This post was most recently updated on May 17th, 2015

Making do is a term I grew up with.  It means that you don’t go out and buy a new thing just because the old thing is worn out, broken, old or you’re tired of it.  You make do with what you have.  You try to repair the old thing.  Maybe you paint the old thing a new color or move it to a new location.  Sometimes the old thing needs new elastic or can be held together for a while longer with some baling wire.  (I did warn you I live on a farm.)

In today’s world, making do is really not en vogue … it seems everyone everywhere has the attitude that everything is disposable.  When jeans get a hole in the knee or a car starts getting a little old looking, a toy breaks or we get tired of a sofa color, we just get rid of it and buy new.  Well, some do.  But not me.  I know how to stretch a dollar until it squeals.

We’re a single income family of six.  It’s a choice my husband and I made when our first child was born – that I would stay home to take care of him and any other babies we would be blessed with in the future.  It’s not always been easy – in fact, it’s been very difficult; especially the past few years when the economy has suffered and the price of goods and services has skyrocketed.  Because my husband’s income has not skyrocketed.  Or even jumped a few feet off the ground.  So I have gotten very good at making do.

It drives my kids crazy.  If it’s not on the grocery list, on sale or I haven’t got a coupon for it, we don’t buy it.  We drive an old car.  They don’t wear designer brand clothes unless it’s a hand-me-down from a friend, I found it on clearance or I bought it used somewhere.  I cook from scratch – we don’t eat out unless it’s an emergency (like when the water goes off for an entire day) or there’s a great promotion or coupon deal going on.  We don’t go to movies in the theater, concerts, plays, or any other activity unless it’s been planned well in advance and budgeted down to the penny.  Poor lambs – their lives are dull and without joy.  Or so it sounds.

But when I take a closer look at our life, it’s not nearly as bleak as it sounds on paper.  I save enough money on our groceries that I can pay for dance classes for both my daughters.  Three of our four kids wear glasses and are undergoing some sort of orthodontic treatment – cha ching!  And we’re able to provide that for them. They all have their own rooms, filled with toys, books, and assorted stuff purchased with coupons, on sale, used or even free  – all tailored to their interests, loves and passions.  I make homemade laundry detergent that costs so little that the monetary savings allows me to buy high quality vitamins to help nourish their growing minds and bodies.  Driving that old car means we spend less money on property taxes, tag fees and insurance so we have more to spend on renting movies we’d like to see through our satellite TV service – AND we can pause it when anyone has to go potty.  Plus, we can have whatever snack we want and watch it in stages if the six year old can’t stay awake through the whole movie in one sitting.  P.L.U.S.H. indeed, right?

So while it bugs my kids now, I like to think that when they are all grown up and on their own they will see the value in making do.  All of my coupon clipping, internet freebie hunting, wheeling and dealing at garage sales, homemade product making, search engine points collecting, up cycling, recycling, jeans patching, and general penny pinching ways will make sense to them. We’re raising our kids to understand that living within your means is a choice.  And sometimes doing without something you think you must have gives you an opportunity to discover just how resourceful you can be.

Our oldest son is already discovering the joy of making do – every spring he pitches his tent and moves outside until it gets so hot he can’t stand it.  Over the past few years, he’s scoured the property and scavenged various building materials to build himself a porch, a fence, a table and other comforts for his Little Man Cave.  Every year his compound gets more elaborate and he experiences the pride of self-sufficiency – something he wouldn’t if we bought him everything he might want for his camp.  Everyone who has seen his outdoor domicile is impressed with his ingenuity and resourcefulness.  It’s a testament to making do and it makes me very proud.

Someday, we may not be strapped for money.  It’s possible (though not likely, I know) that we could win the lottery.  Or maybe the economy will turn around and our one income will go as far as it used to.  I don’t know.  But I do know that even if we had plenty of money, I would still clip coupons, make my homemade laundry soap and shop the clearance section for clothes and shoes.  Because I have realized and embraced the simple joy and satisfaction that comes from making do.


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