Little Luxuries

While cleaning off my desk today, I found an article I’d saved to blog about. It discusses the little luxuries that people like to enjoy in spite of cutting back on their expenses in a lousy economy.

In my early years as a SAHM, I occasionally bought little things to make myself feel good. I felt guilty about not bringing in an income, so I didn’t splurge. But I’d grab a quilt magazine at the grocery magazine rack and go home and enjoy it thoroughly. Or I might pick up a votive in a new scent and keep it burning at home until it was just a little blob of wax. (Usually, one of the kids or even my husband would come into the room and ask, “What stinks?”)

These days, I don’t seem to require little luxuries, at least not the ones that cost money. I’m happy to find a good book or DVD at the public library, or take a walk on the beach. (Although I did pony up $3.99 at the Goodwill store a few weeks ago for a hardback copy of an Elisabeth Elliot book I hadn’t read yet….I was thrilled to add it to my collection.)

But I like to have things around for my family to enjoy. So my little luxuries have become things like picking up a bucket of fried chicken at the grocery store deli when it’s on sale, or buying a box of peppermint hot chocolate mix at Sam’s Club for a whopping $1.81 for 28 packets. And when candy bars go on sale “buy one, get one free,” I buy some for everybody, not just me 🙂

So, are you finding that little luxuries make life a little easier these days? If so, what are your favorites?

Great Tools for Financial Literacy

 

I’ve been using Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers with dd17 for the past 18 months or so, and we’re almost finished. We’ve been having a lot of fun with the projects.

Funny how using Life Prep has been a different experience with each of my children.

Our eldest was very eager to get out on her own, so we emphasized the rent, food and utilities projects over the others. Our son was completely college-minded, so we stuck to more reading and less projects. Dd17 is not in a big hurry to be out on her own, but she’s not sure about college either (she’s already racked up a few credit hours and isn’t sure if she wants to keep going), but she really gets into all of the projects.

She has run a couple of small businesses, so she understands the need to watch your expenses and make prudent choices. She seems to really get into studying how loans work, and how you can save a lot of money by prepaying them.

While working on the projects from the book, she enjoyed playing with some online financial calculators at Bankrate.com. They’re wonderful! I plan on adding mention of them to the next edition of the book when we update it again in a few years.

Frugality 101

Breakfast under the Big Birch by Carl Larsson
Breakfast under the Big Birch

I don’t usually post on Sundays but had to share this article about how families can save money. A couple of the tips are specific to the Chicago suburbs, but most are not, and you’ll find some good info there.

Here’s my favorite part:

Do things your mom used to do. Remember how your mom and her friends sat around the kitchen table drinking coffee, rather than meeting out at a local coffee shop? Or how you’d be forced to bring your lunch to the ballgame or museums? That’s probably why your parents have money in the bank now. One mom suggested buying a bag of Starbucks coffee for $8 and then brewing enough for everyone.

Some of my fondest memories are of sitting around a kitchen table having coffee: with my grandma when I was a kid (yep, Swedes let the kids drink coffee with lots of milk in it), or with the other playgroup moms when I had little ones and we met weekly at each other’s homes. Who says you need money to have fun?

Was 20th Century Prosperity Just a Blip in History?

I recently read an article in a quilt magazine about Ida Stover Eisenhower, mother of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. It included several photos of quilts made by the president’s mother from the time she was young.

The quilts were pretty, and representative of their time (late 1800s to early 1900s). But what really interested me was the story of her married life.

She met her future husband, David Eisenhower, at college. After they were married in 1885, David sold the prime Kansas farmland his father had given the couple as a wedding gift, raised an additional $2,000 and started a mercantile store with a friend.

The business did very well for two years, but then local farmers began asking for credit after losing their crops to drought and grasshoppers. Eventually David and his partner had to borrow money to keep the shop afloat, but the store failed anyway.

The Eisenhowers then moved to Texas, where David found a job working for a railroad company as an engine wiper for $40 a week. These were hard years for the Eisenhowers. It was during this time that the future president was born.

After two years in Texas, David was offered a job in a creamery in his hometown, and the family moved back to Kansas and lived with relatives for seven years. Then Eisenhower’s brother, a doctor, sold them a house on a few acres at the edge of town. They would raise six sons in that 818-square-foot house. And Ida and David would live in that little house for the rest of their lives.

~.~

Ok, it’s a bit of history, but what’s so interesting about it? I think it shows that up until the mid-20th century, getting started in life was tough. People had a hard time making it. If it wasn’t drought and grasshoppers, it was financial trouble. But people persevered and got through it.

However, after World War II, our country became unusually prosperous compared to the past. My generation (the tail end of the Baby Boomers) grew up believing that life wouldn’t be so hard. You go to college, get a degree, buy a nice house, drive nice cars, and as long as you show up to work each day, you’ll keep moving up and getting in a better position financially until you retire comfortably like your parents did.

It’s not working out that way in my family. I’m one of four sisters, three of whom are married. Of the three husbands, two have been out of work for some time and one is watching his business shrink. The unmarried sister is the mom of two boys and has been out of work for over a year. The other two sisters work in the public schools and are employed, for now.

And it’s not just our family. One friend’s husband has had his hours cut and faces an uncertain future. Another quit her church preschool teacher job because of something immoral going on in the church; a few weeks later, her husband was laid off. Friends who retired early had to go back into the work force as substitute teachers because their retirement account took a beating.

Up until recently I was thinking something strange was going on, with so many people I know losing their jobs, and unemployment rates across the country skyrocketing. But now I’m wondering if the “something strange” was actually what happened while I was growing up, when for fifty years or so it was so much easier to earn a living than it had been for most of history.

Maybe it was a glitch, a blip, and now we’re going back to normal, like the normal of Ida Stover Eisenhower’s time, when making a living was a struggle, and you were grateful to have an 800-square foot house to raise your six boys in. I wonder….

It All Started with a Check

I’m still going through stuff from the storage unit, and am embarrassed to admit that I have boxes and boxes of bank statements with cancelled checks dating from the year we got married. Considering that we’ll be celebrating our 30th anniversary this summer, that’s a lot of checks!

My defense is that I was too busy raising kids to go through all this financial detritus sooner. Whatever. The fact is that I have to go through this stuff and shred the checks because our SSNs and credit cards numbers are all over them.

Yes, it’s time-consuming. But I’m determined to get rid of all this before we move again (which may happen this summer, but that’s another story).

One good thing about doing this is that it’s like a walk down memory lane. I’ll find a check for the ob-gyn from when I was pregnant with one of our children, or the big check we wrote for the down payment when we bought our first house, and it’s like reliving those wonderful times.

Today I found a check that really got me thinking about how we can do something very little or ordinary without knowing that the repercussions of that action will be enormous in our lives. Here are the details from that check:

Date: 3/1/84

Amount: $25.00

Pay to the order of: Moore Seminars

Memo: Homeschool Seminar – Wheaton

Who knew that my curiosity about homeschooling would still be affecting our lives 25 years later?