Maintaining an Affordable Life

In an effort to make things last as long as possible, maintenance is required. This is true in so many different areas. One of our philosophies over time has been: You can buy a $3.00 basketball once a year, or a $5.00 basketball every three years. Which one is cheaper? This doesn’t work in all cases. But, if you spend $20.00 on a pair of tennis shoes every year, and a $30.00 pair of tennis shoes will last you five years, then you can easily see where there is a substantial savings over five years.

Eating out and eating in. I never understood the desire to eat out on a special occasion just to have lesser quality food. What’s the big deal about eating out? All these little things add up. All of these savings add up weekly, monthly and yearly. I have people tell me that they can’t afford a farm tractor to help them work. But they spend $10.00 a day on pop and junk candy. That money, right there, would make the payments for the tractor.

For 30 years, Frank took a homemade lunch to work. Many folks would drive down to the local burger place and spend $7.00 or $8.00 for a burger, fries and a pop. Add that up on a daily basis, then weekly, then monthly and yearly. There are many, many ways to save money. Fern drives many miles a day. Frank wants her to be in a newer, well maintained vehicle. But, instead of buying a new $50,000 vehicle, she drives a $25,000 vehicle (when it was new). And that homemade lunch helps pay for her driving security.

People have laughed at us for years for saving a dollar here and there. Okay. So what? We don’t need to try to impress people with how much junk food or hamburgers or ‘Look at me!’ type stuff we have just so we can be part of that group.

Frank has long been heard to say he can get blood out of a turnip. He told me when we got married that I would never have to worry about money and he was right. I haven’t. We chose a lifestyle a long, long time ago that focused on living within our means and being perfectly contented, well, most of the time, with what we had. So, we try to maintain and keep things usable as long as we possibly can. Here are some examples of how we do that.

Not long ago, we cleaned out the barn. This not only gives the barn a good cleaning, but it also helps to maintain the health of the goats and the dog. Not only that, but it’s free fertilizer for the garden.

 Recently, Frank and a friend replaced a 30 year old leaking faucet on the outside of the house. Then they went to the other end of the house and repaired another faucet. Eventually, it will have to be replaced as well, but for now, it has been repaired.

We need to replace this old shed. We have tried to repair it and keep it going as long as possible, but it’s time has come. For that to happen, we need to dismantle and haul off this old shed.

We have been using up our bath towels until they are just about on their last leg. There are others waiting to take their place, but we can get a few more miles out of these.

We have bought our laundry soap in these buckets for years and years. Around the farm we use lots of buckets.

I can buy buckets, or buy laundry detergent in buckets and get a free bucket. We learned the hard way that it doesn’t matter how well you wash them and how long you air them, the soap smell is still there and will permeate whatever food item you try to store in them. This bucket of soap was used when we still lived in Alaska. It was one of our trash cans there, and still is, here.

I have been making more dish cloths to replace a few that have finally bit the dust. These two need to be repaired so they will last a while longer. 

The car I drive back and forth to work has over 80,000 miles and is ready for a major check up. With new hoses, belts, windshield and a thorough inspection it will keep making the 55 mile round trip five days a week, for a while yet.

Changing and cleaning filters in the vent hood over the stove and in the heating and air conditioning unit, helps them to work more efficiently. It will also help them last longer.

Mending holes in jackets, jeans and socks extend their usefulness and help the clothing budget stretch farther.

Aging cheese in wax that is reusable, helps save a few pennies.


Making seedling pots out of saved newspaper and saving seeds from the vegetables we eat is a way of recycling and extending the life of the original purchase.

Each one of these tasks help extend the useful life of these items. Other examples above help save a few pennies and sometimes a few dollars, and these practices add up. It just depends upon what you want to do. It’s your choice. We are very thankful for the means that we have, but are also aware that our means could be removed very quickly.

I listed and described all of these things with this thought: “What if I can no longer get replacements for ________?” Then comes the next thought. “How can I maintain what I have so that it will last as long as possible?” Which leads me to thinking, “If something I have eventually wears out or runs out, what else can I use in it’s place?” And, “Will the replacement be as effective and efficient?” Then I thought, “What can I change now in the way that I do things so I am using things that are not disposable?” 

We review our situation regularly to see how we can either extend the life of current items, or replace current items with alternatives that will be more sustainable in the long run. It is a continuous learning process, which is good. Not only does it give us the opportunity to research, ponder and learn, it improves our daily lives, now and in the future.

Until next time – Fern

17 thoughts on “Maintaining an Affordable Life

  1. Since I have one son who seems to always break my dishes I have taken to replacing them with stainless steel items. The few things I have bought have been a bit pricey, but will last for a good lifetime. I have bought cups and juice size in stainless steel. The drinks stay nice and cool in them. We got little cat food bowls, etc. They make great little dessert dishes. We also buy good quality leather shoes any more rather than the throw away every year types. ~Sassafras

  2. Oooh, so happy you like the Simple Pump, I'm having one installed in a few weeks along with a solar backup for the electric pump – you know, 3 is 2, 2 is 1, etc. In my remodeling of this old farmhouse I bought last year, I've saved the tops of any cans that can be used for seed starters with a small hole punched in the bottom. (You know, like spray paint or that old-house-lifesaver Great Stuff!) I'm also collecting all the old auto & tractor tires previous owners rolled into the woods to make a wall on a chopped out, raggedy slope instead of buying blocks. Isn't saving money a blast!?Jan in NWGA

  3. The hand pump is a newer type version that still works off of the old principles. Instead of metal tubing and a metal sucker rod going down the well shaft, it is a PVC type pipe and a fiberglass sucker rod. The pump itself in the water is stainless steel. Above the ground the parts are made from stainless steel and aluminum. Two people can easily install this complete system in about 2-3 hours. It is a deep well system, ours are around 300 feet deep. It works on the identically same principles as the old cast iron hand pumps. This system, though, is not engineered to operate with a windmill. Would I buy another one? Yes, because I did. When we moved here, I had 2 wells dug. A friend of mine and I put the first Simple Pump system in, and the second one, my wife and I installed.The brand is a Simple Pump, and here is their website. website has expanded significantly since I made my purchase about 5 years ago. There is a motorized attachment that is above ground, it just replaces the handle. The motorized attachment is 12VDC.Thank you for your question. I hope this helps.Frank

  4. We were just reading your blog and we saw in the picture of your car there is a hand water pump. Just wondering what is the brand? The pros and cons and would you buy this one again.Love your Blog. Thank You for your help.

  5. Thank you for pointing out the obvious, Andrea. What doesn't show in the picture is how rotten the wooden siding is. When we got here six years ago the quarter inch plywood siding was loose in many places. We tried to reattach it and the screws went straight through the wood because it was so rotten. No amount of paint could save this building. We patched it up the best we could and got it to last another six years. It's now time for it to be replaced.Thank you for reading.Fern

  6. What a great idea for towels, just keep shrinking them down until there is nothing left. I like that. We usually use them until there's not much left, but then they go in the 'rag bag' to be used for something else, like birthing baby goats.Thank you very much for the comment, and for reading.Fern

  7. Fiona, your comment leaves me humbled. Thank you for sharing your experiences with all of us. We do fall off the wagon occasionally, too, and it's mostly for convenience. We do like potato chips and Cheetos and haven't figured out how to make them.Fern

  8. I really appreciate your honesty in what you have shared. It's nice to learn from the past, but I try not to torture myself over mistakes I have made. I try to learn from them, then move on down the road. Thank for sharing.Frank

  9. It's a practice we started when we were first married over 30 years ago. If we need something, we buy it. If we want to eat out, we do. We just don't want to very often. Yes, it's nice to have the extra money. Thanks for reading and for the comment.Frank

  10. Ha ha. This is how we have always lived as well, and love it. Anybody can live on millions of dollars, where is the fun in that? I love the challenge of seeing how little we can get away with. By the way, I cut my towels in half, figuring that only part of them get dirty….stitched up one side to avoid fraying. And when they got really worn, they became trimmed down to become washcloths. I hate throwing anything into the garbage if it can be used. Waste not, want not.

  11. I cook Ralph \”real\” food for his meals at work. It is so much healthier as well as cheaper, he has often come home and said that fellow workers are always surprised at the variety of meals he has. The place he works used a lot of products that come in pails, 5 gallon food grade plastic pails and we save as many as we can. They are free, all we need to do is wash them.I will say we do occasionally fall off the wagon and have a meal out, more to get out of the house than for the need for food, I suspect this is something we will not do when we finally get our farm. After all my life living on a farm I do find town makes me get cabin fever now and then.We did buy a New car last March, well it was a 2012 that had not sold so we got it a a very good price. The small pickup has 300,000 miles on it due to Ralph taking good care of it. The 4×4 is a diesel and we don't use it much but will need it for the farm.It is a 1997. I enjoyed this post very much! I think it is your solid common sense approach to getting things done that is so admired!

  12. Such good advice.Makes me weep to think of all the wasteful, spending I've done over the years. Thought I was being good to myself, when in fact I was risking my future. Lesson learned too, late in life.

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