What's your fiscal responsibility scheme?

Normally, I'm not the best person to ask about finances. I dislike numbers, and do much better with words and intuition. My excuse is that I learned to read when I was 3 years old, and skipped the first grade, thereby missing out on the basics of arithmetic. Not that I did badly in math--I usually made A's, until I stretched a little too far my senior year in high school and took solid geometry. Made my very first C in that class. I was devastated.

Numbers affected my musicianship until I learned the technique of breaking the rhythm down to the smallest note value and setting that beat up in my head. This was especially helpful when studying Bach. Subdividing the beat allows you to navigate his sixteenth-note-rich, long, sinuous melodic/rhythmic schemes successfully. That technique, plus a "cheat-sheet" of Baroque ornamentation led to many hours of exploring the six Bach flute sonatas--arguably the pinnacle of the flute repertory.

I was also sadly lacking in knowledge of finance. My dad was a minister dedicated to serving poor rural communities, which necessarily dictated an extremely modest salary. I made up a joke about this, telling friends that we were always poorer than the proverbial church mouse. While this had some truth, we also had alternative resources. We always had a vegetable garden, and frequently chickens or part shares in a pig or steer. We put up a lot of food, and dad supplemented by hunting whatever was in season. It was as much a sport for him as food on the table, but I learned many valuable skills--how to field dress deer, clean and fillet fish, dig buckshot out of quail, and prepare such oddities as frog legs and rabbit.

Unfortunately, the only thing I learned about finances was how to alternate monthly bill-paying, keeping our balances due to 60 days rather than 30. Most dry goods establishments would generously allow the local ministry the option of layaway or payment over time (no credit cards back then), which meant that we could have at least one pair of school shoes and one pair of Sunday shoes that fit. I did learn the honorable practice of barter, which I engage in to this day.

Both sets of grandparents were adept at making a living from the land. My maternal grandparents always had a huge garden and put up all kinds of food. Mamaw was also an expert seamstress. We would draw pictures of outfits, and she had the uncanny ability to find patterns and materials and reproduce whatever our imaginations could dream up. We regularly received boxes of dresses, pajamas, skirts and blouses, always with a small box of Papaw's fudge, made with pecans from the tree in their backyard they planted when I was born. Along with hand-me-downs from the church, this was our entire wardrobe. I got my first store-bought dress when I was 11.

Paternal grandparents were farmers, as was my dad before he was called to the ministry. It was a hard, sometimes cruel life. Cotton, before the boll weevil wiped them out. Turkeys, beef cattle, even a stint as a butcher when the topsoil was gone, blown away in the 50's on the southernmost fringes of the Dust Bowl. My grandmother was blind, which didn't stop her from her farmwife chores. She cooked, did laundry, fed the chickens, gathered eggs, all by touch. Should I ever lose my sight, I know I can make my way in the dark, at least in familiar territory.

What we lacked in coin, we made up for in education, literature, intellectual discovery. self-reliance, the arts, and family. We were rich in imagination and resourcefulness. I have come to believe that these experiences were worth much more than mere money, and serve me well in the present economy. After all, I've had lots of practice. This is not to say that everything is hunky-dory. The world has changed. But this background gave me a modicum of self-confidence that keeps fear to a minimum.

In a nutshell, my fiscal sheme is simply to live as simply as possible, while maximizing resources. Nothing earth-shattering, but that just might be all I need.