Living Like Farmer Boy ~ Contentment = Thrifty

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As I was reading through the chapter in Farmer Boy called “Winter Night” I loved the picture that started forming in my head. I’m pretty sure that Laura intended the reader to form that picture from the way she used word imagery. Sorry this paragraph is a little long but think about the images this brings up.

“They all settled down cosily by the bog stove in the dining room wall. The back of the stove was in the parlor, where nobody went except when company came. It was a fine stove; its chimney warmed the bedrooms upstairs, and its whole top was an oven. Royal open its iron door, and with the poker he broke the charred logs into a shimmering bed of coals. He put three handfuls of popcorn into the big wire popper, and shook the popper over the coals. In a little while a kernel popped, then another, then three or four at once, and all at once furiously the hundreds of little kernels exploded. When the big dishpan was heaping full of fluffy white popcorn, Alice poured melted butter over it, and stirred and salted it. It was hot and crackling crisp, and deliciously buttery and salty, and everyone could eat all he wanted to. Mother knitted and rocked in her high-backed rocking chair. Father carefully scraped a new ax-handle with a bit of broken glass. Royal carved a chain of tiny links from a smooth stick of pine, and Alice sat on her hassock, doing her woolwork embroidery. And they all ate popcorn and apples, and drank sweet cider, except Eliza Jane. Eliza Jane read aloud the news in the New York weekly paper.”

Doesn’t that put a nice picture in your head? One cozy happy family all gathered in the same room snacking and working on projects together? Maybe you are thinking, are you kidding? That doesn’t happen anymore. A modern paragraph might read like this.

“Royal whipped a box of Twinkies out of the pantry. Mother was in the living room watching American Idol with Father. Royal grabbed his gameboy and flopped down on the couch. Alice was on her laptop, online shopping and Eliza Jane was surfing Facebook from her iPhone.”

Ok, I might have over exaggerated a little on that one, but you get my point. Now, taking away the extra things let’s look at what I talked about in my paragraph vs what they were doing in the book in a financial sense. (Oh course this is written to what things cost today.)

Farmer Boy Items:

Popcorn ~ .25
Butter ~ .10
Salt ~ pennies
Apples ~ $2
Yarn ~ $3 (although I’m guessing Mother had her own from her own sheep)
Broken Glass ~ Well I’m hoping Father didn’t pay for this
Thread ~ .50
Newspaper ~ $1

Total: 6.85 if we include the yarn

Modern Paragraph Items:

Twinkies ~ $2
TV ~ $450
Laptop ~ $500
Gameboy ~ $150
iPhone ~ $100

Total: $1202

Little bit of a price difference, huh? So why is it that we feel the need to spend all that money to have “family time”? I’ve talked before how we don’t have a tv. I do have a laptop and a phone with email but those are work related. I also am pretty sure I still have a gameboy tucked way in the back of my closet from back in the day. I think I paid $5 for it on Ebay. I’d much rather spend $7 on a fun family night rather than $1200. It’s kind of a no-brainer. But what gets in the way of us doing that? I think it all has to do with contentment.

I have this mindset, a rule in my head. No wanting. My hubby hates this rule sometimes because it’s the reason he has a hard time buying me a present. I tell him that there is nothing I want and that he should just get me something I need. I talked the other day about how I get ready to go on vacation. I don’t spend money throughout the year on things I don’t really need, maybe a little bit here and there but I’d never spend over like $5 or $10. I don’t buy clothes unless I find a steal at a rummage sale and I almost never buy shoes. My poor Crocs are so worn out I’m pretty sure there will be holes in them soon. Vacation is my time to be able to shop. Me and the hubby plan out how much we can each spend ahead of time and not ask the other and then I get to shop. 🙂

Wow, I like to stray from my point today! Getting back on track…I think contentment is a huge part of living frugally and thrifty. No where in the top paragraph did I read that anyone was bored or wanted something else. They were all happy with what they had and what they were doing. They were even excited at the idea of eating all that popcorn! Why aren’t we already content to live this way? Because of serveral things; keeping up with the Jones, shopping too much, feeling sad about never having a frugal break.

We often look at the neighbors or our friends and see all that they have and think that maybe we need that too. I’ve even been guilty of that from time to time. (One of my neighbors has a boat in the backyard and the other has a hot tub, what’s in my backyard? Chickens….) Then there is shopping too much, maybe you don’t even have to shop too much to fall into this one. Anytime you go to any store we see all these things that we don’t have and then we start to want. (That’s why it’s always a good idea to have a list and stick to it!) And then, never having a frugal break. Like I said last week, it’s ok to treat yourself once in a while. If you don’t, there will come a day when you have some extra and instead of saving it or putting it towards something useful you think, wow, I never spend money on me, and before you know it, all the extra is gone. Plus sometimes it’s so easy to treat yourself. Maybe you feel down because you never go out to eat or get treats, and then along comes a buy one get one free ice cream cone coupon. Use it! Have a treat! It will be so fun and since you are already frugal most of the time, even spending that extra few dollars on yourself will feel like a real luxury. (Plus if you used a coupon you still saved money!)

Maybe for a test you should try and think like I do for a week and see what happens. Try not to “want” and if you catch yourself thinking or talking about something you want. Stop! Just try it and see if anything changes.

What do you think?(I’m sorry I know I rambled on today!) Do you already try not to want? What’s the hardest part of finding contentment in being thrifty for you?

Make sure you check out the entire Living Like Little House series!

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  1. The hardest part of the contentment is the folks (friends, co-workers) around who can’t believe that one can be content without all the wants…. and the thought bothers me that they will never ‘get it’…. understand that I AM content…. without TV, without electronic games (except my computer for communication and work)…. in a simple life of do-it-myself…

    That the grands and I can have fun on a simple basis….yes, we still have popcorn, maybe a family game night (as the grands call it), maybe a movie (from garage sale or library) on the vcr…. that we can read, color, write letters, talk, sew, do art projects, and make homemade gifts. The 10 yr old girl is teaching the 8 yr old boy to sew… I think it is a wonderful thing! We also garden together.

    It’s the way it has always been at my house, so they accept it as “normal”… and I hope they share the same things with their kids and grandkids someday 🙂

    1. I could not agree more. I finally got so tired of paying a massive cable bill just to watch a few shows, so my husband and I talked about it and decided to get rid of it. Luckily we have a Wii which we hooked up to the internet and watch Hulu plus through it. Anything else we watch online, which is fine because our computer has an HDMI port so we can even hook it up to our t.v. to watch it on there. However, everyone outside of our family acted like we lost a member of the family. They felt sorry for us. I could see it in their eyes. All I could think is why are you feeling sorry for us?! We chose to do this. It’s not like it got taken away from us. We didn’t want it any more. My parents even bought us an indoor antenna so we could get local channels. Which is nice, really not needed because as long as you can wait 1 day, you can watch the shows online. We are content with our choice and frankly its a nice lesson in not needing things instantly. Do you know how much better I feel not struggling to figure out how I’m going to make ends meet each month because I had to pay the cable bill?! It is more peace and happiness then I ever had when watching cable. The people around us cannot understand that a person can be content without the “extras”. I think some times they feel guilty about what they pay for and when you aren’t paying for it any more they automatically assume that you are judging them because they aren’t doing the same. We are way to up in each other’s business and so worried about what others will think of us, that we are making ourselves miserable. Be content and focus on what you have rather then what you want or what you think you should have.

    1. Every time I’ve moved, and that’s been at least four times, I’ve been on a budget. I ve alyaws saved the boxes that small appliances and dishes came in, so that’s how I packed them for moving.First I suggest collecting as many boxes as possible from groceries, stores, liquor stores (divided liquor/wine boxes are great for glasses and mugs) and work (copy paper boxes). My favorite is a copy paper box as it is a uniform size and won’t hold so much that it is too heavy for me to carry. (I keep seasonal items stored in copy paper boxes.) Larger boxes are good for lighterweight items like blankets. For a packing example: a lamp can be packed in a large box with pillows or cushions around it to hopefully prevent breakage.Second, start by packing things now that you don’t need on a daily basis. Take pictures off the walls and knick-knacks off shelves. Wrap fragile things in the extra towels or linens. Pack books in smaller boxes so that the box isn’t too heavy.Third, number the box and label it with the room where it will go. Be sure to identify the box as fragile when required. Keep a small journal of the numbered boxes and include a little more detail of the box contents.If your budget will allow it, for the month before you move rent a storage unit near either where you live now or near where you’ll be moving or near your work so you can get the packed boxes out of your way. Also great to get patio furniture, yard toys, and other not critical for daily living items out of the way, too. If a storage unit is out of the question, then pick a corner of each room to stack the boxes for that room.Pack a picnic basket or box with disposable plates, bowls, tableware, napkins, paper towels, wet wipes, toilet paper, tissues, light bulbs, and whatever else you need to have handy after the kitchen and bathroom(s) have been packed. Also keep your tool box handy.When packing the moving truck, remove drawers from desks and chests, move the shell onto the truck (it’s much lighter that way) and then put the drawers pack in. No need to pack the contents of the drawers in boxes. Upon arriving at the new place, repeat the process: move out the drawers first and then the shell. Once the shell is situated, put the drawers back in.Put the beds, their linens, and your personal hygiene items last on the truck because you will want to set set your beds up first to have a comfy place to sleep after moving all day, and you’ll want to freshen up a little before you call it a day.Hope this helps!

  2. For us I think the economic times made it a bit more important, but I have always tried to be frugal and live a self-relient life. We heat with wood from our own property, and will soon be getting a dairy goat or two and chickens. If I can get it at a thrift store or garage sale that is great, but if not we will follow the sales until the item is the best price. Why throw money away? I have started cooking from stratch, and we enjoy our food more now. The garden is planned, and I am going to learn how to can veggies this year. We are really trying, and I think for a couple of old folks we are doing pretty good. I am in my late 50s and hubby in his late 60s! We like depending on each other, and on our land. You have really been a help, and an inspiration to me, and I hope you keep up the good work for me and all the others.

    1. Well done! I am in my late 50’s, disabled and live alone. City girl all my life. My closest neighbor is 2 acres away. Had a chimney fire last winter and instead of rebuilding the chimney for the wood heat, expensive, I put in a pellet stove. I have learned to dehydrate food and will be learning canning next. Have berries on my land. The bears have torn down most of my orchard!! Bears, moose, deer, elk, geese, grouse all kinds of wildlife literally live next to my house. I have a 1/3 acre pond with large fish in it. I don’t fish, but trade with others fishing time for help doing things I can’t do myself.

      1. Beth, I have to commend you for undertaking living in the country after living in the city! I have dreamt nearly all my life about living in a rural area where I can be more self sufficient, but have never made it there. I live in the suburbs and have tried to live simply which is not hard seeing that I have never earned a lot of money . Anyhow, I would be interested in hearing your story. If you can, email me at [email protected]. Thanks.! Susan

  3. It was always hard for our kids growing up since I didn’t work outside the home – that was a mutual decision between hubby and I. Because of that we couldn’t afford the designer clothes, expensive toys but boy, did my kids LOVE rummage sales. My mom would give them each $10 a week to spend at the sales. The things they would come home with was unbelievable! My daughter at 11 discovered the Salvation Army/Goodwill thrift stores. She bought some name-brand clothes for pennies especially during the special sales. Neither thought it was a big deal – they enjoyed the challenge! It’s so funny to watch my daughter now at 22 and married finding good sales on things. She never pays full price for anything even though she could afford it- she says “that’s no fun”. I think kids today are missing out on things like that – my kids, now that they’re grown, still find things they “want” but just put it on a list and watch for sales. I miss going to rummage sales since we moved out here – it’s hard since there’s always so much to do on the weekends with chores! By the way, I treated myself to a new spring candle at Wal-Mart today – honeysuckle!

    Reading marci’s comment so reminded me of my mom and the time she’d spend with the kids – they used to come home with artwork and ideas galore! They’re such treasured memories for them now that she’s gone.

  4. Did you hit a huge point in American society. In general (not all), I feel a lot people aren’t happy any more. And it seems as though time goes on, the unhappiness grows – families are disconnected, they rarely have meals together and seem so disenchanted with life. I’ve come to realize that being a 35 year old mommy with two younins’ that contentment is a heart issue. When my heart isn’t right, then I want want want. I decided a long time ago to accept Christ, and through processes of learning and becoming more informed through the Bible that made me strong and I’m content. If you look at the Little House on the Prarie series they read the Bible and were strong in their faith. Faith in Christ provided them with all they need and they grew to love their life for what it was and not what it could be. We recently watched a Little House on the Prarie t.v. show where pa and ma went back to their 25th reunion. Well all of their classmates were rich and miserable. Now, I know there are some people who are rich and giving and content. But what I saw through that episode is that simplicity brings joy and living joyfully brings contentment. I’m teaching my kids that it isn’t about the stuff, but what flows our of your heart. There is this great verse in the Bible that says out of the heart the mouth speaks – when all we do is speak of what we don’t have we loose such a joy in what we do. All this to say is that contentment with what we have and simplicity has brought us joy. In this site, you’ve provided our family with the education to return back to the simple life and realize that as the world turns more unhappy we find joy in each other and what God provides. Thanks for posting!

    1. Charity,
      What you said was powerful, inspiring and so true! It was like you voiced exactly what I feel! I have 4 little granddaughters ages 6-3. They are so precious and they spend a lot of time with grandpa and I. We hope we can be a good influence in their lives, both in following Christ and good stewardship! We raised some great kids and they are very good parents. Proverbs 22: 6
      I was drawn to your comment as our youngest granddaughter’s name is Charity Grace. God Bless!

  5. Thank you so kindly for bringing us to reality! We are so quilty of wanting and worrying about what our neighbors have- not all of us – but most– You said this so well and it is something that I try to tell my children all the time– or teach! I am constantly reminding them of excactly what you stated above!

    When you spoke on wanting — well I have trouble with good deals– It is hard to fight the urge to not go and get the deals all the time. With total agreement if we follow Gods word we should only battle with this on a small scale . Have a lovely day!

  6. I still have a hard time with trying to eat cheaper, because my son & I both function & feel better when we eat all organic food – and lots of it! So I sometimes compromise and buy cheese or butter that is from cows that haven’t been given artificial hormones, even though we feel better eating grass-fed butter & cheese, or I’ll buy non-organic fruit because it’s on sale so cheap…but that is the main thing I still “want” now. I guess I also “want” to go places when I feel like it, without worrying about gas money, but I don’t really have that option now, so I have to be careful & plan things all in the same day/trip. I have spent years working on cutting out unnecessary things that I used to buy & decorate with. I’ve been reconnecting to my hippie-homesteader heart, and life is truly better this way. My son is 10 and totally disagrees with me. He loves Legos, movies, video games, etc. SIGH…at least he loves to read. 🙂

  7. That was so wonderful to read again, thank you. I think it needs to be a biannual reading requirement around here to keep us all in check with what is really important…family. Whether we are doing projects or not, it’s spending time together, which leads to years of love, affection, admiration or one another and respect. I know what book I’m getting off my shelf tonight!

  8. Thank you for always sharing good and helpful information. I appreciate it very much. Stories as well.

    Blessings to you and your little family. 🙂

  9. It is all about appreciation. The fewer things you have, the more you appreciate them. A year ago, I left a lifetime of city living and moved to a rural area, 15 miles to the nearest small town. I limit my trips to town to 2 or less per week. I have to take my own garbage 4 miles to a dump. With more effort required to obtain and get rid of stuff, I realize how little I actually need and that is what I truly appreciate. It is much more difficult to do this in the city where there is so much pulling you to buy, buy, buy. Buy to fill up the emptiness of one’s life. Rural living is not empty, it is rich with appreciation. Nature provides all the entertainment needed. I don’t have a TV either.

  10. You’ve done so much good if you have just encouraged some of your readers to go to the library and and read these LIW books together! Contentment and frugality!

  11. we also try to live frugally. most of our clothing comes from goodwill, or dollar general. we keep a list of ‘wants” on DEALNEWS.COM and get good deals for things we need. we are a few months away from being debt free (except mortgage). i love reusing things and making food from scratch. mostly, for pleasure, hubby and i read library books, on “movie nite” fri or sat- we pop regular popcorn in our old stircrazy popper and watch a movie on netflix or one of our own DVDs. we like making our own hot cocoa from the recipe off the hershey cocoa box(made with ALDI cocoa and ingredients, though..) we are starting to put $30 a payday into a savings fund to buy bulk meat for our freezer when we get enough-about 5 months should do it. it’s fun to be frugal when you are thankful and not bitter:)

  12. I love reading the Little House books this time of year. I’ve enjoyed reading all the posts from your readers as well. Being content and having gratitude for what we do have makes us feel much better off than we really are. I spent the summer with my BFF treasure hunting at garage sales, some of those treasures will become Christmas gifts as my family and friends appreciate twice-loved items as much as I do. Hope you get moved into your cozy new home before it gets too cold 🙂

    1. this is such a good post! a great reminder to continue to raise our kiddos the way we are. I just told our oldest..20..this past week not believe the lie the world has to “sell” you..literally! Stuff will certainly not bring you JOY =)

  13. I was just talking to a neighbor about giving to others. It has been more fun for me to give away things I don’t need anymore, than it was to buy them!

  14. I have no wants, I do have needs. Drives my husband nuts too because there is hardly ever anything (besides yarn to make gifts) that I need. I wear a pair of tennis shoes till they fall apart (every 4 years I get a new pair); I wear clothing from the thrift stores when I can find it there and if not I buy off clearance racks (mostly men’s t-shirts and sweats, sometimes shorts); I buy my groceries when on sale mostly (I have a pantry shelving unit in my kitchen to store canned goods.); it is just the two of us and we rarely can afford to eat meat but that is fine with me. A good peanut butter or peanut butter and jam sandwich goes a long way. We live on a very limited budget of 700$ a month due to being disabled but sometimes the Lord provides us with a good meal. Today my in-laws took us out to eat and I brought 1/2 of mine home for my meal tomorrow. Oh yeah btw, I eat once a day and that really helps.

  15. Humans are all about ‘finding happiness’ and we think we are missing it, or missing out when we see things that others have or do. If we think instead about not ‘finding happiness’ but ‘creating happiness’ it helps. I still struggle with this when my friends go on exotic vacations or excursions to ‘romantic’ destinations. But, they dont come back any happier or changed for the better, (as travel should do for us) and I see that it’s not what we are doing that is important, but HOW we do it.

    1. The simple things in life bring the most happiness! No question about it! The Ten Commandments tell us not to covet! It has to do with not envying and wanting everything the neighbors have! It took me a long time to understand this concept! I enjoy things like everyone else but many friends and relatives are in deep debt because they put too much stock in competing with neighbors and such ! Enjoy your life in your own way and let the neighbors enjoy their life in theirs though many will wind up in Bankruptcy court and with foreclosed homes because they were not disciplined and prudent with their time and money ! They should be a simple liver student as they could save money and eliminate headaches! Lauren