Living with less

Ruth Haag
Sep 10, 2013

I watched with interest the attempt of fast food workers to raise their pay by going on strike.  Things were so good in the 1990s, that we all have become used to having some luxuries and start to think of them as necessities.   In the 1970s when there were economic hardships, we looked to those who had survived the Great Depression for lessons on how to live with less.  Now that there are economic hardships again, perhaps we can learn some lessons from the 1970s.


To put things in perspective, before the mid-1970s there were no credit cards.  Also, there was no easy credit with which to purchase cars and houses.  If a person didn’t have cash, then they couldn’t buy things.  Grocery shopping was an adventure.  People carefully totaled up each potential purchase until the weekly budgeted amount was reached and then stopped.  This was before inexpensive calculators, also.  


Here are some tried and true ways to save money:


Don’t routinely pay to have fun; save up for special events and until then take a walk for fun, or play in a public park.  

For a trip to another city, go to visit a relative and stay overnight with them (take a small gift to thank them, and clean up after yourself)

Accept offered used furniture from family members

Purchase furniture from a second-hand store, an auction or a tag sale.  If it is a little beaten up  fix it yourself

Look over the sale racks in all stores

Make food from scratch.  Do you know how inexpensive lentil soup is, and how healthy it is?

Get books out of the library

Instead of watching cable TV, read to one another from your library books

Mend your clothes

Check second hand stores for clothes

Children grow fast, pass gently used clothing around to family and friends

Plant a vegetable garden

Look over your bills and see if there is something that you can purchase cheaper, or perhaps do without

Seal the gaps in your windows, don’t replace them

Make gifts for people, rather than buying them

Put your children (12+ years old) on a clothing budget.  Figure out how much you should spend a year on clothing per child and then make that their budget for the next year.  Children faced with their own monetary clothing decisions often opt not to get the expensive must-have items. It will help them understand budgeting and shopping at discount stores

Use coupons only when you were already planning on purchasing the item

Dry your clothes outside

Unplug appliances, even your TV, when not in use

Use real napkins and wash them

Use real dishes and wash them

Walk on errands that you can walk on

Give the gift of time:  offer to clean or repair something for your relatives, or to take them on errands, in place of a gift


What if you want more money from your job?


If you are in a low paying job, work hard, learn all that you can and then look around for a better paying job that uses the skills you have gained  

If you want to learn more, but can’t afford schooling, volunteer in an area that you are interested in and learn from it

Accept extra work or offer to help with new projects at work

Make sure that you are clean, well-groomed and appropriately attired for your job

Arrive a bit early (maybe 5 minutes?) and be willing to leave a bit late (maybe 10 minutes?), but don’t charge your employer for the time

Provide positive suggestions, and don’t be offended if they are not followed

Ask for more responsibility

Find a way to disagree with your boss, without putting him or her down , undermining them or embarrassing them in public

Be willing to do all of the work that is necessary; mopping floors and emptying garbage are not beneath anyone

Always be cheerful

For the commentators:  How do you save money?  What have you done to advance yourself in a job?



So people should be happy with low paying jobs, just do more work, work overtime for nothing and buy used clothing and furniture. Wow! What a big heart you have. As for planting a garden, do you have any idea how expensive that is? You need a tiller and other tools. Plants and seeds are not cheap. To preserve any vegetables you need a freezer and/or canning equipment and supplies. Again not cheap. Not everyone who is poor has access to the ground required for a garden, nor do they necessarily have access to a clothes line to hang their clothes. They are suppose to work longer, dig up untilled ground and lug heavy baskets of wet clothes outside all the while cooking and caring for a household. You are just full of goodies. But don't be offended because I told you so.


Well R. Haag check this out - Sunrise Cooperative charges a low propane usage fee. $107.00 a year. I took your advice & had those cheap &^$$@@ fired. Since you know buSINess, you know they are wrong. (They had no extra effort to provide service since others regularly in our zone got re-filled)


Has anyone looked at the clothes in the thrift shops ? , They are a joke .People will keep the clothes that are in style and will give away things that will show that you are poor and people will cross the streets to avoid yea , I know , I used to buy from them stores , So I know . Not to mention has anyone priced the things in these kinds of stores? In some cases they are as expensive as the new ones that you get at Walmart or super K-Mart .the only differences is that at Walmart and Kmart , they sell things that make you look better and the other store make you look like bum and someone to run away from.

Don’t routinely pay to have fun; save up for special events and until then take a walk for fun, or play in a public park.
I am not to sure that taken a walk in some cities are such a great idea , with the crime rate what it is , I don not think I would
The person that wrote this must be either rich or well off
It pretty bad that people that come on here try and tell others that they should not be able to enjoy the same the things as them , and I would like to see what kind of life they have and what they do for a living other then come on here and try and tell me that cause I am either poor of middle class , I can not enjoy the same thing they do .
The register need to screen these people better and try to get some stories on here that will help them to be able to afford the same things that the others can .


I've found excellent clothes at thrift stores. I've successfully interviewed for a high paying professional position in a suit that cost me $20.

Newsflash, if you don't earn as much as another person, you DON'T get to enjoy the same things they do. That's economic reality.

Most of the time, Ruth's columns are worthless, but she's right this time. I haven't made minimum wage since I was 16, but following most of the advice in this column, I saved enough that I didn't need a mortgage to buy my house.


Encore Shop, across from the State Theatre in Sandusky, has pretty nice stuff. And on Wednesdays, the clothes are 20% off. Open 'till 5.


You should try both sides of the toilet paper too! Save a few dollars and trees!!!!


LMAO!!! Good one Yo!




I think these suggestions would be helpful for a family who is trying to cut costs. They are not helpful for those fast food workers who are asking for higher wages. Most are making 7.75 an hour. Even if they work 40 hours a week (and most fast food establishments don't allow 40 hours a week) they are only grossing $310 a week. Net would be around $204. So they are taking home $818 a month. Let's pick an average rent of $425, electric $100 and water $25. That would leave you $67 a week for gas, car payment, insurance, food, medical, babysitter, etc. A person cannot make it on $7.75 an hour.

Even if a family has two members working for $7.75 an hour - it is still a struggle to keep your head above water. By the time they pay their rent/utilities/transportation/insurance - there is no money left to go to a thrift store.

And the average age of someone who makes minimum wage is 35; 36% are over 40 and 28% are supporting a child(ren).


Part of becoming an adult is preparing oneself to obtain a job that pays significantly more than minimum wage.


No kidding? That's why people go to school. Want out of the fast-food industry? Do it. But people still deserve to live and make a decent wage, one that at least pays the bills. Didn't you see the article about how McDonalds was unrealistic as h*ll about their "budget plan" they offered on their website? Get real...


No one should ever expect to be able to live on minimum wage. Anyone who graduates high school and can't do better than minimum wage wasted the school's and their own time.


I went to college, I certainly deserve more than I make. But around here employers don't want to pay employees what their worth. I'm not saying they deserve what they're asking for, but minimum wage is for highschool'ers. It's pretty sad that the majority of the jobs created are minimum wage; all retail and fast-food. What the hell else are people expected to do? There are a ton of educated people out there who can't find work in their field and have to settle for SOMETHING. The middle class is gone. Education means nothing anymore because there isn't any work! I know plenty of people who have college degrees and can't find that "better than minimum wage" job. And what is "better than minimum wage"? Ten, eleven dollars an hour after four years of college? STFU. Splain that one to me Lucy and then you can shove it too.


There is no shortage of schools willing to sell you a worthless degree in a made up or politically invented major that has no meaningful value. "Education" covers a lot of territory, not all of it productive.

@Andria_XX, who has an “Honors BA in Social Justice and Peace Studies” and is pursuing a Master’s degree in Gender Studies, recently tweeted:
“I have a honors BA and I’m defending my MA thesis in two weeks. I am also apply for jobs and I can only find stuff in the service industry. I applied for a Hotel Front Desk Clerk job today. My degrees mean NOTHING. I am at the end of my rope.“

Employers are struggling to find qualified candidates, holding their own job fairs, offering bonuses for referrals, and paying fees to headhunters.


Couldn't agree more. Nice, intelligent comeback. "Honors BA in Social Justice and Peace Studies" with a Master's in Gender studies? sounds promising. *sarcasm* However, see my comment just below? I notice you haven't responded to it. Why not take a stab? Cause you have nothing to back up the fact that there are still many people out there who are extremely marketable in sought after fields but yet, still cannot find work. Why? Because the job market is flooded. For every available good paying job, there are hundreds of applicants. And even if they can find work, they are still paid well below what they are worth. Though many states pay well above the average in Ohio, not many people can or are willing to leave the state. Either a. because they can't afford to and the company refuses to move them or b. because they have family and don't want to leave or can't due to certain circumstances. Trust me, Ohio sucks for jobs right now. I could move to any number of states tomorrow and double my pay due to my education and experience. But a number of factors keep me here for the time being. One being affordability because I don't make what I should with my education and background.


"... with a Master's in Gender studies".

What the hell ?


I notice that you pointedly OMIT mentioning what your major was.

If you truly bring all to the table that you claim, and you're not earning what you would like, then you're sandbagging.

A classmate of mine who took all the same courses as me is now a millionaire many times over, while I still have to be careful what I spend, but I realize that's all because of the different choices we've made since graduating.


I don't have to prove anything to you. Go start a p*ssing match with someone that actually gives a rat's *ss what you, of all people, think.


"I don't have to prove anything"

Quite the contrary - YOU asserted that the education you chose to pursue makes you deserving of more than the market is offering you. It's incumbent upon you to support your assertion with facts.

Your failure to substantiate your claim that your educational choices actually bring value to the table speaks volumes.


I agree, if you are going to spend the money, get a degree that you can actually use, like say a BS in Business Administration majoring in Supply Chain Mgmt. I know someone with this degree who was hired before he graduated and after 2 yrs is making 60K a year, with an excellent chance of advancement.


I agree, if you are going to spend the money, get a degree that you can actually use, like say a BS in Business Administration majoring in Supply Chain Mgmt. I know someone with this degree who was hired before he graduated and after 2 yrs is making 60K a year, with an excellent chance of advancement.


And just check how much Mrs. Haag and her husband billed the taxpayers for when they were checking out the tar pits in Sandusky. Bet they didn't go to thrift stores on payday.


You were free to underbid them, assuming you are have the credentials and ability to fulfill the contract.


This article is a load of BS. Ya know, I used to make a good wage. Around the $15.00/hr mark. At that time, I could barely take care of my family. We didn't shop at thrift stores by any means, but neither were we out shopping every week. Had to save up to buy school clothes at the beginning of the school year or if we really wanted something nice, matter of fact. But, it was livable. Never been a materialistic person anyway. Now, I work for way under that hourly amount. Mind you, I'm a very educated person and I have years of experience under my belt. (In other states my starting wage would be a God-send due to my marketability, but you first have to afford a move of sorts.) I can hardly make ends meet, while the higher ups pull in triple digits each year. So yeah, I can relate in a sense to the fast-food workers. Do I think they are worth $15.00 an hour? Not a chance, but they at least deserve a wage that is livable. When an educated person like myself can't even live on my wage (by the way Ms. Haag, that means pay the monthly bills and put food on the table without worry) in a "professional setting" where there is no room for advancement because the rich keep getting richer off of the hard work of the "pee on's" that work for them, I can't even imagine how these people live day to day... In essence, you're more than likely just one of those living the high life, telling the rest of us to suck it up and expect less because we haven't paid our dues. Shove it, Haag!


As a child of the 60's-70's, I kind of see where Ms. Haag is coming from, There was a magazine called The Mother Earth News, which I avidly read, that espoused the philosophy of doing more with less. The magazine in its present incarnation is not much like the original which featured a lot of how-to, lost cost solutions to some of everyday livings problems. There are cheaper ways to do things, must of them involve more effort on your part. Not saying its for everybody, but you should try to find some of these old issues. Just my opinion.


Mother Earth News
Doing more with less.
Now, readers have less of less
So it's about
doing less with more


Get use to living in the Obama economy. Fire years down the drain and three more years of a leaderless economy.


Just move to Walton's Mountain and start a sawmill.

Goodnight, John Boy.

AJ Oliver

Jeez Ruth, it is simply not true that in the 1970's, ". . there was no easy credit with which to purchase cars and houses." Interest rates on home mortgages were around 7%, and the minimum wage (adjusted for inflation) was around $ 10 per hour. Working people were better off then than now - by a lot !!


Re: "Working people were better off then than now"

The rate of inflation and a comparison of the value of the U.S. dollar says A LOT.