check automatically and put away. I want to emphasis I did not take it out on my own each week; I set it up so the bank would do this automatically. It's too easy to talk yourself out of putting some aside if it's up to you so, in my opinion, the best way is that you never look at that money as being yours to spend. It's put away before you can ever get your hands on it and you will learn to work around that. I never missed not having that money in my checking and I actually often wish now I had had more taken out. Now, this took a while. I saved for probably 10 years before I had enough to even black the house in. After getting the house dried in I still continued to save in the same manner in order to have a cash supply for finish work. However, I had also, during those 10 years, been saving durable materials that I knew I could use later to build with. Stone flooring, electrical supplies, insulation, rebar, miscellaneous steel and even little things like nails and screws. Now, I realize in this respect I had a little bit of an advantage as I worked in construction and these materials were often readily available with just a little dumpster diving or such. However, I believe if you are willing to ask around and do a little footwork, it is possible for anybody to come up with reclaimed, and often free, construction material. By taking what was going to be thrown away from remodels and demos I got free toilets, sinks, hinges, hardware, lighting fixtures, switches and plugs, wire and probably some more stuff I'm forgetting. And much of it was almost new! I also took any lump sums of money I got, like tax refunds, large pottery orders or side job money, and put that in my savings instead of buying some stupid "reward" like jewelry or clothes. In fact, I still do that now. Or, I used it to pay cash for a large purchase such as my refrigerator or something like that. At this point in the game I also had so few bills that I could often use a whole paycheck to buy stuff for the house too. I only put one thing for the house on credit and that was my windows and I paid that off just as fast as I could. It is just too easy to let a credit card balance slide and before you know it you've paid $200-300 in interest in a year or more!
Now, let me back up just a little. Before I was really able to do any of this I had to get on the right track financially. When I got out of college I was poor,.. no, I was destitute. I had a vehicle and that was about it. Then my oldest brother relieved me of that in order to use it to kill himself, so then I didn't even have that. I don't say that for shock value or as a sympathy pull but simply to say, I started out with less than nothing and I pulled myself out of it; you can too. I also don't mean to sound flippant about my brother's death, as that was certainly not the case. It's just there were certain physical realities of his actions I had to face after he was gone. On top of all that I had college loans to pay off. So, I did what I thought anybody would do. I worked whatever I could find to make money and I used the current system to ease some of my burden. In other words, some public assistance. I never got food stamps but I did use assistance for health care and college. Hey, help is out there, you just have to look for it and every little bit does help. I worked 8-10 hours a day on a 6-story apartment building, forming and pouring concrete and welding and then, 3 nights a week, I would leave that job and go over to an ice cream plant where I worked as a welder and I would weld until 10:00 or 11:00 at night. I couldn't afford health insurance, and we had to work 1 year before we could get it with the company, so I used Planned Parenthood for check-ups and such and I even used a public assistance hospital once when I needed minor surgery. The care was great and I paid based on what I could afford; it wasn't much. A few years ago I even worked on a remodel in that same hospital. I was kinda proud of that. My point is though, I had to swallow any pride I might have had and just do it. I think a lot of people now days refuse to do that. Everybody is so concerned with what other people might think and keeping up with the Joneses. I was so far behind the Joneses I didn't even know who they were! When other young women my age were going out bar hopping and shopping I was standing in a warehouse at -30 degrees F., knee-deep in artificial snow, welding steel racks back together. But by doing this I was able to get my head above water. I paid off my college loans. I did not keep a balance on a bunch of credit cards. I paid off my potter's wheel, which has been a great investment for me as a second source of income. Then I was able to start saving my money instead of spending it on bills.
Now, some of you may be wondering what all that has to do with my life now; I'm on Easy Street now, right? Well, all that taught me 2 things (see a pattern here); material items don't mean shit in this life (people do) and almost nothing comes easy. Both of these lessons are the only way I would be able to live like I do now. Even though the "green" or sustainable lifestyle is in vogue now, very few people actually do it or even know what it is. Go down to the local Whole Foods (or other organic market) and talk about making fertilizer out of chicken crap and watch those people run in the opposite direction. Living simply and frugally is HARD sometimes. It is weeding the garden when it is 95 degrees at 10:00 a.m. It is letting people stare pitifully at you because you are not wearing the latest in fashion or haven't had your hair dyed 3 shades of a color I have yet to see exist naturally in humans. Yes, I have nice stainless steel appliances in my house but I don't have any diamonds or $150 shoes. I hocked that shit and bought me a drill!