It's been heartbreaking to see how many of our friends are without work. Along with millions of other people, a lot of our friends have lost their jobs and simply cannot find another full-time position that pays anywhere approaching the income they were making before.
I remarked to my husband that it's a good thing we've voluntarily lived close to the poverty line for the past seventeen years because it's given us good practice for a tough economy. Over these years we've scaled back our spending and tightened our expenses to the point where we can get by on very little (relatively speaking). Our mortgage is low. We've managed to pinch our electricity bill back to about $35-40/month (though, frustratingly, the power company automatically tacks on a surcharge of $16.50 to everyone's bill to pay for their new building). We have no water bill (we're on a well) or garbage bill (our property taxes pay for county dumpsters). We have no car payments, student loans, or credit card bills. We do have costs associated with running our business - FedEx (which can be pricey!), wood, supplies, etc. which can add up to quite a bit. We fill our propane tanks about twice a year (we used to fill them about four times a year until I stopped using our propane clothes dryer). All normal household purchases are made at thrift stores. (God bless thrift stores.) We rarely shop retail stores for anything (we just bought some new socks and underwear for the girls, which is the exception to our thrift store rule). Our biggest expense by far is our catastrophic high-deductible health insurance.
So that gives you some idea of our household expenses. So what about income?
Our home woodcraft business continues to provide the bulk of our income, and because it's seasonal we've learned to salt away money during flush times to see us through lean times. Works quite well, actually.
Lately we've developed what we call the "many irons in the fire" theory of earning money, which means we'll take on any paying job we reasonably can, even if it's dribs and drabs, to supplement our income. I've taken on a weekend job (working from home on my computer) which pays $400/month. I write a monthly article for a magazine which pays $300. My husband "monetized" my blog, which means that whenever someone clicks on an advertisement in the margin I receive a few cents. I've been contracted to revise a craft book, which is due at the end of the summer. I take on freelance desktop publishing jobs when they come available. I write freelance articles for a variety of magazines. Et cetera et cetera et cetera.
As the economy has dipped lower, I've become a huge advocate of this "many irons" idea of income. It means that if one source of money dries up, we are not left destitute as some of our friends are. By working so many little things here and there, it broadens our experience and abilities for any new job that comes available.
This is something I urge others to think about: diversifying your income portfolio (also known as not putting all your eggs in one basket). It leaves you less vulnerable. It makes sense in a down economy.
Of course it helps if you cut your expenses too. After seventeen years of self-employment and starting our home business from scratch, we've become blackbelts in frugality (though I would say just a first-degree blackbelt - I have friends who out-frugal us by far).
I'm always interested in hearing how others lay "irons in the fire," so feel free to comment on what you're doing to get by in this economy.
(And I would seriously appreciate it if everyone reading this blog would make it a daily policy to click on at least one advertisement. Okay, I'll stop asking.)