Friday, August 5, 2011

We're Going to Learn to Live Without Money Now

I was around back in the old hippie days, folks, when young couples voluntarily embraced poverty to move into the woods, cut their own wood, grow and can their own food, and send their kids to school quivering with mortification in clumsily handmade clothing. Worse than that: I used to be married to a newsman, all of us trying to live on his pay, the grownups, the kids, the dog and the cat. I cooked out of a cookbook called Good Recipes for Hard Times. The food described in that excellent book is cheap and tasty, but the food in Julia Child's book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, is way more impressive. Living with money is better than living without money.

Still, with the politicians' greedy eyes our pensions and the stock market dropping like a shot bird, it's time to drag out the hard-times stuff again and try to live without money. The magazines have always given us handy tips on how to do this, but they were generally compiled by people who had jobs, writing for magazines. Diana Vreeland, as I recall – editor of Vogue, the Anna Wintour of her day – advised us to rinse our hair in flat Champagne. Really, it's pointless to waste it. I envision her sending the maid around after the party to collect all the half-finished glasses and empty them into the hair-rinsing basin. Family Circle and Woman's Day had more practical tips generally, but a lot of their suggestions seemed beside the point to me.

Here are Kate's handy tips on living without money, collected during the lean years:

  1. Become a philosopher. Seriously, you can train yourself not to lust after material objects. Even shoes. You don't have to lust after shoes.
  2. Walk. Okay, for that you need shoes. But they don't have to be expensive shoes. They say walking is the best form of exercise, and you don't need a gym or a trainer. For weight training, do arm curls with soup cans. Concentrate on form.
  3. If you're unsure of the correct form of an arm curl, check out YouTube. I know you already have a computer, or you wouldn't be reading this blog. There are many fitness videos on YouTube, as well as yoga poses and dance instructions, even tap dancing. Yours for free.
  4. Patronize your local public library. They have magazines you can read while sitting in the free air-conditioning. They have movies on DVD and music CDs you can take home. Oh, and books. Lots of books.
  5. Play with your children, if you have any. They don't last, you know. Soon they'll be teenagers and refuse to give you the time of day. Enjoy them while they still like you.
  6. Dress bravely. While it's true that expensive clothes look better than cheap clothes, as a general rule, there are ways to dress well without breaking the bank. For in-depth advice on this matter, The Clothing Chronicles of Diana Pemberton-Sikes can't be beat.
  7. Do not cut your own hair. My hairdresser is Frankie Giordano at The Hair Cuttery in New Hope, PA. He's a genius, and he's not all that expensive. If you're lucky there will be someone sort of like Frankie near where you live.
  8. Never spend a penny you don't have to, but when you have to, do it with a good grace.

I haven't mentioned do-it-yourself auto repair or home improvement skills, although we did these things back in the day, because you can end up costing yourself more than you save. Only you know what you are capable of.

And that's about it. Good luck to you in the coming hard times, and keep smiling. Always remember: We are morally superior to the rich.

Kate Gallison


  1. Delightful, Kate! You are funny and, of course, full of experience.
    Bob Knightly