What I live without when times are tough

A  friend recently asked me how my husband and I have coped when I’ve been unexpectedly unemployed over the last couple of years. If you’ve followed my career, you know that it’s been a roller coaster at times. No worries; I’ve never missed a meal. God always makes sure we survive. Spiritually, I never worry about being employed, because God is in charge of my life, and my identity has never come from being a broadcaster. 

But anyone can fall on hard times, and God doesn’t make you stupid, so you have to adjust your lifestyle to fit the changing circumstances. Here are a few things I do when things get tight that you might find interesting.

Dinners out/socializing with friends

Sadly, tough times often hurt your social life. I don’t like entertaining at home. I just don’t. I like being able to leave after a certain amount of time, and I don’t want to have to spend half a day cleaning and THEN trying to plan a meal, when I don’t even cook! So that part would fall on my husband, and I hate to do that to him, even though he enjoys cooking. So that brings us back to going OUT to eat with people. I do far less of that when things are tight. You don’t want them to let them pay, and you certainly don’t want to go dutch and sound like a cheapie, and let’s face it – two people can’t have lunch at Chili’s for less than $40, so that’s one thing I totally stop doing during the tough times.

Instead of dropping $100 on dinner, my husband and I will sometimes go to a place like Downtown Summerlin with our dog, and just walk around. We can grab a couple of slices of pizza and call it a night. That’s an enjoyable evening for us. I’d much rather do that than stand on some silly Red Carpet somewhere. 

Going to shows or out to see friends play music.

Same as above. I don’t need to tell you what show tickets cost! And although we’re not big drinkers, you can’t sit in a lounge and not order anything, and even one or two drinks can add up quickly. You can buy a BOTTLE of wine at the store for what one glass will cost you on The Strip. And let’s not even TALK about parking fees!

And of course we don’t play slot machines or go to expensive new movies. It’s just not that important to us to see THAT movie THIS year. We can wait. Besides, if it’s non-fiction, I’ve probably already read the book. 

Bar soap

This sounds silly, but for me it’s been a BIG change. I’ve been a “body wash” gal for as long as I can remember. Even if you buy the cheaper stuff, there’s no getting around the fact that it’s cheaper to use bar soap. So I switched to bar soap for the most part, and use the body wash mainly as bubble bath. 

Mindless shopping

There are certain stores that don’t have anything in them that you actually NEED. Pier 1 comes to mind, Cost Plus and Bed, Bath and Beyond, to name a few. Stores that sell overpriced “homeware” that you’ll be giving away in a few years…There’s nothing wrong with those places, but when times are tough, I don’t even LOOK. Furniture stores fall into that category, too. You might WANT a new couch, but if you can’t afford it, why torture yourself? 

I don’t wander around makeup stores or places where I’m likely to buy something I may never use. You know you’re going to spend too much in that environment! If you want new products, research them online and purchase them online, and then you’ll be less likely to come home with 42 lipsticks you hate from that “quick trip” to Sephora. 

Cable TV

That gets a big DUH! We dumped it years ago, and I recently dumped Sirius XM, because I got tired of spending an hour on the phone with them every year, trying to negotiate the price. We find tons of interesting things to watch for FREE on YouTube. Yes, we have internet at home. We have to, for my job, but that doesn’t mean we need all the extra packages. 

I also pay for virtually NO subscriptions to websites or magazines, etc. Five dollars here, ten dollars there, and the next thing you know, you’re spending hundreds of dollars a month on that stuff! There are a few things I have to pay for due to my job, but the luxury items are out. And do you really have TIME for all those things you’re paying for? I don’t. 

We do our own maintenance

I can’t highlight my own hair, but I do groom all my dogs, including two poodles, and have done my own nails since I was 20. I have saved thousands of dollars doing both of those things. Even if you have gel nails or what we used to call “sculptured” nails, you can learn to do it yourself! I did, even back then, and now there are Youtube videos to teach you how. And I’d rather do my own nails while I watch a movie or something inspirational than to have to make small talk with someone at a salon. And I can do them on MY schedule. 

My husband does all our car maintenance and mows our lawn, too! Just last week a hose blew in my car. Hubby had it fixed in a jiffy. That would have cost me $500 if I’d taken it to a shop! 

We both drive old cars, mainly because hubby keeps them running so well, and also because we don’t either one need fancy cars for our jobs. Nor do we feel the need to impress people or keep up with the Joneses with our vehicles. If we were in real estate or something, we might need to “look successful” with a fancy car, but luckily we don’t have to worry about that!  

Don’t pay for storage!!!

Clean out that storage unit that is eating your money every month. You might find things you’ve forgotten about. That goes for garages, too. Toss, donate or sell it! Recently I was cleaning out my office and found an extra power cord extender for my computer that I’d forgotten about! And I was going to BUY one! 

Go through your closet and take inventory

If you really go through your clothes, KonMari method or not, you’d be surprised at what you have. You may have forgotten about those jeans, or dress pants, or that little black dress. I was recently organizing bookshelves, and realized I had two copies of “Democracy in America”. If you know what you already have, you’re less likely to buy a duplicate. 

Repair things instead of replacing them! 

I have finally gotten to the point of only buying comfortable shoes, even if they cost more. And of course I buy fewer of them. When good ones break a strap or something you can usually get them repaired. For example, I had a pair of very good quality “riding” style boots that I loved, and one heel got worn down. I held onto them, and when I could afford it, I got them fixed for less than $40! When you already like something and it fits, it’s often worth repairing. 

Bless friends with your stuff! 

At my church we are always passing things around. We’ll put things on the church Facebook page to see if anyone wants it, before donating it. The ladies in my church also have “clothing swaps” a couple of times a year. We all bring in clothes we no longer want or need, (or can no longer get into), and have at it. The leftovers are donated. I’d much rather give furniture, clothes or anything else to someone I like than to try to make $5 on Ebay! 

Shop wisely for groceries 

Entire books have been written about this. My husband does most of the shopping for us, because he likes it and he’s good at it. You can save a lot of money at places like Sam’s Club and COSTCO if you’re not an impulse shopper. But if you’re the type who goes in to save a buck on toilet paper and arrives home with a flat screen and a new recliner, don’t bother.

When times are tough, you might not be grilling ribeyes, and instead you’re eating sandwiches. But you’re still EATING. Make a list of the basics, things your family needs every week, and stick to it until times get better. 

Bottom line: Most of what we Americans consider “needs” are really just “wants”. If we’re honest, our needs are more than met in our great country. Oprah once said,”If you’re not satisfied with what you have, you won’t be satisfied with more.” Sounds funny to hear a billionaire say it, but she’s right. At her level, people probably whine because someone else has more houses or planes than they do…It’s always a matter of perspective. 

Appreciate what you have, enjoy the perks when they come, and adjust when it’s time to tighten your belt. Never base your happiness on anything that can be taken from you in an instant. 

Heidi Harris

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