We’re Not All At The Same Spot On The Mountain

     Lately I’ve been pondering a few things, and they’ve weighed a bit on my mind.  As the economy has worsened, we are all looking for ways to stretch our dollars.  I’ve noticed that while most everyone wants to live more frugally, that frugal lifestyle does not look the same for everyone. 

     Some time back, one of the elders of my church used an illustration in his sermon that I’ve found quite useful in all sorts of situations.  His illustration was used to depict our walk in the Lord, and it is one I find applicable to many areas of life, including the ways we look well to the ways of our own households.  It is especially applicable, I think, as we each work toward economizing our households.
     Think of our efforts at frugality and economy as though we are climbing a mountain.  Some of us started climbing the mountain several years ago, and others have just begun.  Not all of us have the same climbing skills, and some of us have physical challenges that will make the climb even more difficult.  Some of us are following the climbing route of a more skilled climber, and we are able to follow his example in where to find the toe holds that will assist us in our climb.  Others have chosen what looked like an easy route only to find themselves half way up the mountain with nothing but sheer, smooth granite between them and the summit.  Some of us are climbing as part of a team, all working together toward the common goal, and others are climbing completely solo. 
     I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit as gals have asked me various questions about how to cut household costs, how to better stretch their food dollars, etc.  I help as I can, of course, but we’re all in such different places on that mountain that sometimes my advice on practical matters seems like not nearly enough and at other times it seems like way too much.  The Lord has us all in such different places because He has something different for each of us to be learning along the way.  The lessons we need to learn might be in patience, learning total dependence upon the Lord, shunning covetousness, or overcoming laziness.  Our households and the places we live are also quite different.  I live in a very temperate climate, in an area that grows much of our country’s, even the world’s, food.  My garden is in and growing and there are tiny peaches, pears and plums in my orchard.  Some of you are still enjoying snow flurries.  While some are contemplating giving up cell phones and/or internet service entirely, others are still able to replace broken phones and computers with brand new, state of the art technology.

     There are decisions we all must make when it comes to pinching pennies.  Quite honestly, a recent series of necessary car repairs have put us more in the “pinching pennies” stage than the “stretching the dollars” stage.  The hose that was inadvertently run over with the mower will be repaired instead of replaced. 

      Currently, we have several such repaired hoses, some with more than one repair; and they deliver water just as well as a new hose would.  We are definitely in a season of “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”.  You know what, it’s absolutely okay!  The Lord has lessons for me in this particular season, and I’m blessed to have the opportunity to seek His wisdom in it.  Are you content with where He’s placed you just now?  
     Wherever you find yourself in this journey of frugality, there are a few principles that apply to all of us.

      Is it a need, or is it a want?  This is a time of letting go of some things I’ve wanted for a good long time.  I thought I was patient in waiting so long for them, but that was prideful thinking.  I’ve wanted to landscape along our front driveway and to finish landscaping our back yard for ten years now.  It’s not wrong to want beautiful things, but I need to let that go.  Our funds are better spent expanding the areas for growing food, and buying the plants and seeds to accomplish that goal.  Having a lovely landscaped drive and yard is a good thing, but it’s a want.  Food is definitely a need!

     We still desire beauty in our home though, and Dani and I (mostly Dani) have planted a small area with a variety of seeds as a cutting garden to supply our home.  This area was just tilled for the first time this year and the weeds are not willing to give it up to our intended purpose.  Dani has spent hours carefully pulling the weeds that are growing and trying very hard to not disturb the tiny seedlings in the process. 

     For the price of one grocery store bundle of flowers, we bought several packages of flower seeds.  Nope, not a need, but a great way of fulfilling a desire for beauty.  These flowers will be purchased with sweat equity!

     Working harder is another practical bit of advice that will always serve us well.  We’ve pinched corners here by simplifying our cleaning products.  A double benefit is this means we are also using safer products.  The boys cleaned the outdoor picnic tables this afternoon with our all-purpose spray cleaner – water, vinegar and a few drops of peppermint essential oil.  The tables were really grimy from being outside all winter.  The vinegar does a good job of cutting the grime, but it’s not as effortless as the expensive cleanser I used to buy.  Instead, they used a scrub brush and plenty of elbow grease.  The tables look great!

     Time Management is also a necessary skill.  Frugal living by its very nature takes more time.  Just as we have to exercise wisdom in separating our needs from our wants when it comes to purchasing, we must do the same in deciding how to spend our time.  We have a very large garden this year, and that will require a great deal of time to tend as we water, weed, check for pests, weed, fertilize, weed, thin seedlings, weed, keep planting in rotation, weed, harvest, and weed.  Did I mention we’ll need to weed?  Weeding the garden will take precedence over weeding the flower beds. 

     Presently, it’s a higher priority (a MUCH higher priority!) for me to weed around my newly sprouting potatoes……

…… than it is for me to pull the weeds around the shrubs next to the pool.  Ideally, both will get done, but when time is an issue (and when isn’t it?) the needful weeding of the food producing areas will take precedence.

     Learn!  That’s something I know that I say a lot, but it’s true.  Whatever season you are in, you should be learning something new through reading.  In a season of wanting to increase your ability to stretch your available funds, find resources that will help you attain those goals.  I spent the winter reading about growing asparagus.  I read web sites, catalogues, gardening books and flyers supplied by our local nursery.  I learned a lot about growing asparagus and our asparagus is, I think, doing very well.  I should have spent more time reading about growing potatoes.  Unfortunately, through ignorance, I caused at least half of our seed potatoes to rot in the ground.  My want of knowledge is to blame for the loss.  A few hours spent reading about growing potatoes last winter would have saved not only the cost of the lost seed potatoes, but would have been gain in the form of the many pounds of potatoes we would have harvested.

     Try something new.  Perhaps it would sound better to say, “Expand your horizons”!  In either case, think about something new you might try.  Homemade cleaners, like our vinegar and water, for example.  Less expensive cuts of meat.  A new way of doing something.  Even learning to like a new, good-for-you vegetable counts!  Recently, we tried Swiss Chard.  I planted a few little plants late last fall and they over wintered in my garden.  It’s a great leafy vegetable, it can be prepared several different ways, and if you garden, it will be one of the first crops you’ll harvest in the spring and one of the last you will enjoy in the fall. 
     Learn a new skill, and most importantly, stay a step ahead of the game on skills you may need.  Even in times of plenty, I think that learning a new skill is a wise use of your time.  However, in times of want, new skills can really make a difference.  Can you bake a decent loaf of bread from scratch?  Don’t wait until your family needs bread to learn that skill!  Learn to garden, knit or sew.  Kitchen skills are always a good thing to have so learn to bake, cut up a whole chicken, or can.  Just remember, don’t wait until you have tons of tomatoes on the counter from your garden before you learn the basics of canning!  Want to learn to make your own egg noodles?  I’ve posted my mom’s recipe for you below.  Think about what skill would benefit your family and learn that skill!   
     Where are you on the mountain?  You know, it really doesn’t matter much, so long as you are actively climbing!  If you lack the information you need to reach the summit, learn.  If you lack certain skills necessary for continuing the climb, learn them.  If you’ve been climbing for a good long while and are weary from the effort, take a breather and spend some time thanking God for bringing you this far.  If you’ve lost your footing and are sliding back down the mountain, do what you can to stop your fall immediately.  Seek the Lord’s wisdom, pray for His strength and then begin again to reclaim the ground you lost.  We’re not all at the same spot on the mountain, but isn’t it fun to be climbing together?

God bless you as you look well to the ways of your household!

Proverbs 31:27 

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23 comments to We’re Not All At The Same Spot On The Mountain

  • Cheryl, thank you so much for this post. Recently I have found myself “sliding down the mountain”. Instead of using some extra money wisely, it was nickle and dimed away. Lesson learned. I am going to get off my lazy hiney and get my garden prepared. I have to start from scratch again this year since we moved last summer. I could have used my time wisely last fall and began, but I did not. Another lesson learned. Since this won’t be our “forever home” I won’t do to much, but I want to supplement our food with homegrown. I will also be a regular at the farmer’s market.

    May the Lord bless you as you not only care for your houshold, but as you inspire the rest of us while we care for ours.


  • This is such a good post. You are so right we are all climbing at different levels and at different paces. And we should always be learning new things just as we should be learning new truths.  Thank you for taking the time to write this. I am sure many will be blessed.God bless!  

  • What a wonderful post!  That made a bad evening a bit brighter.

  • Cheryl, this was a wonderful post. I see so many places where I have wasted time, resources, or money. With the Lord’s help, I can get back on track. Thank you. I needed to read this. Winona

  • Oh you know I am on that mountain…still close to the bottom, but steady in my climb. Sometimes my ego or my fleshly wants get in the way of my climb, but I am focused and making up ground. I spent a good part of my time the last week reading on couponing. I really do not like to coupon, but found I can save SO much money, so I took something I do not LIKE and am learning to make it more fun….for example, I did not know it is best to use a coupon on a SALE item….who’d a thunk? I am getting the kids involved too, though I do want to teach them to be money wise, I do not want to give them a “poverty” mentality. When you are laid off, that is hard to do!

    Wonderful post!!!! You just gave many of us a hand up in our climb up that mountain.

  • Thank you for this post.  So many truths for us to apply!

    You place looks beautiful, weeds and all!

  • Great post!  I started making our own laundry detergent many months ago.  

    (click here for more info) 
    We love the soap and it is so much cheaper.  With the prices I pay for the three ingredients it ends up being around a penny a load!  I used to easily spend around 30 bucks a month or more on laundry products.  Not any more.  One box of washing powders, 1 bar of fels naptha and 1 box of borax costs way under 10 bucks and last me literally MONTHS!  This past time I made a full five gal bucket and that will more than likely last us about six months. It is great for those with sensetive skin too.
    I too have been using vinegar as a cleaner and cutting back buying other household cleaners.  Hubby and I are setting down this weekend to make an  actual budget.  Something we have never done before but we are losing, with in the next month, over 900.00 in income monthly AND we have a new baby arriving in the next three weeks.  We really have no choice but to buckle down and watch every single penny.

  • Great post!  These have been my thoughts exactly.  I so appreciate what I’ve learned so far and the ability to keep learning.

    By the way (regarding the homemade noodle post), my mom’s sister was named Thelma!

  • I was thinking just last night about skills I wast to learn and those that I feel important to teach my children. Great and timly posting. Thanks!!

  • Oh Cheryl, thanks for this post! As far as homemaking goes I am at the BOTTOM of the moutain and cannot see anyone else climbing ahead πŸ™‚ But, I HAVE learned how to make my own cleaners, laundry soap and am going to learn to cook more from scratch…which is a huge leap for me.

    Thanks for the encouragement.

    Many Blessings πŸ™‚


  • hello from the other side of the mountain!  so glad to be enjoying the trip with you…meet you at the summit!!!


  • Oh my goodness that loud yell you hear is a resounding YES from my little corner of the blogosphere, Cheryl. Thank you for sharing the thoughts I wasn’t able to put into words!!!!! I’ll be linking to this post very soon.

    Bless you,

    jAne http://tickleberryfarm.blogspot.com

  • Cheryl,

          Thanks I figured it out. Now I can read all of your wonderful blog. Have a great day.

  • @Elizabeth – Oh, I’m so glad!!!  Would you mind letting me know what the problem was in case anyone else has it?  You can email me if you’d rather—-copperswifeATsoftcomDOTnet   

  • Hey Cheryl!  Just letting you know I’m staring the mountain in the face and considering so many things to start the climb πŸ™‚ 

    Not that you aren’t already studied up in the area of weeding but Steve is a Master Composter and one of the side benefits was learning about natural weed control πŸ™‚  He’s always willing to share some ideas…  Some?   Lots!

    Hope to see you Sunday!

  • Awesome post Cheryl!

    Sometimes we all need a little boost to get our “engine” running again. You’ve definitely given me the boost to hone a new skill I’ve been wanting to try!

  • Awesome post Cheryl!

    Sometimes we all need a little boost to get our “engine” running again. You’ve definitely given me the boost to hone a new skill I’ve been wanting to try!

  • Thank you for always having such timely posts on your blog!  So often, it’s exactly what I need to encourage me in my walk with the Lord and in my daily life.

    These past few months,  homemaking has become what I do in my spare time.  I miss it, but right now there is no other way for our family to make ends meet, except that I work full time.  My husband works in auto manufacturing, which has been devastated by the economy in recent months.  He now does a lot of the housework.  He does it well enough, but I can see the lack of a woman’s touch as I look around.  ( I don’t say anything to him though…:))  While this role reversal is something I never would have wanted and I long for the day I can be at home again, I am thankful that the Lord has provided for us and our bills ARE being paid on time.  The Lord is so faithful to us.

  • Hi Cheryl!
    What a wonderful post… you spoke of many of the things that I have been pondering lately too!
    We definitely have the same thoughts about flowers!! I have several packets of seeds planted and can’t wait to see them and be able to bring a bouquet into the house =)
    Thanks for being such a blessing and encouragement!

  • Hi Cheryl!
    What a wonderful post… you spoke of many of the things that I have been pondering lately too!
    We definitely have the same thoughts about flowers!! I have several packets of seeds planted and can’t wait to see them and be able to bring a bouquet into the house =)
    Thanks for being such a blessing and encouragement!

  • Hi Cheryl,

    Wonderful Post.Dave and I have been very blessed and are in a season where we don’t have to be as frugal as we once were however we have chosen to continue watching our pennies very closely in order to help others on thier journey. I agree we are all in this together.

    Dave bought me a Pink Zune and I love it. Thanks for telling us about it.



  • Hi, Cheryl…Since my dh became disabled early on in our marriage, we’ve lived the very frugal life for a long time now. For the first several years, I complained about this a LOT. I didn’t want to live with so little when I was used to having “more”, but the Lord was faithful, and He’s been changing my heart to the point where now I can see that He was probably just teaching me early how to live on less so that I’d be ready for the days we’re in now.

    I very much enjoyed this post.

    May the Lord bless you and your family this week.