I Am Rich.

I Am RichImage courtesy of Sherman Mui

We got our income taxes done last week. We went in with our tax lady to go over the numbers and make sure everything was in order. (My husband is self-employed, and we just don’t have the skills to do taxes ourselves.)

Let me tell you, I was STUNNED by the final number — our last year’s income. It was staggeringly low. We fall way, way below the poverty line for our area. As in, guess a ridiculously low number for a family of two adults and one child, and then divide that by half. That was our last year’s income. (Ben had a lot of major expenses for his business — he built his own shop to work out of.)

I was surprised by the final number I saw because I don’t feel that poor.

A friend recently asked me whether I still considered myself poor (I will often refer to myself as poor in a somewhat facetious tone). And I told her that no, I don’t. (That was before I saw the numbers.)

True, our annual income is alarmingly low. But I am so rich in so many other resources that survival is not a daily struggle. There are people who may have similar (or even slightly higher) incomes than us who are still way worse off, because they don’t have access to the other resources we do.

Here are just a few of the resources I have access to that make me comparatively wealthy, despite what the income tax forms say.

Skills in Frugality

I was raised by frugal Mennonites. I learned early on in life how to care for a home. I was taught basic sewing skills. I learned how to cook from scratch — I grew up helping my mom bake bread, can tomatoes, and cut pasta. I knew how to make a roux for cream sauce before I knew what that was. I even know how to butcher a chicken and make smoked sausage from a freshly-slaughtered pig. These are handy skills when your income is low.

Likewise, my husband learned how to change his own oil, repair an engine, build a fence, and other valuable skills to help reduce costs.

My mom taught me how to find a bargain, how to scan a yard-sale, and what to look for in thrift stores. I also grew up wearing thrift store clothes and hand-me-downs, so I’m used to a certain level of thriftiness in my wardrobe.

My husband and I both also learned the important skills of money-management. We’re not amazing money-spenders, but we know how to avoid debt: we’ve never had a credit card bill or purchased a vehicle we couldn’t pay in full.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have grown up with these skills instilled in them at a young age.

Fluency in English

It’s easy to overlook the huge advantage we have in being fluent in English in North America. But English is not our parents’ first language, so it’s easier for Ben and I to recognize the advantage. We have seen firsthand (mostly through older relatives) what a disadvantage it is when folks can’t speak the language.

We can make our own doctor’s appointments and explain our symptoms. We can update our passports and set up savings accounts without (too much) trouble. We can call around and find the best insurance policy, or notify the sales clerk that they’ve overcharged us. And perhaps most importantly, we have easy access to unlimited information, thanks to our fluency in the national language.


Not only are we fluent in the dominant language, but we both received a decent education. We can read, write, do basic math, and use the internet. I’m even somewhat fluent in academic discourse (having gone to graduate school), giving me access to a greater range of information.

It’s an enormous blessing to be able to read books on natural healing, budgeting, education/parenting, gardening, and the like. Our potential for learning is unlimited, since we got this strong foundation as children. Not everyone we know has received this enormous advantage.

And thanks to internet access, we can buy and sell used items cheaply online; we can watch music videos for free on Youtube (no need for satellite here!); we can renew library books online; etc. There are so many ways to save money with the internet!

Strong Family and Community Support

familyMy immediate family. Look at all those potential babysitters.

We live within a ten-minute drive from both sets of parents. Between the two of us, we probably have a hundred aunts, uncles, and cousins living within a half-hour radius of us. We hang out with my cousins on a nearly weekly basis, and know at least ten couples from our church whom we consider “close friends.”

You know what that means? That means free babysitting almost any time of the week if we need it. It means free home-cooked meals when we’re sick or have a new baby. It means we can swap books and share outgrown baby items and clothes so we don’t have to buy everything new. These are also people I can go to for ideas, suggestions, and emotional support.

And also, I get free eggs and garden produce from my parents.

Life is so much easier (and cheaper) when you have friends and family around you.

Universal Health Care

Our health care in Canada isn’t perfect. But at least I know that if I get in a car wreck, the only costs I have to worry about involve the vehicle(s). If my daughter breaks her arm, my only concern is her comfort as she heals. I’m also able to have a baby (wherever I want, with whomever I want attending) without paying a dime out of pocket. I never have to worry about crippling medical bills that will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Our Health

So far, Ben and I are enormously healthy. (Thanks in part, I’m sure, to our education and health care, above. We also have access to good food, good sanitation, nutrition information, and safe streets/jobs. Serious communicable diseases are rare.)

Thanks to our health, we can do things for ourselves. We can hang laundry, clean the house, run errands, etc, completely independently. We can do all these money-saving things because we’re physically able. I never want to overlook this advantage.

A Loving Maker

I tend to forget about this one (and I understand that it looks a little out of place in this list. But as a Christian blogger, I felt a little obligated to include it). I have to remind myself every so often that even if I had none of the above things, I still would be rich beyond compare because I know that I am loved by the one who made me. My personal value does not depend on my bank account, my skills, or my health, but rather depends wholly on the fact that God bestowed upon my unsurpassable worth when he made me, and assured me of his love when he died for me.

So you see, I’m really quite rich.

The income tax statement may not agree, but our wealth can’t be measured in numbers. I personally think riches primarily come from relationships, health, freedom, and access to information; but above all, the knowledge that I’m wholly and completely loved.

What am I forgetting? What else (besides money) makes you feel wealthy?

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  1. I feel the same way! My husband and I don’t have all of the super homemaking/frugality skills your family does (although we’re learning), but we make our tiny income go a long way by living in a cheap one-bedroom apartment (because our one-year-old baby does NOT need his own room), going car-less, and just generally not buying a lot of stuff. I don’t feel poor, even though the government thinks I am.

    We’re lucky to have our education, etc, and–maybe especially–an upbringing that values free time and introspection. It’s the reading and research and pondering we’ve had lots of time to do that has led us to make these lifestyle choices. If we’d been too busy working to question the status quo, we could’ve ended up in a situation with more money and stuff–but with less time for important things, and less understanding of the happiness that comes from living simply and small.

  2. My two little boys make me feel more wealthy than the money we have. For me wealth is relative to how you live and love, not nesesarrily about money. Burn the money and what do you have left? So, I agree with everything you listed.

    I have meet some of the poorest people in the world and they were the happiest people who would give you their shirt off their back. I have also met some rich people and they are the meanest and most arrogant people. Then I know people who look like bums and live in rundown homes who are “worth” millions and are down-to-earth and super cool (usually wicked smart too). It just depends on the person.
    Heidi @ Barefoot and Paleo recently posted..Lemon, Garlic, & Parsley Shrimp ScampiMy Profile

  3. We’ve been living on only a little for a while too. It was a bit of an adjustment for me, since I value being peculiar, but was raised (frugally) upper middle class. It’s been uncomfortable, but I’ve never lacked for anything I needed! Wealth comes in so many different forms.
    Laura recently posted..The Little One, version 2: A New Birth StoryMy Profile

  4. Beautifully stated and appreciatively acknowledged.
    julie recently posted..Copper ArtMy Profile

  5. My mom always tells me that living a healthy and natural life costs more. So it’s really encouraging to read blogs like this. When I move out of my parents’ home, I’ll probably have to move to a cheaper area though.

  6. Love this! Just had to stop in and say so. :-) This might be my favorite post I’ve read of yours so far, and I’ve really liked reading along for the past year or so. I have to think about things like this a lot to put life into perspective. Have a great weekend. :-)
    Becky recently posted..Read Aloud Chapter Books We’ve Enjoyed this YearMy Profile

  7. I LOVE this! We, too, feel wealthy despite our teeny, tiny income. What I would add is 1. Choosing contentment and 2. Going without/ making sacrifices. We’re paying for my husband’s MA without borrowing money so we’ve had to make some big sacrifices (living with his parents while he’s in school, not buying pretty much anything). God is teaching us to be okay with that, which is big for me because I wasn’t taught frugality so I’ve really had to learn!

    This is a good reminder that we can be wealthy, no matter our income, if we make wise choices and have the right values and priorities, and the opposite it also true!

  8. Ok, I already told you I love this post. So much. And I intended on writing such a thoughtful response to it. But in the end (mostly because I’m tired!), I think I’ll just reply with: I want more practical tips from you on living frugally and on a tight budget! XO
    Rebecca recently posted..The Met Gala, 2014My Profile

  9. I appreciated this post so much. The other month after confession, my penance was to do a sincere prayer of thanksgiving for all that I’ve been given. This post seemed like such a similar exercise, to really honestly look at the full picture of our life and not just one tiny part that we’re upset about or is not going to our perfect plan.

    Specifically, trusted babysitters are HUGE in terms of quality of life! Not only do they give you a physical break, but they allow you to pursue other interests, which is great for mental sanity. I had the realization that all my friends who work outside the home have their moms or mother in laws watching their children. What a gift of opportunity!

    And health care, so true. Not having to worry about insurmountable bills must be a huge blessing.

    Also, having access to such high quality food is such a blessing that translates to direct monetary savings. I was recently doing a rough poll on grocery bills and discovered that people eating a high quality, organic, fair trade diet with grass fed, local meat spend upwards of $1,000 a month where I live. The cost of high quality food is incredible. I try to remind my husband of this as we see our garden produce! I’m tempted to keep track of it this year just to prove the point with numbers!
    alison recently posted..A lot can grow in a weekMy Profile

  10. I am a stay at home single mother. I support myself and by daughter through book sales. We are quite a ways beneath the poverty line as well but we don’t suffer any deprivation. We rent a small simple home and have everything we need and lots of what we want. Our bills are paid and we always have a little left over. We may not own many things considered essential by some (no tv or a car, for example), but we are happy and stress free. Unlike many single moms, this simple life allows me to stay at home with my kid, a luxury I didn’t have with my older children because I had to work multiple jobs just to survive.

    A friend of mine sent me a link to this blog so I’m new here but I can already see we share a similar philosophy on life. I look forward to digging through your archives.

    Annie recently posted..Full-Time Writer and Single Mom: A Book ReviewMy Profile

  11. Thank you so much for reminding me all of these things! My husband and I should be considered middle class, but after the bills come out there is not much left at all. It causes a lot of stress but thankfully he is strong when I am weak emotionally. We are also blessed in family, education, and healthcare. I am blessed with being self-employed, although the business is the majority of our stress! I can use slow times to work on projects, read and look up things. I work 50+ hours a week but it’s easy work.
    My goal is to be “retired” in 8 more years, and be a frugal stay at home mommy, keeping the house and caring for my family. I keep telling myself this current situation is teaching me lessons I will need for down the road. There has to be a reason for the hardships. (Although they could be so much harder!)
    Thank you for the down-to-earth post to remind me what is important in life.
    Oh and I’m 8 weeks along for our first baby. We are blessed!!!

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