Friday, June 13, 2008

An Adventure in Uncertainty

So, it's one thing to "know" that you are poor, but quite another to start living that way.

I am not sure when I became Entitled to 200+ channels and the ability to record live television, but now it seems downright cruel to be forced to live any other way.

Big Kid is in shock, constantly questioning the poor picture quality of basic cable, and stunned by the inability to pause live television. I have heard the words "But how do we not eben hab Playhouse Disney? Let's dest check again" more times than I can count.

Yeah, yeah, it's minor, and some people don't even have t.v., but the first small slap of reality does sting a bit.

Luckily, Mr. Ashley has lots of "side job" type of opportunities. His friend is taking him on to remodel a nursing home a few days a week (the guy that can't hang up my pictures...remodeling a nursing home), he worked on some cars down at his Uncle's shop the other day (he was a mechanic in his former life), and Girl Crush's husband may have a lead on a night job for him. It's hard to get excited about a days' worth of work that brings in as much pay as a former hour's worth of work, but we are so lucky to have good friends that can offer these opportunities.

We have also talked about me getting a night job. The very thought of such a thing makes me want to slit my own throat. I know, I know, pride and sloth will be my downfall, but there is an adjustment period to this new way of life, and unfortunately that adjustment period makes me want to gouge my eyeballs out with a corkscrew. Would I get disability or social security or something if I had gouged eyeballs?

Just checking.

I am also unsure of myself for the first time ever. Remember, I am a Planner. I have worked hard, and my poor little brain ran on OVERTIME accumulating different licenses and experience, setting up limited liability corporations, networking with the whole real estate world, always having a plan for the Next Big Thing and an idea of what the future would hold.

We've discussed it before, but it's still a big shock to me that all my planning is good for nothing (at least at this stage in the game) and I'm back to square one and not really sure what to do with myself. Call me a snot (go ahead, do it) but I feel too skilled, too talented, too knowledgeable and too creative to be stocking the shelves at Borders. (But I could use the discount, now that I've gone and screwed myself with the library.)

I'm trying not to wallow. I am still better off than most of the rest of the world, and I guess it was all fun while it lasted. I do have A Plan, and I will share it with you now because I will feel better putting it on paper (yet again) and forcing you all to read it:

-Canceled phone service and switched to Vonage. I don't know why we didn't do this before. Our phone line has always sucked, and there is always a loud buzzing. Now I pay $60 less a month and the buzzing was instantly gone. Win/win.

-Canceled DirectTV (and then got struck by lightning). I'm mad at those bastards anyway, and somehow the guy that installed our cable internet line made it so we get cable television for free. He knows he did it, he even strongly hinted to us that he did it when he told us it couldn't be hooked up the normal way. He works for the cable company, so I think I'm morally okay on this free cable deal.

-Switched to the cheapest cell phone plans. It really just doesn't make sense to have a text message plan for someone who doesn't even know where her cell phone is, and who cannot text message to save her life. The last text message I sent said "ppppppppp", an SOS of sorts, which didn't even get where it was supposed to go. So we don't need the fancy cell plan, Mr. Ashley can live without texting and 900 bajillion minutes.

-Parking the SUV. I'd rather not go anywhere anyway, so this works for me. Mr. Ashley has been driving the PT Cruiser which gets WAY better gas mileage anyway. If for some reason I need to leave the house, I'll take the cruiser.

-Canceling our health insurance. Yeah, this one makes my stomach hurt. Really bad. But there is just no other option, it's astronomically expensive and we just cannot do it anymore. We're going to look into a medical savings account, and maybe next year the kids will qualify for state insurance. I was also thinking of trying to wean myself off of Effexor (toxic, heroin-like, completely soul numbing drug that it is) but I'm thinking now is not the time for that. One of the ladies on the bargain board gave me an application that might enable me to get it for free, otherwise I will throw myself at my doctor's mercy and beg her for samples. I've cried in front of her before, I'm not afraid to do it again for the sake of chemical balance.

-MAJOR grocery bill reduction. We actually just called about getting a box of food from Angel Food Ministries. It's not just for poor people, it's a great value, and the bargain board is always raving about it. There is some joking between Mr. Ashley and I about our "welfare" food, but there are only so many "breakfasts for dinner" or hot dogs one can have before things start to look dismal.

We are also using way less of everything. I am more conscious of the line on the detergent cup, I only fill one of the spaces in the dishwasher with soap, I use less coffee, water down juice, use cloth napkins and rags more often, etc. I even made baby wipes out of paper towels because we were out, and you know what? It's not that bad.

We also buy only what we need, and usually in bulk. At Costco I've been getting those restaurant sized cans of sliced peaches and fruit cocktail for $4 and pouring them into tupperware. One of those ginormous cans lasts us for about a month and the kids love it.

-Get back on potty training. When little kid's interest faded, so did mine, because I'm sick of fighting with him about bathroom usage and cleaning up poop. But diapers are expensive and it is the inevitable, so it's time to get back on the pot.

-Turned off 1-click ordering on Amazon. Go ahead and laugh, but it was a problem. I have a Prime account, which means I don't have to pay for shipping, and I really really really love ordering shit and having it here two days later with the click of one button. I am already going through MAJOR book withdrawals, because I'm not happy with the book I have left to read, but I will be finding a cheaper way to get books. These cheaper ways include Goodwill, my grandpa's clubhouse's reading library (they don't know about me yet), my local friends, garage sales, etc. Yes, this means I won't be able to indulge every fascination that strikes my fancy, and it means doing my "themed reading" that I enjoy so much will be difficult, if not impossible, but I will survive. As long as I can read.

-Do all of the free photography marketing that I can think of, and hound people to buy more of their photos. Also, stop giving away so much...I'm too nice.

-Sell kick ass Phil & Ted stroller and some other high end stuff I no longer need on Craigslist.

That's all I can think of for now. Do any of you have any great money saving tips? Do share, lots of us closet dwellers are in need.

My New Future Plan (aka things I vow to do differently):

1. As soon as humanly possible, sell everything and migrate to a lower cost of living area, probably in a country-like setting with a family of goats, a horse, and some chickens. (This will take a while, but it will be my dream until then.)

2. Pay cash for everything.

3. Have less. Appreciate more.

So basically, the complete opposite from the Plan of 10 Years Ago. All of this Stuff isn't worth it. At least I figured it out while I'm young and at least there is still plenty of time for new plans.

It will be fine. I'll think of it as An Adventure. An Experiment in Poverty and a Lesson in Simplifying. Yeah, maybe it will even be fun!

Things are going to be just fine.


Insane Mama said...

I am SO poor, it takes some getting used to and a lot of creativity, we just strted our own business, and lets just say, it is NOT going well. We shop at the salvation army, seriously. And the dollar store.

Lyla Lou said...

WOW, good luck! I guess I should start reading some older posts, it's so hard to catch up when you find a new blog you like. But I really like it so far!

Anonymous said...

You mentioned your toilet paper baby wipes so I thought I'd give you my paper towel baby wipe recipe. They take 10 minutes and are super cheap!
2 cups Water
2 tablespoons of baby oil
2 tablespoons of Johnson's baby wash (or other plain baby wash)

Mix the above ingredients in a 3-quart container. Cut a roll of paper towels in half with a sharp knife, and then trim the roughage with scissors. Place one half of the roll into the container. Put the top on the container and flip it over for one hour. After one hour, open container and pull the brown roll from the center. Wipes pull up from the center.

P.S. It is important to mix the liquid ingredients before putting the paper towels in. They turn out really weird things if you do it the other way around! And if they ever dry out, just add a little water to refresh!

I actually make two containers everytime I have to cut a roll so I don't have a weird half-roll of paper towels lying around. It would freak me out a little because I wouldn't know where to keep it. I also buy the large bundel of paper towels from Sam's Club (no Costco by me) and they last for several months.

I'm also starting to potty training my DD, who is the same age as little kid, and I leave them in the bathroom because they are easier than toilet paper to wipe her with.

I hope this helps!


Anonymous said...

Do you have a Half Price Books near you?? I take my old books in and sell them back "new" ones. It's the best deal around! Also DVD's and kids books.

Maddness of Me said...

Maybe you could list the books you are looking to read here on your site before you buy them? This way the gazillion people reading every day would be more than willing to send it your way. I know I would in a heartbeat.

Do you have, or know someone who has a post office box? In case you worry about anonymity. They cost a surprisingly low amount. Mine is $13 a year.

Also, sell the Durango. You probably thought of that.

I'm hearing good things about clothes for kids at Salvation Army. Sounds bad but I hear they aren't as bad as, say... Goodwill.

Unknown said...

Katie, thanks for the recipe! I'll try that, for sure.

No half price books around here, unfortunately.

Good idea about hitting you all up for books. Selling the Durango is a no-go because we are SO right side up in it. We bought it off of Ebay, got a great deal, and put down a big down payment. Plus, dealerships don't want SUVs right now.

Luckily, the boys are well dressed because I buy on sale and far in advance. I also have all of their birthday presents already bought (CLEARANCE!), so they won't be suffering.

Marie said...

Another little tip on baby wipes is to use Viva paper towels.

We have used angel food ministries and loved it.

Also we use craigs list and my advice with that is do not be afraid to think outside the box becuase people will be buy just about anything on there not just the expensive stuff. We sell our sports equipment that gets outgrown and all kinds of stuff.

Rebecca said...

Have you heard of MagicJack? It's WAY cheaper than Vonage... A lot of the bargain forums that I go to swear by it now...

Anonymous said...

GREAT idea about the books! I'm sure with all of the smart cookies on here, we can come up with some other good ones, too.

Ashley, this really sucks. You don't need me to tell you that, though. Lots of xoxoxoxoxo!

Yellow Fence said...

You should also consider bartering your photography services for stuff. I'm sure you can get at least a few things for free for doing a photo shoot for someone. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Check out It is AWESOME! You post the books you have that you are ready to part with. When someone requests one you mail it to them and when they recieve it you get a credit to request a book from someone else. I have saved I don't know how many bazillions of dollars using this website!

- Zoe

~Gretchen~ said...

this sounds so familiar right now. Dowlan's last paycheck came yesterday and I have an application filled out for Payless Shoes waiting for us to get back home on Monday.

It is humbling. Me, with my college degree and cushy life, stocking shoes.

Angelfood has truly been a Godsend. and you will find that you really can get by with things you always thought you had to have.

We were in the grocery store last week and Dixie kept reaching for EVERYTHING on the shelves. I told her, "Honey, your dad lost his job. we can't get extras right now. We're just getting what we absolutely need."

She stuck out her bottom lip and thought about it. Then asked, "Mommy, when do I get to lose MY job?"

I told her, "Never. You're feeding that cat every day until either it dies or you do."

You'll figure it out.

Judy said...

Try and see if there is a group around you. I not only give but get oodles of stuff off of here - books, plants (we got strawberry plants last week for my MIL), clothes, and I even got three brand new pairs of shoes off of there last year - one for me and two for my older son! Give them a try...its free at least!

KatBouska said...

Can Big Kid get a job??

And you're going to hate the sound of this, but I tell all SAHM's the best way to make a little extra money is to watch. other. children. It is NOT bad!! They keep your kids entertained and you just over see everything.

Advertise on craigslist. Take in one or two for 500 a month, or whatever the going rate is in your area. That's a good chunk of extra change in your bank account and you can still do some blogging...I swear it's worth the headache!!

Amy said...

A night job in a bookstore? That sounds kind of nice.

I'm not one to be spouting off about being frugal, however, Meredith at Like Merchant Ships - well, she's the Queen and her archives are possibly a goldmine.

Anonymous said...
You can swap paperbacks and hardbacks, I love and use it all the time.

Anonymous said...

ah, welcome to my life. it's amazing how many things you realize you don't need or could be cut back. our last desperate measure was the garbage man. saved $18 a month, woohoo! everything else is bare minimum already.

and a slight hijack - my 4yo has been in the hospital since sunday, and not sure when he'll be coming home, so just asking your readers to keep him in your prayers. (click me for his website)

Unknown said...

Jenny, I'm trying to click you because I want to know what's going on with your kiddo, but you are not linked. Will you please give us a link? I'm really sorry to hear that, it's a good reminder of what IS worth freaking out about.

Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I'm excited to check out that paperback website, and I do need to reconnect with my local freecycle group. Also, I posted a bartering offer once before on CL, I'll have to do that again, it is a good idea in this economy!

Kathy, negatory to more kids. I'd rather work nights somewhere ;-) Off to check out that merchant ships chick.

Gretchen LMFAO about the job thing. Keep these damn kids working.

Hippie at Heart said...

For free ebooks I use & I'm in love with it. They have millions of books on every subject imaginable. Tons of fiction, non fiction, kid's books, crafts, photography, etc.

My 6 year old dd adores reading books on the laptop. I just finished reading The Other Boleyn Girl last night so I downloaded 2 of Philippa Gregory's other books to start soon.

Sure, ebooks are not as convenient as having a paperback to carry around but they're free & at least you don't have to worry about the dog pissing on them.

jenn said...

I try to fix vegetarian meals for my family at least twice a week. Meat really jacks up the grocery bill.

Also, cleaning with white vinegar instead of name brand cleaning supplies.

Good luck!

clemsongirlandthecoach said...

Well. That's a big old pile of shit to deal with. Coach and I totally get it. Really, really get it. In ways you can't imagine and I refuse to type.

Here's what I am thinking. Clemsongirl and Ashley take to Broadway...surely that'll make some dollars?

Multislacking Mama said...

Sister Wife, this is not going to last forever. I lived through a horrifying time with DH losing his job in February.

I'm positive you are not going to have to sell your house and move. This is temporary. That isn't going to make right now any better, so I'm thinking about you and sending you all of the positive thoughts I have for a New Job for Mr. Ashley.


Mel said...

Hey Ashley,

I don't have satellite, but I do have digital cable. I will DVR some stuff for BK and LK, burn it to a disc and send it your way. If you are interested, let me know which channels, which shows, etc. I know its not much, but it might take the edge off for the kiddos. It wouldn't be a problem at all, I'd love to help.

Anonymous said...

Hey! I'm not sure if larger stores do this or not, but I work at American Eagle 4 nights (from 9pm-6am) a month...once the store closes, I go in and change out all the old displays to the new ones. Super fun & can wear old comfy clothes, because no one is shopping, I even take my ipod with me! You don't get paid very much...but the discount is great! You should try somewhere that has clothes for the whole family! A little extra money, and cheep clothes!

hicktowndiva said...

Hi Ashley!
As for saving money, I use a clothes line and wooden clotheshorse instead of my dryer. I count hanging up clothes as exercise...also, instead of sponges and paper towels and Swiffer cloths, I keep a basket of white washclothes on the kitchen counter. (Bought super-cheap at Wal-Mart). I throw them into a plastic bin that I keep on top of the washer as they get used, and I toss them in the wash when it's time to run a load. A little non-chlorine bleach and borax keep them white.

Anonymous said... has lots of tricks for cutting the grocery bill.

I tried angelfood, but with the cost of gas to drive and pick it up, it wasn't worth it. But, if you had one close, it wasn't too bad.

Unknown said...

You guys are the best! Mel, I'll let you know if I notice Big Kid seriously jonesing for anything. Today he wasn't too bad, once it sunk in that options were limited.

I had forgotten about Hillbilly Housewife, I'll have to go check her out again.

Sister Wife, you don't want to live on a farm, do you? LOL! I know I won't have to sell my house, but one day I want to be 100% debt free, including mortgage, and moving out of Vacationland is the only way that will happen. A much simpler life sounds like a dream come true (and it is do-able, one day).

The American Eagle job sounds interesting. I would love that. What is that position called?

Anonymous said...

The american eagle position is called "Floor Set"

Jaime said...

Hey ashley, I'm really sorry to hear about Mr. Ashley's job. I've been sort of doing the same thing you're doing with my blog, although I didn't cancel my cable- that's some serious shit! :) anyway, I'm sure you'll be fine, your situation isn't permanent and working at a bookstore is actually really, really fun, and you get a great discount. Good luck!

Unknown said... and are awesome. all you do is pay media mail shipping (like $2) to exchange books and movies.

Lipstick said...

Hey Ashley,
Try and search the listing for your meds. You may be able to get your meds directly from the drug company. Stocking up on samples from your doc is great, but it can be temporary. If a drug has a large market share already, the drug reps do not deliver as many samples. I help patients with these assistance programs everyday and if you would like more tips, email me-I would be more than happy to help.

Mitch said...

Ok, this one is hard for me because we're going through the exact same thing. I am loving your angel food suggestion and am going to pass it on to E. I just wanted to say thanks for posting this -- it has given me a ton of ideas on how to cut back!

Anonymous said...

IF there is anyway to maintain your health insurance I would try to not cut that out. Sell everything you can to keep it and change to a high deductable plan for a much lower payment. As an insurance agent (in my former life, much like your real estate, lol) I have seen a lot of people end up regretting canceling it altogether.

Lipstick said...

oops... i screwed up my email address in the comment about
Best wishes, air kiss, love your blog.

Jennifer said...

I'm about to go to bed and I'll say something meaningful later, but for now you need to call in some favors and get some dvds burned from some of the readers here who know how to do that. I know my friend Ashley can burn shit off of tivo onto dvds so someone should be able to hook BK up with Crackhouse Disney.

Hopefully someone will step up and help you out in your time of premium channel deprivation.

We are tightening down here too, just because shit costs too much and I don't like wasting money on crap like toilet paper and food. I have the family on rations so that we aren't spending like we're printing money.

Anonymous said...

I recently did a cost comparison with Target and Sam's (no Costco here either). The majority of supplies I buy for the house are cheaper at Sam's and the things that weren't cheaper were equal to Target or only less than 5 cents difference. Everything from dishwasher detergent to toilet paper ranked good there...including soap and shampoo.

And to get my Target fix, I still shop the dollar spot. Though it's better to set a limit in that section.

Life, Love And Lola said...

I'm a freebie whore! Go on to she updates daily with new freebies. Everything from laundry detergent, shampoo, toothpaste, dog treats. The freebies add up and result in huge savings!

Joy said...

Oh yea being poor sucks, we have been poor since I became a SAHM when oldest was born.

I try to sell the kids outgrown stuff to a consignment store, I recently started babysitting ($130/wk) but hey it helps. We try to stay at home as much as possible. Clip coupons and make sure to use them.

I will be checking into all these links.

Life, Love And Lola said...

Oh, and I sold all of my scrap gold recently and made $606.00

Emmy said...

Funny thing about scaling back is that once you start you get really creative and it starts to become kind of fund finding creative ways to get the things you need and want.

When you're ready to move, head my way! Its beautiful here, we don't have a lot of concerns about natural disasters, the cost of living is pretty good, and you can either have the farm, or visit one because they are everywhere!

Anonymous said...

Can I ask which bargain board you're referring to in your post? I'm always on the hunt for more cheap-cheap info.

Honestly, I get all of our clothes at St. Vincent dePaul (Goodwill here is too $$), yard sales and rummage sales. It's an adventure to me and the kids look great for pennies. I also use a price book for grocery shopping and follow the Tightwad Gazette's Pantry principle--plan your meals by what you have and not by the Sunday flyer. Read the Tightwad Gazette books, for free from your library of course. Use Mr. Ashley's card. Lots of great ways to save in there--a Tightwad Bible for me.

And we have rabbit ears on our TVs; no cable for 5+ years. Sucks during summer reruns but it's free.

One of my favorite frugal website is Lots of ideas, recipes, there. Good luck and you're not alone!

Barb McMahon and Alan Mailloux said...

We've been in your position (sans kids) many times through the years. You will get through this and be just fine.

One book worth buying is The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. It's full of great money-saving ideas and thoughtful essays, written by a woman who cut back by choice.

The good news is that, once the tough times are over, you'll know what you need and what you can live without. This lets you live a life most people can only dream of. For example - my husband and I can manage a trip to Paris every couple of years because we gave up the dryer, cable TV and we only eat meat occasionally. It's a matter of learning what your particular priorities are.

So, it can be empowering, but still, I'm so sorry you have to go through this.

Anonymous said...

sorry, thought i was smart for a second there - it's

he is such a trooper and an inspiration.

yall just reminded me that my town recently started angelfood, i'm gonna have to check it out.

Becky said...

Not sure if the electric bill is a big deal for you but we lived when we lived in Orlando we had our electric bill calculated on an average. I think was called Budget Billing or something of the sort. You see my husband is a teacher and no pay during the summer hot months would play havoc on my perfect planned out budget.

carolinesc7 said...

Oh, Ashley! I feel for you - I am one of your "in the closet" closet readers--as in I've never posted here before. A few ideas...check out - then go to the message board section for freebies. You can score TONS of free product samples, deoderants, soaps, etc. It takes a while for them to come sometimes, but I have gotten a lot of good stuff from there. I think I saw someone else had recommended "trading" services....that can work out nicely sometimes. Definitely hit up yard sales on the weekends. That can be entertaining, as well as rewarding. I WAS going to recommend the library....but oh, well......Why don't you get a job as a "mystery shopper" - I think you'd be perfect for that. Look in your local paper or online. For quick cash, waiting tables is good - and you prob have the personality for it. Look online and do the whole "once a month" cooking thing - that is pretty frugle. Coming from someone with "emotional" baggage - I probably wouldn't recommend keeping kids - that will just make you crazy, although the money could be good - I pay a SAH mom to watch my girls. Go meatless when you can, and shop at Farmer's market for veggies. You and some of these other bloggers should take the show on the road and do stand-up comedy..Anyway, hang in there - my husband lost his job years ago, before kids, thank goodness, but after months out of work, he opened his own business, and it was the best thing. I know it sucks now, though. I know you aren't totally religious, but I will pray for better times for you!!:) Rock on!

Multislacking Mama said...

Sister Wife does not live on the farm, but I do have a garden that is overgrown with garlic and weeds. No time to get out there and garden b/c the BLM would climb up the tree and jump down just for fun.

I do have a loverly home (older). In my corner of the world, RE market is good and my employer kicks ass with benefits and salary.

I know Okla-by-God-Homa sucks ass compared to South Florida. I would still welcome you to Sister Wife in OK. We have a kick ass multi media department and they are always looking for photogs. I don't know what Mr. Ashley does but I could put him on the hook up. COL is low here and schools are wonderful.

Not that you would really consider it. Things are going to even out for the Ashley's and you are going to make it.

Try to stay strong and know that you are in my thoughts-


Unknown said...

I do a book giveaway on my blog every week and you could get a FREE one there if you win. :)

I'm a perpetual thrifter and even turned it into my job so I get all my books that way. I have a ton of them.. heck, I bought more today. How can I pass up 39 cents a paperback?

Hippie at Heart said...

Surf the channel is another awesome site that I forgot to suggest earlier. You can also download some sort of video recorder (if you use Firefox they have one) & record the show for Big Kid to watch. I put them on my dd's (knock-off) ipod.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if you still have cable or not (BK was complaining of fuzzy basic cable?), but if not, go get one of those tv converter boxes. We cut off DirecTV a few months ago (WAAAAAH!) and applied for the $40 coupon from this site ( and spent about $10 for the box. With the converter, your basic 3 fuzzy channels turn into about 10 with improved clarity. My kids can only watch PBS, but hey, it's something. And I don't have to listen to "can you change this??" all the time becuse they know they only have one choice! Plus, less options = less time in front of the tube. Good luck, I completely feel your pain!!

Life, Love And Lola said...

Freebies for you
Go to

Free Razor, Cheerios, Puperoni dog treats, and placemats.

I'm looking out for you sister!