My Frugal Life - Reflecting on the Lean Years

When my husband and I were married years ago, we both made minimum wage and lived from paycheck to paycheck. After the birth of our first child, we thought he was so wonderful and decided we wanted a dozen like him. I quit my job to stay home with him and my husband worked two jobs.

One night after work, he brought home a magazine that had an advertisement about taking college classes from home. We discussed the possibilities of him getting a college education but our delimma was, which field he should go into? We decided that since we wanted a dozen children, he needed to make enough money so our children could do the things we had not done, like dance lessons. I asked him which one he thought would make the most money and he said "Attorney". So that is the box we checked and mailed off.

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A week later, two men in suits were at our front door and he enrolled in school. After the first year, he decided that if he continued to study law, he needed to be in a classroom with an instructor.

The next five years were very lean years. I bought all of our clothing from the Goodwill, Salvation Army and second hand stores, except for underwear. I made a lot of my clothes and gifts. I would get so excited when I found jeans in good condition. Once I found a pair of turquoise, a pair of white, and a pair blue ones for 25 cents each. In fact, when he was admitted to the bar, the dress I wore was bought at a second hand store.

Once a month, after all the bills had been paid, we had just enough money leftover for food. We would shop the sales and stock up for the month. We always had enough to eat but by the end of the month we were scraping bottom, cashing in our coke bottles (which was our once a month splurge) for milk or fresh veggies.

It never bothered my sons that they were wearing second hand clothes. When they were in high school, they never shopped for "brand name" clothing. One of my sons told me he would never wear 501 Levi's just because all the other kids did. Little did he know... I told him to go check out his play pants he was outgrowing and he was shocked to learn he had been wearing them along.

When necessary, I worked in the cannery on the lines, sorting tomatoes and peaches in the summer, until I made enough money to pay the tuition for the following year and to pay my sister-in-law for baby-sitting.

We continued to live in our rented home of 6 years until we found and bought our first home in the country, a year after my husband passed the bar exam. By the time we found it, we were ready to move into a tent if we had to, just to get our boys, all four of them, out of the city. No, we didn't have 12 after all, and no dance lessons.

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Those lean years bound us together for life and we would not trade them for anything.

Ferneous from Waterford, CA

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April 28, 20060 found this helpful

What a great story. Thanks for sharing.

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