Monday, December 14, 2015

Orchids on your Budget...Lesson #2..How to cope with being a Have-Not...

Marjorie Hillis was one clever cookie.
In 1937, having worked for Vogue for twenty years, she penned this little gem of a book, to help those who, in polite terms, had suffered Changed Circumstances.
Basically this meant that they had gone from being The-Haves, to The Have-Nots. It happened to lots of people called The-Haves back then, courtesy of the Wall Street crash of 1929. Strange times for them!
So in this series, I'm sharing some of Clever Marjories tips for living well on not much, and making the most of it.
One of the sweetest things that Marjorie shares, are her Case Histories. Who really knows for sure, how true to life these Cases are. But there are some real lessons amongst them.
Today I'll share the case of Mrs T, married to a writer, who spends every cent they earn on travel. Her case history explains that 'Mrs T has almost starved in Budapest, Shanghai, Madrid, Moscow and the Left Bank. She has learned to bargain with pennies in half a dozen languages, to cajole irate landlords into friendliness, to make strange garrets homelike, and to get along on sketchy and irregular meals.'
Doesn't sound like much fun so far, does it?
BUT, Marjorie then goes on to say, 'She (Mrs T) has learned that, given wits and courage, you don't starve. And if you should catch her in an intimate moment, you would find that she knows too, that an affection that will last through the crises she and her husband have experienced, is more compensating than money; and that colour and adventure in your life are not dependent upon cash'.
How true.
 I know I've lived through some tough times, unfortunately not in locations as picturesque as Budapest or the Left Bank, and they are peppered with some of my fondest memories.
There was a time in my life when I was a single parent, with two teenage sons and a toddler who had just been diagnosed with a severe physical disability. Thankfully I was educated and had a good job,  or I don't know what we would have done sometimes. As it was, we mostly lived week to week. I used to worry about it all the time.
I'd worry that my sons didn't have privileges afforded to two parent families, that they were missing out, that the lack of overseas holidays and clothing with logos on it would somehow diminish their childhood memories.
Well, those sons are now in their late 30s with children of their own, and I can tell you, that one thing they do not recall, at all, is being deprived. Of anything.
They do remember our loving and crazy extended family of my siblings, and their cousins.
They remember that they always had their one special gift under the tree, even if it meant that I spent a whole week of my two weeks holiday pay each Christmas, on them. With the remainder, I'd pay the rent and put fuel in my car so we could get grocery shopping and visiting done, and then I'd bake and we'd have friends over. They boys loved inviting friends, and our home was a constant hub of teenage boys lounging around playing on the Sega Megadrive or out the back indulging in a game of basketball or touch football, or baseball. The other parents loved it too, as they knew where there boys were, and that they were well fed and watched over.
This means that the boys have great memories of having friends over for sleepovers that turned into a week, with popcorn, home made chocolate milk, and my special lasagna on tap. I could churn out that stuff like nobody's business!
And at Christmas, we always had the obligatory hot dinner in the roaring heat of the day here in Australia, and to us, that was Christmas. Some years it was Eye Fillet, and others it was Meatloaf with my Mums special Barbecue sauce, but it all tasted good, no matter what.
So maybe you're struggling this Christmas. Maybe it's a Meatloaf Christmas for you this year, and not an Eye Fillet one. That's really not as unusual as you might think. Plenty of The-Haves, are currently The Have-Nots. I know some!
What to do about it?
Firstly, don't run around pretending to be a Have, if you're a Have-Not. That means you don't go buying extravagant gifts on credit, in denial of your circumstances, okay? If you've already done that and you're wondering how you're going to pay the rent or the mortgage, well, it's not too late to take the gifts back and exchange them for something more modest. Yes, I am serious. A diminished credit rating will not help you or your family.
Secondly, reduce your gift giving list to the bare minimum. Just for now. Even home made gifts still cost money. Save your money for those closest to you. Just for now. You can make it up to everyone else later when your finances improve.
Thirdly, of those closest to you, how many are old enough to understand the current situation of being a Have-Not? Could a Christmas of exchanging meaningful letters sharing memories with one another, be a way of overcoming the urge to spend? Again, there's no point in living in denial. Honesty is best, and you'd be surprised how understanding kids of any age can be, if you are honest with them. You might find that a letter, written from the heart, however scorned initially, may well become one of their most treasured possessions. Especially if things have been tough, and that's been reflected by ongoing tensions in the home.
If the loved ones are little ones, little ones love the unwrapping of the gifts as much as the gifts themselves. Could you do a series of inexpensive gifts, lavishly wrapped, and save the bigger expenditure for the after Christmas Sales? Even little ones understand money, and a modest sum of money, spent however they wish at the sales, might teach them more about life, than any techno gadget. A lesson might be gained too, by helping them search on eBay or in Loan Brokers stores, for the gifts unwanted by others! It's possible to find just the 'thing' they wanted for well under retail price post Christmas.
If the loved ones are friends to whom you feel you must gift something, then gift a skill. Teach yourself to give the best hand and arm or scalp massage ever (neither are difficult at all), using a neutral oil like almond oil or a lotion like Sorbolene, lightly scented with their favourite essential oil. This could be Rose, Lavender, Peppermint, Jasmine, Honeysuckle, Frangipani, or perhaps one chosen by offering them a list of what you have on hand. Yes, still an expense, but staggered over a period of time. They might look at you oddly at first, but one massage will convert them!
If massage doesn't appeal, then offer a different skill. Cooking and serving a meal, taking their own kids off their hands so they can have a night off, gardening, growing some herbs for them, and regularly harvesting them, growing ivy from cuttings and planting it in hanging baskets later on when finances are improved.
Annabel over at The Bluebirds are Nesting, gifts bunches of herbs, and is gifted lemons in return. I know that I'd love either.
I have a friend who grows basil by the mile like a weed, and turns it into the most exceptional pesto. This pesto, tossed with fresh pasta, is a taste sensation that cannot be described. This is a tradition she started when she was a struggling single parent too, many years ago, and one she has continued due to the begging of various friends, including me! Now, despite both of us having greatly improved 'circumstances', she still gifts me pesto, and I still gift her home made pasta and pate`, and we're both happy. We each anticipate the others gift too, and treasure it all the more for only having it once a year, with all the memories attached.
So let's say it's too late to grow basil (it is), and you don't know how to make pasta or pate`.
How about inviting your friends on a tour of the Christmas Lights in your area. Or to the church for Carols on Christmas Eve? You can offer to provide the hot chocolate and marshmallows afterwards if you're in a cold climate, or the home made ice creams with fudge sauce, if you're in a hot climate. Ice cream, and home made caramel or chocolate fudge sauce for 10? About $20 or $2 each. Hot chocolate and marshmallows the same. If you serve it with a bit of panache, set the table beautifully, and call it a Sundae Soiree` or a Hot Chocolate Banquet , with wafers for the sundaes, and cinnamon sugar, chocolate flakes, and peppermint sprinkles for the marshmallow hot chocolate, then it still looks like you've made an effort.
And most importantly, make sure you're generous. Make sure there's enough hot chocolate and marshmallows or ice cream, fudge sauce and wafers, to go around at least twice, if not thrice. You can afford that if you're not spending ridiculously on gifts that will be forgotten by late January.
Do whatever you do well, and with a sense of pride, and not one of shame. Be generous of heart and spirit too, and you'll find it will return to you many times over. I promise. Let that driver merge in front of you, offer up your place in the supermarket queue to the mum with the screaming toddler, let that carpark space go, there'll be another. Don't spoil your festive season by being mean of heart and spirit. That will make for a sad time.
If you create a feeling of abundance in word and deed, you'll find that you, like Mrs T, fear little and you'll know that the adventures in life, have little to do with money.
More tomorrow....
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Sharing at...
Dwellings...the Heart of your Home
The Art of Homemaking Monday
The Creative Corner
Julies Lifestyle
A Stroll Thru Life
Rose Chintz Cottage
Ivy and Elephants
The Charm of Home


  1. I loved this. :) We always had a game night during the holidays while our kids were growing up and it continues now that they are adults with kids of their own. :) Their friends, who have become our "hanai" adopted by love kids, return home for Christmas and always come to our game nights. We set up a huge buffet, potluck style, and everyone has a wonderful time. It is something that we all look forward to each year.

    1. What a lovely tradition Debbie! And I love that word 'hanai'. I've never heard it before. But we have many Hanai here too. I'll call them that now, and they'll love it! Mimi xxx

  2. wonderful timely post Mimi. At the moment I seem to be between the haves and the have nots. By being careful and thoughtful I intend not getting closer to the have nots. I will never be better off financially due to age and disability but can still manage to keep gift giving in one form or another by planning early.

    1. Meg, planning early is the key I believe. I used to be the one out there shopping on Christmas Eve. Now by Christmas Eve, I've already started on next! Anyone can gift generously with some judicious planning and creating. I'm glad you are finding your balance between being Have and Have-Not. There's more to life than money. Mimi xxx

  3. Replies
    1. Thankyou Patsy. I'm pleased it speaks to you. Mimi xxx

  4. Oh Mimi, I love reading your thoughts, as usual. I thought of you when I made one dozen giant choc chip cookies, wrapped them up in cellophane and tied on a black grosgrain ribbon and white ceramic (dollar store) Christmas tree ornament (if Chanel was gifting giant cookies this is how they would do it!). You are SO right about taking the time to think about gifts and not just crazily spending. Happy Season to you. Xxxx

    1. Ah Flora! Only you could do Chanel cookies! And I completely agree...Chanel would indeed do Christmas cookies that way. That sounds divine. I LOVE it. Happy Festivities to you too my lovely. Mimi xxx

  5. I love this too. I hope it is widely read, Mimi. I used to have to layaway my kids things from Santa by the end of August, just to be able to budget and afford them in time for Christmas (knowing retailers would be changing my kids' minds on wish lists many times over before the first choices were paid for). Like yours, my kids remember the times with family and cousins, and I am STILL carrying on the tradition of focusing Christmas around getting the family together. I consider that one of the best gifts. I'll have 27 of my immediate family and their kids this Christmas Eve!

    1. Thankyou Rita. Yes we have Layaway here too, but fewer and fewer people use it, preferring to rack it up on the Credit Card. Such a shame! Yes, family is the greatest gift. You only appreciate that when you lose someone I think. In our extended family, including grandchildren, step children, and great nieces and nephews, we now number 67! That's some gathering, I can tell you! Your Christmas Eve will be the best fun ever, I bet! Mimi xxx

  6. Thanks Mimi for sharing these great and helpful tips about Christmas time.
    Thanks for sharing them at Cooking and Crafting with J & J. Enjoy the week.

    1. Thankyou Julie. It's always fun to visit you and see what everyone is up to. Mimi xxx

  7. Well said, Mimi and Marjorie! I think many people have seen their circumstances change, and perhaps change back again, and those who manage the lean times honestly and gracefully are the ones who end up earning the respect of those who know them. May we all retain the lessons of the lean years, no matter our fortunes!

    1. What a beautiful comment! Yes you can manage the lean times with honesty and grace and respect will follow. It's the ones who remain delusional about the Change of Circumstance, that suffer, I think. And yes, in retaining those lessons, we learn to live life well, no matter what. Mimi xxx

  8. This is such a great post! Love it!

    Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J!

  9. What great advice! Certainly creativity and a little work can make a beautiful gift especially if the heart is in it! Have a beautiful week! Lynn

    1. Yes, a gift from the heart is always welcome I think, Lynn. Thankyou! Mimi xxx

  10. Very wise words, Mimi. I am thankful we don't have any pressure on us to give a lot of gifts. Christmas has always been simple for us as that is the way I was brought up back in the 1950s/60s before people became so 'affluent'.

    1. Yes, it was a simpler time wasn't it Chel? I feel for families now. The pressure to have these enormous celebrations, not just for Christmas but even for childrens birthdays, is just insane. Someone needs to say ENOUGH. Don't you think? Mimi xxx

  11. Beautiful words Mimi and so filled with truth about todays' gift giving for kids! I need this around this time of year. We give the grandgirls presents, two. Our one daughter that lives three ours away, probably something she needs for the home, so that goes for the two of them. My mom and my Sil. That's it, no biggie and simple gifts.
    We were just in Florida as you know and did lots of shopping, so I feel gifted.
    Our C'mas back in the day was simple, with a doll and a car for my bro., that was it.
    Thank you for this post and thank you specially for your visit and sweet comment on my new bundle of joy.

  12. What a wonderful, sparkly site, Stumbled upon your site, your are a women after my heart, will be busy catching up today reading a lot of your posts. Sparkle on.

  13. What a great post, Mimi! Gifts that come from the heart are such a blessing to others. Thank you for sharing at No Place Like Home.

    Christmas blessings,

  14. I really like this series. What an inspiring book!

  15. My first visit here, from Sandi's party. Such good ideas; we should never be shamed into going into debt for presents!


I love hearing from you! I always respond to comments, so don't be shy! Mimi xxx