Stay Home And Make Some Real Money

Walt Curlee Art


Far be it from me to criticize the American way and it wouldn’t change if I did. But it seems to me that another way of looking at life needs to be presented occasionally. Those of us who choose to live the home-centered garden and farming way have some built in advantages when it comes to profits and losses.

If time is money, I’ve lost thousands of dollars waiting for traffic lights to change or traffic jams to clear up or planes to get back on schedule. The fuel and blood pressure burned up in the process could cost me a whole lot more than four dollar gas. On trips, if you don’t pack some food, a meal on the road is going to average out at about eight dollars a head. If you stay at a motel, deduct another bunch of bucks. But the bedbugs are free. All this is what you get for the thrill of staring at the scenic sides of huge semi-trucks as you roar down the highway always three feet and three seconds away from death.

I manage to shed twenty bucks minimum just going to town no matter how hard I try not to. If I drive around long enough looking for bargains, I spend the money I might save in the store on gas.

We hear a lot about local food these days, but the bankers sure don’t want anyone to take that too literally. If everyone ate at home out of their gardens most of the time, the so-called economy would collapse because it is based on the assumption that the vast majority of people will continue to eat at restaurants, out of necessity or simply because that is the established way of American life.

If you want to make some real money, start eating breakfast at home, pack a lunch, stop snacking at your favorite local sugar shop and eat dinner at home. One of these days a parent might take a good look at the daily budget and decide that it might be more profitable to stay home and cook than to hold down an outside job.

It is not just the cooking. There is also housework which more and more is done by hired help. Having that evening cocktail at home costs half of what you’ll pay at a bar. Then there is the second or third car that becomes necessary, not just for going to work but for carting children around from one event to another because no longer are there activities for children at home. I like to brag about a family in southern Ohio I know well, where all the children were homeschooled. The one I have been corresponding with for about 10 years scored in the highest percentile when she took those ACT tests to go to college without ever having graced a regular school. I call her Super Gal. She taught herself to play the organ and plays professionally now, is a fairly good artist and illustrates her sister’s regular family newsletter detailing the sometimes highly adventurous life on their farm, is an expert on raising chickens, helps with the family garden and the neighboring farmers in haymaking, works in a local greenhouse when she has time, taught herself how to wire a house, repair a pickup, tan animal skins, build sheds, and is one of the most well-read young people I have ever encountered. (At the moment she is reading Thomas Aquinas and I am not making that up.)  All through her and her siblings’ childhoods, her parents paid particular attention to providing home activities, both of work and play. She likes her courses in college now but is not sure it is worth the money. Getting a degree for a high-paying job is not a big deal with her. She is in school to pursue wisdom and knowledge; she already knows seven ways from Sunday how to make money. I know one thing for sure. Super Gal’s mother has made a lot more real profit raising her family than she would have at a salaried job.

Let us say that a person like Super Gal decided not to go to college, which is what her sister decided. You can pursue a higher education on your own at home, as many people are doing. That would save you at least $12,000 a year and probably a lot more.

Dining out as much as people do now is costing a family of four well over a hundred dollars a week so there’s at least another $5000 a year that you could save cooking at home, especially eating your own backyard and barnyard food.

A second or third car cost about $7000 a year to own.

Vacationing and recreating at home would save another $5000 minimum. You can travel all over the world on the Internet.

Savings on not having to buy so many new clothes or extra gas or hiring babysitters so you can work an outside job could amount to at least another $5000 to $10,000 a year.

My numbers may not be accurate enough, but they prove the point, I think.  The farming and gardening way of life offers the opportunity to save a lot of money just by staying home. And you won’t have to pay a cent of income taxes on it either.


I posted the link to this FANTASTIC article on Facebook with my remark:

“OK. I am going to come clean right now. I am “coming out”. As a person who lived her whole life in worship of the Yankee Work Ethic and found that it leads to a total dead-end….THIS is what I REALLY WANT. Yes, I’ll continue to work outside the home…for now. But this is who I REALLY AM on the *inside*. Mom, Dad…I am a Domestic Artist!”

When I read things like this, I want to cry. I’m 41 years old and have spent my adult life trying to figure out how to live this dream, and really I have had a wonderful time. But I just don’t understand how the economy of it works. I barely eat out, maybe once or twice a month, maximum. I have a magnificent garden, producing produce year-round in southern Vermont, including several gallons of dried beans and even a few loaves of my own rye bread. I love to stay at home and have always structured my work life so I work part time. I have no mortgage. And yet….my annual expenditures average $35,000 per year, and this does not include saving, which is very important. Taxes, car, health care (no insurance until recently, and that’s even courtesy of the state, which I don’t love to impose upon), farm costs, house maintenance that’s beyond my capability, a little bit of travel to see out of town family, insurance, utilities, very minimal gifts and contributions, and all the other miscellaneous stuff, which is not any hoarding or hyperconsumer stuff. I am now somewhat injured with back problems from all the hard work I’ve always loved, and am looking to go off-farm to work full time. Sometimes I feel like I have failed. I wish people would publish their budgets or something. I would do that.

Thank you for this. As a young woman who moved from a small dairy farm in michigan to houston after a silly 4 years in college, im often finding myself reflecting ok the burdens I havr now. Im $18k in debt, earning about $40k at an okay job. Im being drawn more and more to finding a way to get back to my roots and live a simpler life. I loved being raised on a farm and feel like my future kids would live it too. My partner (wed be married by now but don’t have the money) and I would love to sell the house we jumped into and buy some property and live in a trailer till we can build a house we actually like and produce some of or own food/income off the land. Staying home sounds perfect to me….

I am a single mom of 4, living in California and have never made more than $15k a year. I have had a number of small, cottage industry businesses over the years, never go on vacation, grow, cook and do pretty much everything on the farm. We buy second hand, freecycle and do without the plethora of stuff that people provide their kids. I loved your post because it reminds me that I am right for having “given up” the luxuries to stay home when my first child was born 19 years ago! Thank you!

I agree whole heartedly! I’m an ex city gal who moved to the country. It was a very difficult adjustment but now I wouldn’t have it any other way! I can’t imagine ever having to live in the city again!!

Thanks Roof!

Travel to see friends falls into an entirely different category, doesn’t it? Being an aspiring hobbit, I prefer that friends come to me but I’ll haul my butt out in the world for a friend too.

Just went through my regular spring orgy of reading the dozen or more of your books that I have.Puts me in the right mood for all the work of summer. However, to all those who want to have their (whole wheat pastry flour) cake and eat it too, we travel widely with the money we save from not buying lunches (or my personal bugaboo – coffee), cooking our own meals, raising a garden, tending the pasture-based chickens and driving our Honda that still gets 40+miles to the gallon after 355,000 miles. Friends are amazed at all the places we can afford to go to, and I tell them that it’s a choice – we save here and when we’re in a foreign country, we try to stay as close to their lifestyle as possible and not insist on luxuries as if we were at home. We live frugally and we travel frugally, and we enjoy both! We always time it so we can still get back and plant in the spring, but traveling to countries like India, Peru, Laos, South Africa really opens our eyes and makes us appreciate our home and our place in the world in a whole new way. I know that Gene doesn’t really like to travel, but for those of us who do – it’s not impossible. And yes, it really drives home the fact that people are the same everywhere, and, basically, good at heart.

Great piece, Laura Weldon. I am reassured that there are people like you walking among us. I knew after a year of college that I was as educated as I wanted to be, but my parents wanted a degree in the family, and I never convinced them that they were being stroked by the professors, and that they were smarter than the average Ph.D. Some of the most stupid, useless people I have met taught at the college level. They are actually politicians. It’s great to see all that education didn’t hurt you any! I’m going back to your blog when I have time and read some more of your stuff. You write well, as many of Gene’s readers do.

I grew up on farms, and didn’t make it out of the state of Ohio until my freshman year of college, and I was determined to see the world. I did see a big piece of it, enough to realize people are pretty much the same all over, and that I was lucky to have been born in Ohio. I may never see the Big Sur, or Alaska, or China, and I’m OK with that. I have adventures here at home. I still travel to see friends, though.

Deborah Hauss: Wow, getting a response from you is a thrill. (For the rest of you, I know Deborah personally and when she says she likes a good home cooked meal, believe me she means it, especially when she is doing the cooking.) Sure the Amalfi Coast looks better in person. I don’t know how many photos I’ve taken of our maple grove out the windown here when it shines in molten gold in a late October sun, but the pics never measure up to looking out the window. Dare I say that I get as much thrill looking out my window as I would gazing upon the Amalfi Coast? Sarah: In successful home-centered families today, the cooking and the housecleaning are almost always shared tasks of husband and wife. Even the children have their domestic duties. Or should. Beth Greenwood: No I haven’t read the book you mention. My wife would say that I probably shouldn’t because I am too much of a tightwad already. Yes, I love library loan too. Here I am trying to make a living from writing, yet I only rarely buy a book. Awful. Gene

Have you read Gene’s novels Sarah? One of his main recurring themes is women flourishing in traditionally male agricultural roles and men with varying interests. He may be a contrary ol’ curmudgeon (I only say that because I think he considers it a compliment), but he is a rather enlightened and nontraditional curmudgeon in my opinion. I will agree with you that women have suffered and still do suffer unfairly at the hands of those who would limit them to culturally traditional roles.


I can’t let that pass unchallenged. Perhaps you’re bringing some baggage to your reading that isn’t there. Now, other than happening to use a female example in the text above about “SuperGal” I don’t see a thing about gender roles in Mr. Logsdon’s remarks here, and I can’t recall seeing them elsewhere either. He does mention “Supergal” fixing trucks, building sheds, and other activities but I don’t think most people would consider those traditional gendered division of labor.

Just for the record, we bought our first loaf of store bread in two years last week (we ran out and it was just too hot to run the oven) but for two years I made ALL of our bread. I also do most of the cooking, canning & food preservation (just made strawberry jam last week), laundry, house cleaning, homeschooling, etc.

I just don’t see anything in what he’s saying (and I can’t remember anything in Berry either, off hand) that says men have to do one thing and women another.

I will confess though, that I’ve noticed that women do seem to have preferences for certain kinds of work. In my experience the women in my life are much better at working out for wages than the men I know, handle children better on average, and tend to simply refuse to deal with power tools of any kind. There are also upper body strength issues which contribute to some of the division of labor. Having said that, I don’t really believe there’s anything unfair about it when my wife declines to handle felling trees, wrestling rams, and shooting deer, preferring to weed the garden, clean the bathroom, or work for wages.

Do you think that a rural/agrarian lifestyle is harder on women than on men? Or are you assuming that the women will be living it while the men are at the office?

For my own part, I don’t shy away from a little hard work, and don’t find baking bread any harder than stacking hay bales. I kind of like some of the sewing I have to do, but also take great satisfaction in cutting and stacking a neat wood pile, clearing land, or building a fence. I don’t see any of it as hardship.

I’m with you that it’s great to cook at home and live frugally, but many of the good suggestions you’ve made seem to fall much more heavily on women than men. I feel like gender – specifically the gendered division of labor – tends to get lost in discussions glorifying an agrarian life.

Gene, I’m not trying to single you out here. Wendell Berry does this too, and it rubs me the wrong way when he does it as well. But living a better life on the farm means much more than turning the clock back a few decades and returning women to their former place in the kitchen. Where’s the discussion of men learning how to bake bread and helping out with the cleaning rather than hiring a housekeeper?

Betcha more people have read just one of your books than anything that professor wrote. Must be that “popular style” of yours.

The pleasure of home cooking and sharing a meal at home is high on my list of good times. But I have to tell you: internet travel in no way compares to being there. You can look at pictures of the Amalfi Coast all day long but that in no way comes close to translating the breathtaking beauty of actually being there. So yes, staying home certainly saves money, but some things are very much worth the cost.

“And you won’t have to pay a cent of income taxes on it either.”

John responded whimsically to this, and yet how many of us really believe that the government will contract with the economy?

In the coming energy decline, long-term economic contraction is inevitable. Fewer people will have paycheques. More people will have gardens. Who will run the government?

With any luck, it will all be contracted out to the companies that get the most benefit. Department of Agriculture will be Department of Monsanto. Department of Defence will be Department of Blackwater. But sooner or later, the people who produce the food will have to pay something, no? Otherwise, it’s just one big Ponzi Scheme. (Oh wait, I guess it is!)

We’ve been living off less than $14,000 a year for nearly fourteen years. Sometimes, it isn’t easy, but it’s never really hard!

Gene, have you ever read “The Tightwad Gazette”, by Amy Dacyzyn? She could teach anyone how to live well at the same time they live frugally. I learned a tremendous amount from her book, first by getting it through an interlibrary loan, then actually ponying up money for a copy — used of course!

Laura Weldon, I had to laugh. In your bio you say you became a writer possibly because of criticims from a professor. The head of my PhD committee castigated my dissertation because he said, “you write in too much of a popular style.” I never got my degree. Your take on travel is right down my alley. Gene Logsdon

Exactly. That’s why I’m a homesteading, homeschooling, hermit! I call it “suffering from the wrong kind of lust”

I love that part about SuperGal! Hope many more people read this post! I’ve known for years it’s cheaper to stay home; just have to keep the day job a little longer….

America. I wish every country had a blogging country man like Mr. Logsdon!

My grandparents lived this way. I hope to get to that point sometime.
Sharing on FaceBook. Thanks.

THANK YOU! I happen to prefer eating meals cooked from scratch in my own kitchen, but everyone I know wants to argue with me about that. For some reason, they think I need to be dragged out to a restaurant in order to eat. From now on I’m going to call it ‘being frugal.’ Although I doubt that will really get through to them, since most of these friends who eat out 2-3 times a day are always complaining that they don’t have enough money….

Since I’m facing losing my job due to budget cuts this really hit home. For the past 18 years we’ve farmed and I’ve worked full time off the farm so making a profit hasn’t been a big thing. Now, staring unemployment in the face at 54 and with a BIG farm mortgage hanging over us, the need to actually “live” off the farm is a challenge. The garden is now as important as the diesel tractor, and grazing cows wins over purchased feed. Maybe it’s time to go back over some of Gene’s earlier writings for some more tips and hints for farm survival!

And you won’t have to pay a cent of income taxes on it either.

Shhh. Don’t let that get around. I’m truly concerned that our government folks are going to notice this “loophole.” I can hear the uproar from congress and the media now….

“Rural fat cats eat gourmet meals and keep stables of horses on their vast estates while paying NO taxes! This absurd loop hole allows our modern landed gentry to live a life of luxury while hard working members of our urban communities struggle to pay for the modern society which benefits us all. We spoke with a resident of a nearby ‘optimal-density’ housing block who recently visited with one of these so-called farmers… ‘Yeah, I went out there. You wouldn’t believe it. You know how much organic food costs, and these people weren’t eating anything else, 3 meals a day, 7 days a week. They had horses and a giant lawn and their own private lake. The whole place was huge, that stinky place where they keep their chickens was a big as my whole apartment. I asked them how big the whole place was, and they told me it was 8 acres but that can’t be right, it must have been darn near as big as the whole city block where I live.'”

BTW, I was told, though have no evidence, that in Britain they do tax garden produce as income, but I think it was only in certain circumstances.

We used to drive all over the state to visit parks and get back to nature. Since moving to the farm12 years ago, we rarely leave it. Vacations are a trip to the pond for some fishing or sitting out under the mulberry tree grazing the goats and throwing a ball for the dogs. My husband regularly brings me flowers…ox-eye daisies, black eyed susans, chicory, and wild asters to name a few. I never buy air freshener, just open a window…right now the air is scented with wild rose, honeysuckle and a bit of tang from the currant bushes around the house. We do get bottled water…from a local “horse tank” that has three pipes spewing fresh spring water into a concrete tank. All us locals get their drinking water there…beats paying a buck a bottle for some city tap water!

Going out to weed the garden while the nice cool weather holds.

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