Are you Living Life to the Fullest or just Making a Living?

As a way to Say Howdy to all my new friends (followers), I decided to post this article about our  family and what Comin' Home is all about. I wrote this as a guest post for Gina at The Shabby Chic Cottage...and it makes a great way to introduce myself..and hopefully get to know you better too!

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 Living on a Shoe String and Lovin' It!

I'd like to share with you the story of how our family has  managed to have such a great time while living on a budget.We've heard that some people think living on a budget is no fun and that cutting back on the budget will detract from their quality of life. That is so far from the truth! In fact, in our experience, living on a budget has produced exactly the OPPOSITE result!

We've discovered that our quality of life seems to increase in direct proportion to the decrease in our financial provision! 

If you don't believe me...then read on!

Tim and I have been married 23 years and have five kids, two who are married and have kids of their own, one in college and two in their mid to late teens and are being home schooled by Tim and I.

We have managed to pull off two weddings, three graduations, built an office, made scads of clothes and costumes, bought several cars (without going into debt), a horse and taken many exciting vacations...all on a shoestring. Even our house and seven acres in the country was a bargain! (Low taxes and we live about 30 minutes from town.) Add to that the kids' many activities...all done on a budget and that's a whole lot of savings!

Living on Less and Enjoying it More!

We both came from a long line of artists, musicians, DIY-ers, urban homesteaders and people who valued family and the great outdoors  over anything that money can buy.  So when Tim was offered a job with a  prestigious company straight out of college and we found out that he would have to work 80 hours a week and sign a $9,000.00 note promising not to leave for the next five years, he promptly told them, "No thanks!" We wanted to do lots of fun things, have a big family and we wanted to spend time with that family!

In other words, we wanted to live...not just make a living!
Low Salary...Great Perks--Working from Home
Tim taught himself to program under the supervision of his employer at his first job. Soon after, he started working for the company he is presently with today.  The salary was low, but the perks were fantastic! The best one was that he was allowed to work from home--in fact everyone in the five man company does that. That was just what we wanted--we were hooked!  For the next ten years, the company stayed above water, but just barely.

There were few raises, but we didn't mind--we got to do everything we wanted...as a family!  

There were several times when clients would hint in interest in Tim as his programming skills improved, but they are pretty much all alike. They want programmers...heart and soul! After over ten years, Tim is still with the company--in fact the company members are like extended family to us too. Everyone does their best to make it work.

The boss and his wife even came from Oregon and spent two weeks helping us build an office using recycled materials from the old office and a tiny guest house on our property--total cost $3,000.. It saved the company $5,000 on storage for the convention booth supplies and gave us an office with a guest bedroom. It's 785 square feet! And the kids got a credit for Construction!  Plus, the guys have a place to stay for 'company meetings' and visiting clients in Houston. Now that's frugal!


Another perk is that Tim has always had a flexible schedule and if we want to take advantage of good weather and make a short day trip, we do, and then he works in the evening. Since we have always home schooled, this is a tremendous help to me.   (On a side note, they are doing great this last year or so and we got two raises! The investment of everyone's time and energy is paying off at last.)


Yep...We're Cheap but We Don't Mind!  We will soon be featured, along with several other frugal families or couples,  in Jeff Yeager's next book,"The Ultimate Cheapskate--Next Door!" . He is the author of "The Ultimate Cheapskate" I think the reason is fairly obvious just by reading the title...You guessed it--We're pretty frugal all right!  The fact is that you  would be too if you had to raise five kids on one income that barely budged in ten years!

Now before you start feeling sorry for us, I have to let you in on a little secret--We don't mind!! Why? Because having to live on a budget is probably the best thing that ever happened to our family. Oh sure, we would love to have more money to do more of what we love...but we're not sitting around biting our nails waiting for it.  We are having a great time..now!

30 days on the road with no electronic entertainment devices!

Living on a shoe string has NEVER kept us from living life to the fullest!  In fact I would say it's quite the opposite!  Yes, we have had to be creative to do all the things that we have wanted to, but we haven't suffered. We've traveled a whole month on the west coast, tent camped most of the way through 14 national parks including the Hoh Rainforest, and the California Redwoods, visited Hawaii where my oldest son was stationed. (Tim's boss donated his frequent flyer miles  so we could see our first grandbaby.) Dan also paid our gas and National parks pass and gave us the month off, because Tim loves his job and rarely takes time off. We paid for our food. :o)  He felt Tim had earned a real vacation so he told us to just incorporate a week of work at his boss's mountain top home in Oregon..along with the traditional company river rafting excursion since Dan lives on the John Day river in to the month long vacation! Super Fun!!
 The kids on the way home from Germany at the airport in Amersterdam. 

My son's new father-in-law, a doctor from Germany, enjoyed his visit with us in our country home in Texas so much that he decided to pay for tickets for the whole family to come visit him and the other German relatives in Germany for three weeks. All we paid for was passports! No, you can't plan those things, but when you love people and do all you can to build relationship and make those people feel welcome...you just never know what doors will open!


Picture of my first grand baby taken by me from the other side of the boat.

 We've caved lots of places including a week in Merrimac State Park (home of 500 caves). We also made it to San Diego for a Marine graduation--You gotta love PriceLine! and got to take a hand at steering a sailboat. (The owner was so proud of our new recruit that he invited us all for a ride in San Diego bay!)  And we've been all over the country to several states for speech and debate tournaments. Host housing is a life saver and you meet so many interesting people!

If you really think about it, the best things in life are either FREE or CHEAP.  Libraries, museums with a 'free admission' day, outdoor concerts, online movies and field trips, picnics, nature walks in the woods or park, fishing, tent camping, caving, hiking, playing and writing music, star gazing, swimming, painting, sewing, and games around the dinner table at night are all affordable and memorable.  Yes, you have to invest a little bit in supplies and equipment for some things, but we save our pennies and buy those things when we can, so that we can use them again and again.


Our favorite family hobby is square dancing! We sew our own skirts and shirts and are part of one of the only teen clubs in the state of Texas. Jacob is the Vice President and hopes to win scholarship money at the Teen Scholarship Dance this year. The kids learned how to do it all in 12 weeks instead of one year, making it very inexpensive.


 Frugal Living Makes Lasting Memories
There is so much to do that costs very little and makes memories that last a lifetime.  For example, when I think of how special it was to help my daughter-in-law, Elisabeth, pull her wedding together, by making so much of what we needed ourselves, it makes me so glad that she didn't pay someone to do it all. She and Andrew added me to their cell phone plan ($20.00 a month) so we could collaborate together while hunting for wedding bargains..."Ring-ring" Elisabeth--"Hey I found some more tulle at .26cents a yard..here at Hobby-Lobby!"...Me--"Great! I've got three coupons I printed off the internet--I'll meet you in ten minutes!"  My boys picked such thrifty and creative girls to marry!  They are girls after my own heart. Working together, brings everyone closer together.

For our family, making ends meet is a challenge we enjoy rising to! It's sort of the 'family hobby'. The kids pride themselves on being the best bargain hunters their age. They actually feel sorry for most of their friends who have to rely on stores for the things they want and who actually pay full price for what they buy.  When my kids get tired of a toy or some other gift item, they sell it and buy something they would like next. Ebay, Craig's List, and thrift stores are where we shop if we have to resort to that because we can't make it ourselves.


Home Furnishings and Decor...For less!
And of course, there's all the fun and excitement of 'curb shopping' as we call it. (Ok, it's a little bit embarrassing..but isn't it amazing what people leave on the side of their curbs!!) Our home owes most of it's beauty, such as it is, to great finds on Craig's List, garage sales, curbside leftovers, and thrift store items we re-furbished. Our adult children did the same thing when they got married. Who says decorating has to cost a mint?  Stay on The Shabby Chic Cottage long enough, and you will see exactly what I mean!

Having Kids Doesn't Have to Break the Bank
I barter my sewing and organizational skills with my friends all the time to pay for the things we want and want to do. Our ski trip was a trade for a week this summer of organizing at a friend's house.   Rebekah, my daughter, worked at dog kennels until she could afford to buy her horse and Matthew, the Marine, mowed lawns and cleaned houses to pay for soar plane lessons. Andrew raised his money for Civil Air Patrol encampments and today, Jacob just raised $60.00 doing yardwork to pay for a trip to Washington DC for a debate competition.
 Jacob, in his uncle's suit, tailored by me and Rebekah, in a formal dress she made...
ready for the trip to a national debate tournament.

Lack of money, has never kept my kids from having a great time and pursuing their dreams, but it has kept them from thinking life happens in a mall or that any item of clothing requires a name brand. Our new basketball hoop was paid for by sales we made on Craig's list.  All of my kids are confident, resourceful, and successful, because they can 'do it themselves' and they know it! 

A Frugal Family ..Work of Art  Here we are all decked out in costumes from thrift store bargains and one elaborate dress sewn by me for Rebekah for Dicken's on the Strand in Galveston. She used Christmas money from relatives to buy the many yards of lace. The corsages were made by us using flowers purchased with coupons from Hobby-Lobby. I'm wearing a Christmas tree skirt as a cape that was on clearance. I made Jacob's pipe and hat! My mom helped tremendously with this project too. 

Frugal Living promotes Family Unity and Creativity 
For us, living on a shoestring is why our family is as close as it is and it's also why we are all so creative! Everyone plays an instrument...or two! Tim started cello lessons this year after I sold a fabric art piece for $200.00 plus got paid $500.00 for sewing projects in November. I pre-paid his lessons and got the cello off of Craig's list. :o)  Our family loves photography, bread baking, glass painting, archery, hunting, jogging etc. We help each other fix cars, make decorations for big events, sew dresses when needed, make desserts together, go camping together, do Total Room Makeovers and try out frugal cleaning supply recipes together.


Frugal Family Fun 
 We have never had a TV that actually picked up a station, because we hated the thought of all the time we would waste.Yes, we have movie nights with homemade lemonade (lemon juice, sugar and water) and popcorn..the real kind, but it's a special occasion not a nightly ritual. Game nights are a lot more fun! My daughter-in-law, Elisabeth, loves games, so many Sunday nights, we hang out at her and Andrew's house or ours and have a great time playing together!



High-Tech Frugality....On occasion, Tim, the boys and one of their married brothers start up online games together and have adventures...working as a team.(Tim connected them with Ethernet.) He keeps everyone's computers going even though they are so out of date! He buys the parts wholesale or on Ebay.  Those are the nights that Rebekah and I break out the chick flicks and make our 'fake' Starbucks coffees. :o) Girls are so much fun! Or we have a marathon sew-a-thon. We love refashioning together and I have to say, Rebekah out does me every time. I wouldn't trade the hours my only daughter and I have spent playing "The Grocery Game" together, cooking, and decorating for anything in the world.  Living frugally is all about making memories and sharing the excitement of self reliance.


Rebekah and I  (2nd and 3rd from the left) with the moms and daughters from our church
that we taught how to sew one summer.

Comin' Home...Sharing the Art and Heart of Homemaking
That's what our family and my blog are all about. It is filled with tutorials and information about every aspect of making a happy home ..on a shoestring! It's the result of years of skills learned from finding creative solutions for everything we needed, whether it was a prom dress, a costume, or a home decor item. And now that we are living where we've always wanted to be, we can also share the beauty of our home in the country...with you! 




I'm so pleased to have so many new followers join over the last month or so and would love to get to know you better too! Would you leave a comment and tell me a bit about you, your family and your blog.   I'm all ears!! :o)


PS.Don't forget that the Sew Mama Sew Giveaway is open through May 20th!  There's still time to leave a comment on yesterday's post. Or just click on the button on the sidebar to get more details.

7 comments:

~ Maria ~ said...

What an inspiration you are dear friend!

I have lived frugally for over 5 years now, and have enjoyed myself immensely. I have taught my children that doing things yourself instead of running to the mall is the best way to be.

My husband is astonished that his paycheck which is under $1,000 a month can go as far as it does.

I could not have done any of these things without The Lord's prompting to be frugal and to be creative in how we live our lives.

I agree with you...my hubby also turned down a job that will pay him over $3,000 a month but he would have had to live far away from us on a weekly basis, and we would only see him on weekends. This was not an option!!!

I think this is a post that needs to be shared with everyone...

Be blessed dear one,

Maria

Gloria said...

What a wonderful post Donna. You and your family are indeed blessed. Everyone looks happy and enjoying life. We all could be so lucky. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story of you and your families life. I'm sure everyone will enjoy it. Have a great day.

School for Us said...

I really enjoyed this post. I am amazed at how you all accomplish so much... you have so many hobbies, neat trips, etc.... all on a budget! I loved reading the entire thing - and seeing the photos, too. Thanks for sharing about your family & how you live!

Victoria said...

You say that we should not feel sorry for you...I am envious of you! I will be back to this blog. You have an amazing family!

Deb said...

What a full life you and your family lead, Ms. Donna. So proud of you and you are an inspiration to the rest of us stay at homers!

Laura said...

Good Morning, Donna!
This is such a wonderful post and I especially love the title. I think that sometimes, even as stay at home wives and mothers, we "just make a living" instead of "living life to the fullest". You are an inspiration!
Blessings,
Laura

Trudy Callan said...

Donna, your family is such an inspiration. I aspire to be you.