Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hard Times, Rambling

Yesterday, Tim wanted to look at another house. We've been married for almost 12 years. We met at a plastic injection factory which no longer exists. Tim was the mechanic on my machine. Luckily, it broke down frequently. Anyways, the real estate agent who showed the apartment building to us was another person who worked at that plant. I've watched him in the years since the company went down (and out...). He's quite successful, and even helped to sponsor the July 4th fireworks. His name appeared right up there with some of the companies that have managed to hang on through these economic hard times.

We talked a little about these hard times. How people are really struggling to make ends meet. As my uncle phrased it "Making ends meet? Shoot. I can't even find the ends." I know that comparatively speaking Tim and I are lucky. He can (and does) do all of our automotive repairs, which is good. Our old car did not pass inspection. To repair it would have been $500. Tim can go to the junkyard in most cases and find the part he needs. I heard once that a good cook is not someone who can take the freshest, finest ingredients and turn out a good meal. A good cook is someone who can take a scrap of meat and a piece of stale bread and make a good meal. I am a good cook. We heat with wood. Tim hunts. We cut our own meat. We have seen deer get hit by cars. Depending on the hit, the meat is salvageable. We bring it home, so technically, I guess we are eating roadkill, just like some red neck joke. (Fresh roadkill, I hasten to add.) We will have a small garden. I dress from the Goodwill. We are careful with our money. We are resourceful people, and we are practical, and I am glad for that. We'll get through these times, and we will be okay. It's not fun, but like I said, we are pretty practical.

I don't understand. I was talking to a relative last night. They are both unemployed. Her husband turned down a truck driving job because it required 'over nights'. They are both young. They have no children. It is exasperating. I want to say things like 'A job is a job. It doesn't matter if you like it. You take it because it pays the bills, and from the safety net of that job, you continue to look for another.' I worry about how they will be able to afford their new house. I worry about the fact that they are headed home for a visit when they probably should be job hunting. Both of them. They seem blissfully unconcerned about what will happen next. I love them, and so I worry. But they have to make their own way. Life is going to bite them. They refuse to listen to anyone's warnings, so they will get bit, and they will sit there wide eyed and angry at the unfairness of life. You know, life is not easy. Everyone goes through hard times. I cannot tell you the number of times that I've looked at Tim and thanked God that I'm married to a practical, hard worker. I know that he values that in me, as well. The old saying is that tough times don't last, but tough people do. Tim and I are definately tough people. I sure do wish that it was possible to gift wrap that commodity and hand it out for birthdays, weddings, Christmas, and the like.

We decided not to get the house that we looked at. It would have paid for itself. We could have qualified for a business loan, probably, since all the units were rented out, but we have a philosophy, Tim and I. We believe that it is morally wrong to ask tenants to pay us to live in a place we would not live in ourselves. This place was in horrible condition. It is not a place either of us would want to live in, so we decided against it. I thanked God, this time that I am married to a man with ethics. I shot an e-mail off to the agent to let him know.

It is a strange and hard time. Someday, Tim and I will be well off. I know this. The careful decisions we make now will pay off. At some point, these houses will be paid for, and the repairs all done. We will begin to realize a profit. At some point, I will have a degree and a good job with benefits. At some point this hard time will end. Until it does, however, Tim and I hunker low, living careful lives, living by our wits and our ethics, taking pleasure in the small joys of life: a good book from the library, our 2 for $1 video trips, our cozy nights on the couch with popcorn as we watch movies that most people have already seen. It is enough. We are content.


Paula said...

I went shopping with a friend yesterday to buy some shoes. We bought a pair in the sale - they were only £5 - not sure what that is in dollars but it was less than my lunch!! We got a great kick of our bargain!!

P xox

WhiteStone said...

Debby, your frugal nature is lovely. I grew up frugal. That's what happens when you grow up with nothing. It makes you frugally wise. lol. In my frugalness (a bit of my paycheck in the bank every week of my working life) I was able to get my daughter through four years of a state college with only one very small student loan her last semester. She worked all through school and made her own spending money, but my frugalness paid her tuition and books. She saw others dropping out because they had maxed out on their loans and she was grateful that her Mom was frugal.

A Novel Woman said...

For me, frugal means caring enough not to waste what is offered. The way you live? I think it's awesome and it gives you insight and wisdom and appreciation for the world around you. I admire you so much, and I think if more people lived like you do, they'd be a lot happier.

It's not about the stuff.

Kelly said...

Rather than roadkill, I prefer to think of it as not letting the animal go to waste and die for nothing.

I admire you, Debby.

Roland Denzel said...

The only thing I have for you to consider is that someone else may buy that house and let the people continue to live in shabby conditions. Could you buy the house and improve the living conditions of those people and still have it be cost effective/profitable to you? Would the people prefer to pay just a little more for a little better? I don't know...

Mikey said...

I hear ya girl. I'm right there with you. We don't have a lot, but we do... we have everything we need. Advertising sure has made people greedy and thinking they "deserve" all this stuff. A generation coming of age that's had it handed to them over and over, without ever having to really work for it, or make tough decisions.
One thing Wade and I don't get, is the people griping about their mortgage or losing their house. If you signed a contract and agreed to pay this price, and now it's valued at less, you still have to pay it! What's the big deal? Same as a car. By the time you get it halfway paid off, it's not worth what you paid for it, yet you pay it anyway.
We just don't get people, but it is interesting watching who makes it and who doesn't. We're very thankful for the work we get, and we tell people that every day. Someone told me another farrier in town can't get any work, while Wade is doing 10-15 horses a day. Why? Because in good times that other guy turned down the "bad" horses that we took on. Now that times are bad, he'd be grateful for any horse. We took the time to work with the bad horses, who aren't bad anymore. Lo and behold we have a roster of good clients.
People just have to try harder. The tough, frugal people who pay attention will survive.
I'm proud to "know" folks like you :)

Lori said...

Your last sentence sums up why you are able to live this way and many others are not. You are content. My husband, like yours, is a very hard worker, usually does his own car repair himself and buys used parts from the junk yard. He and our daughter hunt and fish, we package our own deer and elk meat ourselves, and I, thanks to my wonderful mother, am a good cook -- by your definition, which I agree with, by the way. We've been through some very tough times and managed to get through with some hard work and good decision-making. My husband's company is on strike right now, so we're in another semi-touch situation. Foresight helped in that he saw the possibility of it and we've been putting money in savings to cover major expenses for quite a while now. We have a freezer full of food, and we'll be okay if it lasts long. If it lasts too long, then we'll both take other jobs and not be too picky. Yes, it helps when you are able to be content with what you have to work with at any given time. I think you guys will be just fine, and someday all this hard work will pay off for you tenfold!

Debby said...

Roland. Yes. We could fix it up, but the fact is that it would take much more time than we've got to do it right now. The sad truth is that although We would buy a stove for the woman in the downstairs apartment right away, there is an awful amount of work that needs to be done just to get things to our minimal standards. There is just no time for it, and we don't have the money to hire out the work.

There are lots of us out there scraping by. We're everywhere. We are EVERYWHERE.

Bill of Wasilla said...

Yes, those have been some of my favorite times with my wife - her sitting on the couch, me leaning against her, eating popcorn while watching a video.

It didn't happen this winter, though and now that the light is back, I don't want to sit in front of the TV at night.

We all endure the hard times in our own way, always knowing that good times are ahead.

Jim said...

Debby, thanks for that insightful and well considered comment about cemeteries on my blog today. That also happened in Australia in the past and I believe is what they are trying to bring back at Rookwood.
Sydney - City and Suburbs

Pencil Writer said...

Wisdom is not bereft of hard work. Great post. There are some people I'd love to have read it. Hard times will either make you bitter or better. It's our choice.

BB said...

Oh gosh. That was fabulous. And so very, very true. I often come here hoping to find some real wisdom. I go home content tonight!