Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Make vs Buy

I just finished reading Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes and I think my life is different now.  She profiled several folks who are making their life from home instead of making a life based on a career.  Her premise, and I agree with it with all my heart, is that people who think you need an external salary to survive are wrong.  She knocked down all the counter arguments, like "you need a salary to pay for education," "you need a salary to pay for insurance," "car," etc., etc.

Many of the people she profiled had gotten their gumption to quit the rat race from reading a book called Your Money or Your Life.  I haven't read that book (yet), but according to the Amazon description, it advocates a way of saving and spending money that will allow one to quit making a salary.  A relevant example is don't buy something when you can make it or do without it.

Case in point - and my current dilemma/decision.   (Isn't it funny how life sometimes seems like a headlong rush from one decision or dilemma to the next one!)  I bought this loveseat before I even got into this house, I loved it so much.  And, when a junk store has something wonderful at a great price - ya gotta know it won't last long.  I love the old-timey feel of it and the colors.  It's comfortable too!

Anyway - I repaired the pillows last year and you can see that the repair didn't stick.  Reason:  this sofa, and accompanying wool blanket is what kept the dogs warm through the bitter cold winter days when mommy deserted them and went to work.  The vinyl is literally falling apart.  Disintegrating, as something 60 years old might be expected to do.  I need to either buy new cushions or make new cushions.  This enclosed porch faces south - so sitting here this time of year is a religious experience, soaking in the strength of the new sun.

I've already failed Shannon Hayes and whoever wrote Your Money or Your Life because they might argue that I can do without.  And I can.  Time to get past that failure.  My dilemma however, is do I buy new cushions, or make new cushion covers over the existing filling?  I'm sad because I would like to have exactly the same material (I love this stuff), or something with the same 50s or 60s attitude and color scheme, and what the stores are selling is bland, industrial material that "goes with everything" and has no character.

Anyway again - this salary-making girl would rather buy something because these pillows have piping and anyone who has sewn piping can tell you that it's a pain to make and sew with.  The piping alone will triple (or fourple) how long it will take to make new pillow covers.  Making 4 new pillow covers would take me, probably, 20 hours of work, on top of the material cost.  Buying pillows might not be that expensive.

Where I get stuck is this...if I'm ever going to be a person who supports myself without a salary, I'm going to have to stop being a person who buys everything.  When am I going to stop spending money and start saving it?  (Says the person who just spent TWO solid days shopping for relaxation ...)

Oh well - time to stop beating myself up.  I'm beginning to see that in addition to planning for the future, I need to change my behavior now if I want to maximize my chances for future success. It's an uncomfortable set of thoughts - this is what I mean, when I say my life is different now.

Edit:  Well - that was an easy decision!  Make.  The stores don't carry cushions of the quality I like and besides - they're all the wrong size.


  1. I'm kind of in the same situation. Since I work I can justify buying things I want/need because I don't really have the time to make it...but I'm also longing to be home more and that would require a whole mindset change. I'm working on it too...baby-steps.

    Great post.

  2. Ah ha, you'll make the pillows. As an engineer you've probably already got a plan put together. Since you think it'll take 20 hours to complete the job, have you decided on how important the piping is? Is it worth your extra time? One thing that has stuck with me since I read (in 1995) Your Money or Your Life is this: asking yourself the question "Is this item [I'm considering purchasing] worth the number of hours I have to work to get it?" The answer is based on your "real" hourly wage.

    I can see that I'm getting too wordy here, and so should just recommend reading the book. It was a real eye opener and I finished reading it in a weekend.

    P.S. If the cushion inserts aren't too shot or falling apart, you may consider beefing them up with some cotton batting: usually cheaper than buying new inserts.

  3. Ha ha Jackie - you're totally right. I do have a plan. Even though my local JoAnn fabrics doesn't carry it, I can buy pre-made piping online for pretty cheap. It's solid colors, but that will be OK. Also - the foam is supposed to be these broken pieces (makes the cushion more pillow-y), so it's a great idea to use batting! This will be an opportunity to change the seatcushions into one piece on the bottom.

    Some people are really good at being savers. I think the challenge (the mindset change), is to think of myself as a person who *does not* have a salary. Someone who reads this blog made it a priority to pay off her house quickly, and that went a long way towards getting her cost of living down. Smart. I need to take this dimension more seriously than I have been, that's for sure.

  4. Jordan,
    If you've found online piping, did you google 'retro fabric'?? You may be able to find something...or perhaps an old retro table cloth (junk shoppin')would yield you enough material for the tops and edges..you can always use something solid if the back and bottom won't show. And using another layer doubled with the tablecloth/retro material would make it stronger and hold up better. I also would suggest, if you are totally replacing the foam part of the cushion, the duct tape treatment on the cushion you have and then flop it back on for the dogs next winter and stick your new one out of reach, perhaps in one of your cold places of the house. Man, I sound sort of bossy!!

  5. I've been living this life of necessity! We're on a very limited income, so if I want something that isn't a true need, I either have to make it myself (usually with materials on-hand), or wait until the two times of year we have "extra" money - namely Christmas and my birthday/tax refund time. Usually my want-not-needs fall into the category of books or extra tools :)

    For me the crux tends to be "yes I am capable of making XYZ, but will it be enough of a PITA that I'll put off making it indefinitely - and if so, would I be better off just buying one so that I can use it?" I'm currently having that debate about hoop houses and row covers :(

  6. I hear you, Jordan. I was at my little cabin today because I was having some trees taken down. While I was there, I thought I had made the firmest plans I could make to sell my city house. It is simply too big for the time I spend there. I just need a room, not a house.

    But I drove home to the city house and found myself daydreaming about "must hire someone" to-do lists, and "I can learn how" to-do lists. City house roof -- must hire. Cabin -- low enough that I can try. And on and on I went, switching the issues to money.

    And then I walked in the door of my city place and felt right at home. "I love this place." All the way back, I was unconsciously changing my mind.

    It's tough to make decisions when there are so many ways to go!

  7. Karen Sue - amazing - I DID google retro outdoor fabric and am getting 2 samples mailed. I'm gonna use an old sheet and make a "case" for the old foam that I can cover with new/old fabric and boughten piping.

    Alison - my idea was now, while I have a salary, I'd buy all the expensive stuff I need. But I think I'm using that as an excuse to get things I *don't* need as well. Necessity really is the mother of invention! Hm - that's a tough question - don't have, or buy hoop houses and/or row covers? Let me know what you do!

    Kate - sometimes I think we force ourselves into "must make a decision" mode, even when it's not really necessary. It's nice to know you can put off that one, pretty much indefinitely.

  8. One of the ways you can "make a living from home" is being able to see things that have value and save them for when you need them, as well as barter. (Not to mention the storage space...) Cuz the fabric you want was probably on sale just a few years ago... (isn't that always the case?)

    And every time you make something, you acquire a skill or broaden a talent so that you can do it for someone else - and get something or a trade in return. Betcha someone sees the beautiful new seat cushion and says, "Ooooh, I need one of those...." and you jump in and say, "I can barter you one..." and it goes from there...

  9. Eggselent point Melanie. I love how it sounds so possible, like it might actually happen!