Reader Stories – Doing What It Takes

by The Happy Rock on August 27, 2008

I love getting emails about the stories of The Happy Rock readers. I wanted to share this particular one because it is a beautiful example of a family banding together focusing on what matters and making it work despite hardship. I thought you would appreciate and connect with it.

While I am not in credit card debt (been there, done that, ain’t going there again) my family is in a pretty bad financial situation:

Long story short: I have been a stay at home mom for almost 11 years. My husband had a good paying job/good insurance to support our 4 children. In 2006 he started getting ill, while I was pregnant with baby #4. His job went “south of the border” and he found out he has an auto-immune disease that he will have to take medication for the rest of his life. He now has a job that pays well below what he was making at his other job.

What we have done to survive:

  • Started homeschooling the children to save on gas/school expenses.
  • Grow our own food-including meat(grass fed so we don’t have to pay for corn).
  • Grow a garden (fun stuff for miss city girl here-I feel like Zsa Zsa in Green Acres)
  • Cut just about everything out that we can-reduced cable/got rid of long distance-only use calling cards/ talked to internet provider and got bill reduced $5.00/month, etc.
  • Food—I make practically everything-from my own buns, to my own chicken noodle soup. I went to the grocery store-to the convenience isle and looked at what was already prepared in a can. I now can make almost all that stuff on my own.
  • As for a vacation: We are planning on going on a 2500 mile round trip in a week. I am spending 70 dollars on food for my family of 6. I bake “snacks” before we go such as homemade granola, cookies, homemade “wheat thins”, caramel corn, banana bead. I also can make meals-like the ones in the convenience isle. On this trip I have prepared and canned beef stew, tuna and noodles, spaghetti, sausage-green beans-potatoes. We will be camping so that will save money too.

Other frugal tips :

  • Bread bags/ties-clean bags and use for holding other foods. When the bag is on it’s last legs, I usually store bacon in it, then throw it away.
  • Milk Jugs-punch holes in the bottom for kids watering can. Tops-kids practice tracing shapes, use for crafts, recycle.
  • Foil-wash and use over. I rarely use plastic Wrap. I buy 1-2 foil boxes a year.
  • Wax paper-I never buy this-I use the inside cereal box linings
  • Peanut butter jars-clean, use as storage for dried beans, rice or left overs in fridge. Also, for the husband…use to store nails, screws, washers in.
  • Newspaper (we don’t get one, but can acquire it from relatives) wash windows with it-no streaking. Also, wrap presents with the funnies.
  • Frozen juice cans-I make cookie dough and squish it in them. cover(put in freezer bag) and freeze for up to 3 weeks. When ready to use, defrost and it usually falls right out. Just like store bought refrigerated dough. (though cookies are somewhat larger)
  • Mustard bottles- wash and use to squeeze out paint for crafts
  • Canned food (soup or vegetables)-recycle or my husband uses them for feeding scoops (for the animals) also we sometimes start plants in them and the plastic milk jugs
  • We also use what is on hand for science experiments (homeschool)
  • I buy storage bags about once a year (except when freezing produce)
  • I don’t buy a lot of fancy craft supplies for the kids
  • I can’t remember the last time I bought a food storage container
  • I don’t buy a lot of cleaning products-I mainly use vinegar
  • I go to the local bakery outlet about once a month and buy bread for the bags and ties. I usually make our own bread. Bread there costs 49 cents to 79 cents a loaf.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

tiffanie August 28, 2008 at 1:23 am

I can semi-relate…I had a high paying job and was also diagnosed with an incurable auto-immune disorder (Behcet’s Disease) and lost my job. This was in March and I’ve been unable to find employment since then. Thankfully my husband had a good job and my unemployment income is supplementing part of what I lost (but it won’t last much longer).

Having medical issues is very trying and troubling. I’m 24 and will be on medication for the rest of my life.

Thank you for sharing your reader’s story. It’s good to know I’m not alone.


Jerry August 28, 2008 at 4:14 am

This story reminds me that you can rely on yourself and your ingenuity to lead you through challenges. The disease situation is terrible, and tragic, but the changes that have been made by this family (and others in similar circumstances) are inspiring and will positively affect these kid as they grow up. Losing a high paying job is bad enough, insurance is like kicking someone when he’s down, IMHO.


Ed August 28, 2008 at 9:37 am

I am humbled and inspired.


money funk August 28, 2008 at 10:41 am

Although, I cannot imagine being as frugal (of course, would do if necessary) there are some great tips. I love the frozen cookie dough idea! And being able to create much of your own food (as it seems much of America has forgotten how to really cook). And fresh food from the Garden is sooo tasty! Plus, just think… you are helping out the environment by reducing packaging to using non chemical cleansers. It’s awesome to think the strides you’ve taken to make sure your family has all that is necessary. I wish you faith and good will to your husband’s health and your family’s well being.


John (Debt Defier) August 28, 2008 at 11:24 am

I agree with Ed that it’s inspiring to read a story where a family can pull itself up by their bootstraps when dealing with a tough situation.

I’m hoping not to fall into a “pretty bad financial situation” myself. Thankfully I still have my heath. And with my family history that fact is not taken for granted. But if this family is indeed in a “pretty bad financial situation”, I wonder what they are doing to bring more income in?

They’ve done a marvelous job of cutting expenses, but that is only part of the solution. Something as small as a part time job on the weekends could make a world of difference.

I’d suggest for this mother to look into teaching an adult education class on resourcefulness. As mentioned in another comment, hardly anyone knows to to do this type of stuff anymore, and with a lot of folks dealing with tough economic times, there will probably be a demand for this type of class.

I wish them the best of luck.


Ed August 28, 2008 at 2:24 pm

What I like about the personal finance community is by and large they seem to be people who are willing to take responsibility for themselves. They are not people who are looking to play the victim. This story, if true, is an example of a family willing to do whatever it takes to survive unfortunate circumstances. This can be a powerful message to the children about what is the most valuable in life.


anonymous August 28, 2008 at 2:24 pm

Hi all, I appreciate your replies. Sometimes I feel like we’ll never get out of this situation…but at least we’re sustaining ourselves. And we have kept the farm.
thought I’d fill you in on a few things….my husband does have a second “as needed” part time job. It only pays $8.00/hr., and not many hours, but obviously it does help. Times are tough where I live-a factory inthe larger city near us just closed it’s doors to 250 workers on Monday. (a cabinet making company). Jobs around here are scarce. And the ones that are hiring want workers “as needed”.
As for me going back to work…checked into that….it would cost us 100/wk for our youngest to be in child care PLUS another 60 for the other 3 (before and after school) We live 20 miles from the nearest large town (where the jobs are) so it would cost about 70/week for gas. (it’s $3.69 here) So it would cost ME $230/week to go to work. So I look for other ways to be of help to the family.
We do live on a farm and are starting to raise organic produce and animals. It just had to go on hold because of my husbands illness. But, now we are on a fierce budget(that I got off of this site) and trying very hard to get this farm going-not just to sustain ourselves, but to make us money. Hopefully it will and no one will get sick again.
Thanks for the input-any and all suggestions are much appreciated. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that we all are resilient -we all can get through about anything if we really want to.


The First Creditor August 28, 2008 at 7:08 pm

I love how she saved five dollars off her internet bill. I wonder what she said? Great e-mail though, I guess when the chips are down, there are a great many things we can live without.


annakat August 30, 2008 at 12:17 pm

What a enterprising mother, her family should be very proud of her for all the short cuts she has thought of. When I was young there were 6 of us kids and my mother use to make all our doll furniture out of cardboard boxes and we would color them. It help her children become creative as they have to figure out how make and do things in an alternate ways.


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