Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Real Luxury

Among the comments to one of my previous posts was this one from a Finnish lady:

It was really sad to hear today when a lady I know said that she has to go back to work after maternity leave -baby is then 9 months. They do not have enough money, she said...
The problem is, of course, that she doesn't want to give up smoking or expensive gym membership or having two cars or such. Well, it is none of my business, but one hears so often that same thing; mother would like to stay at home, but it is "financially impossible" -which usually is not the case.

One of the problems with our modern society is that we cannot any more distinguish needs from wants. Often the family will tell you they can´t make it one income alone, but if you look at their expenses, you´ll see they go on vacations two or three times a year, own several cars, live in huge houses etc etc. Some women work so that they can pay for a maid and a nanny, others start working because they need to pay for their children´s travelling costs to the school of their choice.

There is in itself, nothing wrong with all these things, and, as the lady remarked so well, it´s really none of other people´s business, but let´s be completely honest and admit that all these things mentioned above are choices. They are wants, and not needs.

The simple truth is that our society is a sterile consumerist one, which encourages both husband and wife to work so that they can buy all the luxury stuff which they really don´t even have time to enjoy. Home is reduced to the place where you can have several hours´ rest and admire your gadgets before you go back to work to make more money to buy more stuff which you don´t really need but at least, you´ll keep up with the neighbours. One thing which nobody has nowadays, is time to actually socialise with other people, family and friends, and to actually get to know your neighbour, because making money and buying stuff is a tiresome and time~consuming activity.

Even conservative Christians are busy with promoting their own variant of the consumerist lifestyle, as they push wives and mothers into working in home businesses and criticise them for taking time to drink a cup of tea with a neighbour lady, which could be more productively spend by trying to make a buck.

Is making money the only thing which matters?  Is the abundance of gadgets the only luxury in life? People who make a commitment to live on one income will often have less material possessions, but they will have the luxury of more time for their children, family and friends, and for themselves since as the same lady wisely remarked:

Couple also has much more common time when all the housework is done when husband comes home. If both worked, the second shift would just start there. So hubby has also more time for his hobbies.

The traditional family structure benefits men, women and children. Consumerism benefits `economy`. You can choose what you like!


  1. I do agree that most people can do with far less. Our Christian schools here are not funded by the government. The tuition is $15,000.00 per year. For some of our families, this is a big load to carry. Because many families are large, they need a larger vehicle. It surprises me how many mothers are able to stay home and that their homes are still very nice and gezellig. We need to learn how to do with less.

  2. Schooling is officially free over here, including religious schools, however, in reality there are always extra costs, especially if the school of the parents´ choice is in another city. I fully understand the importance of good education for children, yet if it requires for the wife and mother to leave home, may be, the family could find another school. Of course, Americans are so lucky as to be able to homeschool. I thought, it was allowed in Canada, too?

  3. Homeschooling isn't allowed in some countries?? That's quite scary, I'm sorry to hear that. Concerning this post, a lot of my peers are in a position where the wife works after having children not because of extra luxuries, but because the cost of rent is so high, and because of non-government, private student loan payments. It is an issue where I live. We have no children yet, and we have none of the typical "luxuries" you speak of, and we still cannot make it without my income. Rent and the cost of food (we cook from scratch) is simply too high, and the immediate costs of moving to a cheaper town are also too high for us. I want to stay home, I really do, but short of living in a vehicle, there's no way to make it unless my husband can find a better paying job. He would need to make twice his current pay rate. It's a very sad state of affairs. We already do without trips, TV, lattes, yoga class or whatever the heck other people are out there buying. I walk nearly everywhere, too and don't buy things for myself. Very sad that a hard working man gets paid too little to provide for his wife. I blame the system, not my husband. God bless.

  4. Welcome, to the blog, Teresa! Homeschooling is forbidden in Germany, and is close to prohibited in my own country. Other European countries allow it, with some restrictions, but it´s not really popular or wide~spread.

    Since I live in Europe myself, when writing my posts I think of the state of things over here. We have various support programs for low~income people, like cheap rentals, for instance, which make it possible to live on one income in principle for nearly every one, but it means you will go without. The situation in the USA may be different, for all I know.

    I know some families have to work with both due to some circumstances out of their control, and I didn´t mean to attack them, I was writing about your average European middle class family. However, some things you mentioned, such as student loans, are definitely a choice since one doesn´t really always need to go to the University.

    Of course, the biggest expense is nearly always the rent/mortgage, it´s the same over here, but as I said, there are cheaper properties and rentals available where I live, and since most men don´t live with their parents after a certain age, and not all of them are married, they manage to pay the rent with their income alone, and food over here isn´t that expensive.

    That all isn´t meant as a reflection on your own situation, as I hope you understand! We live in a two income world (though here it´s still part~time second income) and it can be difficult to live a traditional life, but not always impossible.

  5. Housewife from FinlandFebruary 23, 2015 at 4:47 AM

    Perfect. All hail to thee!

    In Finland homeschooling is allowed but it s very rare. But the schools are free and rather good and families with children get all sorts of child benefits. Actually here in Finland being stay-at-home mum should be relatively easy, but it is less common here than in other Europian countries. At least as far as I know. And nobody, literally nobody is HOUSEWIFE. When I once said to doctor that I am a housewife when he asked what I do for living, he started acting very impolitely indeed. Staying at home is concidered the biggest sin here, propably because of our Lutheran work ethics.

  6. Luxury is a problem nowadays. Our ancestors were content with basic food and a modest cottage to live in. We want everything from life but we don't seem to appreciate life itself. We are wasting our life as if there would be another life waiting for us here on earth. Life is a gift, a treasure we are given and judged about later. We don't work for a living, we live for disposable things.very few people understand what is really going on with feminism and making money. But there are options for rich and poor families to make a home, not just a consumerist living. Yes, we can have nice families and a decent pantry and some extra money for emergencies. "What we really must do without discussion is die. anything else is optional in life"- one of my teachers used to say this whenever we asked: Do I have to do this or that? We don't have to do anything in fact but the final step. All our decisions are taken because we wanted not because we had no other option.

  7. There are plenty of homeschoolers in Canada. It is an option and more are homeschooling all of the time. Our rent is not subsidized and our cost of food is more than in Holland. Going thrifting in "kringloop" stores has become the in thing to do here. I do think parents and schools can do a much better job of teaching kids to live within their means.

  8. Marietta, it´s all true, but I think our taxes are higher, too. For the record, we own a house and don´t get any subsidies.

    Housewife from Finland, it must be very lonely for you! Here there are still housewives, I know several, and generally people don´t react the way you describe (well, some working women do, unfortunately). I do think that the problem is often not that much the lack of money, but the mentality of the people.

  9. Alexandra, I always appreciate hearing from you!:) Since our society is oriented nowadays towards two~income family as a default position, living on one income doesn´t just come naturally, it must take a bit of planning and figuring out. On my blog I reviewed a book by Aaron Clarey where he gave economic advice to men, including how to downsize and to live on less. I think someone needs to do the same for the young people planning to have a traditional family.

  10. In my country living out of debt has become unnaturally too. Two-income-families have more and more difficulties in managing their finances and one-income-couples are rare. But despite the very specific living standards here in my homeland, living on one income is doable at the country side for sure and in urban areas with some struggle, it is a pity that villages are getting emptier than ever due to migration. I love my country and I don't want higher standards or incomes, but high-quality marriages, high-quality faith and life in Christ. These are goals to achieve from my perspective. And a good marriage is nurtured by high-quality homemaking and succeeds when we change consumerist habits.

  11. I have just been thinking that in the times past young couples sometimes lived by their family until they could afford a place of their own. People look down on this sort of arrangement nowadays, but really, it can make sense.

  12. Sanne has mentioned something that I often do. Many men live on one income when they are single so there's no reason not to be able to support a wife at home. He's already paying for a place to live and everything. If his wife is home he doesn't have to buy a car for her. Yes it would cost a little extra to feed her, but not that much. And don't have so many kids that you are forced to live in poverty!!! I use Christmas money from family generally to buy some clothes for myself and other things my husband can't always afford. There's nothing wrong with getting help from families. Property transfers from family to family used to be common at marriage (such as dowries that the wife's family provided or a bride price from the groom). You just do it and you adapt. All two income families I know are in debt. And women should not be encouraged to go off to college because they put themselves in a bind if they ever want to have families because then they have debts for a degree that might be worthless if they ever do get around to using it in the future. We lived with grandparents for about a month after marriage until my husband could get us a place to live that he could afford with his income. It's a man's responsiblility to move his family where he can afford to provide for them. It should be considered "men's business" really. Oh and I know a lot of "two-income" families that live with either the husbands or the wife's parents!! I guess in the future we will be hearing about how it takes 3 incomes now? A man has no business taking a wife if he can't fully provide for her.

  13. I don't think that large families are poorer than small families. Maybe happier, in many ways. Clothes can be passed down and the vegetable garden is larger. Our daughters all went to post secondary and became nurses, teachers and bookkeepers. None of them graduated with debt because they were able to live at home and go to college and university. They don't work because they stay at home with their children but I am thankful that they had these opportunities to go to school and work for a while. The key is really to live within your means. I was always taught to first give 10% , save 10% and then live off the rest. I think that is a common teaching.

  14. It all depends on what you understand under a "large family". Some religious people teach that any form of birth control is sinful, even the natural methods approved by the Catholic Church. Let's be completely honest, there is no way an average lower middle class man over here would be able to support, say, 10 kids, without living in abject poverty, even with government handouts. I have always been of an opinion that how many children to have is the couple's private decision and depends on the ability of the father to provide and on the mother's to carry, birth, and care for them. I strongly believe it's irresponsible how some people (many of them women) teach other women to take as many children as possible, disregarding the consequences (seen it on the net) They are usurping the husband's authority, too.

    BTW, Marietta, I have family in Canada and I remember they were telling me that there were some cheap government housing projects, or am I mistaken?

  15. Housewife from FinlandFebruary 24, 2015 at 4:01 AM

    Laestadians here in Finland often have 10 or more children and seem to be doing just fine. But they usually live on smaller town where living is cheaper and education is free here and families get all sorts of benefits.

    Marietta's point about saving 10 % is important. It seems to me that people don't know how to save anymore. Since most people have worked for a while before marriage they BOTH should have some savings (at least here in Finland where you get paid for studying so mortgage is the first loan we have to get.) But do people save? No. They even take loan to pay fot their wedding.

    I do not think it is a good idea to live with parents when you are married. Young couples need privacy and young wife definitely needs her own kitchen. Of course people are different but I would just kill my mother or my mother-in-law if we were forced to live under the same roof.

  16. Here the benefits are restricted to the first three children, I believe (they keep changing it all the time), after which you are on your own. There are tax cuts, but they aren't spectacular, either. The tax on water you pay according to how many people are in your household, and it's high. The secondary education is supposed to be free, but in reality there are all sorts of costs connected to it. An average house has 3 bedrooms. Anything bigger, and the mortgage goes through the roof, plus the property taxes and the energy bills.

    Religious people do have many children, often the husband has a very good job, too, or the mother works, plus they ask all sorts of handouts. It's not my idea of life, but to everyone his own, I believe.

  17. Living with your family (doesn't have to be parents, could be grandparents, too) is certainly not an ideal, but it depends on what is your relationship with them and what for sort house they have. German magazines sometimes feature older people living in huge houses who invite their children to move in and it goes fine. Those houses are often divided into separate apartments, so both families have their own entrance, cooking facilities etc. It can be done.

  18. So many interesting comments! We do have subsidized housing for very low income earners. Interesting in Holland that you get a tax break for the 1st three children. We have it for all children here. Canadians have smaller families, but in our Dutch circles, most have 4 or 5 children which is very comfortable. Our mortgages are not tax deductible, so it is in our best interest to pay off our mortgages as quickly as possible. Personally, I believe that mortgages should be paid off within 25 years. You don't want to be older and still strapped with a mortgage. With the lower interest rates today, families can pay off more quickly than before.

  19. Housewife from FinlandFebruary 24, 2015 at 6:07 AM

    I definitely agree with you, Marietta when it comes to paying mortgages. We took 20 years mortgage and are planning to pay ot off sooner. But we are childfree so everything is easier and cheaper.

    Here in Finland you get 96 euros/month/first child, for second child you get 106 euros "Child Benefit" and sum raises so kids number 4-XXX will get 174 euros per month per kid. And that is real money, payed to your account. And as long as some of the children is under 3, mother will get at least 342 e/month for staying at home. If you have for example 4 kids and one of them is under 3, goverment will pay you taxfree money 1005 euros per month for staying home. So here as long as children are small there should be absolutely no problems staying at home. (of course if the mother works, she would still get child benefits 669 euros per month.)

    Considering that daycare costs usually (it depends on how much parents earn) over 100 euros/month/child or even more it seems to mee that mothers must be insane to go to work when children are under 3.

    This has been very useful conversation, I have never before really calculated how much benefits mothers can get here in Finland -and how expensive daycare can be. (I always thought it is free, since schools are.) Now when I hear somebody complaining that they would like to stay at home but it is financially impossible, I can just tell them: "Do the math, woman. DO THE MATH."

    So here in Finland it is not a question about survivaving with one income. Those benefits belong to everybody with children, no matter how much father earns. Then there are also some discretionary social supports for poor families, where both parents are unemployed or something like that. (Though even the lowest unemployment compensation is like 600 euros/month.)

  20. Marietta and the lady from Finland, we have tax breaks for every child, but after the first child it isn't so much, plus we have child allowance, the way they do in Finland, and this allowance is restricted to 3 children, I think. It's not that big, though, and they keep talking about making it income dependent and to restrict it further to two children. BTW, it was introduced by Germans during the war, to increase the birthrate.

  21. P.S. our mortgages are tax deductible, plus when your house is paid, it counts as your capital, so you'll have to pay an additional tax on it, I think. Hence, it's not profitable to pay your mortgage sooner, unless it's very high, though it can be a good idea to pay a part of it.

  22. P.P.S., our child allowance is paid until the child is 18.