I have had a job since I was a wee lass. I babysat, then started working as a cashier when I was 14 and on it went. There was a time in my 20’s when I had to create a colour-coded calender to make sense of my many jobs and crammed schedule. When my husband moved to Canada, I gradually combined or left jobs until I was down to one. And I eventually left that job, with its unpredictable schedule and took one that was 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. When we relocated for his job two years later, I became pregnant before I could find work and since May, I’ve been at home.
If we sat down with pencil and paper and worked out if we could afford to have me stay home, I think the answer would be “no”. There are a few things that are working against us that we don’t have much control over. My husband and I started our shared life later than a lot of people – we didn’t buy our house and start our family until he was 36 and I was 31. We both worked in the arts until about that time, which isn’t the way to get rich. (Or comfortable. Or any thing other than constantly broke and desperate.) My husband went to school as an international student and we’ll be living with the resulting student loan for a long time. The house we bought (and the only one we could afford) is over a hundred years old. We love it but the renovations – extravagant things like insulation and replacing the knob-and-tube wiring – is making living here a bit pricey until we can get things up to code.
Despite the aspects of our lives that are working against us, we are making the effort to make do with what we have. A lot of our lifestyle decisions were inspired by American frugality. Changes that are pretty rare by Canadian standards.
Things we get by without:
Cable TV – We have cable phone and internet but dropped the cable TV when I quit my job, saving about $70 a month. This wasn’t particularly painful for us. We didn’t have cable when we were university students and only splurged for the two years we were both working. Now we watch TV online, though we don’t have as much as is available in the states. I can watch some shows on CTV, Global, Slice, MTV Canada and whatever I can piece together on YouTube. In case you’re wondering why I can’t just log onto Hulu – if I try, a nasty message appears and tells me that streaming is only available in the US.
The only thing that we (read my husband) misses is American football. We can’t get his games on the radio either so we’re still trying to find a way for him to get his Packers fix.
A second car – Our one and only car was given to us by a very generous colleague of my husband’s when we got married. We paid about $900 for some initial repairs. We were considering leasing a car at the time and we figured that even if the car only lasted four months, we’d be ahead. Two years later, the car is still going with some reasonable repairs along the way. We plan to drive it until it dies and hopefully, we’ll have enough saved to buy another junker.
My husband commutes 15 minutes to work and I use the car in the evenings or on his days off for shopping. On Sundays, I try to combine going to church with a big shopping trip in The Big City.
New stuff – We don’t buy many things new. My husband never buys new clothes. He keeps everything he’s ever worn and anything new usually comes as a Christmas or birthday gift from family. I buy most of my clothes second hand. My maternity clothes came as a birthday gift and the rest from a friend whose family is complete.
Most of our furniture comes from friends and family who are replacing their furniture or downsizing. I like to buy any household items at an “antiques” store nearby that sells just about everything at a good price. I find things that were made in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s are better made, last longer and are infinitely most interesting.
Before buying anything new, we think about it. There has to be good reason to choose new over second-hand. For example, we plan on using cloth diapers. I did my research and will buy new prefolds. I have found the savings on buying second-hand isn’t huge and I’m hoping to have the diapers last through at least two babies.
I see my new “job” staying home as finding new ways to save money, to live with less and to live a more simple life. Here we go.