How We Save Money and You Can Too…

Today we present another article in our non-fiction writing contest – By S from WI

In preparation for making this post I reread Mr. Creekmore’s book, “Dirt-Cheap Survival Retreat-One Man’s Solution,” Paladin Press, 2011. It was my 3rd reading/my husband bought the book when it came out in 2011. Next I read the previous entries on the topic, and they were all worth reading.

I have been a life long saver. My first job was as a counter waitress, (high school-summers)…I spent the tips, but saved the paychecks. I got a small allowance for school expenses and amortized the tips as a supplement over the school year, still not cashing the pay checks.

The second year the all checks went into a bank savings account. Good start, but I had to learn other lessons the hard way. But learn I did. Financial “sacrifice” is not a painful thing at all. In fact, prioritizing spending, and living below one’s means is just fabulous. It is a way to free oneself from debt, and save for the things you need, and want.

I must at least mention now that we are living in an “up-side-down” world. Nothing is “normal.” The topics of financial collapse, impending (and actual) war-wars, treason of politicians, corporate malfeasance, civil unrest, gov. spying….(etc. ad nauseam) are common and ubiquitous. These are all so miserable to contemplate that it is no wonder some people are in denial, or refuse to “wake up.” Will these problems go away? Not too likely.

They will get worse. Exactly what or when are topics of vast speculation. I do know one thing…there will be a crisis or two or three, and an aware person’s challenge is to prepare for the eventuality of a disruption in “normal” commerce. That means one has to stock up on some necessities of life ahead of time. Period. You could say we are in a state of emergency.

It is this “state of emergency” awareness that may move one to make some changes. These changes will probably result in a complete reevaluation of ones lifestyle and spending habits.

Where to start? I, for one, could never “budget.” Sorry. Although I did focus on money to the point of obsession, at times. What I did do was very simple. I kept track of all money coming in and all money going out.

For example, I got those mini-yellow pads and devoted a page to each month. Every expenditure gets documented. One outcome is you know exactly where your money gets spent. The second outcome is the ability you have to save ahead for bigger expenditures such as annual taxes or insurance costs. Above all, you learn what your fixed costs are and exactly how much discretionary money is left after meeting those obligations.

What have I accomplished using this method? I put myself through college and paid off the small loans I had. Those were eight difficult years (full and part-time) including changing my major from education (no jobs) to nursing. I paid off two mortgages early.

I paid cash for two new cars. There certainly were no home equity loans or credit card debts. I managed to take my younger child (2 boys) to the Disney Parks twice. And, I paid cash for our country house and the improvements before we sold our city house.

Mistakes? Too many to list. I married a dud at age 20. I walked out of that with the clothes on my back and my young son. I literally lost everything. Then I married a “good” man, but we managed to goof that up, got divorced…but remarried a decade later. You can imagine what all that false pride cost. Remarried now for 15 years.

That man is my best friend and the love of my life. I am at our retreat full-time and my Mr. has a year before he retires. Ode to Mr. Creekmore; we started with a travel trailer parked/rented space on land owned by an acquaintance. It took us two years to find a house, with a stream, with a wood stove, and a basement…our criterion.

The emergency: It looms. You need to prepare yourself/family with a store of supplies to survive a financial depression. Other scenarios? I don’t know, but you have to start somewhere. The time for going into debt for appearances sake is over.

Shopping for recreation is in the past. Cut unnecessary expenditures, and then use that money for your preparations. There are countless resources outlining what to acquire and how to proceed. Start with Mr. Creekmore’s book noted above. The Mr. and I did!!

I simply must include some basic tenets of success for emotional and financial well-being. The concepts of spiritual well-being are actually paramount…but not within the scope of this piece. In no particular order:

  1. honor your spouse! Your goal is to foster trust, show respect, and above all, be kind.
  2. choose the person who will handle the money, pay the bills, ensure the savings
  3. settle on the greater house hold allowance and stick to it/work within it
  4. have separate checking accounts as people need some financial autonomy
  5. never ever get a divorce unless your partner is abusive/a dud….spend some money
  6. on dispassionate counseling if you reach an impasse
  7. be grateful for what you have and be thankful to your spouse for their efforts
  8.  please turn the idiot box off and become a reader/educate yourself
  9. every day is a beautiful gift so make the most of it/enjoy the day
  10.  do at least one thing every day to prepare yourself and your family for the future.

Thank you and good luck…

Prizes For This Round (Ends December 21 2015) In Our Non Fiction Writing Contest Include…

  1. First place winner will receive –   A gift certificate for $150 off of  any bulk ammo at Lucky Gunner, three bottles of Fish Cillin – Ampicillin 250mg (100 Count) courtesy of Camping Survival, and a WonderMill Electric Grain Mill courtesy of  Chef Brad Revolution.
  2. Second Place Winner will receive – 30 Day Food Storage All-in-One Pail courtesy of Augason
  3. Third place winner will receive –  A copy of my book “31 Days to Survival” and a copy of “Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat“.

Please read the rules that are listed below BEFORE emailing me your entry… my email address can be found here – please include “writing contest entry” in the subject line.


  1. Wonderful article.

    For us, the hardest part of savings was the transition from living paycheck to paycheck to having money set aside. The wake up call was a huge tornado that hit our town. With the power down, we couldn’t pull money out of the bank or use our debit cards. The only stations selling gas were the ones with nonelectric pumps…and they only took cash. So people were stuck with whatever cash they had on hand. And we didn’t have any.

    We started with just setting back $20 a week in cash. Once we got used to living without that money, we started direct depositing a small amount from my husband’s pay into savings each week. Then we started diverting a small amount into precious metals and preps. Once we got used to not having all that money to burn through, we upped the amount of money we put back in all areas of savings one at at time, slowly acclimating ourselves to living on less and less. Surprisingly, though, it feels like we have much more than we ever did before. Now when we pay off a debt, the money that was going into that becomes savings and investments.

    But saving those first few $20 a week was more difficult than all the saving we do now, yet we are making the same amount of money we always have. Strange but true. We finally figured out that it wasn’t about making more money but about being a better steward of what we have. Our head knowledge finally became heart and practice knowledge. If you’re wasteful and spend every penny you make plus some, you’ll always be poor no matter how much you bring in. And we were middle class dirt poor for a long, long time.

  2. All good advise.

  3. Seasoned_Citizen says:

    FWIW, your largest expense is your home, followed by your vehicles. Cars and pickups–money pits! I just got sick and tired of paying “brand new” prices for replacement parts at local “big box” auto retailers and found a new source:

    JUNK YARDS! Some are franchised like, “Pick-A-Part.” Example: I needed an emission controls thingamajig because I failed the state’s EPA test and therefore could NOT renew my plates. Auto shops wanted between $75-$100 and the dealer wanted $200 for the part.

    Went to my local “bone yard,” found an exact vehicle, spent 20 minutes taking it off, blew through the right orifices to see that it worked properly, and brought it to the front office. “How much? I asked. The reply: “$3—CASH ONLY.”

    By the way, my 15 year old full size Silverado needed a rear leaf spring shackle. Got it cheap, BUT–the rubber bushing inside the leaf spring was another story. Every dealer I called (as well as on line) said: GM/Chevy does not make them any more; you are out of luck. Says you!

    Sourced them on line and found the manufacturer in PA. Called them and they referred me to a local “front-end” shop, who happily sold me the bushing for $10–CASH ONLY.

    MORAL: make sure you have options in getting vehicle parts to keep your beaters running!

    P.S. I worked for the “Big Three” in Detroit for 30 years ( a while back) and I absolutely REFUSE to part with my hard-earned money buying a “new” vehicle. How anyone in their right mind can tell me a stripper sedan today costs $25k and a “loaded” diesel dually, long bed pick up truck going for north of $60k is way beyond me. And I built ’em back in the day. ROBBERY, plain and simple. Re-hab what ya got.

    Drive with the one that brought ya there!

    • patientmomma says:

      My truck is a 1992 Silverado long bed; I take care of it, baby it and still use it. It was my husband’s, now he’s gone but the truck is still with me!

      • BlueJeanedLady says:

        Ha, ha, patientmomma, got your 1992, long bed, Silverado beat by two years! (As if this were a competition – – – of course I’m only joking.) We have a 1990, long bed, Silverado, still on the active duty list, too! 🙂

        We inherited it (unexpectedly) from a relative in 1992. It has always been a secondary vehicle and has low mileage for its age, too boot. We had the long bed, professionally lined early on and have taken good care of this worker beast – that is mostly only called upon for heavy hauling duties &/or back-up transportation / travel needs – so it has little to no rust either. We have, like you have done with your own Silverado, babied it and kept it in good shape & reliable running condition, mostly with only routine upkeep & maintenance.

        Several friends and relatives (none of whom are known to us as preppers) keep asking when we are going to trade it in & upgrade to a newer model. Our response is always, “Why should we ‘fix’ something that ain’t ‘broke’?” 🙂 Funny how few have a good comeback for that answer, isn’t it!

        Here’s to many more years with our old Chevy trucks, patientmomma, and continued best wishes for you and yours, also. 🙂

    • what great advice!!! Hat is off to you, sir.

    • Son of Liberty says:

      Good for you, I liked to keep my older beater running as well. Not too easy when someone pulls out in front of you going 50 mph, however. Not happy w/ my replacement, going to need to do something about that I think.


      Son of Liberty

    • BlueJeanedLady says:

      Hello, Seasoned_Citizen. My husband was introduced to the “Pick-a-Part” type franchise (can’t remember if this was an actual “Pick-a-Part” business or not) years & years ago by an Uncle from the SanFran / Oakland area in CA via a family get together in the Houston, TX area as we traveled from the Heartland to meet up with the scattered family. My (then much younger & less wise, of course, because he was younger at the time) DH, whom had never seen the likes of such acted the proverbial ‘kid in a candy shop’, giddy happy as to the discovery of such an enterprise!

      Unfortunately, the large franchises are not common in our current area, even today, in our mid west, not so highly populated, locale. Yet . . . we have something similar around here in the mostly rural heartland on a smaller scale. You call them “junk yards” but around here they are better known as “auto salvage yards” and yes, they operate just like the big, franchised places (probably since long before the big franchises became popular); Search and pick and pull the part(s) you need and then proceed to the “office area” to pay pennies on the dollar for a replacement part(s) you need.

      Seriously, even something as seemingly simple as a rear view mirror can be found and purchased for a mere pittance as opposed to the cost of a brand new rear view mirror.

      As you mentioned from your personal experience, CS, many of our locally owned salvage yards are “cash only” based businesses, too, so ‘buyer beware’. My only additional advice to offer that I didn’t see mentioned in your comment, Seasoned_Citizen (that could be valuable for the “newbie” to this money saving endeavor) is that the shopper / buyer must bring his or her own tools to remove most small parts as well.

      Most proprietors of such (at least in our area) don’t take kindly to someone asking for a screwdriver or small wrench or any other basic tool from their “offices”! These businesses don’t exist to offer the purchaser a “service” (meaning they don’t do the labor) as they exist to offer a product for sale, only at the expense of the buyer’s own labor; That’s one of the reasons these auto parts are so darn, dirt cheap! Then again, some shops might be helpful if you needed to borrow a specialty tool . . . but even that varies from salvage yard to salvage yard around this part of the country. Just ask about the procedure before you ‘seek and find’ in any given small business and all will go more smoothly for all. 🙂

      Thanks for bringing up this money saving point, Seasoned_Citizen. Great advice for those unfamiliar with such. It’s funny how something like this practice has been ingrained in my brain for so many years that I can & do fail to remember it might be new information for others! Thank you, again, CS. You & yours keep taking care, too.

      • BlueJeanedLady says:

        Sorry – Seasoned_Citizen. For some odd reason I kept referring to you as CS instead of SC as an abbreviated name reference to ‘Seasoned_Citizen’ in my comments about your comments. I can’t even blame it on dyslexia as I don’t even have to deal with that particular challenge! “Brain Farts” are my only reasonable excuse! My apologies! 🙂 Take care, S_C and thanks again for your wonderful, contributing comments! 🙂

      • spent a lot of time scouring those yards….kept me in tires during college days…..gotmy first snowmobile suit (late 70’s, acheaply made type, drenched in motor oil- soaked for days in hot water, det, degreaser & bleach – but not a lot of cleaners, changed this out every day; then ran through wash machine a # of times- same formula; repaired ripped shoulder, putting in insulation, then used scrub brush on soiled racing stripes….. just the thing 4 ice fishing & snowmobiling in MI’s UP, till thinsulate came along……

  4. A Tom Sawyer unfettered by morals gets elected, the ninny applauds this…. then looks for the new Tom Sawyer when things take a turn for the worse.
    Dang how I’ve tired of whitewashing old Tom’s fence & spend time keeping mine in repair.
    We must learn to deal w/Becky Thatcher’s sashay…..or Tom’s words of envy, or Huckleberry’s freewheelin ways ……. didn’t I just mention morals?
    Seems in phrase: ‘7 deadly sins’, 7 could be a much higher number. Or is that complicating 7 basic issues?
    Thanks for a great article!!!!!!

  5. PrepperDoc says:

    Can I put in a plug for the “cash allowance” budget? This is what saved my wife and me. Even on a doctor’s salary, we were (we thought) getting “hit” every month and I actually felt like I was a hamster on a whirly-wheel, never getting anywhere. That was about 18 years ago.

    The solution?

    Most of us have very fixed payments that are the same every month: mortgage (until paid off); the light bill; car insurance; rent; health insurance, whatever. You get these to reasonable numbers (don’t live in a McMansion or drive a Porsche!!) and then they are very predictable.

    What killed our budget were the “out of pocket” things….which required huge amounts of discipline. It was so easy to pull out the “plastic”…..and bomb the budget.

    So, one Sunday evening, we both started afresh with a certain amount of hard green CASH in our wallet/purse. The credit car was a No-No unless we FIRST made the equivalent deposit out of our CASH to cover the purchase (we were strict, had to!)….and the carrot was that any money left at the end of the week — we could keep as a slush fund. Our CASH had been carefully calculated that if we could get through the week on that amount, the paycheck was plenty adequate to cover the predictable “fixed” bills….

    It worked.

    Walmart was no longer a “fun” place. We THOUGHT about every purchase because now they had a built-in negative-feedback: you were going to have to give away some of those precious green pieces of cash in your wallet/purse….BOY did we ever become skinflints!! And we started having money left over for the first time.

    This morphed into paying off the mortgage in 6.5 years. We used the debt snowball type stuff to get completely out of ALL debt. But it was the CASH ALLOWANCE that did the trick.

    We arranged “incentives” in our spending:
    – We wanted to keep my wife feeling safe while driving a very used car (we got two vehicles into the mid-to-high 200’s), so the rule was that you were ALWAYS allowed to pull out credit cards to have repairs made…but any new (used) car in our family is ALWAYS bought with zero credit.
    – We wanted to MINIMIZE controllable expenses like gas, tires, etc: so you had to pay for your GASOLINE out of your Cash! That caused to you think twice before cranking up the gas guzzler, and motivated us to continuously move to higher efficiency vehicles. (I now drive a 230,000 mile early 2000’s VW Diesel that I think can easily be EMP hardened — gets 45 mpg on the freeway, should be able to run off vegetable oil if needed!)

    You get the idea. Create incentives, carrots and sticks in the right places, make negative feedback to spending by using CASH. We have NEVER had a debit card (they have no fraud protection.)

    My 2 cents. We now have enough to retire whenever we want.

    • daughter swore me off walmart. go in for diapers or milk and i would come out with lots more. paying it off now and haven’t been in for months except for glasses repair.

      • Wayne Jaeger says:

        Looking for the label to see where its imported from is usually enough to stop me buying something, if you know what I mean!

  6. QuietlyWill says:

    Like the site and the variety of topics: I was lucky and got out of a bad marriage 30 years ago. I got the kid, back when a dad was rarely the custodial parent (especially for a little girl), and started moving forward living off of cash only. I opened a bank account and I used it. Every time I got any raise half went into savings and half in my pocket. I didn’t try to show off by buying “status”. I drive stick shift pickups ( don’t need a work truck ) which last longer if you use them as cars. I keep ’em at least 10 years and just keep them clean and the oil changed, easy. Now in my mid 60’s I have been able to pay cash for everything, including property, for more than 15 years. If I can’t pay cash then I don’t bother with it, that includes smokes and booze which were actually easy to give up given my choice of freedom from “stuff”. I always had preps, having grown up in hurricane/blizzard country, and can buy the freeze dried stuff now, which as one gets older becomes more important as how long can you chop and carry wood? I have been safe, warm, dry and fed the whole time – though as my sister used to say – not a chick magnet. I don’t owe anyone a single penny. I have daddy’s old shotgun and 38, both of which work just fine, thank you. The truth is you just have to want to be free to live free. Life is good if you let it be so.

  7. mom of three says:

    I too just cut the debit card, up second time in the last few year’s. I just got tired of running the card for what ever gas, groceries, you name it we had to buy it. This is the second month I will have money to roll over in our checking account and not just a few dollar’s either. I agree both spouse’s should ask , talk, about purchases before you buy. We are going to do a refinance on our home, to get us out of credit
    card debt, hubby has worked his BUTT, off but he can’t keep
    doing this it’s physically wearing him out. We do have a plan
    and we are closing all but one credit card, the extra money
    will be put on the loan each month. When you think 5 CC at
    9.9 percent up to 17.99 percent, they are frozen at those rates,
    but crawling out from them is hard. Credit cards, have been a saving grace, that in reality keep you in bondage the key is to not allow credit, to rule but you rule credit.

    • trying the same myself. medical has put us back a year from the payoff plan. want freedom so husband can actually retire. we are social security but he works full time. it is a job he loves and is not physically demanding, so that’s okay.

  8. Great story! Great reposes, we need more answers, and letters like this. To keep everyone awake and helpful

  9. Never get a mortgage.
    Never finance anything
    Cut up the credit cards
    Learn how to cook

    • credit cards have save us a few times on vehicle repairs,especially when meds were high and we weren’t old enough for medicare. it is the keeping control of them that is hard.
      they are like horses that have to be gentled and brought to halter.
      as humpty dumpty told alice, it is just a question of who is to be master.

  10. Several years ago, I decided to not charge anything I could’t pay at the end of the month. It was hard at first because I like to spend, but I stayed true to my plan and now, I’m debt free and it feels great. It’s amazing how a little life change can reap big benefits.

  11. BlueJeanedLady says:

    Hello to the author, S from WI. Thanks for sharing your success story and practical experiences in the skill set(s) of money management. Even though there are many different paths to financial self-sufficiency it’s always good to read how others travel their chosen roads. People can always learn something new in these type of articles and yours is no exception! Good job.

    That said, I’d like to add a couple of thoughts on your second point in the summary,

    “2) choose the person who will handle the money, pay the bills, ensure the savings”.

    I agree with this point 100%, that just one person should be the official ‘bookkeeper’, but it’s critical that the other spouse / partner be completely up-to-speed concerning the details of such. Thinking of money management as a skill, the value of ‘cross-training’ still applies: a) it helps keep the bookkeeper honest and b) if something should happen to the main bookkeeper &/or should the main bookkeeper need to leave for any length of time, the other spouse will not be blind as to how to step in and take over the roll in the bookkeeper’s absence. Again, it’s just good ‘cross-training’.

    Just my 2 cents worth, and again, I enjoyed the article as well as the follow up comments it generated. Thanks again and you & yours take care.

    • BlueJeanedLady says:

      Oops! I meant “take over the role” not “take over the roll.” However, if the rolls were fresh baked it might not be a bad idea! 🙂

  12. Excellent article!! I’d add that spouses need to ck in w/ each other on finances monthly or qtrly, so the one who handles finances can update the other on income & expenses, & acct balances.
    I like the emphasis on living below your means, & saving. I’m amazed & appalled at how much people spend on entertainment – $100s or even $1000s to attend a concert or big game! -yes, we live in an upside down world, in terms of priorities.

  13. We are retirees who live well on SS. Farm paid for with much sacrifice of things that other people think they deserve. Another story. But we do two things that keep us in the black. One: We each have our own checking/savings plans and each of us is responsible for certain recurring bills every month. Two: Hubby gets way more SS than me so each month he pays $200 into a joint checking account which will cover our car insurance, house insurance and property taxes over the year. Everyone knows these bills come but so many people I know treat them like they are an ugly surprise!! It has taken us many years to finally get on a system that works for us.

    • While I applaud your frugal ways (I also rcv SS), I am totally against it. It’s a transfer of wealth (socialist in nature) which are golden handcuffs to Americans & attracts drug addicts & alcoholics & foreign born- we can’t finance the world! I paid in near 40 yrs. I was not given an option to opt out nor taught in state or private schools how I could invest & be wealthier & leave that portion of my estate to any person I may choose. Fred gov has lied repeatedly about SS & lbj bankrupted it to finance & poorly run ‘conflict’ in viet nam (ho many thousands were killed there). When fox is in charge of henhouse??? Again kudos & thumbs up on your frugal ways, but 1- the young are paying our bills & 2-powers that be have gotten rich while recipients get shaft; 3- lastly those rcvng can’t be ‘booted off’, but program needs to be phased out & buried….

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