I grew up the oldest of 6 kids, in a family of artists, and I’m pretty sure that means I am an authority on living cheaply!
First of let me tell you that I never felt poor a day in my life, but the reality of living well under the “poverty line” is that you have to re-imagine what success means to you.
Here is a list of things that I’ve learned that have become essential to my family’s way of life.
Photo by cat luck
1. Get rid of your car. Walk, ride bikes, take the bus, and if you’re lucky the subway.
Location is also important for this, my parents house is a block away from the Farmers Market, the grocery store, a mile away from the library, and down town Grand Rapids.
Photo by me!
2. Have house mates, do you have any extra rooms? an attic you could finish? Rent it out! Living in community can be wonderful, just make sure you can live with whoever you invite into your home.
Photo by StudioBeerhorst
3. Grow your own food, turn your front yard into a vegetable garden, raise chickens, keep bees
Photo by Pearl Beerhorst
4. Thrift everything!!! Better for the planet//better for your wallet. (Also it’s really fun)
5. Dumpster dive, it has gotten us through the toughest of times…
One of the easiest places for novice Divers is Panera Bread, they throw away tons of perfectly good day-old bread every single day. I went there recently and got 6 beautiful whole wheat baguettes!
I made them into a lovely bread pudding (it turned out sooooo freak’n good)
Photo by Indianablue
6. Learn to cook. If you can cook your favorite meals from scratch you’re saving a lot, and then you can still buy good quality ingredients!
Art by Astrid Yskout
7. Cultivate relationships with friends and neighbors, so you can depend on each other to lend a lawnmower or a car here or there.
Photo by toby price
8. Forage. Get a wild edibles book and you’ll learn that you can eat pretty much anything! Also under this category keep your eyes out for fruit and nut trees in the yards of abandoned houses. If the houses are not abandoned, ask the tenants if they are planning to harvest from their trees.
(we get gallons of sour cherries from a neighbor’s tree every year)
photo by me!
9. Don’t do just one thing, If you want to make your living selling your art work (or whatever) don’t just rely on Etsy.
Have an Etsy and have open houses, sell in local shops and galleries, go to art fairs, teach lessons, do illustrations etc.
Photo from VintageMedStock
10. If you’re living in America and are a self employed artist (or whatever), one of the toughest things to think about is medical insurance…
There is no easy answer for how to do this. There are some government programs for families to get affordable health care, although getting them is like getting through the eye of a needle. Make sure you know your closest free clinic.
If you can’t afford medical insurance (like me) and it’s worrying you, be mindful of your health, eat organic healthy food and get plenty of exercise!
Another healthcare resource is to find your local naturopath or midwife, not only do they practice a more ecological//preventative type of medicine, but they also can be open to barter for their services.
(all my siblings and I were born at home and a few times the midwife bartered all or part of the fee — once a painting another time a sculpture.)
If you have anything you’d like to add to this list please don’t hesitate to share it in the comments ( :