making the most of living with less

I have spent much of the last two years reading and writing and talking about living differently; of knowing when enough is enough, learning to say “when”. Of slowing down, of making time for what really matters . . . But despite my reading and writing and time in the kitchen and the garden, I haven’t been living that way.

As you may have gathered from my last entry, in this time of economic hardship and uncertainty, I up and quit my job.

Now, instead of just reading about making do with less, my family and I are living it. Despite the stress and challenges, Jeff and I are determined to build a better life on one income than we had on two. We have a baby on the way and we are intent on being the ones to raise our child, which means I won’t be going back to work outside the home any time soon. So we are learning to make one income enough. And perhaps live a more joyful life in the process . . .

My not working has already removed a lot of unnecessary expenses from our life. Immediately the “latte fund”, so necessary when you need to escape from the hectic office for a shot of rocket fuel to keep you going, became moot. The cost of only one (of my many) daily trips to Starbucks keeps me in tea for weeks at home. Then there’s the lunches with the girls, and after-work drinks. The endless parade of office charity drives, birthday collections, retirement lunches. The 80 dollars a month to ride the train downtown. Hundreds and hundreds of dollars spent to stay in the latest business fashions. All those expenses – gone.

Unfortunately, the last few months at home have been spent mostly with my head in the toilet, thanks to the joys of morning sickness, but now that is passing even more economic benefits of me not working are becoming clear.

My not working means I suddenly have time to do things that lessen our families need for money even further. With one person at home, suddenly there is time for the garden, time to grow and put by food that now doesn’t need to come out of the household budget. There is job security, and then there is the security of having 12 liters of homemade stewed tomatoes in the larder. No drop in the stock market can affect the levels in my pantry!

Being frugal takes time and thoughtful planning. Neither of which are easy to come by when you’re working your brains out. Our weekly grocery bill has gone from about 150 dollars a week, down to about 60, simply because I have the time to plan and cook cheaply. In the process we are eating even better than before because we are eating simple, home cooked meals. Homemade bread, soup from scratch, potatoes a million ways.

I will have more time to tend to our chickens, who are now bringing in a tiny income in egg sales. And with luck, our garden will continue to provide not only food for our table, but dollars for our budget at the same time. I have time to knit durable, inexpensive clothing for our unborn baby, and I hope to learn how to sew. I’d love to start making homemade cheese and yogurt.

It isn’t going to be easy. We live in Vancouver, with one of the highest qualities of life in the world, and one of the highest cost of living. Our mortgage is still due every month, and the property taxes aren’t going to get smaller no matter how I scrimp and save. There is an enormous amount of pressure on Jeff as the sole provider, but I am confident that as we move forward, with practice and creativity, we will be able to build a satisfying life and maybe even learn what it truly means to haveĀ enough.

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