While I’ve written a great deal on the mental and emotional stresses of divorce, I haven’t said much about how I am financially surviving in my newly single state. At the time I found out about my husband’s true self; and, in a sense, opened a  Pandora’s Box from which seemed to flow a never-ending night mare of discovery that showed me how the man I loved was hiding many appalling secrets from me; it was also at a time of financial success for us after a long period of struggling to stay afloat.  I was working part-time and my husband had just received a huge raise at work.  We were finally starting to get ahead.  But, when our marriage went down the tubes, so did any financial comfort…. at least for me.  My husband cleaned out our checking account, not only leaving it empty, but causing checks to bounce, which of course, I had to cover and then closed down the account before he could do any more damage.   By now, I had opened my own bank account, so at least my pay check was being deposited into it and I didn’t have to worry about those funds being frittered away or taken by my then-estranged husband.

I spoke to my boss about getting more hours, and bless her heart, she was able get me more work  and while I’m still not full-time, yet, I’m a lot closer to it.  I also took a part-time cleaning job for the summer, which was miserable, especially in the heat since most places around here do not have air-conditioning, but I can’t complain…. it was work.  I still hope to get more work from my regular job as time goes on, but there’s no telling when that will happen.  Now that summer is over, I’ve started another part-time job, but again, it’s only temporary.

I planted a vegetable garden in the soil my husband said would never produce anything and was able to enjoy a season of wonderful fresh vegetables, for lunch and dinner, every day!  That little 12×16 garden did much to help stretch my food dollars and plus, I froze and canned (and gave away) quite a bit, too!  I asked my landlord about doubling the size of my garden next spring and I’ve been given the go-ahead, so I am planning to take my excess vegetables and sell them at Farmer’s Markets next year, in lieu of cleaning.  At least I enjoy gardening, which is more than I can say about cleaning other people’s houses.

I’ve always been a frugal housekeeper, but now, I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit to the things I do to save money.  Somethings are fairly typical; I shop the sales, use coupons, buy in bulk; I am buying lots of dried beans, oatmeal, dried milk, and other cheap sources of nourishment.  I make my own laundry soap (actually, this is something I’ve done for years)  and it is very simple to do; the ingredients coast about 30 cents to make one gallon of laundry soap.

Laundry Soap:

1/6 bar grated Ivory soap

1/4 cup Borax

1/4 Arm & Hammer Washing Soda

Heat approximately 1 quart water in a large pot and stir in grated Ivory Soap until dissolved.  Place approx. 1 quart water in a tea kettle and heat (it doesn’t need to boil, but it should be hot.)  Then add the Borax and Washing Soda to the pot with the Ivory soap & water and also stir until dissolved.  Pour in kettle of hot water and stir gently until well mixed.  (Vigorous stirring causes lots of bubbles!)  Then add approx. one quart cold water and stir gently, again.  Let cool.  When tepid, pour liquid into a 1 gallon bottle and top off with cold water until the bottle is full.  Shake a bit and then store until ready to do laundry.  Use as much as you would of commercial laundry soap, and it works fine in any machine; I’ve used it in washers that claim to need special detergents, but I didn’t notice anything amiss.  Just give the jug of soap a quick shake and pour out the amount needed.

I almost never use a dishwasher, but after big family meals, I will fire up the contraption, and again, I make my own dishwasher soap.

Dishwasher Soap:

1 cup Borax

1 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda

Place ingredients in glass jar and shake to mix.  Use as you would commercial dish washing powder.  Works great and it’s much cheaper that buying the brand name stuff!

For general cleaning, I also throw together this all-purpose window/appliance/whatever cleaner.

Spray Cleaner:

3 tablespoons ammonia

2 tablespoons vinegar

1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap (Joy, Dawn, whatever)

Pour ingredients into clean spray bottle, fill half-full with water and gently swirl to mix.   (Vigorous shaking will cause lots of bubbles.)  Then fill to top with water and shake gently to mix.  Use as you would any spray cleaner.   Be sure not to use with any products that contain bleach, as ammonia & bleach together create deadly fumes!

Then comes keeping up my own appearances!  Due to the fact that my hair started to go white at the tender age of 13 years old, I’ve been dying my hair for many years.  Before this wretched change came about, my hair was a shade of medium auburn and that’s the color I’ve tried to affect, with varying degrees of success.  Who knew that auburn was such a hard color to duplicate?  There are lots of shades of red, but I didn’t want to go red; and many commercial shades of auburn were too red or too purple.  Neither was a good look for me.   I did some research and found that you can buy a henna powder in an auburn color that I like a lot.  It’s a little browner than my formerly-natural shade, but that’s okay with me.  I like the depth of color to contrast with my glow-in-the-dark white, freckled skin and green eyes.   And although when henna is mixed up it may smell like wet hay, it definitely smells better than commercial hair dyes which can rival that of a dead skunk.  It’s cheaper than using store-bought dyes and kinder to your hair, too.  I buy one pound bags of the Auburn shade from Light Mountain and about once a month, I make a batch of henna-slop to apply to my hair.

Henna Hair Dye:

First, assemble the following: 1 glass mixing bowl, 1 plastic mixing spoon, 1 plastic squeeze bottle (large mustard size will do, but I purchased a heavy-duty plastic bottle from a candy-making supply company that is used to fill molds with melted chocolate), tight-fitting rubber gloves, plastic hair clips, paper towels and a plastic bag.  Note:  no metal may be used with henna, unless you like GREEN hair!  If anyone wants to try henna, I strongly encourage you to make a test run on a clipping of your hair so you will know how long to leave the henna in.

4 (approximate) ounces henna powder (color of your choice)

1 mint tea bag  (optional, but I like the mint aroma)

12 to 16 oz. boiling water

Steep the mint tea bag in the boiling water until the tea is quite strong.  Then, remove the tea bag and heat tea until hot and mix with henna powder in a glass bowl.  The mixture should be the consistency of peanut butter or a thick pudding; this is so it doesn’t run all over the place when applied to your hair.  Let sit in a warm place (sunny counter-top will do) for 3 hours to attain maximum strength.  It doesn’t have to sit for 3 hours, but if not, then you will have to leave it in your hair longer to get the same color.    You can keep it in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to use it, just heat it up (not too hot, since it’s going on your head!) until it’s warm and pour into squeeze bottle when you’re ready to start dying your hair.  To make it easier to do the undersides of your hair, clip-up sections of your hair and start at the nape of you neck and then work toward the front of your scalp, squeezing  the henna mixture to the roots of your hair and cover with a plastic bag or other plastic wrap (unless this is the first time you are coloring your hair, then you can just work the mixture into ALL your hair) and in my case, I have to leave it on for about 45 minutes.  After that time has passed, I put the remaining mixture on the rest of my hair, work it in well and re-cover with wrap.  I now leave it in for about 3o minutes and then I rinse while hanging over the side of the tub.  My hair is mid-back length, so it’s easier to rinse in the tub…. besides, my kitchen sink is stainless steel and metal and henna are big no-nos!  I have a hose/shower-head, so I just blast the henna out of my hair, which takes some minutes.  Be sure to rinse well.  After a good rinse, I also use a conditioner to help get the rest of the henna out, and it’s amazing how much more will come out after you do the second conditioner-rinse.  I have curly hair, so I air-dry it (blow-dryers make me look like I have a tumble-weed on my head, but for more reddish tones, you can use a warm hair dryer for a few minutes at a time on the plastic-wrapped henna mixture in your hair.) and I just love the after-henna feel of my hair; the color is fabulous; the white is gone, and now just shows as reddish highlights and the rest of my hair is the deep auburn I was trying to achieve!   The look is very natural and, as I’ve said, so much better and cheaper than commercial hair dyes!

There are other, small things that I do to save money; I cut my own hair; besides being thrifty, if I don’t like how it came out, I have no one to blame but myself.  I’ve only had my hair cut professionally a few times and I never care for the outcome so why pay for it when I can do alright on my own?  I also make my own pot-scrubbing pads from the mesh bags that hold oranges and onions and things (use the toughest and most attractive piece on the outside and wad up the other pieces, stuff inside the ‘good’ piece, and tie and end with a twist-tie, and viola!  You have a durable scrubby pad!) and knit my own dish clothes out of mill-end cotton yarn. I hang my laundry on a clothes line during the above-freezing months and dry things indoors on wooden racks during the heating months.  I bought a wall-mounted wooden rack and mounted it over the gas-heater that heats most of my Little-Apartment-on-the-Pond which will dry most of my laundry this winter.  And, speaking of winter, naturally, I will be covering my windows with plastic film to help keep the heat in and the cold air, out, and will make sure my front door is as air-tight as possible.

Another common money-saver I’ve employed was to hunt up some power-strips and use them on electrical “vampires” that I seldom use, but that are “on” all the time.  For example, I only use my TV a few times a month, so I have the TV, VCR/DVD player on a power-strip that I can shut off by flipping the switch and turn on only when I’m using those items.  My small stereo is on another strip.  This small step has made a difference in my electric bill, which has been about $35.00 since my now-ex-husband is gone.  Prior to that, the bill was generally at least $50 to $60 a month.

There have been a few things that I’ve splurged on.  The repainting and modest re-decorating of the apartment was my biggest outlay.  But, I only had to buy two gallons of paint and I did the work myself.  I bought new drapes and new couch/chair covers, the discontinued/discounted fire place and a few small things, but the change in the place was phenomenal and well worth the expense.  Now I can live here and not feel all the creepy ex-husband ghosts lurking in every corner.  I’ve also had to purchase some new clothing; nothing much and nothing expensive, but between the sad condition of my wardrobe and the fact that I’d lost weight, I really didn’t have much to wear.  I had some old, much-mended jeans that I could fit into again, but the fabric was so fragile that I was afraid that it would literally let go at any moment; that I might bend over for a can of beans in the supermarket, and the strain might cause them to just *poof* into thin air!  So, I indulged in a few new pairs of jeans, some tops and a couple of skirts.  My selection is clothing is still rather limited, but I’m not a fashion plate, so I’m not concerned.  During summer, I generally live in cut-off shorts, T’s and flip-flops and winter-time finds me in jeans, T’s or turtlenecks, a sweater or sweatshirt and my Frye boots… the same pair of Frye boots that I’ve had re-soled many times over the years.  My winter coat needs replacing or repairing, but I’m afraid the repair will have to do…. another thing for my To-Do List, before the weather gets too cold.

All-in-all, my income may be meager, but I’m getting by.  I never expected to be single again, especially not at this point in my life;  but  I’m doing what I can to make the best of it.  Better days are coming!

One of the woodland ponds off the trails.