Ive often heard stories of financial hardship from my parents, relating difficult times from their childhoods. Both were Depression-era babies, and their families struggled mightily to keep everyone fed.
I have read other accounts from people of that same period, tales of subsisting on little more than pinto beans and cornbread, maybe some chicken if one of the egg layers could be spared. Even then, oftentimes, no more than two meals were in the offering each day.
Of late Ive been thinking about those old stories in light of the harsh economic plight of many face today. I think of those old stories, how people made do with whatever they could, and then I question how many of us struggle today even though simple ways to save a little are staring us straight in the face? Cable television, credit card interest payments, multiple cell phones how many of these do we keep in our lives simply because we havent considered doing any different?
I spend most of my drive time listening to public radio, most notably talk radio. On a recent Talk of the Nation, a man named W. Hodding Carter shared what he and his family are doing he calls it Extreme Frugality.
He instantly struck a chord with me in that he and his wife have four children, nearly as many as the five my wife and I have. With a family as large as mine, we have long been interested in ways to live better on less, so I paid close attention to Carter.
His tale is a bit different than mine in that he and his wife have been living high on the hog for a decade, living as if they were making $120,000 in annual salary. Only problem was, their average annual income over that same period was just $41,000.
A couple of inheritances as well as a profitable house sale, and credit cards, made their extravagant lifestyle possible. Now, with the inheritance and house profit gone, he said a year ago he woke up to what his wife has been saying for years they have to figure out a way to live on less. He claims their mortgage debt is nearly equal to their house value, and they have $75,000 in credit card debt.
Carter, though, has taken it to extremes. He decided after his awakening they would incur no more debt. After paying their monthly mortgage, insurance, and tax bills along with a $500 credit card payment, they would live on whats left $550.
Carter, a writer by trade, does a monthly column for Gourmet magazine, and in that column he chronicles some of his familys exploits in this little journey. He tells of stopping by the side of the road and unsuccessfully chasing a grouse with hopes of fresh game for dinner. He relates how they purchased two dozen chickens a year or so ago and how they now get more than a dozen eggs a day.
May 25, 2009
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