You have been a mother of several children during times of economic duress, a spouse of a man who had at times difficulty finding employment because of factors beyond anyone's control, and, prior to that, a military spouse living off of a military salary, bearing and raising your firstborn on the meager pay of an enlisted man. Despite the troubles you must have encountered, you have always come across as calm and collected, for richer or poorer. What are some things you would recommend to a young family struggling to manage the costs of daily life?
-Private Joe Everyman
Scrounge. “Living Cheap” can be kind of fun, once you get into the swing of it. We have the advantage of living in the most prosperous country on the planet, even if the prosperity hasn’t quite trickled down to our level yet; people throw away the most astounding things. Dumpster diving can be a fantastic way to supplement your stores of furniture and other household goods; I’ve found dressers, bedsteads, chairs and exercise equipment by the side of the road that I’ve taken home, refurbished and used with pride. Haunt thrift stores, clothing closets, Craigslist and yard sales for deals in clothing, baby stuff, gift ideas and hobby items. Learn what is available through your local charities and churches; you will find food boxes, warm coats, medical and dental care (through the county, city, state or school systems) and free introductory classes on every subject under the sun. Talk to other young families in your area about what they’ve discovered, and set up a barter system within your group. Trade washing-machine repair for babysitting, or buy a Costco-sized box of laundry detergent and swap half of it to your neighbor for half of their Costco toilet paper. Set up a “lending library” of gently-worn maternity clothes so every pregnant woman in your group can get a break from the same three shirts and pairs of jeans. Look around you with the mindset of, “How can I use/ reuse/ refurbish that?” This approach also has the advantage of making your home’s décor uniquely “you!”