Living Small Is The Key To Living Large

by Katy on December 5, 2008 · 9 comments



If you saw my life, you’d think we were living the sweet life. And in fact we are, just not in the financial sense.

All my furnishings were bought used, some of it even trash picked. But it all looks great in my 1914 craftsman house.

Our clothes are also all second hand, and I think we look fine. I wouldn’t be ready for a red carpet event, but that situation has yet to arrive.

We own a big pimped-out mini-van, but it’s actually a fuel efficient model. And really, it mostly sits in the driveway, as my neighborhood is incredibly walkable. We gas it up maybe once a month, and often less.

Our meals are mostly tasty, flavorful, and yes — cheap. Tonight for example was a roasted chicken, (on sale, then 30% off because it was close to the sell-by date, then 20% off with a coupon.) mashed potatoes to use up that 10 pound bag of Idaho’s best from Thanksgiving, leftover gravy and the last bit from a bag of frozen peas. 

Comfort food at its best!

Tomorrow will be enchiladas with leftover chicken, black beans I already soaked, and leftover rice from a few nights ago.

Eating on the cheap doesn’t have to be about lentils.

For entertainment, we see second run movies, hit up the various libraries for DVD’s, hang out with friends, or peruse the local thrift shops. There’s always great stuff to do in Portland for cheap or free. (My sons just took a free library class on how to draw autobiographical comics a few weeks back. It was uber-cool!)

We hardly ever eat out, and we don’t support expensive hobbies. Hair cuts are by moi, which the boys, (and the man) all seem to prefer. Vacations are cheap, cheap, cheap.

Cable TV?

Don’t even think about it!

These choices, which are far from sacrifices, mean we’re able to live the life we want. For my husband, he was able to take a dream job which came with a significant pay cut. For me, I’m able to work super part-time, and hang out with the kids and play loads of online Scrabble. 

We’re not dependent on a large income for our happiness.

Our lives are rich, we don’t need to be.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Jinger December 5, 2008 at 7:17 am

My motto is Living Large on Little! I try to live a life of the highest quality on my limited income. This weekend my neighborhood in Austin has 3 Artisan Studio Tours, which are free and will provide me with inspiration for my own creative endeavors. Living large doesn’t have to be about money. Life offers so much at our fingertips, if we open our eyes.


Gerard Kiernan December 5, 2008 at 8:21 am

I like the idea of large living with less. I imagine a sort of hedonic index, where you look to maximize pleasure per dollar spent per unit time.

That way , spending money is not the problem so much as spending money without meaning. I also would factor in time, as there seems to be a shortage.

The problem comes when we allow the goals or the satisfaction to be told to us, rather than grown from our lives.

Sometimes buying expensive, new objects can fit in to a framework of meaningful life, particularly if they are durable and bring pleasure over years.
Things that enhance creativity can fall into that category.

I love my fancy new Kitchenaid Mixer, and I hope to make bread over years and years with it. I like a well made hand tool as well.


christajean December 5, 2008 at 10:11 am

We are rich in love, aren’t we?! Especially when we change our perspectives from consuming to being content.

I would rather live in a small house, on rice and beans surrounded by my family, than roll about in a huge house barely grunting hellos to each other. Well, okay, some nights I do dream about having my own personal chef that I could tell my cravings to and he/she would supply. Shhh, don’t tell.


GLM December 5, 2008 at 12:08 pm

Honestly, I also think that hou have a higher chance of raising your kids right, when you don’t cave into the expectation that they have to get everything out on the market for them, right now!

I wonder if they’ve done any research on kids with ADD whose parents have removed excessive stimuli like video games and TV.

In college, we called the TV the One Eyed Household God. When you actually stop watching it for a while, you really see how people just get drawn in and sucked up, so that they can’t not pay attention to the tv when it’s on – it’s almost scary!


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl December 5, 2008 at 12:44 pm

I think about this a lot. Even though we don’t have a lot of money, in many ways we live a LOT better than people who have more money than us. A big reason for this is that we don’t waste money on things like eating out, so we have money to buy things when we need them. Another reason is that when you are a frugal shopper(buying used, looking for bargains) is that you can buy stuff that’s MUCH nicer than what you’d be able to buy otherwise(like my son’s $5 Rollerblade brand skates that I posted about today).


Tara Morrison December 5, 2008 at 1:11 pm

My husband recently visited my sister’s house for thanksgiving dinner. We live in houses that are about the same size and the same price but there are five of us and two in their house. I have often wondered about their need of such a large place with only two people. It’s not as if they are raking in the dough they struggle with bills but don’t see the house as an albatross that it is. We live comfortably go to parks and museums and do all sorts of enriching things that don’t require anything but our snack and maybe some water. We are happy being around each other and isn’t that what it’s all about.


Valerie @ Frugal Family Fun Blog December 5, 2008 at 6:55 pm

I agree with you. Living the frugal lifestyle seems to help cultivate a love for simple pleasures and quieter times. Having fun doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.

Frugal Family Fun Blog
Good times on a budget!


sophia*rising December 7, 2008 at 12:24 pm

I have been reading your blog for a while after I found it through a network of frugal/simple living blog roll links, and I have always meant to ask you something, but I really don’t want it to come off as a militant vegetarian judgmental thing, so please don’t take it that way. It’s just that, so many of these blogs I read are awesome, and speak my language, and talk about sustainability, and working in harmony with the earth, and not being wasteful, etc. But even the barest of research into our mass farming techniques and the abhorrent manner in which animals are literally tortured, and the resources it saps, seems to point towards vegetarianism to continue on the way towards simple living that harms the earth as little as possible. So, I guess I’m wondering, have you read up on the damage mass animal production wreaks, and the abuse that occurs, etc., or, if you have, how do you reconcile your participation with what is otherwise a very radical commitment to simple and harmonious living? Again, this is an honest question, and I’m not meaning to discount the good you are doing, it’s just hard for me, myself, to reconcile what I’ve learned about meat production and environmental and social justice/hunger issues and be able to continue eating meat and have that fit into a framework of living as simply as possible.


Lindy December 7, 2008 at 7:39 pm

I love it but whazzup with the lentils slam. Since you (and maybe your readers) might be thinking brown sludge when you think of lentils, let me offer a super yummy, fragrent, super cheap alternative,

Indian Red Lentil Soup.
Melt 3 T canola oil, butter or marg. and saute l lg ch yellow onion, 2 T fresh ginger, peeled and grated,and saute til onion is tender and translucent (8-10 mins). Then add 1 t salt, 2 T grd coriander, 2 T cumin, 1/2 t turmeric and a pinch (or more later if you’re the spicy type) cayenne pepper and stir and cook 2-3 mins more. Add 1 1/2 c red lentils and 6 c veggie or chicken broth. I use Knorr cubes which are not yucky or ultra salty and give an instant rich flavor to any soups. Bring to boil then simmer 30 – 40 mins. Taste and add salt or pepper or more cayenne if you wish. Your house will smell amazing. Great with lime (or lemon) squeezed over but yummy as is. Serves 4

Super tip: Look for an immersion or wand hand blender at garage sales. I see them all the time since no one knows how fabulous they are. Lower into a pot of soup or beans and pulse to blend smooth or just on off for chunky or to thicken. No pouring big pots of hot food into a blender or worse a cuisenart only to have a third of it run out the sides. Great soups fast!


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