Monday, January 18, 2016

Learn to live on less and you'll never have to accept a job that is beneath your dignity

I tend to agree that any honest day's work is good work. But I also can see that not all work is afforded respect by others. In fact, the disrespect can make an okay job feel like one that is beneath your dignity.

In my teen and early adult years, I had my share of jobs where I was treated as less-than, primarily in restaurant work and department stores. Undignified working conditions exist in every field and at every level. Even when I held positions of authority, I was subjected to the moods and insults from diners, customers, fellow employees and supervisors/owners. Presently, at my age, I feel that I have had enough disrespect to last my lifetime.

I recently had someone suggest (and quite lovingly, at that) I should take on some part time work at a fast food restaurant, coffee house or even the graveyard shift at the nearby gas station/convenience store, to increase our family's household budget.

My response was that I had learned to live on less, so that I would never "have" to take on work that I didn't want.

Don't get me wrong. I actually do want to work at a paying job (and currently do work for pay, very part time), and I am looking for the right position. But by adopting frugal living techniques, I can take my time to find the most suitable job to use the gifts that God has given me. In other words, I'm not looking for any old job, for the extra money. I'm looking for paying work that I find fulfilling, and where I am treated with basic respect.

We all are given choices in this life. We can choose to work for pay, more, so that we can afford luxury items of desire. Or we can choose to work for pay, less, and not indulge in full-price luxuries.

For me, I choose to focus my energies on activities that I find enjoyable, yet still fulfill our frugal objectives, so that I can take time to nail down that dream job of mine.

Along these lines, at a meeting the other day, I was talking with a gentleman about the nature of my blog. He asked if I had interest in extreme couponing. I told him, no, that I take a different approach to some frugal activities. I told him that I learned to bake bread, so that I wouldn't have to rely on finding coupons or sales for bread. Personally, I'd rather pursue the activity of baking than coupon collecting. That's my preference.

Sometimes, our choices and actions really go against the grain in today's culture. And sometimes, it's hard to be forthcoming about our frugal endeavors, with some family and friends who just don't get it. For instance, that our lovely new sweater was bought at Goodwill, or that we dine in restaurants just a handful of times per year, or that we cut our own hair, or have our husbands do it for us. Many of our friends and family have chosen "the extra paying work to afford luxuries" route. This can make defending our choice to live on less, well, awkward, some of the time.

But I think I would rather have that awkward conversation or two, than sacrifice my dignity by working for a nasty-tempered boss, or have to placate unhappy customers, or work hours that would rob me of needed sleep.

If a job is a means to an end, the end being enough money to pay my way in this world, isn't being frugal just a different means to the same end, if I can trim the fat through frugal endeavors, so that all of our bills are paid?

Knowledge is power. Teaching oneself how to do for ourselves what we have been paying others to do for us, generates power over how we can choose to live out our lives. I wasn't born knowing how to bake bread. My mother never baked bread. I learned this on my own. Likewise, my mother never made her own window cleaning solution, nor did she replace broken underwires in her bras. With each new frugal frontier that I conquer in my own life, be it large or small, I gain confidence that I will be able to conquer the next frontier. And I can see that all of my efforts when combined, make a significant difference in our finances, enough of a differnce to off-set working without pay.

And you know, I don't feel that I "have" to bake bread or hang laundry. I am choosing these activities, sometimes as the lesser of two evils. I would rather bake and cook from scratch, and hang dry my laundry, than feel a part of me is "owned" by an employer. I have chosen to live on less, so that I will never have to accept a job that is beneath my dignity.

And what about that argument that I am "training" my daughters to only see themselves as potential homemakers? What I feel I am teaching my daughters is that they have choices in this life. Yes, they could decide that they want to work in the home. But they could just as easily use what they've seen in me to pursue careers which are not financially lucrative, yet are personally fulfilling, by using the many frugal living techniques that I've modeled, to make ends meet on a shoestring income. I hope that I am modeling "choice" to my daughters and son.

Choices. I've widened my view of just what my choices are in this life. As a result, I have so many opportunities before me.

33 comments:

  1. This reminded me of the story...

    The philosopher Diogenes was quite famous but very poor. One day he was sitting eating his usual meal of bread and cooked lentils, all that he could afford. Another philosopher walked by Diogeneses. This man was Aristippus who was not nearly as well known as Diogenes but he lived a prosperous and comfortable life by constantly flattering the king. Aristippus said, “If you would learn to be subservient to the king, you would not have to live on lentils.” Said Diogenes: “If you would learn to live on lentils, you wouldn't have to be subservient to the king!”

    Such a great blog post, Lili.

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    1. Good morning, Belinda,
      Exactly! It's so freeing to know that you aren't pinned into one way of life or the other, that we do have choices.

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  2. Well said. It's all about choices and choosing what's right for you. Personally, we have always lived below our means so that we have choices also.

    From reading several frugal blogs, I sense the same discussion/defensiveness between frugal people and less frugal people as there is between stay at home moms and work outside the home moms. It's usually a very personal choice for someone that has been made with much consideration and seems like the right one. So sometimes it's hard for people to see beyond there own circumstances to realize that one size doesn't fit all. Thus some of the questions and comments that people make to someone who is not practicing the same thing that they are. I certainly have had my own share during my life time from both sides of the aisle having been a full time working mom and a stay at home mom and earning a professional salary to earning no money at all.








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    1. Hi live and learn,
      It is primarily a matter of choice. Many times that choice doesn't come into play until after we've been in a working situation for a time, and we can see what we're sacrificing, and weigh the options. It's not an easy choice, more wealth or more personal fulfillment, as more often then not, we're thinking about how our choices will impact others close to us. We don't want to shortchange our children any of the things that we think they could benefit from. I've had pangs of guilt, over the years, worrying that perhaps my children have been disadvantaged in some way or other, by my choices. And I just have to trust that whatever choices I made in the past, that God will make sure my children are not permanently hindered by them.

      But in the end, for myself, it is liberating to know that I do have choices.

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  3. Lili, I hope I was clear that I wasn't thinking that you are not respecting others choices. I was trying to explain some of the comments you get.

    (I can't get the whole field in view at once when I'm writing my comments, so I have to keep scrolling back and forth. Sometimes while doing this I lose my train of thought.)

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  4. Oh Lili!! You said it so well. W have made those choices also in order to retire early. No regrets . Keep doing what you're doing .

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    1. Thank you! And that is another area that this choice can impact -- retirement. Many folks right here, who read this blog, are now in the position that they are choosing quality of life/more free time, over a larger pension. I had this conversation with a friend over the weekend, about the many, many ways to cut expenses, in order to enjoy retirement or semi-retirement, instead of dealing with difficult clients on a daily basis.

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  6. Yes to this! Have you ever read the book Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes? It is very much about this very topic....loved it. Anyway, I can relate to this so much. Last year, I took a job at our local library. And enjoyed most of the work. However, being in this type of job, I had no say over my hours and it took away from my time at home and some of my evenings/Saturdays with my family. So I gave notice after 3 months. I have been looking for something I can do that works with the kids' school schedule, but the main job I've found here is substitute teaching, and quite frankly, it sounds quite dreadful (somewhat depending on the age I would end up with). So I've been looking for ways/things to cut rather than take this on. We survive okay on my husband's income, but it would be nice to have a little extra for fun things, trips, wiggle room, etc... .

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    1. Hi Cat,
      Especially when my kids were small, I found the same thing to be true. I tried working more hours and it just shortchanged our family life.
      Wishing you success with finding just the right thing!

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  7. But there's also no shame for people who work in customer service because they don't have that second income or the second income isn't enough even with the most frugal choices at home. (Or because they like waitressing etc.)

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    1. Hi nicoleandmaggie,
      And anyone in that situation has my sympathies. When I was younger, I was in that exact situation, having to take any job just to pay my rent. I just wish that as a society, we could all be more respectful of other people, in all of our dealings. No one should have to work in a situation where they feel they are not accorded basic respect.

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  8. It was a long time ago when I was in a lady's group from church and we had same aged kids and we all mostly were stay at home moms. I had always worked outside the home and it was time to go back when my youngest started school fulltime. They all thought that I was wrong and really tormented me for that. My kids were not compromised, and I had the flexibility to get them to school and be home when they got home, hubby was there for many of times since his work schedule gave him plenty of days off. I just couldn't believe that they believed that everyone should do what they did. I love my job. Interesting, that each one of those women now have some kind of outside-the-home job now that their kids are grown up. I think that staying home or working outside the home is a personal/family decision and I for one have never cut someone down for staying home or working outside the home. My husband took an early retirement 3 years ago and he doesn't get a lot in pension. I'm very thankful that I had/have my job during this transition as it keeps the income flowing. He now has medical issues (hip replacement coming soon!) and he can't even work doing anything until that is done and again, I'm thankful for my job.

    Alice

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    1. Hi Alice,
      I'm very glad for you, too, that you can now be such significant financial support for your family. That is such a blessing to your family, and I'm sure they appreciate what you do.

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  9. I think let the numbers speak....if you can afford to live the way you do and pay your way in life, who has the right to judge? That's what I told myself constantly over the last 21 years while doing the menial work we did. I was asked more times than I care to remember why I did "that" kind of work, being the studious "A" student from college and high school. One female vendor who came around to give estimates rubbed it in when seeing me in my grubby work clothes, saying she doesn't lift a finger to help her husband who did the manual work. Worse was choosing to live beneath my means (to save for retirement), while at the same time doing this kind of work that seemed to everyone beneath themselves. BUT....today as I sit here, I am able to retire early, so I know that was the right choice for me. And only now do I realize how awful those years were. But I told myself numbers don't lie, and that kept me putting up with the disdain. As far as doing the work, I loved it. In a funny way, I miss it sometimes....I know I couldn't stand an "office" environment, so I had to do something else. The best was working with my husband everyday for the last twenty years...,the other comment I heard constantly was a disbelief that we work together so well... most said they would end up fighting but we enjoyed ourselves.

    I also know it was the right course for me...to take care of our finances first, then pursue my dream job if you will...making art. I know I would not have lasted being a starving artist.

    I also think of frugality as a "job"...in our retirement, as our third leg. If I had the idea earlier, and could be as carefully frugal as you, Lili, I might have been that artist 21 years ago and made a go at it.

    YHF

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    1. Hu YHF,
      you know, my thoughts today could have just as easily been "learn to live on less and you may be able to retire sooner than you thought". Your choices have really suited you well, too. And that's how we should approach our own choices, by thinking about how best to live out our lives.

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    2. I frankly think our society likes winners or people who seem like winners. That's why we tend to RATE people by the jobs they do, what they look like or where they live. In contrast, I like to think of my own lifestyle needs and wants, how I manage my money and resources, and what I want to do in my 24 hours on earth.

      I think if we could see a snapshot of everyone's balance sheets as well as their outward show of status, we could all be better judges of who the true winners are. I'm sure if you look at your own balance sheet you will not be disappointed.

      YHF

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  10. Well said, Lili. People need to realize we all make different choices for different reasons. What is right for one, isn't right for another. We have always lived below our means, and for us that meant me being at home while our kids were growing up, college without debt, and an earlier retirement for my husband. While not everyone can have as much choice in this, frugal living can be so fulfilling, knowing that we can live on less and still have a full life.
    Mary

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    1. Hi Mary,
      Yes, I really agree, it's all part of acceptance and tolerance for the differences among us. It sounds like you and your husband made the right choices for your family.

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  11. This is a great post Lili. You are right, it is a matter of choosing the right situation for each person and or family. I've done both the working & staying home & to be totally honest I am still not quite sure which is right for us. I always worked FT outside the home until my job was eliminated 5 years ago. While at home I decided that I really like being home so as of yet I have not yet returned to working outside the home. We always have lived below our means & were good at saving while I was working. Now I have my ebay store to bring in some extra income which helps but sometimes I feel guilty when we have unexpected expenses & need to pull money out of savings as when I was working it would have been much easier to get that money back into savings. This past year we had several large expenses such as new heater, new garage door, new fridge that were all necessary so that was a huge chunk out of savings that made me sit back & think wow maybe I should be working, but you know what I really am happier at home & also able to do more frugal things to help finances because I am at home. That may change one day but for now it works for us.
    Rhonda

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    1. Hi Rhonda,
      You know, I have felt guilt at times, too. Wondering if I was indeed pulling my weight financially. In the end, I'm pretty sure I've made the right choices for our family.

      When those unexpected big expenses come up, it seems that the way back on track is through consistency in frugal choices. And it seems that it takes longer with that consistency, to rebuild the savings, than if you had additional paying work. But, when you keep at it, you can see that you are getting back on track, just takes longer (and being vigilant about consistency), I think.

      It sounds like you had more than your share of needs for upgrades/replacements in your house this past year. Ouch! But you were able to manage them because of your frugal choices. I think you're doing great!

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  12. I think in our society, people have a hard time thinking "outside the box." If your life doesn't fit "inside the box," you'll get push back for it. Right now, our 12 passenger van has a couple of big spots on the hood that are missing paint. Frankly, it's a bit embarrassing. But all of our cars are paid for. I have heat in my house, a nice comfortable bed, a washer & dryer. I have 3 freezers and a pantry full of food. And I'm able to stay at home and homeschool my babies. And I can put those babies in the tub to clean them up with clean, fresh water any time I want. I'm rich! Rich, I tell you! And as for the van hood, although we could pull the money out of our savings to cover a repaint, we decided the van isn't worth it. We have our eyes on the junk yard websites looking for a new-to-us hood. Melissa

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    1. Hi Melissa,
      Oh, you want to talk about beater cars -- I really should post a photo of my husband's car. It was great in its prime, but now no amount of new paint jobs could revive it (1988 Buick). When I feel embarrassment over things like this, I try to remind myself of our financial goals and choices. A moment of embarrassment, now, is an okay price to pay for knowing that there will be enough money to provide for ourselves in our golden years.

      And you're absolutely right, we ARE rich. Roof, water, food, warmth, clothing, medical care -- those are givens for us. A lot of people in this world cannot say the same, sadly. May God bless them.

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  13. Great, great post, Lili! And I'm glad that you mentioned your son, too. There's something to be learned about using time, energy AND monetary resources wisely for our young men, as well as our young ladies! :) Sara

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    1. Hi Sara,
      Definitely! Our young men deserve the opportunity to pursue their passions, too (which may or may not come with lucrative income)!

      In the comments, you likely have "met" live and learn. She has two sons, close to the ages of your sons. One of them was in university for business, I believe, and doing well in his coursework. But he discovered it wasn't his passion. He was passionate about clocks, the old time ones, with springs and gears and all of that (IIRC). He was able to change direction for his career, because his parents had modeled frugal living choices.

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  14. I definitely agree that being able to live on less affords you much more flexibility in finding a job that is a good fit. However, all jobs (even the good ones) have their moments with bosses or clients/customers occasionally. And after being mostly out of the paid workforce for many years (from what I've gathered from your posts), you might have to start out in a lower level job and then work your way into a better position. Or have you thought about doing something entrepreneurial? That has its own challenges but would enable you to do things more on your own terms.

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    1. Hi Kathryn,
      A saving grace for finding any kind of work, is that there are jobs where despite being hired in at a low level, there is plenty of respect to go around. Thanks for your thoughts and suggestions on this!

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  15. Oh, you're gonna hit a nerve with this one! I feel like I don't fall into either category--since I work as a "substitute" therapist, my hours are widely variable. For myself, now that my kids are in school, I would be bored if I didn't work at all; however, I know myself well enough to be aware that working full-time would be a bad match for me. Not only would it make our family life crazy complicated, but I would feel overwhelmed with family and work priorities and I would not be giving my best either to my job or to my family.

    I am with you on the "choices" aspect of this. I strongly feel there are no right or wrong answers to working full-time, part-time, or being a homemaker. I think we women are missing the point when we insist everyone behaves in a carbon copy manner. If someone isn't asking to borrow money from me, what do I care if they don't have a paying job? And while I think there are a lot of benefits to our children by being available more rather than less, I have seen children grow into responsible adults from both kinds of family working arrangements ... which leads me to conclude that perhaps moms who work full-time outside the home have skills I don't possess to juggle it all. Ultimately, I think, on both sides of the equation, we women need to support each other's choices. We don't know what goes on behind closed doors which can influence those choices. Sermon over. :)

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    1. Hi Kris,
      You're right, we really don't know what influences another person's choice, or how the details of their life are being played out, or what all it entails for them to continue on in their roles. And because of that, it's really unfair of any of us to pass judgment, from either side.

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  16. I LOVE this post!!!

    For me, you hit the nail on the head with the part about feeling like your life is at least partially "owned" by your employer. Even when I was running the music school, a job that I really loved, with an organization that I loved - I still felt like my life was not my own, and I found the sensation to be almost intolerable.

    I'm quite sure that my lifestyle mystifies some of the people around me, but I think it all boils down to a question of priorities and perspective. I've often had neighbors say things to me about "how hard I work" when I'm outside working on the house, or pulling weeds, or gardening or whatever.

    The comments always leave me feeling a bit baffled, because I don't see it that way at all. What I see is that I'm escaping "work" by doing things myself. One hour on the ladder cleaning out the gutters vs. multiple hours behind a desk, or dealing with some sort of office politics so that I can afford to pay someone else to do it for me - well that's a good trade in my book!

    KUDOS to you for showing your kids that a different path is possible!

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    1. Thanks, Cat,
      That's a good point, the hours that you would have to work at a paying job, in order to hire out some of the work at home. As a choice, you've chosen the type of work that you do find enjoyment in. It's a mindful choice.

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I'm so glad that you stopped by today. Please comment, and let me know what you're thinking.