What did moving to a dairy farm teach me as a kid about saving money

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  • When I was eight, my parents moved us from the suburbs to a house in the middle of a dairy farm.
  • They wanted to cut costs to build a better financial foundation for us.
  • From that experience, I learned how to have fun cheaply and adjust my lifestyle to saving.

One day my parents called me and my sister to give us some news. “We’re going to make some changes,” they said, explaining that we’re moving in soon. They wanted to build a safer future for us.

They presented it as a big but fun challenge that we can face together. There will be big changes and small changes. The biggest was selling our cozy suburban home to reduce our cost of living while paying off debts and Accumulated savings.

I was only about 8 years old, and my sister was a few years older than me, so we didn’t really understand her. We understood that we were going to move. It felt exciting to me, like a new adventure.

My parents taught me to make proactive decisions

When they made that decision, my dad had a secure job and we weren’t in financial trouble. But they were looking forward and thinking proactively. They decided it was smart to sacrifice some of our comfort now for more freedom and stability in our future.

There must have been some tough moments, especially for my mom. She was very hospitable and loved to have friends. We frequently host church gatherings and holiday meals. Our house wasn’t luxurious, but it had a lot of space and a big yard in a nice neighborhood. Downsizing means selling more properties and simplifying our lives.

We ended up renting a small house on a dairy farm. It was literally in the middle of a cow field, with a fence around the house so we had a yard that the cows couldn’t reach. I don’t know how and why there was a house on a cow pasture, but I’m sure that meant the rent was low. We can walk the gravel path to the barns and groom the calves.

My parents were frugal in other ways, too. My dad took casual lunches to work and drove the same old car for years. My mom sewed a lot of our clothes. Our holidays were camping with friends or visiting family. But none of them felt deprived. I didn’t miss having a bigger house or more things. Plus, we have to do some “big” things, like owning a horse and going to Disney.

Their example helps me build my future

I’ve been a writer for years, and I was the primary breadwinner when the pandemic hit. I had just gone through my first six-figure year and things looked good for 2020, when clients suddenly started disappearing. Mine Income halved. At the same time, my impending divorce forced a change of place for which I was not prepared, financially or otherwise. Now I’m rebuilding my life and financial future as a single mother of four.

We live in a fairly affluent area, and there is a lot of pressure to keep up. I have chosen to keep our expenses as low as possible, because I don’t just want to be well today; I want to build a secure financial foundation for my future and my children.

We live in a small apartment, drive an old used car, and shop as little as possible. I say no to a lot of things. Sometimes it’s really hard and I feel bad that I didn’t give my kids everything their friends had. That’s when I think of my childhood. It helps remind myself that the memories I value are about enjoying together, not spending money.

I use the hands-on economics method I learned from my parents

I also use practical things that I took from my parents. For example, one of the routine tasks my sister and I often did was to deconstruct a whole chicken. My mother would buy cheaper meat and make a week’s supply of it.

Sometimes I just want to eat DoorDash dinner, especially now that I’m a single mom. I work full time and feel tired at the end of the day. But ordering for me and four kids is very expensive! Instead, I’ll take 15 minutes on my lunch break (I work from home) to make a pot of chili.

I am open with my children about our priorities and our limits. We find affordable ways to make things fun, like dollar store decorations for birthdays, holidays, and movie nights at home. I agree with occasional waste, too.

In the meantime, I am making slow but steady progress towards my financial goals. Although I didn’t proactively plan to cut back the way my parents did, I was able to apply their lessons to my own life. Sacrificing a few comforts now allows me to build the financial freedom I want for my future.

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