Thriftiness is a life skill AND a political statement.

We’ve been slowly trying to build up a cash savings sufficient to cover six months’ worth of expenses.  Just the other day, I was remarking to Philip that we were doing so well, almost there.  Just when you’ve gotten prepared for a rainy day, doesn’t it seem like the rain always comes?

First there was just a light sprinkle, nothing too major, in the form of an unreparable dryer.  My husband is very handy, but this was unfixable.

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OK, no problem. I have drying racks for just such an emergency, and within a week we’d bought a new dryer.

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A minor setback of $400-500 is fairly easily made up for.

Oh, but then the deluge came.

We just finished our tax returns a few days ago and for the first time ever, we owe the federal government more – almost $4000 more. It’s one thing to have it taken out of your pay before you ever see it, but oh to have to write a check for thousands of dollars to a government whose policies we often find so morally repugnant! Luckily we had prepared by saving, a savings which has now been reduced by four grand, a bitter pill to swallow. Our tax rate bracket increased due to my having gone back to work full-time in November of 2014 – this is really something to think about when you are trying to decide whether/how much to have the woman in the marriage working outside the home.  Will the increased tax burden be worth it?

But how to make up this money so we can reach our goal of having six months of savings?

I told my husband, “I’m going to work part-time over the sum—”

“No.”

“But we can save—”

“No.  Absolutely not.”

So scratch that idea.  My summers are not spent lazing by a swimming pool but rather in the garden planting, weeding, harvesting, canning…or at a U-Pick farm for things I don’t grow.  And this summer I will be raising 12 chickens, four turkeys, 12 ducks, and two geese on top of it.  It’s my way of saving us some money while producing better quality food, and my husband values this more than having me traipsing off to work all summer.  It annoys him enough to have me “off farm” during the school year as it is.

And he’s right for another reason too – I just did a little research and found that not only did we jump a tax bracket, but we jumped to the top of that bracket.  Had our income been even a few hundred dollars more, we would have been bumped up another bracket.  If I worked over the summer, I would have to earn enough to cover another 3% of our total income being sent off to be wasted by the federal government.  It’s really not worth it.

Well, I grew up poor, I said to myself.  I know how to tighten up a budget.  While I was pondering this, I complained in a comment on another blog about our tax bill, and Fuzzie told me that under FDR, the tax rate was 77%!  I looked it up and this is what Wikipedia had to say about the history of the federal income tax:

Congress enacted an income tax in October 1913 as part of the Revenue Act of 1913, levying a 1% tax on net personal incomes above $3,000, with a 6% surtax on incomes above $500,000. By 1918, the top rate of the income tax was increased to 77% (on income over $1,000,000, equivalent of 15,300,000 in 2012 dollars) to finance World War I. The average rate for the rich however, was only 15%. The top marginal tax rate was reduced to 58% in 1922, to 25% in 1925 and finally to 24% in 1929. In 1932 the top marginal tax rate was increased to 63% during the Great Depression and steadily increased, reaching 94% (on all income over $200,000, equivalent of 2,500,000 in 2012 dollars) in 1945. During World War II, Congress introduced payroll withholding and quarterly tax payments.

So it seems that the federal government just sort of declared that they suddenly had the right to tax each state’s citizens’ incomes.  And notice how quickly the income tax increased, especially on the rich.  And perhaps one may feel that it is completely just that the rich  should have to pay all those taxes, but the point I want to make is that the federal government will decide how much of your income it wants at any given time and will simply declare it to be so.  The government could decide to tax you at a rate of 99% tomorrow and there would be nothing you could do about it.

Oh, did I say nothing?  Actually, there is one thing you could do.  You could earn no income for them to tax.

I’m not planning to quit my job, but I’m also not planning to earn any additional income to line the federal government’s pockets with, either.  My way of making up for the lost $4000 is to reduce our expenditures by that amount, and I encourage you to do the same.  The less you spend, the less you have to earn, and the less money you earn, the less you have to chuck into the maw of an insatiable loveless Union.

So I started to look around.  Where can we save money?

First, the thermostat went down from 68º to 65º (and a chilly 60º at night).  We’re having a very cold spring here in Michigan, so we still have the heat on.  As we have an endless supply of dead trees on our land, a wood-burning stove is something we are saving for and will reduce our propane bill even further.

Second, I set up all my drying racks in a spare bedroom and will air dry as much laundry as possible to save on propane and electricity. Speaking of which, this is my preferred style of drying rack because the clothes hang free instead of being draped over the wet clothes on the next rung down:

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We canceled our home internet last month (Hughes Net’s service was horrible anyway) and are just waiting for them to send the box that we are supposed to mail their modem back in.  We don’t have pay TV, but if we did, I would cancel it.  I cancelled our land line phone a few months ago because no one but my mother-in-law ever called us on it.  I’m basically looking for as many ways to save as I can find.

At present, we can actually afford to pay for propane, electricity, and internet, but doing these things before they are really necessary feels much nicer than doing them out of dire need.  Curtailing one’s lifestyle is so much less onerous when it’s voluntary rather than under compulsion.  And when necessity strikes, why you’re already in the habit of thriftiness.

Part of the saved money will go into savings, but some of it will go into small-hold infrastructure. The government can tax your income, they could even confiscate your savings I suppose, but it’s pretty unlikely that they would take away one’s hen coop or demand that duck eggs be turned over to the state.  At this point, I put more faith in my gardening tools, my canning jars, and my food-producing critters than I do in the long-term stability of either income or savings.

Hey, did you ever wonder why the federal government doesn’t encourage thriftiness and frugality like they used to?  Remember those old 1918 USDA propaganda posters about keeping hens that I shared a few weeks ago, encouraging thriftiness and self-reliance?  Here are a few more from the same time frame:

U.S. Food Administration. Educational Division. Advertising Section. 1/15/1918-1/1919

Louisiana Agricultural Extension Division, c. 1917

Why don’t we see stuff like this encouraging thriftiness now, even during times of economic recession or war?  Why is the thrust of our government’s poverty interventions dependency entitlements such as SNAP or welfare-to-work programs?

Well, what occurred to me is that, other than extolling “victory gardening” during WWII, you stopped seeing the federal government encouraging home thriftiness right around the same time that the federal government discovered its right to levy income tax.

Huh.

And then right after World War II, feminism came marching through, encouraging women to come out of the homes where they could labor for their families in a way the federal government could not tax and into the paid labor force, where the government could tax them.

Interesting, isn’t it.

Thriftiness and working toward supplying some of one’s own needs reduces the government’s income stream.  I can’t think of a better method of peaceful protest, can you?

 

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9 thoughts on “Thriftiness is a life skill AND a political statement.

  1. The last word I had was 77% in the wake of the Great Depression and WWII. I didn’t know that it was worse. The national debt was nearly paid off by the end of Eisenhower’s administreation. Jack Kennedy tried to pup up the encony with very mild deficit spending, the first time that has been done in peacetime. After that, never mind which political party, it has grown exponentially.

    I would reccommend beign very careful producing your own food. It’s not hard to spend more that it would cost in the supermarket. They have economies of scale. The bottleneck when I lived in California was water.

    I an surprised that you don’t already have a wood burning stove. It’ll heat the house and dispose of the dead wood. Bonus.

    I always thought of our own economic system as being balanced. When government acts to feather it’s ow nest at public’s expense, they need to be checked.

    Feminism did not do women a favor by making it necessary for all of them to work. No wonder governmeny has given those harpies everything they want.

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  2. The reason you don’t see arguments for thrift is because the government’s goal for the past century–really closing in on a century and a half–has been to increase consumption so that industrialists can sell enough to pay for their capital. More or less, too many entrepreneurs designed their business around their steam engine instead of the markets, and hence they needed to “juice” demand to avoid bankruptcy.

    Then Keynesianism came along and put some nice lipstick on that porcine, telling the gullible that all economic growth really came not from supply, but demand. The Depression and WWII put a dent in that theory, but not enough.

    Feminists to blame? In part, but really it’s more mercantilism at work. And the corporate types did sort of “go along” with feminism because women… don’t tend to talk back as much. Easier to, um, “manage.”

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    • I couldn’t find one live with the Fab Four but, these guys are good.

      Another thought about taxes, at my usuala haunt, one commenter is from the UK and thinks that we are lightweights when is comes to being taxed. He has a point. Prior to the Revolution, what they took away in taxes to England, they had to return as cash. The economy was nearly cahless. We were very cash poor.

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  3. We’re already doing most if those things – no internet, no TV, no cellphones, no microwave, long-distance calling is by prepaid phone cards. We’re in Canada, so our taxes are much higher than in the states (to pay for things like healthcare), and I am self-employed which is one of the highest tax burdens. When my son was born last year, i dropped down to part-time work, and the decrease on the tax bill has been immense! Now, we are looking at the financial feasibility of me quitting my job altogether and putting my time to raising our son, growing our garden, possibly some chickens, maybe a goat or two….all along qith this dreaming, I am feeling the Lord’s approval, and i can’t tell you how excited I am to get started!

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  4. When we added up the extra costs of me working and took that off my after tax income it was a wash. Then add all the ways I save us, increase our quality of living and the freedom we have it is way more cost effective not to work and to focus on what God has called me to do.
    Add it up. Makeup, hair, gas, lunches, insurance, taxes, professional fees, the time cost of you having to do things on off hours as opposed to your at leisure, time away from family….and it sounds like your husband prefers you home.

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