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?



From MSN.

“Obamacare has more companies opting for part-timers

“They’re making this move to avoid paying for full-time workers’ health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.”

Another national company says it’s reducing the number of hours many of its employees will work, making them part-time staff, thanks to Obamacare. Scheduled to go into effect next year, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is expected raise health care insurance prices, according to recent studies. As a result, a growing number of American businesses are opting to switch workers to part-time status.

AAA Parking, the latest company to react this way to Obamacare, manages more than 200 properties across the U.S. and employs over 1,500 people. AAA recently announced it will move about half of its 500 full-time, hourly employees to part-time status next month in response to the Affordable Care Act.

According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, a company memo said executives had “spent extensive time evaluating the impact of this mandate, and the financial impact for AAA Parking is dramatic.”

The company told the Chronicle that upholding the new laws would require it to make “substantial changes in our hourly staffing models, or suffer an enormous and unsustainable annual net loss,” costing AAA Parking over $1.2 million annually in cut employee hours.”


"Instead of watching cable TV, read to one another from your library books"
I'll go one further: Do it by candlelight--save on the old electric bill.
Not only dry your clothes outside, take them to a local stream and beat them on a rock to wash them.
Price of Country Crock getting you down?---Go buy yourself a butter churn.
Erect a small barn and buy yourself a dairy cow. You'll have tons of fun squeezing the cow's teets for the milk and go "yum, yum!" come slaughter time. We all know what a pound of hamburger costs.
No need to go to a beautician--just put a bowl on top of your head and cut around it.
You'll find out just how much fun it really can be being poor.


Hahahaha! Isn't it fascinating how many people are so out of touch with reality?


meowmix that is hilarious!!! haag owns commercial property in Sandusky. they dont live in Sandusky. 425.00 for rent would be great. try 550.00 for a 2 br is average but fairmarket is hundreds more.
this year with all the rain we had our"garden" flooded and we lost everything we planted except for one cantelope and I mean one. I know of a farmer that lost their crops this year from the weather, now what do they do? how about after they get done washing the laundry in buckets of rainwater they put under the holes in the roof they can hang the clothes over the windows for insulation and they wont have to buy curtains! then settle down in the kitchen around the BBQ grill burning the bills for heat with bowls on their heads getting haircuts reading their books from the library that are six months overdue because they didn't have shoes or a car to get back to the library with the snow on the ground, they can read cookbooks and pretend that they will one day save up enough money to eat everyday of the month.

AJ Oliver

Here's another example of just how tough things were in the 1970's. Average meat cutter wages were $ 20 per hour (adjusted). People working at Routh Packing had middle class jobs. No more - the meat cutters, along with many others professions have been crushed. Now most make around $ 15 - with the honorable exceptions of Costco and Albertsons.

Finn Finn

What is fascinating is that so many people have no discipline and won't take responsiblity for themselves. They ridicule sensible ideas (meowmix), make foolish arguments as to why thriftiness won't work (tk), and cry "why can't I enjoy the same things as others" (gene). When I hear comments like this, I cringe with embarrassment at the lack of self-esteem and desire to lift themselves up; always looking to FORCE someone to help them out. There is nothing on Haag's list that is even remotely ridiculous. But again, that "D" word comes into play.


Aw gee whiz Finn Finn, my profound apologies over making you "cringe with embarrassment"--didn't realize your skin was so Thin Thin. Sorry, but I prefer to buy sliced bread as opposed baking my own--which, I might add, actually costs more in the long run--have you priced yeast lately??
My point was that I found Haag's comments to be somewhat condescending to we, the reader--"mend your clothes", "seal gaps in the window" "look at sale rack"--who the heII doesn't do that anyway--regardless of their income?
Not to worry though, I wouldn't ever FORCE someone to help me. I'd just hire someone to do it for me.-- Take that!


Do you honestly think most poor people aren't already doing all of the practical things they can do? They have no choice. They live in this situation everyday. You SHOULD cringe in embarrassment, not for other people's comments, but for your own. Why do you assume that poor people have no dicipline and won't take responsibility for themselves? I grew up with poor people and I know darn well that they are hard workers and do the best they can to survive.

Finn Finn

Is that first sentence a serious question???? I used to go to the laundry mat to wash my clothes. My husband and I skimped and saved and were finally able to put enough money together to buy a washer and dryer. Neither of us is college educated. In fact, I've made the same $11.00 / hr. as a legal assistant for the past nine years. I know my employer makes a heck of a lot more money than I do but I don't go around crying "why can't I have the same things as him." (gene)

Getting back to the laundry mat. While I washed my clothes, I saw an endless parade of men and women, who looked like they didn't have very much money, come into the laundry mat with two or three kids, and bags and bags of fast food, McDonalds, Burger King, whatever, with the largest cups of soda pop available. I saw this time after time and I could not understand why they would spend that kind of money on fast food when they could make a meal at home, with several days leftovers, for less than they just paid for all that junk food. I saw this time after time after time.

So I ask you and meowmix and the others who seem to think people, "regardless of their income", are doing everything "practical" to save, why do they do this? And while they are eating their salt burgers and fat fries, they are pulling out their electronic devices and playing around with them. I am not exaggerating. I saw this at least 90% of the time I went to the laundry mat. So am I wrong to expect these people to live more frugally before demanding the government force their employers to pay them more money? Why do you and meoxmix not expect MORE from these people? I know its easier to go somewhere and have someone make your dinner for you, but that's where discipline comes in.


"And while they are eating their salt burgers and fat fries, they are pulling out their electronic devices and playing around with them. I am not exaggerating. I saw this at least 90% of the time I went to the laundry mat. So am I wrong to expect these people to live more frugally before demanding the government force their employers to pay them more money?"
You are assuming a lot here. First you are assuming they don't have much money. And next you are assuming they work at one of the fast food places and are demanding more money. How about assuming the Mother has to get to work, so she grabs some burgers for her kids while she does the laundry? Don't always assume the worst about people that you don't even know. I "assume" you were paying a lot of attention to other peoples business.

Finn Finn

Your attempt to rebut my comment is ridiculous. This is why I have a hard time believing you genuinely care about people and aren't just spouting off the usual liberal line.

"I grew up with poor people and I know darn well that they are hard workers and do the best they can to survive." Really? ALL of them? I am sure there are MANY poor people who are hard workers, doing the best they can to survive. Those are the ones NOT buying electronic devices they can't afford and not wasting "hard earned" money on fast food when they can cook a better, less expensive meal at home. It's the convenience and instant gratification that usually leads to fast food purchases.

Why don't you try reading your own comments. You are the one who asserted that poor people are already doing all things practical to get by. My comment illlustrated that many are not. You know it and I know it. Getting you to admit that though will never happen.


I said "most". I didn't say all.


Good god, you have even issues with someone getting McDonald's???? When I was a kid my folks didn't have alot of money to just throw around--my dad farmed and my mom was busy raising 4 kids. But even they saw fit to drive to Marion, Ohio once every few months or so (that was the closest McDonalds at the time) to give us a treat. But guess what?? At home was a freezer full of beef from the cows we had butchered. Yeah, real spendthrifts they were. Did it ever occur to you that sometimes it's just fun to spend hard earned money on frivolities? Also, do you know that it's cheaper right now to have a cell phone than a home phone? Most people I know have gotten rid of their home phone due to the expense. Do you have both a cell and home phone?? If so you obviously aren't being wise in your penny pinching.

Finn Finn

Spoken like a true liberal " . . . sometimes it's just fun to spend hard earned money on frivolities." Sometimes it's just mature and responsible not to.

P.S. Last month's phone bill $57.41; Tracfone $19.99 every three months.


Yeah, sometimes it is fun to spend hard earned money on frivolities. What planet are you from? So, let me get this straight, if I spent hundreds of thousands on college so I can earn six figures, only THEN can I spend my hard earned money on sh*it that I really shouldn't or crap I really don't need because I deserve it? What kind of nonsensical crap is that? Spoken like a true carpet that's been walked on for WAY too long!


Amen nonconformist Amen!!!! Now, if you'll excuse me, I really must go out and friviously spend $16.00 on a bag of bird seed because I do take pleasure in my birdies. And, because I'm going to do that, I guess according to Finn Finn I'll just have to do penance and go without shampooing my hair for the next couple of months. :}

Pterocarya frax...

I can teach you how to make homemade soap to wash your hair. It is really cheap!


I'm glad I had my old corded landline.. it was the only thing that worked after the power was out with the July storms.

AJ Oliver

I agree that people should do as well as they are able, but Ruth & others don't understand what average folks are now up against. Here is another example - in 1970, tuition/room/board at Ohio U. cost $ 3,700 (adjusted). Many students could work part time and pay most of these costs. The price today? $ 10,100 !! All of these changes are no accident. They are part of a concerted, planned attack on average people by the ONE PERCENT !!


My tuition was $10K a year and I earned it myself in a part time retail job.


full time is 2080 hours a year, part time would be 1040. If you made $3 over minimum wage and worked 1040 hours a week, you would gross $10,400, after taxes took home $6864. So you must have made over $15 an hour and had someone pay for your car and gas in order to save every penny you made for tuition. This story has some flaws in it!

Ruth Haag

Sorry that I am a bit late to this discussion, Bob and I had to get the laundry in! The discussion of what the economy was like in the 1970s is interesting. Do those of you old enough remember hiring freezes? One had to wait until the freezes were lifted before they could get a job. This was when my brother-in-law told me to volunteer somewhere in order to get a job. Next week we can discuss inflation and cost of things then and now a bit more.


Ruth, one doesn't necessarily have to remember hiring freezes because they're still occurring in both private companies and the public sector today. Many people today are indeed volunteering in hopes of eventually being hired on full-time, but numerous companies are showing caution in taking on volunteers because of potential legal concerns around not compensating "volunteers". But hiring freezes are still a common practice in effect today. Additionally, many companies annually either give either very small pay increases, as in the % increase is less than the rise in cost of inflation, or no increases are awarded at all.

Regarding fast food employees wanting wage raises, even though most (I won't write all) of us do indeed now view some luxuries as necessities, the real issue is those holding minimum wage or slightly-above minimum age jobs simply wanting a living wage. I get that most of us probably view cable/satellite television, a computer and a smartphone as necessities, not a luxury. But it's the rent/mortgage, utilities, food and, of course, insurance costs that continue to rise.

The minimum wage amount hasn't increased in 4 years, yet from 2009 to 2012, incomes of the top 1% (defined as families with incomes above $394,000 in 2012) grew more than 31%, while incomes of the remaining 99% grew 0.4%. According to UC Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez, "This implies that the top 1% incomes captured just over two-thirds of the overall economic growth of real incomes per family over the period 1993-2012."

Here's something else: From 2007 to 2012, domestic corporate profits climbed 35% while investment in plants and equipment rose only 2.6%. US companies have accumulated a rather substantial cash hoard, namely $1.8 trillion at the end of 2012. Simply put, corporate United States is husbanding its profits, investing mainly in the safest projects because that's what CEO's are being rewarded for: increasing Shareholder value. That growing of the cash reserves has the undesirable effect of dampening the economy. A well-functioning economy is a circular process by which one person's spending becomes another person's income, which is then spent again. In 2012, the U.S. gross domestic product was $16.2 trillion; of that, $11.1 trillion was consumption spending on everything from cars to fast food. Sounds pretty healthy, right? Problem is that when you adjust that spending by factoring in inflation, the increase in consumer spending was only 2.2%, and that's definitely not enough to accelerate the recovery. What this leads to is a negative cycle: weak consumer spending leads to company's ratcheting back on investment spent in possible new markets and ventures, thereby keeping economic growth low and unemployment high, in turn putting downward pressure on labor's income share. Another way to frame it: companies see declines in purchases of their products so they shed some of their workforce to increase net income, the workforce shrinks and those who do have jobs see little-to-no increase in their wages so they choose to purchase only the necessities, leading to less spending at restaurants or buying a new TV/computer, etc., companies in turn see declines in purchases of their products and the economic cycle continues its downward spiral.

But back to the fast food workers . . . increasing their hourly wages would do well to help stimulate the economy. Today, many people are practicing a few/some/many of your suggestions. And that's not helping our economy. Our economy needs stimulus, and companies have the cash reserves to stimulate, just as they have historically done in the past, but continue to not do so today.


Why isn't Buckeye writing an article for the paper? Oh right. Because then we would be subjected to a bit of truth!


noncomformist, thank you for the compliment. You are much too kind. But if I did write an article, then I'd spend way too much time responding to blog comments. :)


Ok Finn....BUT; did you see my comment? It is true. Or talk to those that went by the rules & lost their jobs @ age 50 or so. Jobs that paid a wage + benefits. Jobs that that employer was making a profit - they just wanted more. Hope you never experience unstable times. Methinks R. Haag has not. Btw, help us butcher this fall.

Finn Finn

I have experienced unstable times. Why do you think my life is all rosy? As I stated in my comment above, I know my employer can afford to pay me more money, but I'm not going to whine about it and demand someone do something so I can make more money. I could have applied myself more when I was younger, maybe even gone to a community college so I could earn more money, but I didn't. No one owes me anything.


You owe yourself silly. Just because you did not go to college you really feel you should be underpaid? Do you work hard? Do you show up daily? Does your work effect the bottom line? Does your work help your boss live well? You have a slave mentality! Yessum boss, I don't mind eating scraps!

Finn Finn

You owe yourself silly - the Liberal mantra. I didn't say I was underpaid. Why do you feel I'm "underpaid?" You assume it because that's what liberals do. I said my boss could afford to pay me more money. But I understand I have no specific education to offer my boss, thus I'm paid accordingly.

My boss lives well because he went to law school and earned a law degree. Slaves don't get paid. I get paid a salary for my work. Of course, I would like more, but I don't have a "right" to it. Your mind set blows my mind.


Does your boss know you are spending so much time online reading the Register?