Living on Less

Unexpected death, disability, divorce, or unemployment may force you or your family to live on less. Maybe you are considering cutting back on spending because you are planning to retire, returning to school, going on a mission, or quitting work to care for a new baby. Some families want to pump more into savings or reduce spending so they can get out of debt. For one reason or another, almost all of us experience living on a reduced income at some times. Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles commented: “One of life’s great lessons is to teach us that what we do with what we have is more important than what we have. Limited budgets can teach us sacrifice, self-reliance, restraint, and personal management” (Ensign, Sept. 1982, p. 75). If you are forced to or want to live on less, the following strategies can help you spend less—a lot less.

Spend Less on Transportation

Where applicable, sell the extra car. By the time you add together the price you paid for the car, insurance, gas, repairs, parking fees, and registration, your car costs between twenty and forty cents a mile to drive. If you sell the car that is most expensive to operate, you can save several thousand dollars each year.

Buy a used car instead of a new one. New cars lose about 20 percent of their value the moment they are driven off of the dealer’s lot. After three years, most cars are worth less than half of their purchase price. A carefully selected, low-maintenance, three- to five-year-old car can last many more years if maintained properly. Consumer magazines can help you identify cars with lower-than-average operating costs and repair expenses. When repair work is needed, seek out repairs that are guaranteed for the life of your car. Many repair jobs such as brakes, shocks, and mufflers are guaranteed for as long as you own the car.

You may find that some of your needs do not require the use of a car. Try using public transportation, forming a car pool, biking, or walking.

Reduce Clothing Expenses

Recycle clothing. Go through your closets and take out articles of clothing and pairs of shoes that your family has not worn for some time. Donate these to Deseret Industries or your local thrift shop. While there, check for items you and your family need.

Buy new items on sale after working out a year’s clothing budget. Prices are often lower at the end of the season.

Exercise and eat nutritiously to maintain your normal or ideal weight and clothing size.

Fix It Yourself

When something breaks, see if you can tackle the repair yourself first. If you are not able to repair the item, compare a professional’s estimate of repairs with the price of replacing the item. Use the “three-thirty” rule. Before you make a large purchase, get three price estimates and then consider waiting thirty days to see if you still need the item.

You might share costs with a family member or neighbor. If you make a group purchase, decide as a group where the item will be stored and agree that all parties will share in repair costs.

Be Conservation-Minded

Focus on conservation. Insulate attics and exposed water pipes. Conservation also means turning down thermostats, turning off unnecessary lights, closing off unoccupied rooms, taking shorter baths and showers, and developing other good habits. Local public utilities often conduct free energy audits of your home; some even offer a do-it-yourself home energy examination.

Thrifty Family Fun

Rediscover your community. Every year tourists probably spend a lot of money to visit the area where you live. They come to enjoy activities and points of interest that your family may have never tried. Visit your local visitor information center or chamber of commerce and collect brochures about places to visit in your area. Visiting and sight-seeing can be a fun, inexpensive way to spend a vacation or weekend outing.

Provide children with activities that don’t require expensive equipment. For example, use the local public library to borrow books, videos, and music. The library’s resources can keep your family happily occupied.

Living on less can strengthen family ties. As we worked as a family to reduce expenses, we found many opportunities to teach children responsibility while also sharing special times working together. We learned to have greater faith in the gospel and to rely more on the Lord and each other. Living on less presents many opportunities to refocus priorities and find happiness in simple things.Jerry Mason, Lubbock, Texas

Grandpa Wrote a Book

When my father, Harold Glen Clark, was young, his grandfather told him stories. So my father, when he became a grandfather, wrote down some of his own stories and gave them to his grandchildren in the form of a ninety-page book. He told of experiences such as this:

“I was thinking about which one thing I had ever done might have pleased the Lord most. Then it came to me what it might be. It was when I was sixteen or seventeen years old. My mother, who often took in the unfortunate, had the care of two grandpas at one time. Someone said to her in jest, ‘Why don’t you put up a sign “Grandpas wanted!”’ But it wasn’t funny, because I was assigned to take care of Grandpa Benjamin Noble, who had to be bathed, dressed, and undressed and helped to the table to eat. Now, I was a fun-loving young man, and here I was too many times, nursing Grandpa while a good game of basketball was going on outside. Once when my pals were calling me, I was inside doing the tedious chore of taking off his wet pajamas. I was impatient and upset. Then I felt Grandpa’s trembling hand on mine. I turned and met his tearful countenance and heard him say, ‘God bless you, my boy. You will never regret doing this for me.’ I was so sorry I had been resentful, but my heart was light and my spirit had eagle’s wings. To this day I have a warm glow about this little service I performed for a quite helpless grandpa. I suppose doing something for someone which they cannot do for themselves brings you close to God, because that’s what he and his Son are doing all the time, out of pure love for us.

“So, when I step up to heaven’s entrance, this little service might be the most precious thing I ever did. I might even hear the words, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me’ (Matt. 25:40).”

His concise stories and observations of daily life, illustrated with simple drawings, are an expression of his personal philosophy. These stories have become an important part of our family history. They are words he gave his grandchildren to live by. Stories from Grandpa’s book, “Tell Us Another One, Grandpa,” have been taken to school for reports, used as resource material for Church talks and lessons, and shared with friends and family. The circle of Grandpa’s influence continues to widen as we read his musing:

“‘Why don’t you get a recommend and go to the temple of the Lord?’ I asked a father of a fine Latter-day Saint family. ‘Well, Bishop,’ he replied, ‘I just don’t want to be that good.’

“I have thought since that to recognize a good thing and then want it with your heart, mind, and strength is such an important, precious gift that it just has to come from God.

“God bless the great question askers, the great seekers for righteousness, the great wanters of good things. I, your grandfather, don’t wish you some easy success. But I do wish for you to have wants that make you dress before dawn, or cross burning deserts, or wrestle with God until you get that good blessing. What an interesting life there is ahead for the wanters, not only here and now but a thousand worlds from here!”

Over the years, some of the stories have been read so many times that they are known by heart. Now even the younger grandchildren, who never knew their grandfather in person, can learn lessons from his life and come to appreciate their family heritage.

Written in language with levels of meaning for both children and adults, Grandpa’s book reflects his belief that “all things unto [the Lord] are spiritual” (D&C 29:34) and that even small experiences have eternal implications.Lynn Clark Callister, Provo, Utah

Enlivening Scripture Study

When we began regular family scripture study we used the old standby routine. Dad began by reading one verse. Then, going clockwise, each family member took a turn reading his or her verse. The system was functional, but it didn’t always keep our interest.

The first thing we did to change this system was to rotate who would be in charge of scripture study each day. This has worked well—even our seven-year-old feels pretty important when she is running the show.

The next thing we added was “touch” reading. This works best if a parent is the leader, because the leader reads the most. The person in charge begins by reading a few verses. When the leader wants someone else to read a verse, he or she touches another family member on the arm. The family member reads one verse, and then the leader reads verses again until another person is touched. In this way, the parent leading the scripture study can direct the reading. With a little advance planning, the reading can resemble a play, with a parent as narrator and family members providing dialogue parts.

Another idea to ensure that everybody is reading along is to have all family members read the specified scripture section individually and take notes as they read. Small children who cannot read can be partners with someone who can read aloud to them. Afterward, the family can discuss what was read.

A second approach for families with small children is to focus on reading scripture stories. We follow this outline for Book of Mormon stories:

1 Nephi 2–4, 7, 18

2 Nephi 3–5

Jacob 1–7

Enos, Jarom, Omni, Words of Mormon

Mosiah 11–13, 17–18, 27

Alma 14, 17–18, 53–56

Helaman 13–15

3 Nephi 8–11

Mormon 1, 6–7

Ether 1, 3, 6

Moroni 1–5, 10

While the family is reading the scripture story, the nonreaders draw pictures about what they are hearing. For the nonreaders’ benefit, the leader may have to pause after each main idea in the story to paraphrase what is happening.

With everyone participating and fulfilling an important role, scripture study becomes more meaningful to all members of the family.Cindy Bluemel, Vancouver, Washington

[photos] Photography by John Luke

[illustration] Illustrated by Phyllis Luch