Losing Your Job Brings Perspective

I have a confession to make...I've always made above the average income for most Americans, and althought we weren't wealthy, we had alot of financial freedom that many families don't have. Over the years, my husband and I worked hard to pay off most of our major purchases, and then we spent most of the rest. After all the kids were grown with families of their own, we worried less about finances and spent more freely.  I admit, we had become accustomed to pretty much buying whatever we wanted, like spending $175 a month on just t.v. and internet, to going to the store for anything we decided we wanted to eat if we hadn't grown it or didn't already have it in our packed pantry, going out to eat whenever we wanted, not really denying ourselves much of anything. 

I lost my job last week, and it was very much a surprise.  We soon realized our income would essentially be one third of what we were accustomed to and the idea of being self sustaining took on a new importance.  Suddenly we needed to think very carefully about everything we spend, every excess in our lives, and everything we can do for ourselves to be frugal.  We are probably better prepared for that than alot of people who find themselves suddenly without an income source.  We own a home outright in Kentucky that costs very little to live in energy and tax wise.  We have a mortgage on another house in Indiana that costs a bit more to keep going.  The utilities for that house have increased over the years but we did get the property taxes cut in half due to living in a blighted area.  All of our vehicles are paid for, and we have no credit card debt.  We do owe the IRS some money, but have been on a payment plan with them for almost two years and have no worries there. 

For all of my adult life, I've always had a garden, feeding my family at least partly with what we could provide for ourselves. Every year I preserve as much of our harvest as possible by canning, freezing and dehydrating our excess produce.  But I've never been in a position where doing so might be the difference between whether I could eat or not.  I never had to really choose between paying the light bill and buying food.  I've decided to write about our experiences as we embark on this new journey of sustainability.  No more will it be a casual approach to frugality and feeding ourselves.  Now it is a necessity of life!


I'm fortunate that my grandparents survived raising a family during the Great Depression. They had six children; four girls and two boys.  They learned how to stretch a dollar and it became a way of life for them. Even when times were better while I was growing up in the 60's and 70's, they continued their frugal ways.  Throughout my childhood while my mother worked, my grandparents taught me all the skills needed to sustain myself because that is the way they lived.  Never throw anything away, instead, figure out how to re-fashion it to make something useful.  For example, every year all of the aunts would clean out kids' closets and bring all the clothes that didn't fit anyone anymore to Grandma's Rummage. Grandma went through and tagged everything, and then there would be the annual rummage sale, complete with advertisement in the local newspaper.  All sorts of household items no longer needed by the owner but useful to someone else, dishes, planters, chicken feeders, rolls of wire, old fishing poles, baskets, kitchen gadgets, old furniture, books, games and tools would find their way to the garage for Rummage Sale week.  When it was over, whatever clothing didn't sell would be meticulously cut apart by Grandma, carefully salvaging buttons, zippers, snaps and all of the fabric.  The fabric would be neatly folded and stored in plastic crates until Grandma started making quilts again in the fall, or sometimes braided or rag rugs. The zippers, buttons and snaps would be sorted and saved for use on other garments later on.  My grandparents gave me the incredible gift of knowing how to "make-do" without me even knowing I was learning. 

Today I am grateful that my childhood was spent on my grandparent's farm, tending to living things and understanding more about nature than I ever would have growing up in another environment. 

So this year, like other years, I have already begun the work of growing much of our food.  I have 24 heirloom tomato plants, 18 broccoli plants, 7 cabbage and 8 collard plants all started from seed and lovingly cared for so that I can later transplant them into our garden. I have 25 pepper plants of various types started.  In the garden, we already have planted radishes, lettuce, Swiss Chard, beets and turnips.  Our asparagus is starting to sprout. This year each little green shoot I see is so much more important to me, and I realize what a gift each plant is. 

In spite of being unemployed now, I still have great hope and great expectations about what this next chapter in our lives will be.  If we have food and shelter and each other, I think we'll be just fine. 

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Crystal Boone (Boone's Backyard Farm)

April 12th, 2014 at 4:19pm

I absolutely love this blog post :)

Dixie Davis (Dixie Davis)

April 12th, 2014 at 4:44pm

Thank you! It's my first time ever trying this, wasn't sure anyone would find it useful so thank you for reading it and encouraging me!

Crystal Boone (Boone's Backyard Farm)

April 12th, 2014 at 5:16pm

Well of course I dislike the fact that you find yourself in this situation but absolutely love your can do attitude and the "life at the moment isn't gonna get me down!" Great blog post looking forward to some more!

Cassie B (Cassie B)

April 13th, 2014 at 12:22am

I grew up in a family of 9 kids and only one income. I learned so many tricks about frugality from my mom, and I'm so glad I did! It's nice when you have a great income, but it's also comforting to know that you can get by and have the things that you need when that income suddenly disappears. It sounds to me like you will be able to weather this storm just fine.

Ray W. (Ray W.)

April 13th, 2014 at 8:19am

Great article. This is an example of the "can do" attitude our ancestors had. Somewhere along the way, I fear, most of our society has lost that. Hopefully, the "less is more" mentality will become a new trend. If we didn't learn it from our family, we can learn it from each other.

Ben Nelson (Ben Nelson)

April 13th, 2014 at 9:35am

You are lucky to have had a background in frugality and hands-on skills. Many people DON'T, but also find themselves in a situation of going from high-income to unemployment. That's a really tough situation for those people.
In my life, I don't have a lot of money but I DO enjoy learning, making, and growing. Those are priceless.

Chris Parks (Chris Parks)

April 13th, 2014 at 11:33am

My husband and I taught "Desert Survival" when we lived in AZ,, but moved to AR in 2004 - Whole new world to learn about and I am still learning. However, in 2008, I lost my job due to an injury. I've learned a whole lot since then and am still learning every day. Gave up a lot of things that we could no longer afford, but have not "suffered" for lack of anything we have needed (other than vehicle issues). I wish I had someone that taught me things as I was growing up. Since I didn't, we have had to learn on our own (Thankful to the internet!). However, because of not having any one to teach me, I make sure I teach others what I have learned because it really scares me to death to see that so many people would be lost completely in a similar situation.

Dixie Davis (Dixie Davis)

April 13th, 2014 at 11:41am

Appreciate all the kind comments. If anything, maybe me documenting our story will help others share our successes and avoid our mistakes.

Sonya NL (Sonya NL)

April 13th, 2014 at 12:08pm

I am so sorry that you lost your job but I am grateful that you have so many life tools to glean from..planting,harvesting,canning,no credit card debt, and knowing that although this was probably a shock to the system you are rolling with the punches and doing what you can. I've never known anything other than being money challenged. Oh we've had times when our bank account was fat but those moments have always been few..but we've never gone hungry and it teaches you so many things. I'm going to check back here often to see how it's going and I am sure I can learn many new things from you. My husband surprised me with a very nice dehydrator..Perhaps at some point you can talk about that ( you mentioned dehydrating some of your produce) :)

Take Care,

Mary Susan (Mary Susan)

April 13th, 2014 at 4:40pm

Dixie, I have been through the same thing and had a life similar to yours, sans the dream guy. I learned what "bootstraps" were because I had to pull my butt up by myself and my bootstraps. It was one of the happiest times of my life! You are in a great situation so just enjoy the break and have a blast!!

Catherine Lyon (Catherine Lyon)

April 14th, 2014 at 11:08am

Very similar experience growing up, I owe (no, I OWE) my grandmother and grandpa for everything I know about animals, cow milking, chicken raising, chicken butchering, canning, and sewing. My mother continued that tradition by making us girls clothing and canning extra food.
I have so many survivial/homestead/self sufficiency skills due to my grandparents and mother. Because of them, if I lost my job, I could AND WOULD survive and continue forward - Just like you!

Dan Adams (Dan Adams)

April 14th, 2014 at 11:12am

Dixie, I think your blog will resonate with a lot of people. From my own experience, I was laid off in 2006 (the company closed 3 months later), and worked as a consultant until the economy tanked at the end of 2008/beginning of 2009 (at which point, most of my contract work dried up). It was in 2010 that I decided to start building Earthineer. :-)

We can't count on jobs, but we CAN count on the skills to provide for ourselves.

Crystal Boone (Boone's Backyard Farm)

April 14th, 2014 at 11:19am

Amen to that Dan!

Dixie Davis (Dixie Davis)

April 14th, 2014 at 12:00pm

Thanks Dan! I just found Earthineer the day after I got terminated, and it was like an epiphany for me. Somewhere I could let out all the feelings I have about this change in my life. Thank you for providing a place for me to do that!

Marilyn Lakaner (Cedar Lane Farm)

April 14th, 2014 at 3:36pm

Congratulations on being virtually debt free! My husabnd and I have been feverishly getting ourselves to that point as well. We also grow a big garden and preseve what we can. We have a young orchard, chickens and a milk cow! It is a very satisfying lifestyle. Have a great Spring!

Devin Quince (CoHomesteader)

April 15th, 2014 at 11:37am

Prepping saved our butts a few years ago when I was laid off, so I agree it is very practical and not just for EMPs, etc.
Good luck!

Sunny Brown (spinsalot)

April 15th, 2014 at 11:55am

Even though we have a better income than we ever have had ,I will never stop canning, growing and only buying on sale. We just got the homestead we have been looking for and are now starting over with the gardening and animals. So far we have chickens and ducks and turkeys. all are laying and the turkey is setting. goats are on the way as well and i built raised beds with silt fencing. So we can all do it and pass it on to others. I have spent the last 3 days teaching a 65 year old how to preserve potatoes, by canning and drying. Life is good

Donna Dimick (Hedgerow Botanicals)

April 16th, 2014 at 3:32pm

Great blog! Sorry about the loss of your job. But it sounds like you've got the skills to survive it. A few years ago we too lived a very comfortable life. First I lost my job, then my hubby got hurt on the job and lost his. Eventually hard as we tried, we lost our home and everything else. But like you, we grew up resilient with family that gave us the skills to start over and make something from nothing. We are happier, healthier, have a roof over our heads (albeit a smaller one), and we don't miss what we lost. Thank you for sharing your story. I look forward to reading future installments :)

Erin Erin (Erin)

April 16th, 2014 at 8:19pm

This is inspiring, your amazing attitude is encouraging... I look forward to learning about growing my own food. I too grew up with it but its been awhile. Keep posting would like to hear how things evolve.

Joyce Harrington (Joyce Harrington)

May 4th, 2014 at 9:07am

I'm glad to have found your blog! I'm on the path back to learning self-sustainability as well. I'm a 53-year old NW FL Panhandle gal, and I look forward to learning from you, and cheering you on!

Jim Staton (Jim Staton)

May 4th, 2014 at 1:08pm

@ Joyce. I hope the flood is not causing you too much grief.

Traci Wife (The Gardener's Wife)

May 5th, 2014 at 8:46pm

Wonderful, heartfelt blog! You have captured a "stress" that all of us has either felt (Me too!) or hope never to feel! I am smiling as I think of you enjoying the fruits of your labor, providing for your family, and being able to work in the great outdoors ALL SUMMER while the rest sit in their florescent offices wishing they were you. I look forward to reading about your journey........

shawcat shawcat2001 (shawcat2001)

May 26th, 2014 at 5:02pm

Dixie, I've been trying to get around to reading your post for months. It's raining (Finally) In SOMO today so I actually had time to sit and read it in earnest. Dan is absolutely right, it will resonate with a lot of people. I have been thinking about being in the same situation for some time myself. I love your attitude and spirit and can only hope that I can have the same when my time comes, because I believe it will. Not only for myself but to vast numbers of us in the future. I hope that you will keep us updated on your new adventure.