Having more than enough to just get by takes practicing frugal living in small town Maine.
Quality of life in rural Maine communities is home made without a lot of money involved. Growing up as kids, grade school teachers passed out the thrift bank saving envelopes to fill and collect. To develop the weekly habit of saving and watching the account slowly grow.
Saving for a rainy day helps prepare for what lies ahead is the simple Maine way approach to life.
It creates piece of mind because you are not broke or up against it. If someone in your small Maine town does find themselves up the proverbial creek without the needed paddle to find their way out, a helping hand shows up. Lots of them come out of the local woodwork. Fund raising suppers and auctions held and community volunteers take turns showing up to help the family in need. Plowing out the winter snow from the driveway. Tonight, tomorrow, the day after that meals assigned and delivered. Making sure if you needed anything, it was supplied until you could get back on your feet what the small town Maine residents do. And then you perform the same johnny on the spot help ’em out when healthy. For comforting others between a rock and a hard place when the road of life takes a major dip.
My secretary told me a story recently about her grandfather Ralph McPherson.
He and her grandmother, her mom and sister ran a little egg business later in life. There must have been 30+ hens. Making door to door stops for special customers in town. Carting in the fresh farm eggs from Linneus to deliver product just like the milk man. The money collected tucked away so it would not be lost or to tempt someone to make it their own. Five finger discount is frowned upon and kids taught to work hard for what they have and take care of it. Plus to extend and provide the same courtesy for what belongs to others in return.
The McPherson lived next door to Helen Folsom who disliked the unlucky number thirteen. She would not stay if invited to eat and the head count was thirteen on the dot. Had to go. Nicest lady but nothing doing with anything associated with thirteen. Not sure how she felt about black cats, ladders and broken mirrors. Lots of tall hotels don’t show the thirteenth floor as what it is if you counted the stories window by window from the outside. Earl Anderson from Cary, living out on the dead end Brewer Road another likeable sort and a field hand. Flap of his ball cap flipped up, everything turned to the side. Dad’s hired hand Clay Spellman was a fixture growing up and always singing Jimmy Crack Corn song, swigging on Coke soda even thought the doctor told him being diabetic make that a no no. Years ago, in Maine every town had lots of small family farms. Now bigger is the trend or stay very small and watch your expenses to have everything under control.
Back to the McPhersons. The dollar bills and change exchanged for the farm to table fresh local egg run hidden in a tin can with a tight lid.
The re-purposed container originally held pink peppermints. Anyone from a border town in Maine knows the kind of sweet familiar candy I am referring to because some “over home” family member enjoyed and shared them freely. My Dad’s mom was 100 percent pure Canadian. The Canadian barley candy in amber and red. To me looked like pieces of stained glass showing up under the tree at Christmas in my country home. Could not buy them on this side of the border. There are lots of perks being a border town in Maine with a Canadian province. Mom and Dad would
My brother Brian passed along a weekly summer job where I learned how to be dependable and to manage money.
I mowed lawns peddling my bike into town to make spending money from a Ralph Black, the book keeper for Fogg’s hardware and sporting goods store. Ralph and his wife Marjorie the librarian always had a candy dish filled with the Canadian pink peppermints.
Ralph also enjoyed dipping into a bank of sea dulse like it was a major league hurler with a punch of snuff. But that is a Maine blog post for another day. The Blacks built an immaculate two bedroom cape style home from scratch. The unfinished second floor stayed that way because no stork delivered any swaddled bundles of joy in pink or blue. Both Canadians that became American citizens.
The tin container with egg cash stashed inside was deposited.
Hidden some times in the freezer. Other occasions, out in the porch in an envelope up in the chest. If anyone in the family needed a little spending money, to pay a bill, the cash was available for a withdrawal on a moment’s notice. No drive through or slips to make out to access the hard earned and carefully managed rainy day funds.
Up under the Ford pick up seat, in between the fabric and springs, was another favorite hiding place.
No one aware the peppermint tin was hiding there but a select few. Ralph knew it, but not many others did not. My secretary told me when her dad was sick and not doing well, he whispered to her to come closer. To share that if anything happens to me, don’t forget.
To remember not forget.
To look up under the seat of the egg delivery truck seat to retrieve the peppermint tin can funds.
But keep it our little secret in the meantime is how he left it with his trusted family member.
Her story made me think of how people who did not have a lot of money saved and stretched what they did have.
Every Maine small town family member was taught as a young grasshopper to conserve, to save, to live below their means. Left over money to squirrel away hide in the home or better yet in a bank or credit union. We used the “corn money” from vegetable sales growing up to run the house hold expenses. When all the dollars were planted in the ground like hundred dollar bills seeded around the Maine farm acreage. You have no choice but to practice frugal living in Maine when money is low or non-existent.
Woodlots on family farms in Maine are a savings bank for heating your home and also to tap as a cookie jar resource when times were lean.
Many a farmer in Maine relied on the bounty of the wooded sections of their spread to carry them through especially tight, difficult farm years.
Money generated a variety of ways in the small town Maine households. Second and third jobs to fund someone going to college. To pay for the needed materials to expand the house size as the family grew and more bedrooms were needed.
Besides the extra side jobs and easy does it on household spending, money trickled into the household in other ways. By removing the need for it with big gardens. Canning food to put down into the root cellar or storage pantry to draw from over the approaching Maine winter months. Pearl one, knit two mittens, scarves, sweaters from Canadian wool yarn from the farmer’s store, Steadman’s, etc across the board or Carryall Store in my home town. Exchanging hand me downs of perfectly good clothing that’s only flaw was it no longer fit the growing child.
Money earned by kids picking potatoes in the fall generated twenty five up to sixty cents a barrel return for the harvest field labor.
Four baskets of spuds poured into a potato barrel meant it was time to slide on a ticket with your number for the tally at the farm that night.
The farm house where newspapers were spread out over the kitchen table after the nightly meal served and the dishes washed to return to the cupboard until reached for the next session. Fine field dust, bits of potato tops too from old metal two gallon empty motor oil cans. It all made its way into the ticket collectors my mom or I dumped on kitchen table. The papers put down to contain the field debris as it poured out during the daily ticket count tabulation.
The potato picking funds the four boys, other on the potato crew earned yearly helped the frugal Maine household a lot.
By freeing up Mom and Dad buying the winter coat and fall school clothing. Each family members shopped for their own duds at J.C. Penney’s or Chain Apparel, Army Navy or other local clothes providers.
We kids were way way more thrifty and frugal when it was our money used to buy the school and winter outfits.
We learned the value of a dollar and if we were careful spending them, more items could be purchased. Cheap and frugal living in small town Maine are not the same thing. Frugal is being a smart business personal with your resources. Cheap is misery, Scrooge like.
Bartering for the goods or services when the money just was not available to perform them.
Rural Maine is all about exchanging the blood, sweat and tears to survive and prosper. Our fun and recreation did not always have a price tag attached either. The trip to Cary, Nickerson, Drews Lake after farm summer haying to wash up and cool off was a much look forward to treat. The Popsicle or cold drink enjoyed during farming chore coffee breaks tasted above and beyond because it was earned and deserved. The lunches packed for the trips to the potato fields or rock picking, haying or whatever chore tasted much better. Hunger always improves the taste right?
The old barn, shed or home destined to be torn down was recycled board by board.
To stack and reuse in a smaller version or stored away for another day. A board at a time retrieved to use in keeping the other still standing buildings alive. Resourceful, resilient and developing grit with determination is what living frugally developed. We were taught to make a game out of not just surviving but creating our own joy and happiness. It was not store bought and temporary but part of the wide and varied life skill set passed on from earlier generations. Conservation awareness to respect resources and respect for personal property, the family home were valuable lessons for life.
Where people stock piled what they scrimped and saved from many small sales.
The 50 50 raffle winnings from the fish and game dollar a ticket drawing proceeds tucked away inside the home. The won rifle from the sporting fish and game club. The donated hand made quilt with your name in your writing on the winning ticket drawn.
If you did not need the loot, it was sold to someone that did. Or donated to be an auction item for a fund raiser to benefit others struggling. Today your diamond tennis bracelet when not round a wrist to impress and in use gets wrapped up like a piece of fresh cod or haddock or rainbow brook trout fish dinner. Sealed in inner plastic then tinfoil outer layer to tucked away and hide in the back bottom corner of the freezer. Valuables in Maine are not rubies, emeralds, diamonds or sapphires. It’s 8 cords of wood all stacked, seasoned and in place ready for old man winter. It’s the next year’s wood fuel laying tree length behind your house and slowly cut up to fit your stove or furnace to stay ahead and be prepared.
Our Maine farmhouse had a heavy brown safe.
Three numbers dialed in and then you found mostly land deeds, a musty leather pouch from World War Two with metals, the last will and testament. The bottom of the barrel seconds and cull potatoes shoveled up in the bins. Hauled to the starch factory for little funds but mad money. My Dad used the starch checks to learn to fly a plane and get to solo for a license to pilot a silver bird. The real treasure in the rural Maine home though, the black and white images of family members. The often pulled out bound albums viewed often and displayed in the Maine household. On walls, night stands and dresser bureaus. The nest eggs and mad money saved in mattresses did happen. Hope there is never a fire that takes the house and savings. When a house is torn down or remodeled, you do find the valuables. Old currency like a twenty dollar gold piece or civil war, etc newspaper clippings. Writing under the wallpaper appears when removed many years or decades later that tell a tale about who lived here. Providing a glimpse into their life in Maine.
Today, valuables are hidden in safe deposit boxes.
We’ve all seen the espionage movies where lots of passports, a gun or two, stacks of large denomination multi national currency bills and passports of every color. All rifled through hurriedly by the film star on the tear. With no daylight to burn or waste. As they have to hop to it. Little time and important places to be to save the World, again. Maine is the the lowest crime state and rural areas don’t have lots of precious gems, furs or valuable artwork to protect. You want to hang onto your chain saw uptah camp, the Honda generator, snow sled and your boat motor Chummy.
The biggest target in any area part of a small rural Maine home would be the bathroom medicine cabinet.
Pain killers when you are addicted make them like a bee hive to a Maine bear with a bad sweet tooth. Sad to say, in small towns, people know who just had a hip replacement or other surgery where a med prescription followed the patient home to convalesce. Drug addiction and self medication for problems in life that depress are World wide.
Being industrious by nature helps living on less but feeling fulfilled and like you have more in rural Maine.
Outdoor nature all around us that is pure and unspoiled is a big part of the no or low cost fun. The fresh air and clean water of Maine and vast open space is a solid cure for what ails you. Boredom happens less and retirement is short lived for those without new hobbies to fill their day.
Roger Chapman, a local retiree says like many the first couple weeks of done work is fun but then this is what happens. You wake up, wander out to the garage and putter, tidy up the place. Then come in, turn on the television and watch for a little while. But not for long, snapping it off because something is missing. Let me shuttle the car dealership customers back and forth while vehicles are repaired and they are without their iron horse. Or head down country to pick up and deliver cars and trucks swapped with other dealership in exchanges. In many lots of folks who retire find out it is not paradise and return to work. Happy again because there is someone who needs them to get up in the morning to head to work and help them out.
Many retirees seek employment again to feel like they did something worthwhile today.
Bagging groceries, volunteering, something is needed to fill those forty or more hours of the week reserved for your job when retirement rolls around in Maine. You can only work on so many household projects and not everyone golfs, hunts, fishes full time when they get the gold watch and Maine job retirement party.
Restless, eager to pitch in and be busy because you have worth ethic in your Maine veins.
Many pursue a small business that does not tie them down. Like rotor tilling gardens, plowing snow, clearing porch roofs, landscaping, scraping and painting. Hanging out the handyman shingle and stating no job is too small.
The cost of living in small town Maine is low and the skill set is high. Self sufficient makes it DIY. If it is to be it is up to me. Is it like that where you live now? Thank you for following our Me In Maine blog post. Another edition in the can and that’s a wrap until the inspiration causes another one. Maine, the way life should be.