--How to succeed at being poor--
(or more rather: "Living lightly"? Or how about: "Frugal Living"?) ("Coping"?)
(updated: 9/30/2016)
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* Yes, the mood and temper of the people of our United States would have changed if Bernie Sanders had been elected --from cynicism and alienation to a more hopeful and shoulder- to-shoulder spirit. I'm guessing, however, that the struggle would have become more hard-scrabble, as the moguls who call the shots for investments and commerce effectively "took their football and went home".

It's a fair bet that many of us will end up living under more "straightened"/frugal circumstances as time passes. Best we hone some skills now, plus have some awareness and philosophy about our options.

* I've thrown down a lot of asterisked items here --in no special order of importance --missing plenty of importance along the way, so just clue me in about what I've overlooked.

* Like so many of us, we got caught in the housing crash of 2008 --a year short of retirement, with a large house we'd been using to do adult foster care (a rather desperate, physically and financially dangerous way to make a living --but that's another story). It took some investment to get the house ready for sale, which we largely financed out of our alleged home equity --so that we could move into a double-wide in a modest retirement park. Nine years later, we're more comfortable than many (who might be reading this), but we still struggle to keep afloat, living month to month.

Noise

(See also.) * Most neighborhood complaints and laments have something to do with noise. Our society has little appreciation for concepts like quiet, solitude, empathy, courtesy. There's a diminishing inclination to pursue noise abatement. Unless you can get into an isolated (and probably gated) community or a "planned unit development" with enforced "CC&Rs",  or (the remote possibility of) a noise conscious "intentional community" (I seldom saw anything from the FIC listed community efforts that was pro-actively interested in quiet) --you must look to your own resources for escaping, avoiding and/or insulating yourself from various forms of sonic abuse.

* Since the theme of this page is "living lightly" and frugally, and since real estate chains/dealers hardly know what a noise conscious buyer is talking about (let alone have any such listings), I suggest living compactly, cheaply and simply within the limited space of an RV, perhaps even a van conversion --and having several safe alternatives for parking it. A good one with a bumper-to-bumper warranty might be a "car clout" magnet, so perhaps you want to invest in a really old one of a very common make --that mechanics and machinists can still work on (pre-computers and no electronic/digital gymcracks), and "zero" it mechanically (aviation speak for making everything back to OEM spec), but leaving the exterior looking like an average old vehicle with oxidized paint.

There's an old fellow in our city with such a rig who appears to safely sleep by day, finding beautiful public places to do so. If something annoys him, he simply drives to another spot.

Minus 38 decibel "shooter's" ear plugs (I buy "Hearos" brand), combined with similarly rated "Peltor" brand muffs --go a long way toward making one's own peace in a noisy environment --maybe due to your own "PC tower" type computer or refrigerator.

Digitals

* If you use a computer creatively for design and graphics, you might need a real one. I suggest a stable old computer which will run the programs you're familiar with and that you can grow old with --off line. You need the install/reinstall disks for your programs/applications --which must not need "activation" nor "the cloud". This requires access to standard 120 volt power where you park and live. However, almost any words-in-a-row authoring with included images, graphs and tables can be accomplished with a laptop and applications --making sure that they can all operate and reinstall off-line (if needs be).

I still use the XP-3 operating system, running word processing and graphics applications which range from 15 to 24 years old (strictly off-line), but it's becoming more difficult to display saved web pages.

For WiFi-ing onto the Internet you need something simple and current. I use an affordable Chromebook, which has proven attack proof/recoverable and requires no attention/distraction as it updates itself. My Asus C300M is excellent, even though it was crippled within 24 hours by a "hijack" attack --and the simple lack of a user's manual. Neither I nor my dealer knew how to restore it (the "4 finger salute" brings it right back), so I was refunded. I ended up buying two more (same model) after downloading enough 3rd party information to use them.

Dentistry

* Since proper dental repairs are simply not in a Social Security based budget, my tooth count keeps going down as abscessed teeth get pulled. Take this link for more.

Food

* Our home and kitchen are pretty nice, but many of us don't have much by way of a well equipped kitchen. Moreover, and well equipped or not, maintaining a refrigerator and pantry stocked with perishables costs more than is generally appreciated or admitted to. (Disgustingly, Americans throw something like 1/3rd of their food away --and maybe a significant portion of what remains should be tossed.)

Then there's the cadging of what we can around town, which too often amounts to "fast food" --which also puts a dent in a tight budget, and perhaps in one's health as well, but I suspect that fast food isn't nearly as bad as it's made out to be. Notably: Subway restaurants get a lot of vegetables into us and appear to be quite strict about sanitary practices. I also cast a vote for Domino's large "Week Day Special" pizzas --especially if well decorated with vegetables, cheeses, meat and spices.

* What's needed, and what North Bend, Oregon had in the inspiring (but now closed) "Crossroads Cafe", is a simple, affordable, decent, sit-down restaurant with nourishing food --not much choice, but ample portions and a sense of community. Meals at the Crossroads ran $2 to $3.

"After the revolution" (the forthcoming spiritual revolution, that is) more such facilities (not only restaurants) will be run out of a sense of service and compassion, with the meager "profits" plowed back into expansion and improvements --the ownership wanting no more than to be doing this work, doing it well in the company of their customers --and to be similarly cared for/about when they can't. (Can you imagine such a future? If so, hey: that's the beginning  {{hug}}.

Transportation

* One of my "philosophies of life" (only somewhat facetiously) is: "stay home". We almost never venture farther than a day trip, and I do suggest applying that to whatever it is you use for wheels. (Another philosophy: if you have to change your clothes to do it, or if you can't take your dog along, it's a bad idea.)

* Cars and costs per mile are outrageously expensive, depending on how well you can scrounge your ride and what you settle for. Today's Asian brands of cars often last 200,000 miles if you drive sedately and keep up with basic maintenance. Hondas and Toyotas seem a good bet (if you can afford to buy a good used one). However, our 1999 Ford van didn't make it to 100,000, despite its by-the-book maintenance and repairs (which averaged about $100/month, including a rebuilt transmission a few years back). Late last year, the big end of a connecting rod went through the belly pan. All the competent opinions I took on the matter said to junk it. (In the old days, I'd drop the belly pan and try to work on what was wrong.)

* Unfortunately, there's little provision on our streets and highways for slow moving vehicles --pedal power, or unlicensed electrics and 50cc engines. That white paint stripe isn't much protection --and then there's rain, which makes competing with traffic all the more unpleasant and dangerous. The situation along coastal Highway 101 is so bad for bicyclists that it seems criminal to encourage them with a white striped "lane" (that might narrow to a few inches in places). We need dedicated, separate, protected lanes for such alternative transportation, and I don't see that happening on any appreciable scale. (The City of Eugene, Oregon is a nice exception.)

It might sound crazy to suggest that, for any place along a street or highway where bicycles/tricycles and pedestrians have to compete and mutually infringe, the top speed gets reduced to 15 MPH where/whenever such alternative transportation is present. However: to allow high speeds and inches of clearance: that's what's really nuts!

Well: that aint-a-gonna happen either. (So "stay home"!)

A much better option, at least for getting around in the larger neighborhood, is something even slower but sidewalk legal: a powered wheelchair. Unfortunately, our town area has many significant stretches without sidewalks or any sort of provision for pedestrians --but your town is probably in much better shape --at least if it doesn't drift snow and ice up where you live. (Gosh: then hibernate --until you can escape! Despite [or because of] growing up in Minnesota, I can not imagine how large populations were ever induced to settle and live in areas subject to the mortal dangers of snow, ice and freezing storms --arghhhh!)

Connectivity

At least that aspect of a stay-home life is very do-able, and with some nearby free WiFi: affordable. It seems that everyone except my wife and I uses a handheld i-thing or i-pad type device, but we can't live without at least 13 inches of screen and a full size keyboard, so we use Chromebooks --backed up with our off-line workhorse home computers (and see).

Medicine

Ours is the only developed nation without decent, single payer health care for all. In England, even bringing your dog to the vet is covered --in fact I think they had that first --and long ago. (Queen Victoria loved dogs.) Meanwhile, the United States trails way behind other developed nations (and even many that are undeveloped) in the basics: life expectancy, rates of infant deaths, medically caused deaths, untreated injuries and diseases --despite paying twice as much (per capita) for what health care we do get. (I'll eventually have links here to back those assertions up.)

And if you didn't vote for Bernie Sanders, I have to question your sanity.

Hygiene

It's my aberrant opinion that nearly everyone long ago succumbed to a bathing cult. Bathing every day, or even every week --'tain't necessary, although clean underwear and attending daily to your private/perennial areas most definitely is essential, particularly as we age. (Teeth twice a day and at least dry socks each morning, especially if you're older and on your feet a lot.)

Not going overboard with bathing and washing clothes helps keep the electric bill down, plus it saves on clothes, since most of the wear and tear takes place in the washing machine (obviously).

Fending off the cold

* I can think of several way to stay warm:

    ~ Heat the whole dang house.

    ~ Heat just the room you're using with "zoned heating" (plus the bathroom).

    ~ Programmable thermostats and ones with motion detectors will drive you nuts. Just have the discipline to run a manual thermostat up to a comfortable setting, and then back down when you leave the room --like turning off the lights. Put two black marks on the dial so you can see the settings at a glance.

Be sure to keep the rest of your house warm enough (50 degrees Fahrenheit or such that the humidity is under 70% --?) to stop mold from growing.

    ~ We enjoy a warm bed in a 50 degree cold bedroom --with a fan blowing on us, which makes the bed feel snugly and our breathing so much easier. --Try it.

I don't know if there's really a connection, but we've gone 30 years here without catching a cold or the flu --and we don't take flu shots either. That 30 years includes 22 years of doing adult foster care (mostly decrepit old folks or terminal younger ones). Despite grandkids bringing the diseases of the day home from school --no one living here has so much as caught a cold. Some folks attribute that to maintaining a cool house (68 degrees in the common rooms when we did foster care, whatever they wanted in the resident rooms, cold in our own spaces, and good air circulation --which goes hand-in-hand with spot heat and temperature differences).

    ~ Use radiant space heaters and aim the one you're using at yourself --rather than heating the whole room. Use the 750 watt setting --which is plenty hot at 3 feet from your legs. (I've yet to see a radiant/fan space heater that doesn't overheat itself at 1500 watts.)

    ~ An electric blanket or a small (50x70) electric "throw blanket" ($20 at Walmart, and maybe 70 watts at the "Medium" setting)) --"thrown" around you.

    ~ An electric mattress pad cover (also very affordable). It'll be too hot in spots to sleep on, but what you do is turn it on high a couple hours before going to bed. Crawling into a heated bed in a cold house is a little bit of heaven that you and yours can enjoy every winter night.

The last two appear to have made a difference of $100/month in our electric bill. (Our home is all electric.)

* But do be careful space heaters and electric blankets --to avoid fires and to avoid cooking your skin. Read and follow the directions. Turn them dead off or unplug when not in use. A heating device which seems off, but can thermostatically turn itself back on --can be dangerous (as well as wasteful).

Clothes

* Again: "if you have to change your clothes to do it, it's a bad idea". Other than that, a guy (or a gal) needs pockets --preferably: ones with button-down flaps to keep from losing stuff. I like the feel of hospital/clinic "scrubs" (and not having to keep tucking my shirt back inside my pants), but all of the shirts/tunics I've seen are made with what I call "useless little man pockets", and often just one. Consequently, I wear scrub pants and a "western" shirt top (with ample flapped pockets) and not tucked in. It looks (I look) crappy, so I bought a used sewing machine ($15) and hope to one day sew decent pockets onto a scrub top/tunic.

Usually: I add a light jacket/sweater for warmth and cargo capacity (with at least 4 more good pockets).

* Shoes --at least one pair of steel toe, low top work boots, but if your feet are like my touchy "old man's feet", which cry out if they can't breath and wiggle, you might need to normally wear sandals (new ones with traction soles and Velcro adjustable heel, toe and instep straps --such that they have zero tendency to flop on your feet --lest you break a leg).

* A pair of tough but flexible leather work gloves. (Not those cheap Chinese gloves.)

* A bill type adjustable cap to keep the sunlight somewhat off your face --because anything like a full brim straw hat won't stay on your head in our often windy Pacific Northwest --and you don't want to develop a case of pre-cancerous solar keratosis on your forehead and nose.

* We have even more rain than wind here, so pack a compact umbrella and avoid the chilblains.

Clothes Washing/Drying:

* Again: the most wear and tear your clothes get is in the washing machine. You surely need a change of underwear (and maybe socks) every morning, but outer clothes work just fine, stained, dirty or clean. If you're lucky enough to have your own washing machine and dryer in a utility room, wash with cold water (takes an extra rinse), sell the dryer and get an affordable ($200 or less new), automatic (meaning it has a humidistat) dehumidifier, per my page on dryers. A used appliance dealer might trade you straight across.

Responsible Avoidance:

* With respect to that umbrella, bad weather and adversities in general, when the punches come, simply don't be there. We know that there'll be disruptions and price gouging on heating fuels/electricity, so don't live where it's freeze-your-ass cold. We know that basic resources like clean air and water will become dear, so live where they're plentiful. We know that it costs about $250,000 per child through high school (and a high school education no longer cuts it, so let's figure another $100,000), so don't have any. (But since, with a normal income, you'll end up with lots of spare change, try to pitch in and help those who do have kids get a few "extras").

* Try to anticipate and arrange your life such that, when the weather's forbidding, you usually have the option of simply staying sheltered, preferably at home. (For instances: you might get an education and skill set such that you can operate a home office type business, or you might take employment in a building or complex which has apartments.) Anticipate obligations, like taking care of your parents (when the time comes), such that you bring them to you --before that time comes, or such that you conserve your equity and don't burn your bridges --if you must return to a disagreeable place where your old folks live.

Shelter

* If you're fortunate enough to be able to buy a home, don't be the first owner of a new house, and don't buy an old house. Buy the smallest, right up to code, FHA-ready, newer house that you can find --one with small windows, code insulation, ground barrier and a simple, two-sided, ridge vented roof: no gables, skylights or other such foolishness. Natural earthen barriers or a stone or a concrete wall against neighborhood noise is a big plus, but not if it means your house is at the bottom of a hole with no run-off outlet. You do not want a basement. You do want a cement slab (on a vapor barrier) with plenty of crawl space clearance and no hanging under-floor insulation. If it has a good fence, make sure it does not have wooden posts set in concrete.

* If you rent, my preference would be the smallest affordable space that's quiet, then live quietly and sparsely within it --anticipating the practicality and place of the few possessions you acquire. Living "lightly", even "invisibly" (not for nefarious purposes) is an art form which can grow on you.

* My choice --just for myself, would be to live in/out-of a van or Road Trek type vehicle, perhaps establishing a nominal legal residence (for a small consideration at a friend's house) where you often park it. Many people live like this and it need not be a shabby, "low life" existence. Again: investing in yourself can be an art form, one which makes a small income feel like "wealth".

> [forthcoming links to living space alternatives
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mole_people
> http://tinyhousetalk.com/

Community

* Please see my comments at: TCT

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