Monday, December 1, 2008

The changing times


Hello everyone! Thursday's party was every bit of fun, noisy, simple entertainment you can imagine, with twenty people in our small living room. We served salads, simple home-made dishes and finger foods, and it seems our guests were happy enough. I'm glad I felt energetic enough to do this before the baby's arrival.
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After a relaxing Shabbat, during which some party-related messes were (of course) still left intact, I spent Sunday with Mom, Grandma and a relative who spent a week in Israel and was just heading back to her home in Europe. I was very thankful for this opportunity to meet, chat, and catch up - even if it meant another day of dirt and dust sitting and waiting for me. :o)
Today, I was finally back in the swing of things, catching up on work in the house and garden, and setting our home in proper order. We had a warm, sunny morning - perfect for washing all that laundry and hanging it outside to dry on the clothesline. I'm not sure why the sight of a full clothesline is so homey and comforting to me, but I sure love to hang out fresh-smelling sheets, towels, shirts and even socks.
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As you see above, I finally took the plunge and posted a photo of (a part of) our living room. Can you see how rickety that bookcase is? :o) The special thing about our living room furniture is that we didn't buy any of it. We either found and rescued it, or got it as a gift. All of it, naturally, was used. Since we furnished our living room with random pieces, it all looks a bit mismatched, but we don't mind - it's furniture, it's clean and repaired, and it works for us. Our living room table serves a multitude of purposes - eating, writing, reading, sewing, knitting, and (as you can judge by the bowl in the picture) even bread-making.
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The picture on the wall is another recent rescued find. I laughed a little when my husband brought it home, because I remembered a post I read on Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op about frugal decorating: "The pictures on the wall are ones that we took up in the mountains and placed in thrift store frames that we spray painted, the table on the right was a garage sale find and the coffee table, even though it matches perfectly with the shelves and hutch, was picked up at the local landfill. Yep, the DUMP." Hey, if people throw away good furniture and other items that we find useful and/or pretty, why should we be too snobby to pick it up?
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A recent conversation with my mother left me thinking, yet again, about how our attitude towards debt and finances has changed. When my mother was young, it was normal for newlyweds to start modestly, and slowly climb up as finances allowed. People looked at their income realistically, avoided being in debt at all or tried to pay it off as soon as possible, and lived within or below their means. Now being in debt is normal, and people think something is wrong with you if you deny yourself material pleasures and refuse to acquire a loan because you might not have the money to pay it off.
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It used to be normal for young couples to start their married life in a small one-room apartment, a basement, or even a caravan (trailer). What's wrong with living in a caravan? We considered that before we were married, but couldn't find one. Some newlyweds even (gasp) lived with their parents until they could afford to move into their own (usually very modest) place. This solution is certainly far from ideal, but I still think it can often be better than to delay marriage infinitely because you can't afford this and that. In some countries, it's still common for three or four generations to live under the same roof, and the elderly there are usually better off than those in nursing homes.
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When my husband was growing up, for a while they were seven people in two-and-a-half rooms. Do you think the children were traumatized by such terrible deprivation? Nope. They had food on the table, a roof above their heads, clothes on their backs, two responsible, involved parents, and each other's company. But today, many newlyweds seem to think they need a four-bedroom apartment right away, and sink up to their ears in debt without any consideration. Not only are marriages delayed because of impossible standards, young couples are often burdened by their financial decisions years later down the road.
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I know I won't be the first one to say that times are changing, and more and more people feel the need to tighten their belts. Many are at a threat of losing their employment. Several people were fired recently at my husband's work place, and the remaining employees suffered a reduction to their salary. Again, I rejoiced that we didn't go into any extra expenses to fund things others would say we can't live without (from a trip abroad for our honeymoon, to outdoor renovations or bathroom cabinets). I know that living within on below our means, practicing self-control and learning to do without, dramatically increases our chances of surviving (and thriving) in the tough times.
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Now is the time to be responsible, and stop spending money we don't have. It's time to be creative and resourceful, and learn to do without. It's also time to learn your neighbours' names and start cooperating as a community. For example, if there is an item you will need to use only once in a while, and your neighbours already have it, is there a chance you could borrow from them instead of buying it? Let them know that if they ever need anything, your door is open. Financial responsibility and cooperation are necessary to get us through this tide.

35 comments:

TheRetroHousewife said...

People cant believe it when we say we dont have a credit card. The only thing we ever go into debt for is a car and even then its used and paid off in less than a year.

When my grandmother first was married they lived in an old bus on her mother in laws property and they also living with her mother in law for awhile.

Mrs. Amy @ Clothesline Alley said...

*applause* for a wonderful post. I love the picture on your wall, especially the colors. :o)

andrea said...

My fiance and I are getting married in April, and I think we won't have to buy one item of new furniture! It's amazing how my family and friends have been giving us things! So far, we've "inherited" a table and chairs, sofa, 2 living room chairs, a dresser and a bed frame! Plus, I already own a small bookshelf and a desk. I know the stuff is used and probably won't match--but that's ok, we'll have more money saved up, and when the stuff wears out, and we're more financially stable, we can buy those things later!

Tracy said...

I love your resourcefulness, Anna. I'm so thankful that there are still people who are willing to accept hand me downs, and make good use of what others so hastily discard.

Autumn and Jon won't have to buy any furniture to get started, and we're very thankful for that. A couple in our church gave them a perfectly good sofa, loveseat and chair. He's a doctor and they bought new, leaving them thinking of Autumn and Jon. We've got it stored for them. My mother cleans for wealthy people who were getting rid of a table and four chairs. It's solid maple, and mom thought of Autumn and Jon. She has a double bed and dresser and nightstand that she can take with her when she's married.

Looks like they need to think of a washer and dryer, but other than that, they're all set!

homemakeratheart said...

Sadly my family is one of the millions suffering from the lay offs and cuts all over the country. Times are tough - but we have to make do with what we're given.

Great post! and I'm glad you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Mrs. Anna T said...

homemakeratheart: I don't really know what Thanksgiving is. :o)) We don't celebrate it around here...

lady jane said...

So often my thoughts mirror what you share in your posts, that I have nothing to add other than a resounding YES! Such is the case concerning this post. :o)

My husband and I own a home. We also own a vintage trailer that's 28 feet long and very nicely appointed. Should we somehow lose our home due to job loss and the current economy, we have our trailer to live in and we're really fine with that.

There's no shame in simple living. There's no shame in meager beginnings, especially for a young couple just starting out. Living according to our means.

MrsKassandra said...

Hi Anna,

Great post :) Hubby and I were married a little over 2 months ago, and are trying to live as frugally as possible, in order to pay off all debt and save up so we can put lots of money down on a house. In the meantime..where to live? Well its funny you mentioned a 'caravan' or trailer, because thats what we're looking at. For less money than renting, we can get 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and lots more space. Its older, but remodeled and is surprisingly nice. Its in a good area of town with nice, older neighbors...yet...the stigma. *sigh*

But at the same time, I guess I'd rather deal with stigma than get in over our heads..and be in a much better position in a few years.

MrsKassandra said...

Hi Anna,

Great post!Hubby and I were married just over 2 months ago, and have committed to living frugally and below our means. We're working on saving up money and paying off all debt so we can put lots of money down on a home when the time comes. So in the meantime, where do we live? We can rent..although it seems like throwing money away. Funny you mentioned a 'caravan' or trailer, because the opportunity to buy an older, remodeled trailer has arisen. Its 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms ( one with a garden tub) a brand new heating/cooling system and in a great area of town..for $280 a month..yet...the stigma? * sigh*

But at the same time, I'd rather deal with people questioning us than getting in over our heads.

Anonymous said...

I must say I could not have imagined living with my parents or my in-laws when I was married, nor could my husband--or my parents! But our culture is quite different in that respect.

Anna, I'm curious--when you have a social gathering, do the men and women stay separate, in different rooms? I had understood that Orthodox men and women couldn't have such close social contact. Or is it okay as long as no physical contact is made, or you're in the midst of a group known to you?

compactmanifold said...

Is that bowl in the top left full of yarn? If so, your husband is a lot more accepting of it than my sweetie is! Maybe if I had *less* of it overall he'd be more willing to use it as decoration.

I think I saw the phenomenon about young people starting out with so much debt as a result of wanting everything their parents had. Of course, the slice of their parents' life that they were seeing was 20 years ahead. While we have a mortgage- a big one, unfortunately- I'm glad that our generally frugal living and being free of other debt means that we can make fast progress on owning our house. It also means that we have the freedom to spend money on things that are really important to us, like top-quality vet care for my sweet kitty who died earlier this year.

Nice finds on your furniture! You could probably tap some screws in from the sides of the bookshelf to pull it up straighter, or use it as a modern fancy-pants looking thing the way it is.

How have you been doing on getting baby supplies? I'd suspect that it's pretty easy to get everything from previous parents, but I know that it's easy to give into temptation.

Mrs. Anna T said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mrs. Anna T said...

Anon,

It depends on how many people are at the gathering, its context, etc. For example, if it's only family, I doubt many would make a separation - we certainly didn't think of it at all. At our wedding, men and women were also seated in a mixed setting, as we planned each table will roughly serve one family. But dancing was separate for men and women, and we had a separate table for the rabbi and a few other men who came without their families.

Compactmanifold,

Can you see the cabinet next to the bookcase? It's full of yarn and knitting&crocheting, as well as sewing supplies. There's no more room, so some of my yarn overflows to the top of the bookcases. Thankfully, my husband thinks it looks pretty. :o)

As for baby supplies, we haven't spent anything at all yet. We got a crib and a bunch of baby clothes as hand-me-downs, and we were also promised a stroller as a hand-me-down and a car seat and baby sling as a gift. We bought a radiator for the baby's room, but I doubt that can be counted strictly as baby expenses. :o) We're not going to buy anything until the baby is actually here and we see we're lacking a real necessity - except perhaps the mattress and bedding for her crib.

More than that, we're not even accepting everything we're offered. It's amazing how much stuff people bought for their babies, never used (because it turned out to be entirely useless), and now are trying to pass on. :o) Storage space is a scarce resource too!

Bethany Hudson said...

My husband and I got married a mere 3 days after our final exams in college. We then moved 1,000 miles and set up house in an apartment in a city I had never lived in before with *gasp* only one car! Everything we owned was used--most of it donated by our parents and Providential incident at our church where a missionary family didn't come after all and our worship pastor's garage was packed to bursting with furniture! My husband's fabulous job has allowed us to "move up" in the world since then, purchasing a condo a 9 months into our marriage. Sometimes when we go to the homes of other newlyweds my husband works with, we feel a bit inadequate when we see their huge 4-bedroom homes complete with new furniture, two cars, new bicycles, and other gadgets we can only fantasize about. But, they are all 2-income households and most of them did not marry until their 30s. I would gladly have an extra 10 years of marriage with my husband and our beautiful children than all the "stuff" in the world!
~Bethany

Bethany Hudson said...

Oh, and Anna--In your comments you mentioned baby gear. If you want a cheap alternative to expensive changing pad covers: pillow cases! Flannel ones work best as they are the most absorbent.
~Bethany

Mrs. Anna T said...

Bethany,

I had to laugh a bit here, because believe it or not, I didn't even know what a changing pad is! I had to Google it just now. :o)

FreeMommie said...

I am complete agreement with you here! Your post is so similar to mine it's striking! I want to say that I believe this new culture of colossal debt is contributed in part by the diminishing of sound families. The change of times brought about a shift in roles and responsibilites. Not to get too deep, but our attitudes towards our debts and what's "necessary" only reflect the type of order and law by which we live under; most of which is not of God. Greatfully though, I am happy to see that there are families, such as yours, who are waging this war with the real intent to win! It can be tough to "deprive" ourselves, but it's so much more rewarding in the end! God bless and great post!

Anonymous said...

Personally, I'd be careful with the bookshelf. Babies use them for climbing practice or to sturdy themselves. You'll need to screw it to the wall with heavy duty holders unless you want to see it toppling down.....

As an aside, for the poster who asked....most of the non-modern Orthodox Jews do totally separate seating at weddings, usually with huge screens in between the men and women. And many of them are just as strict when holding parties at home, relegating the women to another room if it's not just immediate family.
Tammy

Anonymous said...

Another great post, Anna! You touched on so many important facets of the thrifty mindset. And I'm glad you mentioned your husband's growing-up years....myself, I see nothing strange or shameful about his experiences. I know more than a few people who come from extremely modest backgrounds, & they are some of the most creative, nicest, & patient people you could know.

Thank you for inviting us in to your home, so to speak, & allowing us to see your living room. It sounds like the recent gathering was loads of fun. :o) I absolutely love that chair!! Of course, being the avid knitter that I am, I approve of that yarn being out in the open, as well. It's a nice, comfy room.

Brenda

Rebecca said...

Yea! Another homemaker who doesn't mind hand-me downs and remaking old furniture. The best things I own were found on the side of the road or out of a dumpster somewhere. Isn't is amazing what people throw away? It is more fun in my opinion to take something old and shabby and remake it into something useful and pretty. My home is filled with such things as these. I love your blog and so does my 19 yr. old daughter. I have homeschooled both my girls and have intentionally taught then the joys of motherhood and homemaking. May you be blessed beyond measure by the birth of your baby girl!

Bethany Hudson said...

Anna- That is funny! I am constantly surprised and astounded by the un-necessity of so many things that we Americans consider necessities! :)

PandaBean said...

It's funny that you mention sharing an item with your neighbor; here in the northern USA it has finally begun snowing, and hard (about 6 inches since Sunday morning) and our new neighbors have a shovel that has been left outside their door since they moved in. I took it upon myself to go over and ask them if I could use it as long as I shoveled their side of our mutual sidewalk/pavement. They said absolutely and so I've been taking care of that. :D

God Bless!
PandaBean

MarkyMark said...

Anna,

I just wanted to say that your place looks nice and 'homey'; it looks like a home, not just a house, if you know what I mean...

What else can I say than ouch?! You hit me where I live, Darlin'! I have to slap myself sometimes though. For the last year or so, I've been in 'belt tightening' mode; I don't have as much money as I used to, and what I have doesn't go as far. It's been an experience...

I had two motorcycles until last summer. Looking at the budget, I just couldn't keep both of them. I sold the big, powerful bike that was more expensive to maintain, and I kept the smaller one. Whenever I get bummed about having one bike, I have to remind myself that, for a few years, I didn't have ANY motorcycle at all; furthermore, I should be grateful for the one I do have.

What Bethany said about feeling inadequate is something I can empathize with! Though it has to do more with my bike than my home, I know what she's saying. I experience it whenever I go to a 'bike night'. Bike nights are get togethers for motorcyclists. They're normally held at a local diner or some place similar. Anyway, I see guys with these big, fast, fancy bikes, and I feel all inadequate with my little 650! Never mind the fact that, at one time, a 650 was a big bike...

I don't know how many of those guys are making payments on those bikes though. Mine is paid for; I own it free & clear. That, and my bike is suited to my riding style; for the commuting and local back road riding I normally do, I don't need anything more. Besides, when I had the big bike, it seemed like I was always getting in trouble with the police; I got hit with $500 in fines last year, and I can't afford that! Literally and figuratively speaking, I can't afford run-ins with the cops...

In any case, the belt tightening we're all going through is going to teach us a lot; I know it's teaching me a lot. The biggest thing is to remind myself to be thankful for what I DO have, vs. what I don't. That's the essence of contentment, isn't it? Have a good night...

MarkyMark

Leanna said...

What a refreshing attitude! We all need to reuse and recycle. That's why I love the Freecycle groups here in the U.S. I use it to find a home for things I no longer need and I can see what others are getting rid of that may be of use to me. Every community should have a Freecycle group.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the painting has bright colors from what is seen in the photo. It will be a nice one for a wee one to become familiar. In my marriage of more than 30 yrs, I count myself lucky that we can still use inherited furniture that my Pepere crafted, as well as the purchased (now rickety) cherry dining set my grandparents used in their kitchen, but we didn't have any artwork to speak of except nice large clear glass windows overlooking a ravine and the street corner. (At one time, I spent a lot of time making pillows of every shape and size to make up for the lack of chairs, but that was possible as shoes have always been removed at the door!)

In looking at the arrangement of furniture, one piece of advice--make sure all the corners are rounded and rough spots smoothed out, and another piece of unasked for advice, make sure all electrical outlets plugged, and if there is a switch that turns electricity on to the plug-ins, that might be something to consider.

There are 'locks' for cabinetry to limit investigative fingers (and, it's not too early to think of childproofing!).

I didn't use locks because I didn't want to worry about what happens if they're figured out, so all the poisons in the house went outside in the padlocked shed, and sharp things were made secure. I even purchased a Toyota sewing machine that had a switch to turn on after plugging an electrical cord into the outlet, since I didn't want it always 'ready to go' when I was mending. My husband nearly brained me (a little exaggeration) when I left an upright iron on a table that our creeping infant could've sidled up next to and pulled down on himself.

Also, there's the important matter of securing door latches to consider. Our backdoor faced an alleyway that served as a fast detour and one day I had a conniption when I observed the little one pushing up the latch to carry himself out the door.

It looks like there is a turntable in front of the cabinet--do you have a record player? If so, do you have some classical music that will help with baby's sense of rhythm and auditory patterning, and not be boring to you to play over and over? I like records because you can pick up the needle and place it in a particular place to play over and over. My little one's sense of music and tonality was very well developed, I feel, from listening to Schubert's Winterreise each evening, (plus whatever was available on the national public radio.)

We bought a set of new very expensive encyclopedias which were helpful in learning concepts that library books didn't explain (and, we couldn't explain, either), but in restrospect, it's a bit of a disadvantage to have a set that is useful for 11-12 yrs (from age 3 when learning to read, to jr. high school, because at some point inevitably use of the internet is a must-have skill). So, now, that the youngest is graduating high school, I am thinking to whom I can ship a set of beautiful Encyclopedia Britannica from 1990 with updated annual volumes.

Linda said...

*lol* In Italy, people will stay at home until 38 (my uncle) or 32 (my cousin) before they have the money to get married and RENT an appartment!

Wages are low and rents (or mortgages!) are high, and therefor they think this is the best option..

But I totally agree that living in a caravan with your spouse is definately much better than living at home until 38....

greetings from the netherlands!

Mrs. Anna T said...

Oh my. I have to admit we haven't thought of making the house toddler-safe yet... neither did we think of music to play for the baby. I guess we'll be doing all that on the go. :o)

Ways of Zion said...

what a wonderful and cozy home you have made it! Thank you for the glimpse into your home!

Anonymous said...

I'm reading the comments again, & all the baby-proofing advice brought back so many memories....it's unbelievable how many ways those little tykes will think of to get into things. On the other hand, I remember that my kids left certain things alone that other people's babies were curious about, & were constantly into different things that their babies couldn't have cared less about. I'm convinced that it's a learn-as-you-go process! You & Mr. T will find your way, Anna. :o)

Brenda

Anonymous said...

Dear Anna,
Please secure the bookcase firmly to the wall, preferably into the wall studs. Your precious baby will be an exploring, busy toddler before you know it and toddlers can pull bookcases over on themselves attempting to climb them to reach something they see. It's an often overlooked safety precaution when new parents are childproofing. Also make sure you have no curtain pull cords that have loops in them. Cut the loops or get another style of curtain that doesn't use a pull cord. A couple we know lost their baby daughter when she became wound up in their curtain cord and strangled. It happens to quick.
Continuing prayers for you and your family.

Lillian the Ponderer said...

I'm glad you all had an enjoyable time for your party/gathering.

You have a lovely home, and to be honest I thought the bookcase was meant to be like that - I am sure I have seen something similar that was supposed to be designer. I would say that the thought about securing firmly before the baby can crawl did cross my mind too.

As you have already discovered, what many people consider necessary can be omitted or improvised - one thing that can't (in the long run at least) is nappies (diapers) - I know you have written before about cloth diapers, but you don't mention having bought any yet? That will be something that needs washing and folding -practice folding while you are still having plenty of sleep and I expect it will be easier later!
I think that you are well prepared for taking on the challenges and blessings that life, marriage children bring with them and I pray that God continues to give you wisdom in these areas.

Anonymous said...

Just my two shekels ;) ~

Unfortunatley, my boyfriend and I are in the situation of delaying marriage since we can't afford anything around here. A modest one-bedroom apartment in Orange County, California costs more than I bring home. At this time, we both live with our parents and are trying to payoff school debt and save money to buy a house, even if just a condominium/townhouse. Neither of us could imagine living more than an hour from here, because our families are here. I guess I'll just leave it up to HaShem, and trust that He will give us our opportunities soon!

Sadly, many of my friends here in California are in the same situation. I guess that's what we get for year-round weather!

~tamara

Mrs. Anna T said...

Lillian,

I found lots of old flannel in my mother's fabric stash, so I'm sewing my own flannel flats. We thought that if it works for us, great - if not, I can always use them for other purposes (burp cloths, rags, etc). After all, we can always move up to fancier types of cloth diapers, but it would be a waste to invest in a stash of expensive ones just to discover they aren't really what our baby needs.

I also practice folding while I still have time. :o))

Anonymous said...

My hubbie and I have been married for five years and we don't own a home yet. At first, we both felt a bit inadequate because so many of our friends had big, new homes and we are renting an apartment.

However, now that the housing & financial markets have crashed here in the U.S., we are very thankful that we didn't rush out and purchase a home that we couldn't afford. We know a couple that were forced to sell their home for a loss and move back in with their parents. We also know couples that are now struggling to pay their large monthly mortgage (on two incomes!) now that their ARM has adjusted.

We may not have a house yet, but we do have the peace of mind from knowing that we have enough savings in the bank to make it for six months if my husband were to lose his job. And believe me, that's worth a lot!!!

Living below your means may not provide fancy gadgets, but it does provide financial security!

Anonymous said...

My husband and I were married 18 months ago and are still living in my parents' basement. A month's rent around here would be my husband's entire salary. People have told us we need to get our own place, but they aren't the ones paying bills. I would not mind living in a trailer, but trailer parks around here have some shady characters. Thank you for the wonderful article. :)

Luba