Monday, July 23, 2012


In my last post, I mentioned that the average gross salary for a Ukrainian in one month is $319.  That wasn't a typing error.

So, how do they do it?  How do they survive on $319 a month with prices like these?
I have to tell you that Ukrainians are some of the most resourceful people I have ever met.  I grew up in a home where we did not have enough to waste, but in my last 10 years of living in Ukraine I have come to realize that I grew up with a lot of extras.  Things that, at the time, I did not realize were extras.  You see, it all depends on who you are comparing yourself to.

So, I thought that for this post it would be fun to list some ways in which Ukrainians are resourceful with their money.  One of their favorite words here is "economize" and I will list for you just how they do that in real life.  If you know anything about Ukrainian culture, I would love for you to add to this list in the comments section.

And, I must add... I have gleaned a lot of wisdom from these people in how to stretch a dollar and how not to waste.  And my husband {and his wallet} are all the better for it!

Before I get started I will mention a couple of things.  First of all, there are well-to-do people in Ukraine.  There are many who live just as well, if not better, than Americans.  Secondly, this list is not a "one-size-fits-all."  Obviously, these are my observances and do not necessarily apply to everyone here.  Thirdly, I have no intention to embarrass these people that I love.  To the contrary, I hope that you will see just how smart you have to be to survive on such a small income.
1.  No lights are turned on (in homes, public buildings, etc.) during the day and well into the evening, when most of us would have turned them on long ago.
2.  Second-hand (thrift) stores are popular here for buying clothing.  
3.  Ukrainians do not own closetfuls of clothing.  They wear gowns/house clothing when they walk in the doors to their homes in order to save on the wear of their good clothes.
4.  They eat a lot of soups, starchy fillers, and bread.  Whatever fruits and vegetables are in season are what they add to these meals.  
5.  Packaged, prepared foods are not common in their diet.  Other than soups and fresh produce (and their homemade canned goods when fresh is out of season), they eat a lot of "mushy" foods, such as buckwheat, oatmeal, semolina, etc... 
6.  Most of them have their own gardens, including those who live in high-rise apartments in the city.  They usually have a small "dacha" (house/shack with a plot of land for a garden) outside of the city for this purpose.
7.  Canning... they can their fruits and vegetables and what cannot be canned {such as potatoes} is stored in basements.  They even make their own {delicious!} jams and fruit juices for drinking.
8.  They drink hot tea with their meals, and it is common to see them making more than one cup out of one tea bag.
9.  Most do not own a vehicle and they do a lot of walking.  If their destination is just a mile or two away, many times they will walk to save the $0.25 it costs to ride a bus.
10.  They use brown toilet paper made from recycled paper.  And, it is really not as bad as you might think!

11.  As I mentioned in my last post, a couple of families sometimes live in one apartment and share rent costs.  Many times relatives live together, such as parents, their grown children, and their grandchildren.  This also helps cut costs on babysitters.
12.  They do not throw things away that can be re-used - things such as plastic bags, containers/jars, etc...  
13.  If they eat out, it would only be for a special occasion such as a birthday or party.  Eating out "just because I don't have anything thawed or because I don't feel like cooking" just doesn't cut it here.
14.  They eat very little meat, and the meat they do eat is only "partial meat" like bologna, salami, crab sticks, etc.
15.  They hang their clothes to dry and do not {usually} wash their clothing after only one wear 
16.  They own very little machinery in their homes.  Things such as air conditioners, clothes dryers, microwaves, etc. are not common in most households.  They have quite a high tolerance to the heat and the cold since they have to bear through these weather extremes.  
17.  In their small apartments, many times their couches serve as their pull-out beds at night.
18.  They do not own a lot of "stuff" and you will never see a garage sale here!

Makes you grateful, doesn't it?


  1. So many of these things you listed remind me so much of how the people are here! I've learned so very much from them.

  2. Seems like such a simpler way of life. Too much "stuff" just isn't healthy!

  3. Amazing! Very resourceful people - they remind me of the stories my granny used to tell me of her childhood. I think we might be in better shape now if we were more economical today!

  4. Yep, same here! Sometimes I have been tempted to have a garage sale just to see the reaction of the neighbors! ;) I don't care for the TP by the way! :) It's okay when you have to, but not my favorite choice by any means!

  5. We could learn a lot from our Ukrainian friends! Thanks so much for sharing this. Almost every apt we stayed in while traveling in Ukraine had a couch that converted to a bed. And I believe Elijah's birth parents live with his grandparents in an apartment...and my kids complain about sharing a bedroom! But this would also explain why family sizes are much smaller there (and why we had to work to convince a judge we could provide for 6 or 7 children). :-)

  6. This is so interesting, Jolene. I've noticed the some of the same things about their resourcefulness.

    One meat that seems to show up at the table is fish. Maybe our closeness to the Black Sea is the reason, but our people here definitely love fish!

    I've noticed with interest, what kind of foods are served here for a meal. We recently were guests at a Ukrainian home where we were served green borscht, macaroni, sweet corn, fish, bread, salad, salami and cheese, and ice cream and cake for dessert. Tea and coffee were offered, but it was so warm, we opted to stay with cool beverages.

    Another thing I've noticed is if you are going to throw away anything - old cookware, broken appliances, any odds and ends, they are pretty quick to take them and make use of them.

  7. I think there are many things that we are both ungrateful for as well as take for granted. Thank you for sharing. Definitely good food for thought:)

  8. Hello! So good to finally catch up with you~

    I am enjoying reading and learning while I visit here. Those prices are incredible on their monthly salary. I don't think I would be eating much meat either :-/ Amazing!

    Thank you for a fun educational post. I will be sharing this with my kiddos tomorrow at breakfast :-)


  9. Thank you so much for sharing this. This article was such a blessing to me, that I shared it with several of my friends. I found the link to your site via another blogger I follow and am thrilled to be here. God Bless and Keep You and Your Family/Friends.

  10. This is not comfortable survival for Ukrainians. However, starved by generations, Ukrainians got used to this as to the way of life that should be. In fact, it shouldn't be this way. In Ukraine one of my children died, while living similar lifestyle, and other two were very sick. In America, where we could afford much more, two children became much healthier, and other 5 born in America have never been sick (Praise God!)

    What do you think, how the lasting for hundreds of years system of time-to-time starving Ukrainians to sickness or death can be changed? Feeding hungry is a noble task, but unless the discriminating system is changed,it could be not enough bread in the world...

  11. Cheesy grin coming your way!!!

  12. Makes us realize how "spoiled" we have become; thanks for sharing, love ya!

  13. I'll add to your list that Ukrainians would NOT want to live in an apartment as big as the one you listed. While Americans seem to want more and more space, here people want the smallest apartment that they can fit into. Utilities cost less in a small space. Large is quite undesirable; we're seeing it first hand, because our landlady is trying to sell this "huge" apartment, and no one wants it: "too big." Also, not many have to rent, which really helps stretch the small income. (By the way, our four-room apartment is only a little over $100 a month, not much more than a 1- or 2-room in this city.)

    1. I had to smile at this comment. You are SO right! :-)

  14. wow eye opening ! Thanks Jolene .

    My cousin did a three month volunteer programme in Ukraine last Summer and when she returned to Ireland she had to do food shopping but when she walked into our huge supermarket she could not bear it and had to leave and go home in tears ....we have so muc stuff and choice ....

  15. Sure do love your posts. Those with the Lord live a much fuller and fulfilled life. All the waste here is much move evident when you have been in a country where just the basics are available. That is how my grandparents lived in South Dakota and that is how life use to be here in America. WE have gotten so spoiled and use to conveniences and not really using what we have. I love being reminded of how blessed I am and helps me keep things in prospective as to how I can save and bless others more.

    Praying for Ruthie's baby and your family. God bless you in the month of August.

    Love to you all and my prayers. Mrs. Benefield

  16. Wow -- it sure does make me a lot more grateful! And I thought that sometimes WE had it bad! :P I'm ashamed..... <3 Thanks, Ms. Jolene :)


Thank you for your encouraging comments! "As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country." Proverbs 25:25