I love hearing from people who have made changes in their lives because of something I’ve shared here, and on our Facebook page, or challenges I’ve made to encourage others on ways to take control over their own financial future. It’s not always possibly for someone to take on a second job; or even in some cases, working outside the home at all. But there are lots of ways we can all make changes to help save and stretch the use of the money that IS coming in to the home. So I was really excited to hear from a friend of mine who had not only done just that…but utilized one avenue quite literally, by catching raindrops in her water (buckets) barrels!
Meet Erica Manly, a stay at home mom, who previously worked full-time outside the home. Much has changed in Erica’s life over the past five years, including marriage, quitting her day job, having a baby, and moving three hours away from her family for her husband’s job. Erica’s life changed…so Erica had to learn how to adjust her lifestyle to her new normal. Let me let her tell you more about that.
My name is Erica and I’m a wife and stay at home mom to the cutest and busiest little three year old you’ve ever seen. In order to make it possible to stay with her full-time and to save for our future (and hers), I am always looking for ways for our family to save wherever we can. We became even more serious about saving last year after reviewing exactly how much money was going out every month. I started serious couponing first, because most of our budget was going to the grocery store. I wouldn’t call what I do “extreme couponing”, but we are definitely saving about $400 per month in comparison to two years ago between the grocery and other big box store spending. And as a bonus, our cupboards and closets are full of food and toiletries!
I also took up gardening last year with one raised bed garden of vegetables. Whenever I decide to start a project like this, I’m sure my husband cringes as this means work for him. He built a nice raised bed for me and filled it with a truck load of dirt. Our friend had started extra tomato plants and had other extra seeds, so we actually spent absolutely nothing on our plants!
As a new gardener, I noticed how much more everything grew when it rained in comparison to my usual watering from the hose. Our friend calls it “magic water”.
Partly inspired by our Catching Raindrops friend, Gloria, I told my husband that I needed a rain barrel. The way I remember it, he rolled his eyes and sighed. A couple days later, my man was researching rain barrels and told me he found some 55 gallon drums for sale nearby and had found a way to tie them into our downspout under the back porch. Within a week, the project was complete – three 55 gallon drums filled with water after one good rain.
I can’t break down exactly how much money it is saving us, but I was watering our new landscaping on the front of the house and/or the veggie garden almost everyday. Since installing the rain collection system, I have only pulled the garden hose back out a few times. I am looking forward to expanding my garden this spring to two raised beds of vegetables and using my good and bad experiences from last year to improve. My husband will also add another rain barrel or two to be sure we never run out of rain water.
While my ways may be extreme to some, and my reasons to save money may be different from yours, there are almost always ways to spend less and save more for a rainy (or even not rainy) day!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go follow my child around while turning off lights and try to explain (again) that just because you can flip all the light switches now doesn’t mean you need to turn all the lights on!
I’ll admit, I’m not the outdoorsy type of person. Growing up, I used to love going outside, riding my bike, playing jacks with friends, rolling down the backyard hill in cardboard boxes, and getting in on a neighborhood game of Mother May I?, and Red Light, Green Light. But that was all before my teenage years when my mom decided she wanted a large garden in our backyard. She planned it, and she and my dad did the plantings, but after that, it was me and my five siblings who were responsible for weeding, feeding, watering, and picking the garden. Back then, most of what came out of the garden were things my parents ate — greens, squash, green peppers, onions; although I did enjoy the tomato sandwiches and occasional cucumber pickles mom would make. It wasn’t until my post-college years that I came to appreciate the nutritional benefits of eating more vegetables; especially fresh. But even with that, the thought of tilling, fertilizing, planting, weeding, and keeping up with the watering of a large garden like at my parents’ house, just didn’t and still doesn’t appeal to me.
But that’s not the case for a friend of mine who, while acknowledging the hard work it takes, loves to garden, and wouldn’t miss the opportunity to “put one out,” as she refers to it, two to three times a year. I’m grateful that she doesn’t mind sharing, not just because of the subsistence that the vegetables supply for me, but knowing that I’m eating something within hours after picking, rather than days or weeks, makes it all the better. What’s more interesting is that I’m starting to hear from other friends who are putting out their own backyard gardens, in part to be more in charge of what goes into their bodies, and also, to provide their own food source at much less the cost.
I’m all about saving money. And when you can make a one-time purchase of seeds, plants, soil, and fertilizer, and add a little hard work and water (when the skies don’t provide enough), it is worth the time to produce ten times the amount of food that your wallet would have allowed you to purchase at the grocery store, or even the farmer’s market. And it’s yours for the picking, morning, afternoon, evening…even at night.
So what begins like this…
Becomes like this…
TL grew up on her family’s farm in a small Kentucky town. The middle child of three kids, gardening was always a part of her life growing up. “We grew a large garden that we would plant, raise, and pick,” TL described. “Mom would can enough vegetables each year to get us through the fall, winter, and even into spring.” As a child, TL says she didn’t enjoy having to garden every day. “I’d much rather be chasing bugs.” But eventually, she came to enjoy the hard work, as well as appreciating the food that came as a result. “When I graduated and moved away from home, I missed the farm, and the animals, and sometimes even my family,” TL joked.
After moving to Nashville, TL eventually moved to a home she rented from an older couple in East Nashville. “The home had a large back yard, and my landlord, Mr. Huffine, had a huge garden. One day, after his tiller stopped working, I asked him if I could take a look at it. I’m sure he didn’t know at the time that I was raised on a farm, and had learned how to fix farm equipment from my dad.” After that day, TL and the Huffines became more than tenant and landlord, they became friends. And for the next 15 years, TL worked beside Mr Huffine in that backyard garden, not just growing vegetables, but learning lots of life lessons from his 93 years of life experiences. “We would work together almost every day, planting, preening, hoeing, and even more importantly, talking.”
TL says that one of the biggest joys she gets through the gardening experience is sharing the harvest with other people who needed it. She and Mr Huffine would give away tomatoes, green beans, okra, and other items to anyone who asked or who they thought might need it. We loved watching other people enjoy the work of our hands and the blessings God had given us that year,” she continued. “All the sweat, the blisters on our hands, the years of some times having to replant the garden due to climate issues, are small drops in the bucket compared to the joy your heart feels when you give it all away.
TL is a full-time nurse in the ER at a Nashville (TN) hospital. Gardening is a passion she takes seriously. “Gardening’s not for everyone, because it does take a lot of time, but if I can do it with my schedule, then anyone seriously interested in it can learn how to do it as well. It does require time management and a commitment, but the rewards of eating my own organically grown vegetables far out weigh the time and cost.”
It’s been almost a year since Mr Huffine passed away (October 2012). And TL continues to garden, growing not only vegetables, but wildflowers for Mrs Huffine, who comes by to see her and see how the garden is doing. This year, TL was even able to show the Huffine’s daughter how to plant a garden; something their daughter had always wanted to learn to do from her dad.