9 Skills I learned While Living On A Tight Budget
Benjamin Disraeli spoke from experience when he said “There is no education like adversity”. I am not sure there is anyone who would consider living on a tight budget a blessing. I know while we were raising our young family with five children, it was tough. Frankly, I didn’t think there was anything awesome about it. But it’s funny how looking back at those days, I realize now those really were the years of education and growth. Not being able to buy or hire out everything we needed, helped me to develop skills that I never thought I could have. Today living by these skills are not about the money anymore. I have grown to love the challenge of constant learning and developing new skills. So here it goes, whatever it’s worth…
I’ll never forget the day my sister-in-law came to visit me and her brother shortly after we were married. At the time we were living in a college town couple of hours away from Robert’s family. I had grown up with a mother who cooked everything from “scratch”, and there was nothing simple about her cooking. Even though my mom cooked real good food, she never taught us kids how to. In fact, she would always tell us to leave the kitchen while she was cooking. Unfortunately this did not help me in my domestic skills. Trying to cook a meal everyday on a budget (Robert was working part time making $5/hour, which would equal to $10 with inflation today) without any skills was not pleasant. Hate to admit, but I did not even know how to cook spaghetti. We are talking about boiling pasta here, I either cooked it too long or not long enough. I believe I have redeemed myself since those days, but my sister-in-law and I still laugh about her experience, of eating an under cooked meal nearly three decades ago. Few years later, with a friendly suggestion from my husband, I ended up taking cooking classes. I attended total of five classes that taught cuisine from Philippines. I don’t remember any of the recipes, but I remember the basic skills they gave me. The most important lesson they taught me was, dare to have fun. They taught me to not be afraid to experiment with flavors. Today, cooking has become one of my greatest passions. I now realize having this skill has been a blessing. Not only because I have been able to feed our family well on a budget, but living on a strict diet is neither boring or limiting for me.
Here is a good example of a skill that I appreciate knowing, but if I can avoid it, I will. Knowing basic sewing is very helpful, especially when you have boys who seem to always manage to destroy their cloths. I know it is lot easier to buy new than to mend, but there is much to be said about taking care of what we have. Simple sewing such as replacing buttons or stitching a small tear will extend the life of our cloths. Sewing is very mindful, and as much as I don’t like it, it really is very creative task. It feels very rewarding to mend something. To me, this skill acts as a reminder that everything in life can be mended if we give it a chance.
Shopping is not a skill, but smart shopping on the other hand is definitely a skill. This subject is a big one. There is no greater teacher than a lean wallet. Learning to compare prices, barter, shop on sale and much more. We all need the basic things in life, food, shelter and cloths. Sky is the limit on how fancy we can eat, live and dress, if we can afford it. I have seen and experienced (thanks to other people’s generosity) fancy lifestyles that go beyond the average person’s budget (including mine), and discovered that having the greatest and the best does not bring happiness or greater satisfaction. On the contrary, even currently when I don’t need to stretch my dollar as far , I find it very rewarding to choose to live a life of simplicity. One great benefit of smart shopping is that it leaves more for Robert and I to share with others. Giving does not have to be in the millions or even thousands. When we can stretch our money, we have the ability to do, what I call, simple sharing. Take a meal to a neighbor who might have just had a baby or recently lost their job. We can donate to the local food bank or be able to assist in a non-profit organisation. Smart shopping may be a skill, but by living by its principles we also gain so much more than money. We gain a giving and a grateful heart towards others and a deeper appreciation for that which we already have.
When I say painting, I’m talking about maintaining or updating a home. This skill alone can save thousands of dollars. Robert and I have spend hours and hours painting the homes we have lived in. I understand when you get to be a little older (like us), it is not as easy. But putting a fresh coat of paint on a home makes a huge difference. It increases the value of your home for one. Fresh paint keeps the surfaces better protected and provides with newness. Yes, it definitely is a skill that requires experience, I can attest to that, but what better way to gain the skill than to get the roller out and start learning. Unlike couple of decades ago when we first bought our old house, which we still live in, there are now thousands of YouTube videos on how to (everything) paint. Believe it or not, you are not only saving hundreds of dollars by painting your own room, but you also have the opportunity of being more creative and choose the details that the contractor would otherwise have control over.
Getting a haircut for Robert was not a big deal for our wallet while we lived in the college town. There were multiple good barbers in town that would do a good job for $5-10. But after we moved to Sweden a haircut at the time (1989) was $30. That is when my husband got the brilliant idea of me cutting his hair. The first time I “tried”, we ended up paying $30 and going to a barber shop. The guy asked me if I was trying to make him go out of business. I sheepishly said, No!, we just can’t afford it. Well honestly, that was the truth. Robert needs a haircut every 5 weeks and you do the math. We never went back and hate to say it, he did look pretty bad for a year. But I was lucky enough to know of a person who taught me few tricks and pretty soon I got confident. I was more than glad to had gained that skill before all our four sons came along (although I think they felt I was practicing on their heads 😉 ) Our daughter lucked out for most part, she was the princess after all. After cutting my family’s hair all these years (took a break for four-five years after two shoulder surgeries) our youngest son told me not too long ago (and he is a teenager) that he’d rather pay me than go to a professional hair salon. That made me feel pretty good about my hair cutting skill.
Home Repair and Maintenance
Beyond painting, there are so many other repairs and upkeep with owning a home. Mortgage is half the battle in my opinion. The constant maintenance and repairs can drain any budget if not controlled. Obviously there are some repairs that I would recommend going with a professional help. But there are many other things most of us can learn to do. Anything from changing flooring to putting small peel and stick bumper stickers on kitchen cabinets. When we bought our first small home, I was so nervous to do anything on my own. I thought I would make a mess. With time and my husband’s great patience, I am pretty proud of myself today. I’ve been able to help Robert with all our tile projects these last few years. I have changed the door knobs on our kitchen cabinets and updated old furniture. Decks, plumbing, changing faucets, doors and toilets all these are things that we have done. I even helped Robert with replacing our shingles (don’t try this at home). Point is, it is possible to save thousands of dollars, even if you have to rent or buy your tools.
Car Repair and Maintenance
This one is unfair for me to talk to much about, since I am married to a mechanic. But there is one basic skill that everyone can learn, even our daughter was taught this when she got her first car, and that is changing the oil and filter in her car. A simple skill like that can save hundreds of dollars each year. Not to forget to mention the money saved on washing and waxing your own car.
“It is Possible To Fly Without Motor, But Not Without Knowledge And Skill”
Landscape Install and Maintenance
Taking care of our yard and gardening has become my greatest passion. I really did not know anything about designing and maintenance. But combination of love for flowers, fresh vegetables and a tight budget, encouraged me to start developing some skills in installing and learning about maintaining a garden. Robert and I have been able to create our own little flower and garden heaven on 0.28 acres (1,133 square meter) situated around our modest home. In 2017 our yard was part of the annual Hidden Garden Tour in Utah County. It was interesting to get the feedback from over 400 guest that came thru in just two days. They all appreciated the fact that we had designed and landscaped on our own. Definitely not the grandest but attainable for everyone. When you dare to design and do it yourself, your garden becomes unique and one of its kind. It’s okay to have some of it installed by professionals but I always recommend friends and people who ask, to do their own research and design according to their own needs, rather than a traditional cookie cut landscaping. When you start creating, you discover better and easier maintenance tricks. That is why we re designed a big portion of our yard (water wiser), even after the Hidden Garden Tour. Savings on do it yourself landscaping are in the thousands. Maintenance are in the hundreds annually. That is a lot of money saved, and you will have a piece of your personality in your own garden.
The greatest challenge with living on a budget is learning to manage it. Thru personal experience I learned that money management is the most important of all the skills. I strongly feel that it should be a mandatory class in high school. Too many kids leave home and have no clue about the real world of money handling. This is ONE of the reasons why consumer debt keeps climbing. According to the Federal Reserve, who has kept track of the consumer household debt in US since the end of World War II, has now reached its all time high of almost $4 trillion. So YES! this skill is more needed now than ever. Interesting thing is that in 2016 compare to 2015 US Census Bureau, the median household income rose by over 3%, along with debt accumulation. We all know that some of the big ticketed items are getting more expensive, such as health insurance and cost of housing. Inflation alone makes proper money management a vital skill to have.
“Skill Is The Unified Force Of Experience, Intellect And Passion In Their Operation”