Q&A Tuesday: Is it possible to save money when we’re barely keeping our head above water?

Audrey left the following comment on my post on renting (I’ve edited it a bit for space reason, but you can read it in it’s entirety here):

I know you talk about all these ways to save money, and anyone can do it, but it just doesn’t seem possible for us! I use coupons to save money, but even then we have no wiggle room in our budget for anything. We never have. My husband makes $1400/month (sometimes $1600) after tax.

I guess I just feel discouraged a lot, because we want so badly to save money (we don’t ever want debt), it just doesn’t feel possible. We’ve been trying for four years to save money and it just gets depleted because my husband’s hours get cut (which seems to happen to us a lot, no matter who he works for) and he can’t find more work. Any advice or encouragement for those of us who do rent because it’s cheaper, but have to use up more than half our income on our housing?

We’re paying $900/month here (water, sewer and garbage included). That leaves $500/month to spend on the rest of our bills — phone, electricity, internet, etc. We don’t have cable (for obvious reasons), and we have a great deal on internet and phone, and I use coupons like crazy to save money on everything, but with our two kids (3 and 1), it’s just barely enough to get by (well, it’s not right now, we’re getting behind on bills).

I hate how broke we are all the time (and always have been). Thankfully, the only debt we have is a bill we’re a couple months behind on. But we don’t have a car payment (our old car is desperately in need of repairs though — I’m afraid the tires are going to fall off, but we can’t afford to fix it!), we tithe, we don’t have credit cards, etc. But it just seems impossible to set money aside for big purchases (or even little purchases, like getting the car fixed!).

I have no idea how to remedy this situation. I do odds and ends from home. I clean houses when I can, and that sort of thing, but that brings in an average of $25/month, and my husband is already burnt out working as often as he is. He’s had no luck finding a second job (he’s already working so much already), either. I’m just not sure how to get ourselves out of this hole!

I wish you lived closer, Audrey, and I’d have you over and give you a big hug and sit down with you over a cup of tea to try and encourage you. I know how it feels when it seems like you’re working so hard and getting no traction. You’re wondering how on earth the ends are going to meet at the end of the month or what you’d do if your car breaks down or how you’re going to pay your utility bill.

Five years ago, that’s exactly where we were. And it was really, really hard. I’d grown up being taught to trust in God, but in those first few years of marriage, the rubber met the road and I realized that actually trusting God was a whole lot harder than it sounded.

The lessons we learned during those times of feeling pretty desperate financially were so hard but, oh so good! And we wouldn’t trade them for the world. It strengthened our trust in the Lord, it strengthened our marriage, it matured us as individuals and it inspired us to learn all sorts of creative and entrepreneurial things we never dreamed we’d learn or attempt!

Here are some things which helped us to pull through that time and start making traction little by little:

1) Pray

God delights in providing for those who trust in Him. Claim His promises. Pray His Word back to Him. Cry out to Him for provision, for wisdom, for guidance, for creativity, for open doors. Pray about the little things and the big things; nothing is too small or big for God.

And realize that He will never, never, never, no never leave or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)!

2) Stick To Your Budget

Be very, very vigilant in adhering to your written budget. While it might seem like you’re not getting traction, sticking with your budget will ensure that you’re not sliding backwards or getting any farther behind than your possibly have to.

3) Realize That Your Attitude Can Make or Break the Situation

I wholeheartedly believe that you’re not stuck unless you choose to be. You can always be learning, growing, improving yourself and seeking to improve your financial situation — even if it seems that your actual income is staying the same.

Have a cheerful, grateful spirit. Focus on counting your blessings rather than all the difficult things in your life. And determine, by the grace of God, that you are going to do all you can to make the most of your situation, to stretch your resources as far as possible and to use any extra time you have in your day to increase your income.

4) Set Microscopic Goals To Begin With

No matter your income or financial situation, you can set goals, even if they are microscopic. You likely can’t save $100 this month, but I’m guessing that if you squeezed, you might be able to save $2 or $5 — or maybe even $10. Start there and set this aside in a savings account as your Emergency Fund (or however else you want to designate it) and add to it each month. Over time, you just might be surprised at how it will grow!

In addition, don’t just set goals for saving money, set goals for earning money, too! You said that you’re usually doing around $25 per month cleaning houses. What if you were to challenge yourself to bump that number up to $35 this coming month? And then little bit, by little bit, continue to bump it up.

I also recommend setting goals for improving yourself — such as skills to learn and books to read. Choose things which will help you be able to increase your income, make wise financial choices and which will encourage you in your current situation.

As always: don’t bite off more than you can chew. I’d suggest starting by setting two to four tiny goals each month. Once you accomplish those, add a few more. When you feel ready, increase the goals by a tiny little bit and then a little bit more. Setting goals — even if they are teensy-tiny — and then actually reaching them can give you enormous encouragement and you just might be amazed at the momentum it gives you!

5) Look For Any Extra Cash You Can Come Up With

You mentioned that you clean houses, if you are looking to expand, consider contacting local multi-unit rentals to see if they need someone to clean their units when a renter moves out. Or make connections with realtors and ask them about cleaning foreclosed homes for them or having them recommend you to sellers who want to have their home professionally cleaned after they move out.

Think outside the box of what normal professional cleaners do and you’ll likely land upon some really successful ideas. Contact business owners and offer to clean their office space. Advertise your business on Craigslist. Offer a discount to your current customers if they refer you to others who then end up using your services.

You also said you have a blog and that you’re currently making about $2 per month off it. I’d suggest you try to learn and implement some of the suggestions on BloggingWithAmy.com in order to steadily increase that each month.

While some may disagree with me, I think almost anyone who is willing to put in some time and effort can earn at least an extra $50 to $100 per month by spending three hours of blogging each week. You already have your blog set up and running, so I’d encourage you to work on monetizing it and growing it — if it’s something you enjoy.

6) Improve Yourself

Seek to make the most of every opportunity to learn, to grow, to glean. Always be learning new things, trying new things and coming up with new ideas. Don’t be content with the status quo.

Read good books which challenge and motivate you. As much as is possible, remove negative influences from your life which just suck time and energy. Replace them with things that encourage and inspire you.

7) Don’t Give Up

Finally, do not give up. Your situation will not change overnight; gaining traction is not instantaneous. But if you’re willing to keep working hard, to keep experimenting, to keep setting goals, to keep pressing forward, to keep sticking with the budget and to keep going when the going gets tough, it will pay off.

Don’t lose heart! Keep looking to the Lord and asking Him to provide and guide you — and see Him do amazing things!

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  1. Josie says

    Thank you for posting this. We are in the exact same financial/living situation and I enjoy your blog but I get stressed out sometimes–feeling we are stretched too thin with medical/student debt and a low income. It’s nice to know I’m not alone, and there are usually still ways to cut a dollar or two off here and there.

    • Kile says

      Just to let you know, the government now has a income based repayment available to help with student loan debt. It is called IBR, (income based repayment). This might help, also ask about loan forgiveness programs. They ARE available. I used to work at a known student loan company.

  2. Rose says

    I have to say that was one your best posts that I have read.
    The material is great information that I think we can all apply and sprinkle in our own life.
    My favorite was prayer, because you can never underestimate the power of it and also negative thinking. It is so true, think you can and work hard and you will. Love it.

    Awsome, awsome, awsome

  3. says

    {{{Audrey}}} Minus the children that was US 4 years ago!
    God is so very faithful and I just want to reach out and hug you and encourage you in that thought.
    We had moments of encouragement that were obviously straight from the Lord – we rejoiced in those moments. And continued rejoicing and remembering those encouragements through the tough times – because often remembering the good is all that pulled us through the bad.

    We saw no way out of where our lives were either, but God orchestrated and had it all planned. He loves you and, as Crystal said, will never leave you.

    • says

      @Jessica Lynette, thank you for your encouraging words! This post and all the encouragement coming from it is, in fact, straight from the Lord! I feel so encouraged by all this. I’m just overwhelmed with God’s love and reminded of His promise to provide all we need!

  4. Lea Stormhammer says

    What about trading cleaning the office space at the store for a while for tires? It can’t hurt to ask! (A friend of mine’s family got free car insurance for a time because she and her mom cleaned the office 3x each week and did the trash, windows, etc. every day.)

    Check with your church also – both for cleaning at church but also for elderly or disabled or otherwise unable (moms on bedrest, etc) people in the congregation who might need a hand with their cleaning and would be willing and able to pay. Have you thought about adding ironing? Basic cooking? Running errands? A neighbor has a cleaning woman who also picks up her groceries and she just loves it! A former neighbor had hers chop vegetables for her – a nearly impossible task with her arthritis.

    We were truly amazed when we wrote down where every penny was spent a few years ago – we were spending way more than we thought on several little things (less than $1 ea) – and were able to diligently cut back even more than we thought. It was a pain, but well worth it! If it’s been a while since you did that, you might want to try that too.

    God bless!

    • Laura says

      Sounds like income-producing ideas from Tawra (not sure how to spell it) from the Living on a Dime series. She has books, a website and many other well-written and practical resources.

      • Lea Stormhammer says

        @Laura, LOVE Living on a Dime! I guess frugal minds think alike – or maybe I’ve just visited their site one too many times! :) Who knew?


    • says

      @Lea Stormhammer, another tough part of this is that we’re fairly new to the area we live in. We know a handful of people (not including the people my husband works with, we have maybe 10 acquaintances here), so we don’t have a lot of contacts (yet). And we are actually trying to find a church…. we go to a different one every few weeks, but God hasn’t planted us yet!

      Now that I think about it, we haven’t written down every penny we spend either. I’ll talk with my husband about doing that this month! Thanks for the encouragement!

      • WilliamB says

        @Audrey, When I was dirt-broke writing down every penny helped me a lot. I didn’t get fancy with categories: recurring expenses (such as rent), necessities (such as food), semi-luxuries (things not necessary to life but usually spent, such as a birthday card or long distance fees), luxuries (everything else).

        I kept my grocery receipts. If I was having trouble making ends meet I’d scrutinize the bill to see where I could spend less.

        I recorded every bit of income, too – if I found a penny on the ground I put it under “misc income.”

  5. Jenny says

    Could you list Audrey’s blog address? I’d love to support her by reading it. Great ideas in the article btw!

  6. says

    Wow, Audrey, my heart goes out to you! And I wish you lived nearby so I could have you come clean every once in awhile! (Any chance you’re in St. Louis?)

    Seriously, I imagine there are ladies on this site in your area who might like to find you and use your services. Just a thought. Maybe if Crystal puts up your blog link we’d know generally where you live.

    I’ll stop and pray for you right now. Be encouraged! God has His eye on you and your family!

    • says

      @Susan J, I wish I was closer so I could come clean for you once in a while! We are in Washington state, in the Puget Sound area. If there is anyone who would like help cleaning or cooking or anything, please contact me!

  7. brookeb says

    I’d also suggest letting those close to you know that you’re having a tough time. They might be able to pass along people who need their house cleaned, or they might have some connection that lifts the load a bit for you. Our communities are amazing resources, and we don’t use them as often as we should sometimes.

  8. Sarah says

    Thanks for posting, Crystal. Here are my suggestions:

    See if you can move to a cheaper internet plan. We had Roadrunner standard (I think) and then moved to the cheaper plan and did not notice a difference.

    Go to the library for your entertainment. Most libraries have dvds.

    If you need help creating a budget, or other financial matters go to learnvest.com. It is an awesome personal finance site geared towards women. Here is a budget calculator they created: http://www.learnvest.com/pages/toolsAndCalculators/budget

    I’m not religious like Crystal and most readers of this blog but could you maybe think about decreasing your tithe? Maybe you could give to the church in other ways like volunteering.

    Hope this helps

    • Melanie says

      @Sarah, I am a Christian and I would suggest to increase your tithe! :)

      As the scripture says in Luke:

      “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. ”

      I’m not quoting this to be disagreeable, but if Audrey is reading these comments, I want to be an encouragement to her. If they give to the Lord with the right heart, He’ll bless them for it!

      I highly recommend this sermon for encouragement:


      God Bless!

      • Melanie says

        @Melanie, (there’s some kind of pre-sermon talk and music on this link, but I was given a CD of the original message and it’s excellent — you can forward it up to the message to get to it)

      • says

        @Melanie, I would find it very irresponsible to increase one’s tithe when they can barely make ends meet. Where are they to take money from when they can barely pay their bills and feed their kids? While there is not enough food to eat because they increased their tithe what shall her family do while they are waiting for the Lord to provide for them- what will the children eat? I’m not saying this to start something, I am just having a hard time understanding.

    • Kathryn says

      @Sarah, I, too, agree with decreasing one’s tithe. I strongly believe that God does not want us to be in jeopardy (such as with a car that isn’t safe for our little ones) in order to contribute funding. Perhaps, instead of tithing direct money, you can use your couponing skills to contribute to the coffee hour after services, to the snacks for the kids in Sunday school, sign up to shovel the church’s walkways or mow the grass. These services are just as valuable as money. We all go through times were our time is more plentiful than our money (and vice versa) and both can be equally valuable if they are used wisely.

      • says

        While I believe every Christian needs to seek the Lord and make their own decisions based upon what God is calling them to, we personally have been amazed to see how God stretched the little 90% left when we committed to give Him the first 10%. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and, for us, giving Him the first 10% is our way of acknowledging that all we have is His anyway.

        • Kathy says

          Audrey’s situation sounds similar to ours… and I agree with Crystal… don’t give up the tithe! You cannot out-give God! We decided that we wanted to give more and have increased our tithe (which is in addition to other charitable giving) by 1% each calendar year for the past 2 years. Our overall income has decreased and we’ve added another child, but God has blessed us tremendously and we haven’t “missed” that 2% at all!

          I’d challenge you to pray specifically for tires and watch God do a miracle! We didn’t know how God was going to provide for me to be a SAHM, but we felt that’s what he wanted for our family. The provisions were ones we couldn’t have imagined — and they didn’t come until we took the step of faith and I quit my job.

          I distinctly remember saying to God one morning (while I was still working and without children — my how I wish I knew then what I know now about couponing, saving, etc), “WHY CAN’T WE GET AHEAD? Just when we save a little, something breaks. WHY IS IT THAT WE ONLY HAVE WHAT WE NEED?” And that’s when it hit me — God has promised to provide what we NEED; not necessarily a large retirement or a huge savings account. We’re working toward those goals, but until we can get there (and even if we never do), God has never met a need he can’t supply. I’m much happier resting in his peace.

          I remind myself that this is a season — be it 5 years or a decade, or my lifetime. –but my eternal treasures can be laid up without ECB, +UP, or Catalinas (although they can help if it means I can save or share with another). :)

      • Jennifer says


        and Sarah…

        I couldn’t agree more!! I grew up in a church where I saw FAR too many families unable to provide for their children’s basic needs yet they were enslaved to that 10% tithe. I don’t believe that’s the way God intended it to be.

    • Megan says

      @Sarah, Just wanted to weigh in here too – I think both ideas (tithing/tithing less) have merits and each person has to listen to God’s prompting in their lives. However, when my dad was on our church’s elder board they encouraged recently unemployed folks (and those who were in extreme financial straits) to consider giving of their time rather than money. In my view, if a family in the church is struggling, the church should be doing what they can to help that family!

    • says

      @Sarah, That is what I was thinking. I do not go to church but I would think that if someone could not afford to feed their children that it would be ok to not tithe and instead donate your time. If my children were hungry I would do anything to make sure they had food in their bellies and if not giving a 10% tithe was what I needed to do then so be it. If a church gets upset because someone chooses not to tithe because of a situation like this then maybe it would be time to find a new church. In my eyes, our children’s well being should be our number one priority as parents, above ALL else.

    • says

      @Sarah, I would encourage anyone wondering about tithing to read Malachi 3:6-12. It speaks of what happens if you don’t tithe, as well as the blessings and provision you will receive if you do tithe.
      Speaking from personal experience, tithing always helps! I have seen in my personal finances the differences when I tithe and when I don’t. When I do, even when I think I won’t be able to pay the bills, God does miraculous things to provide for me. If I don’t tithe, it’s like I turn around twice and all my money is gone and I don’t know where it went.
      Tithing should not be considered as giving God 10% of what’s yours. You are obeying Him by giving BACK 10% that’s HIS. Then he will bless the remaining 90%.

      • jennifer says

        @Ashley, ((audrey)) Love you! We have so been there, crying as I type!! God is faithful, I can think of when we honored Him, truly gave to Him joyfully expecting, He always provided. For instance, we received one November, and I tell everyone about this, an insurance rebate check. This was pre-katrina, no one expected it, and I’ve never gotten it since. But God faithfully provided and that check brought us to our knees! I know this is a touchy subject, but listen to God, not man. He does not compromise, but is full of Grace.

      • says

        We talked about tithing recently in church and my pastor pointed out that in regards to tithing…this is the ONE place in the Bible that God says you can “test” Him.
        Malachi 3:10 says:

        “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty,” and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”

        My church is currently doing a 90 day “tithe back” guarantee. If your life isn’t more rich, full and blessed…they will actually give you back every penny you put in.
        A quick google shows that this is actually being done at church’s around the nation!
        Try to commit fully to it for 90 days and see where it takes you.

        • Melissa says

          @Heather@Family Friendly Frugality,
          Actually, the 10% applied specifically to Israel, not the church. I think it’s important to “rightly divide” the Scriptures. (The Old Testament commandments are not directed at Christians.) Not to say that Christians shouldn’t give 10% (or even more,) but as some have mentioned, it should be as the Lord leads. Our church NEVER mentions money, which is how it should be, IMO.

        • Laura says

          I have to weigh in with our tithe story. My husband and I hadn’t tithed for most of our marriage. After a looong season of prayer, frustration & tears, I felt God’s peace about not nagging my husband about it, but letting the Holy Spirit speak to him.

          Long story short, when news of an impending layoff hit us, we were on our knees more than ever and felt the need to tithe. We both committed to it and we have been tithing ever since. God has been amazingly faithful!! Yes, my husband did lose his job. Yes, our tithe was teeny-tiny some (okay, many!) months. But God did some incredible miracles along the way that, although the road was very difficult, I would not have wanted to miss.

          I have to say that starting to tithe was difficult. I just gave the whole 10% one month without figuring out where it was coming from. I just figured God would work things out, but it was devastating. After the first, gung-ho month, I slowly increased our tithe until it was at 10%. My sister told me her church has a ‘money-back guarantee’ on tithe. I told her I hadn’t heard of such a thing but I would have taken them up on their offer! LOL! No, I really wouldn’t, but I did use the opportunity to plan and budget better.

          Tithing isn’t a commandment, but when you do it you release God’s incredible showers of blessings.

          We now have steady employment again, and even though things were very tough for a few years, we made it through that season without losing our house & cars. I am confident we will always tithe now after that season of seeing what God can do.

          This reader is already tithing and I would encourage her to keep it up. As far as increasing it, she needs to follow God’s leading on that one.

      • Karyn says

        @Ashley, does it say only giving money counts as tithing? Why can’t tithing of time and energy (e.g. helping the church save money through couponing, or handyman/secretary etc tasks) be considered tithing your 10% as well? I personally have a problem if someone considers they’ve done their duty once they’ve checked the box of giving 10% – that’s the letter but not the spirit of tithing. (I realize most readers do not subscribe to that theory of giving the minimum financially and nothing personally, but I know many people who do. They are likely the same people who I saw show up for just the sermon at my grandmother’s church and leave before the service was done, having done their duty and checked the box off.) To me, giving of yourself is so much MORE meaningful than giving of your things.

        • Meyta says

          Ladies, By presenting your own opinions about tithe you are likely to cause far more distress than edification. Pray before liberally typing the first thing that comes to mind based on your personal experience or your partial knowledge of the scripture.

          Giving is not slavery but rather freedom.
          God’s promise is for your daily bread. No more, no less. He will give you what is needful to you and that is different for every person.

          There are over 800 scriptures in the Bible both new and old testament addressing the issue of money. If your family and church are not dealing with the topic perhaps it is time to go back to the manual.

          Audrey I am so proud of you for keeping your priorities in such a delightful and God-honoring way. I pray God uses this season of your life to show you his goodness in surprising ways.

        • Lyn says

          @Meyta,Ladies, perhaps instead of getting off-topic and debating tithing it might be helpful to give some encouragement to the original poster? :)

    • says

      @Sarah, we have looked into internet plans, and we have the only one available in our neighborhood. And my mom is paying for it for the time being, so even if it was an option, switching plans wouldn’t save us money. 😛

      I’m not proud of this, but there are times where we haven’t tithed. In fact, some of those times have been very recently. But we have found that if we don’t tithe, we struggle more!

      Thanks for your encouragement and suggestions!

  9. Jill says

    Praying for you! My husband lost his job 15 months ago and we lost 65k in income. Talk about a life style change. But honestly, what a great one it was! We learned so much. The most important thing I learned was to be thankful that God was sustaining us during the time. Be faithful! Many people say they believe, but you really never know what believing and being faithful means until you have to APPLY it. Now that we are on our feet again, richer in so many more ways, with less income, I am a giver like I’ve never been before. Learning to be content isn’t easy, but I love walking out of a store knowing I didn’t need to buy that splurge because I am content! One day, I pray you will see the good from this!

  10. Lisa says

    Just wanted to encourage you, Audrey! May all of these responses bring joy and encouragement to your heart! Hang in there!

    PS: My husband and I put our spare change in a container to save up for something special–even something small like a new toaster, etc. when something breaks or we’d like something new. It takes a while, but it is fun to see the pile grow. You’ll be amazed how quickly you can accumulate a few dollars in just change!

  11. says

    Thanks for sharing your story, Audrey. We are in a very similar situation right now and probably will be for a long time (hubby lost his job last year due to the economy and now he’s working and going to school to get a degree). He brings home about $1300/mo and we have two children as well. By the grace of God and generosity of others, we have not missed a bill so far.

    I’m working hard on building a couple businesses (one I’ve had for years and a new one) to help bring in some extra income.

    You’re doing a great job, keep your head up. I know it’s hard.

  12. Becky Thomas says

    I have discovered our church’s Mother’s Day Out program. I’m applying to be a substitute teacher there. It doesn’t pay much (7.50/hr) but I can bring my kids with me, work when I want to and earn a little money to boot! A good option for stay at home moms!

    • Stephanie says

      @Becky Thomas,
      What a wonderful blessing it is to have an option like that, where you can earn some money and take your kids along. There must be others out there like that too, though it may take some looking and asking.

      Because of where I live, I can put a stand out in front of our house and sell produce. It doesn’t provide a full income, but it does give me several dollars every week and extra produce (I get it from my garden, a friend’s, and buy it from other local sources). This year my friend and I started doing it together to split time and costs and added flowers and plants to the mix as well as going to a market here in town. We bring along our kids when school isn’t in. There are others I know who go to a produce auction who bring their kids with them. It takes some training in how to behave properly, and a bit extra planning on our part, but it is cheaper than hiring a babysitter and it teaches them skills along the way (how to work with customers, math, working together, etc.).

      The reason I started doing this was because I had extra produce and didn’t know what to do with it. So I set it out front and tried to price it such that it could also bless my neighbors. It took some time for people to start noticing it and stopping by regularly, but now I get comments about it from people I don’t even know. =)

      I know what is working for me may not work for you, but I hope it encourages you to look around at what options you have and see them in a different light.

    • says

      @Becky Thomas,
      I’ve worked 2 days a week at a local church’s mother’s day out program for the past 3 1/2 years (oddly not at the church I attend though!). My kids go with me and I get half price for them.
      It’s such a blessing to be able to work where I do. I am considering not coming back after the Christmas holidays so I can actually experience a “mother’s day out”, but I do LOVE working there!

      • Kate says

        @Heather@Family Friendly Frugality,

        I do not live in a city that has one, but I have had several friends who have found exercise centers with in-gym day cares to work at. The hours are very part-time, and they usually let you bring your children for free. If there were one around us, that is the first place I would check to earn some extra money!

        Also, I would suggest to Audrey to talk to the pastor at her church about her situation. My husband is a pastor, and with the economy being so bad, our church is very aware of members of our church falling behind in some financial areas (such as the bill you are behind). I realize some people are uneasy about asking the church for help, but if you are a member of the church, that is our responsibility as your family in Christ! If she is very uncomfortable with it, she should still talk to the pastor…he may be able to network her with some job opportunities (someone in the church who needs part-time daycare, perhaps even cleaning areas of the church) to help them get back on their feet.

  13. says


    I would LOVE to help you with anything. I know what you’re going through. My husband is now making around $200 a week, after taxes. We have a baby boy who NEEDS me to be home with him because he has a heart condition, so my getting a job isn’t an option. We always seem to make it somehow.

    I am not a huge proponent of getting help from the government, but my best advice is to get in school if you have any desire to whatsoever. I had no idea how much money I could get in Pell grants, and I thank God for allowing me to find it and get back in school. It has helped us soooo much. I do all of my classes online and come out with about $2K extra in the end, and we use that for rent and internet, so I can continue going to school.

    I wish I could just hug you and tell you that it’s going to be okay! I get down about money a lot, but I just have to go with the flow and look forward to the things that are (God willing) coming!

    • Megan says

      @Caitlin, Great point! If Audrey wants to go back to school – this might very well be the time to do it!

      Also, don’t discount government programs like WIC or supplemental health insurance for children (in PA this is called CHIP). A portion of the taxes you pay are going to these programs already and they are there to help people who are struggling. I am happy to pay my taxes knowing that some of that money is creating a safer, healthier lifestyle for our nation’s children.

      • Jolene says

        @Megan, I’d also say not to discount chip state insurance. Just personal experience here but i had a baby girl in 2005 with a congenital heart defect. In 2007 she ended up needing open heart surgery, doing well now. But my insurance from work said because at that point in time we had that plan a few days less than a year, they wouldn’t cover her surgery. Thank God for state insurances like medicaid and chip or I wouldn’t have my precious 5 year old now.

      • says

        @Megan, Yes, WIC and Medicaid exist for this very reason. We could not afford the co-pays on my son’s visits (he has to have echos, EKGs, and X rays out the wazoo) so I applied for Medicaid. I know we couldn’t have afforded the co-pays even IF we had more money, because we spent a lot on the hospital stays and my pregnancy bed rest, etc. It really helped us out, and I know that since I’m in school, I am going to give back. Never, EVER underestimate your tax dollars. If you are paying taxes, you are entitled to anything the government offers, in my opinion. There are a ton of people taking advantage of government programs, people who don’t have NEARLY as great of a need as you do.

        Just food for thought. I know some people don’t want to have to ask the government for help, but as I see it, I’d rather ask the government, to whom I’ve been paying income taxes for the last 5 1/2 years, for help than ask my mom or other family members. That’s just me, though.

        Just keep praying and keep knowing that God is good and he will NEVER EVER put you through something you cannot handle. He knows you and he knows your strengths and will give you the power to use them not only for His glory, but for your own, as well.

        • says

          @Caitlin, Also, I didn’t mean to sound high and mighty in my original post saying “not a huge proponent of getting help from the government.” What I mean by that is I don’t like to take more than I need or see others doing that. There are a lot of people out there who take advantage of the system. :)

        • holi says

          I work for Michigan WIC and the increase of new people using WIC is tremendous… & that is exactly what we want! Jobs are scarce & the ones available are low paying. We want to help as many Pregnant, Breastfeeding mom, infants, children 1-4 yrs old as possible. Benefits in Michigan are issued on a debit type card and that lessens the embarassment that some people may worry about.

          Please Please call your local WIC office if you have small kids or are PG. For example, the income guidelines for a family of 5 in Michigan are $47,712.00 per year. If you have friends, family, neighbors, tell them to call & ask how to qualify. The link below is a list of all the US WIC links by state.


  14. says

    Have you considered supplementing your income with direct sales? Watch/Read this article from Good Morning America to find out more about it:

    I joined Usborne Books and More (selling children’s books) a couple of months ago and I *LOVE* it. I can work with my children (ages 1 & 3) right there beside me. Because it’s a company geared toward children, everyone is super understanding when I take my children along to meetings and home shows. I love having them there with me because it helps them see what “work” is all about, too. (Dad’s work is so abstract to them.)

    Anyway, there are a lot of companies out there that you might be interested in. Be sure to check what their startup costs are, what the selling minimums/requirements are, and what penalties (if any) are involved if you don’t make a sales minimum. (I picked UBAM because they don’t have minimums or penalties, and you can start for as low as $25.)

    Best of luck to you. I know it’s hard but money isn’t what’s important in life. Hug those beautiful children and remember that the sacrifices are all for them. Then suddenly it becomes worth it.

    • says

      @Paula G, that’s actually one of the things I do to bring in some change! I don’t make much, but I do make a little bit (about $46 every two months, sometimes more), but it definitely helps. I sell Reliv, which is a WONDERFUL nutritional product. I just did a business fair a couple weeks ago with my friend and we’re still sorting through to see if it increased our business… and we’re praying it did! Reliv doesn’t require start-up fees (besides the $35 membership kit) or minimum sales either, which is great!

      Thanks for your encouragement!

      • says

        @Audrey, I’m glad you have something to focus on and get you out of the house. I know that was an important thing for me with two small children. Mama needs a break sometimes!

        I have to say, I’ve never heard of Reliv, but I’ll have to check it out. I’m not trying to bash them, but you might want to compare their commission structure to other companies. For example, I just made over $200 in my 2nd month and I honestly didn’t work very hard. But in the end, you need to sell whatever you are passionate about and I *love* books so mine is a no-brainer.

        Anyway, best of luck to you. I took a quick glance at your blog and I loved what I saw. I’m sure I’ll be one of your newest followers. And I love your url! :)

        Take care!

        • says

          @Paula G, To be honest, I don’t do much work! I have one client who makes a double purchase every other month, and that gives me $46 every two months. I’m still trying to build my business (trying to meet people where we live first), but I don’t get much opportunity for it. If I went to church or school or work I would have more contacts but I don’t! A friend of mine is steadily making $800/month and she’s been doing the business about a year and a half now. So it’s not a problem with the company itself, it’s me! :)

  15. Allison V. says

    This was us, and has been since we had kids. My husband made $10/hr, averaging 35 hours a week, with unemployment during his off weeks (he worked construction, dependent on the weather). His normal paychecks were about $320/wk, or about $1300 for the month. Our cost of living is cheaper here, but even so, there was no extra after rent, basic internet, basic cell phone, electricity, and cheap insurance on two old cars and the gas to drive them. Since I found MoneySavingMom, I turned what little wiggle room I did have into a lot! I’ve figured out how to work the deals, use Swagbucks, do online surveys…little things. I say all of this in the past tense however, because as of June this year, we have had NO income, and no savings, so at the end of this month, we have no new lease on our apartment. BUT, God has provided. The lights are still on, the rent still got paid, my car is still legal to drive. I may have to move in with my parents, but God is taking care of me, and the less I have, the richer I have become. I know I am following Him, and He is blessing me and my children. And that is all I really NEED.

    • Lyn says

      @Allison V., Allison, I love your attitude. :) So true when you say “the less I have, the richer I have become”. Richness is not always measured in money or things – you have your children and it sounds like you have a wonderful family. These are the things that really matter in life. I hope your husband will be able to find a new job soon. Your comment made me smile.

  16. Dawn M. says

    I used Angel Food Ministries ALOT! the meat was good and inexpensive!
    You should apply for WIC for your children you should qualify and food stamps. Don’t ever look at it as a handout. You paid into it for years and people who don’t deserve it are getting it, so why not make a withdrawal from that account :) I wish we qualified but because my husband is in the military we don’t.
    I am praying for you. I know what you are going through. We are 3 months behind on both cars and our house should have been foreclosed on over a year ago but they cant since my husband is deployed. We are filing bankruptcy but don’t have the money for it. Know there are others in your boat and I hope that you can use the info given above! <3

    • Michelle says

      @Dawn M., I recently found out about Angel Food ministries, and it looks like a wonderful organization! We started receiving WIC when our third daughter was born, and it has been a huge help. We, too, look at it as a “withdrawal” from the savings that we have paid into for years. It has allowed the room in my budget needed to stock our pantry for a year (or more) in case something does happen to my husband’s job. With the things I am learning here on MSM, I have been able to keep the same grocery/household expense budget that we set when our second daughter was born – even through price increases in groceries, and having 2 in diapers for a while! Thankfully, we have never “lived” on two incomes – from the day we were married (10 years ago), we counted only my husband’s income, so when dd #1 was born 6 years ago, we had comfort knowing that we could “afford” for me to become a full-time mommy. Comparing our financial situation to our peers, we don’t have much, but we are not for want! Things that others have found as a “must have” (monthly pedicure, a full, fashionable wardrobe, weekly date nights AND dinners out, and full-cable TV) have not been in our budget for years, and we don’t miss them! We live modestly, prayerfully, as good stewards of what God has blessed us with. We are thankful for His provision, and we pray that testimony shines to our unsaved family members!

  17. says

    Do not forget about swagbucks! I remember when I just graduated college and after I paid all my bills I would have 35 dollars left for a week. That was for gas, food, etc. My sister filled my fridge quite a few times. It was not an easy time. Things will improve if you put your heart in it.

      • Brandi says

        swagbucks.com is a great way to make money on the internet! I was very skeptical to try it out when I heard people talking about it a few months ago, but I am so glad I signed up! To earn these “swagbucks” you search their page as if it was Google.com throughout the day. Randomly, you will be awarded “swagbucks”. You can also complete surveys, polls, and special offers to earn more swagbucks. You can cash out your swagbucks for Amazon gift cards (there are many other prizes but Amazon gift cards are the best deal!). Personally, I’ve made about $90 since late July on swagbucks. I don’t spend that much time on it; you can make a ton of money if you do though! You get what you put into it. I definitely recommend signing up. I am very pleased with it and so glad I heard about it on these blogs!

        • says

          @Brandi, http://swagbucks.com/?cmd=sb-promote

          Swagbucks is a great way for me to earn things painlessly. I have made about 20 dollars since I joined 2 months ago and my sister signed up too! It is a great way to get things like birthday and Christmas presents. I was skeptical at first but I heard so many good things about it that I had to try it. And, it’s fun since the points are randomized so you never know what you will get! I am going to have fifty dollars in Amazon.com gift cards by Christmas which is a HUGE help!

      • April says

        You should also check out irazoo and mypoints. My points is slow but so far I’ve received $20 in gift cards. Oh and thru huggies rewards I’ve got 2packs of diapers and a $10 gas card. Join recycle bank too and pampers rewards. often times you can find free points for the reward programs online. With swagbucks I got my daughter a play gym and for christmas she will get a walker and possibly a high chair thru amazon. Some of the rewards aren’t that great I just hold out something great comes along.

        • says

          @April, Diapers.com is giving 30% cash back now, too. That’s awesome! While I usually get my diapers from Amazon, I have ordered from diapers.com in the past, and their referral program is outstanding.

    • says

      @celia, I do have Swagbucks! For some reason, it’s very slow for me…. but since I joined in February I’ve earned almost enough to get $15 in amazon gift cards! I also do Mypoints and InboxDollars.

  18. says

    Thanks so much for this post, Crystal. We aren’t in the same income position as Audrey, but with the cost of rent and living out here in California, we too feel like we have very little wiggle room. As I’ve mentioned in comments before, it’s felt frustrating sometimes wishing that I could work, but feeling like it’s so hard with two boys ages 3 and 1 and one on the way, but I really liked your tips on starting small. It’s inspired me to get creative and do more with my time, even if it’s just earning a little extra each month, and then a little more, etc.

  19. says

    Oh, Audrey! We were in that exact same position 6 years ago — only we had MOUNTAINS of debt! It has been a slow road, but we are finally (FINALLY!!) getting opportunities for extra income and had teeny tiny increases in pay raises. Crystal’s suggestions are fantastic. Keep faithful; keep trusting… God will provide!

  20. tammy says

    There is a woman in our area who bakes( cookies, pepperoni rolls, fudge, etc.) everyday & bags them in zip lock bags , puts 10-15 bags in a basket & drops these baskets off at local beauty shops, offices, hospital & school lounges ( with permission !) Each bag sells for $1.00,( she has an envelope & goes by the honor system for payment) multiply that by # of bags sold ( tax free ) x # of locations = pretty good income !!In addition to that, she also sells Avon & she drops Avon books off at these locations, too! She actually was able to help put her son through college with this little bit of ingenuity !! Worth a try, maybe you could talk to various members of your church (don’t be afraid to ask) to find out if they work somewhere that this would be a suitable arrangement. Good luck :)

    • Megan says

      @tammy, This is a great idea! Though, just a reminder that in the U.S. we’re required to report ALL earnings to the government (whether from babysitting, mystery shopping or selling baked goods). Most folks don’t make enough from these ventures to have to pay quarterly taxes, though you will have to pay taxes on this income at the end of the year.

      • says

        I am suspicious that Audrey wouldn’t earn enough money to put her into a tax bracket that will make her pay any additional taxes, and if it does, Praise the Lord!
        I also want to suggest pulling weeds. I have a friend who does it for landscaping companies, because they hate to do that part. They already have a customer base, and you just keep the weeds out. Usually you can take kids with you, and they can play on the grass.

    • says

      @tammy, I think in some States you have to be careful with making from food from home, there are safety laws and such for those things. It’s a great idea, just may want to check on that first!

  21. Mary D. says

    Thank you so much for posting this Crystal. I actually printed it and plan to keep a copy by my bed. Somedays I feel like we’re drowning too, but your ideas are so uplifting. Thanks for the support.

  22. Betsy says

    I just thought I would mention, because no one seems to have….you would likely qualify for food stamps at your income level at the moment. I know it may be hard to consider but it could give you a HUGE hand in your budget.

  23. says

    This is great advice for all; you are “wise beyond your years”. I think the biggest block to “being poor” is discouragement, but with God’s help, we don’t have to stay in that pool of downheartedness. I would also like to advise the young lady to look for a cheaper place to live, if at all possible that wouldn’t jeopardize her family’s safety. It’s nice to have to live where you can walk to your needs if necessary, or have public transportation.

    PS: I did enjoy your comments on blogging and scaring up a little money that way. I’ll have to check with my website provider to see if it’s allowed (providing links, etc., that is).

    • says

      @Sharon, We actually just moved in the end of August to a cheaper place. We are paying $900/month for rent (water, sewer, and garbage are included), which is VERY cheap for this area. The last place we lived in (which was 350 sq ft smaller than the place we have now, oddly enough, and didn’t include a garage, which is included in this place) was $925/month, and we had to pay all utilities (including gas heat, which is expensive!). It took us MONTHS to find a place this cheap. People are shocked at how cheap our new place is…. housing is expensive in this area!

      Thanks for your suggestions!

  24. says

    Crystal, this is an excellent article and I found it helpful for us as well. We started the Dave Ramsey FPU recently, and I go from being excited to being scared ant number of times each day. I know this is what God wants us to do and we are eager to get our finances under control.

    @Audrey, I will be praying for you. God is good, loves you and wants to bless you. The past 20 months have been difficult for us, I had to resign from my job which cut our income by two thirds and it has taken months for us to learn to live within that budget. There have been many ups and downs but the constant has been God. Without Him I do not know where I would be right now. He wants to bless us but sometimes we are looking for the wrong type of blessing. Keep your heart and mind open and you will begin to see the little blessings each day.

  25. Kim says

    This post was such an encouragement and my heart goes out to Audrey. We are in a similar situation with very little income and two small kids. Just before I came online tonight I was crying out (okay, more like whining) to God and came across Exodus 16, where the Israelites are grumbling that they don’t have enough. They are sure they are going to starve to death in the desert, but then God provides by raining down food from heaven! The catch that convicted me this evening is that it was only enough for THAT day. The people were to trust God to provide again the next day and not anxiously gather more than the current day’s needs.
    Thanks to others who have shared encouraging words.

  26. Rose says

    What a timely post! I was actually thinking the exact same thing today. We are in a very similar situation. I constantly feel like we are swimming to get our head above water, and right when we are about to take a breath something else happens. Im not asking to be rich, it would just be nice to breathe.

    The other ladies gave great advice. Just hang in there. This is a season of life, it will pass.

  27. sara says

    Probably you have thought of this already but just want to put it out there:
    -How about moving into another place even paying $20-$30 less in rent will help you towards funding your savings account.
    -Babysitting, if you can’t do it all the time, you can do “Date Nights” for the parents a couple of hours at night or special occasions like weddings.
    -Yardsales, since you coupon you can hit the drugstores very hard and sell the extras every other month, or at Fleamarkets.

    hopes this helps you, will like to know what is your blog, please.

    • Rebekah says

      @sara, I have sold a LOT of my drug store steals at the yards sales my friends and I have every few months. I make $50-100 every time just on those items. It’s a great encouragement when things are so tight!

    • says

      @sara, We actually just moved a little over a month ago to a new place that’s $25 cheaper. Our old place was $925/month, no utilities included (and gas heat…. which is expensive!), and our current place is $900/month, water, sewer, and garbage included. Housing is pretty expensive here, and at $900/month, we have a lot of friends comment on how cheap our housing is! The only way to make our rent cheaper (we spent MONTHS looking for a place this cheap) is by moving somewhere without a washer and dryer, but we wouldn’t be saving enough money to be worth the stress (we’d have to pay for a laundromat anyway because we don’t know anyone in our area).

      I’ve thought about babysitting, but I’m just NOT a kid person at ALL, and I wonder if it would be worth the stress for me. That’s one thing I’ve learned over the last few years (and Crystal talks about a lot). If it’s something that stresses me out so much that it makes it not even worth the money, then I don’t do it. As much as I’d love the extra money, I’m not sure if it would be worth the stress and anxiety for me.

      Thanks for your encouragement!

      My blog is http://everyurlwastaken.blogspot.com

  28. says

    Hugs to you dear friend. I have one tiny bit of advice. (I hope it encourages you and doesn’t discourage you.) I would consider looking for a different housing arrangement. Maybe you could find an apartment where you can be the manager and get a reduction on your rent or something like that. Even $50 or $100 less a month could make such a big difference for you. Consider finding a 2 bedroom place where your kids can share the master bedroom and you and your husband take the smaller room. Or even manage a small hotel and live in one of the rooms.

    Another small business that could be profitable is to take in some laundry. You might find some senior citizens in your community that you could do laundry for. Check at the senior center or put a sign up.

    I think the percentage of your income that is going towards housing is really tough for you right now.

    Crystal offered some wonderful encouragement.

    • says

      @Jana @ The Summer House, We managed apartments while my husband was in dental school. It can be alot of work, but as long as your pay meets the value of the task you are doing it is worth it. It was hard doing it with 3 kids in tow and there were times I wanted to run away screaming, but with faith, patience and hardwork we got through those 2 years and were financially blessed.

      Look for a small apartment complex where you are not required to do maintenance or yard care (that takes a lot of time when you have kids). We managed a 18 unit complex and got free rent for a 2 bedroom apartment plus $250 pay each month. It really is a great way for a stay at home to help the family financially!

      Best of luck!

    • says

      @Jana @ The Summer House, we actually just moved a month ago to a cheaper place. Housing is not cheap here… $900/month is actually very cheap where we’re at. And we can’t downgrade to a 2-bedroom… we already live in a 2-bedroom! :) We moved a month ago from a place that was $925/month, no utilities included (between water, garbage, electric, and gas, our utilities were about $200-$300/month) that was tiny to a place that has slightly bigger bedrooms, a garage, water, sewer, garbage included, and no gas heat for $900/month. Instead of our rent and utilities totaling $1125-$1225/month, they will only total about $1000/month, and we can use the rest for the bills we’re behind on (well, hopefully!) and the rest of the bills we have. The move is the reason we’re actually keeping our heads above water instead of drowning! :)

      The laundry thing is actually a GREAT idea. I will put the word out to the few people I know so hopefully I can do that! Thank you for your encouragement!

  29. says

    Thank you so much for sharing with us Audrey, and for your lovely, godly response Chrystal! So many of us are in the same situation. It helps me to remember to put my hope and my joy in Christ, and not in circumstances or things. And God does bless us when we give back to Him…just last Sunday I put in a certain amount in the offering, and later a lady came up to me and gave me a “gift” she felt lead to give us…it was three times as much as what I had just given…sends chills up my spine, the way God provides for us.

  30. says

    I too would be interested in knowing where Audrey blogs (if she would agree to allowing you to share the info). I would love to offer any encouragement possible, whether that be shopping though affiliate links on her blog or some other method.

    I also agree with the commenter(s) above who mentioned WIC and/or food stamps. WIC has helped us tremendously in times of need. I was astonished how much more food I we received (and could make it stretch SO far), thus alleviating the grocery budget some.

  31. Lori says

    I love the suggestions here, I love reading this blog but I also like to know that others are in the same situation as I am. Sometimes when reading accomplished blogs I feel like everyone is already out of debt except me. Thanks for the reminder that I’m not alone.

  32. Kristen says

    Hi Crystal,

    Your post says “Audrey left the following comment on my post on renting (I’ve edited it a bit for space reason, but you can read it in it’s entirety here):” and you have two hyperlinks leading to the original comment – neither are working for me. When I click on either it says “whoops this has been moved”. Anyway you can provide the link to the original comment?


  33. Lyn says

    Audrey, may God bless you through the days ahead. You may be surprised to know that there are many out there who can relate – my family included. We presently live on an average of $1,600 net per month (unless my husband is blessed with occasional overtime). I am able to be home due to my health issues (I don’t collect disability) and have not been forced back to work. God has helped us so much and I know He is with you too right now.

    There are many people who have health limitations and can’t work, and some who are single parents or are on disability and live on lower means. Sometimes things don’t get better financially for some (not to discourage you in any way) but rather to encourage you that it can be done – because there are many doing it! We have lived this frugally for quite a few years now, and there is no sign of things changing. What helps us is to keep a cash budget, work diligently as I can to be as frugal as possible – always looking for creative ways to stretch my husband’s income. When we get extra money it’s always put aside to pad expenses or put ahead for upcoming bills. We regularly have finance meetings and discuss what we can change or do better and we try to be on the same page.

    Since housing is usually the most expensive thing, can you move elsewhere? Is there anything you can cut back? Sometimes it seems like there isn’t, but there always is. I know Dave Ramsey is radical about such things and encourages people to downsize, or move to less expensive homes, apartments, neighborhoods to meet their goals. We choose to live in a modular home and we still feel blessed as we are able to cover our home expenses and take care of our “older” car as well.

    If there is a will, there is a way. Keep frugality fun in your life – make it a fun challenge, and remember your blessings. We don’t have the nicest, newest, or prettiest of things, but we are very blessed with all that we have and we are able to be debt-free as well right now, so life is good. Compared to many in this world we lack for nothing. I wish you all the best, and know that you are not alone.

    • says

      @Lyn, Thank you so much for your encouraging words!

      We actually moved a month ago to a cheaper house. My husband (understandably) doesn’t want to compromise our safety by moving to a high-crime area, but besides doing that, we are in a place that is very cheap for this area. We moved a month ago from another place, and just by moving here, we’re saving about $200/month on rent and bills! This move is the reason we’re keeping our head above water and not drowning! 😀

      • Lyn says

        @Audrey, Hi again :) – I do understand high COL areas as we are in the northeast where it’s very expensive. I can surely understand that you don’t want to compromise safety. You certainly received a lot of responses today – which must encourage you! I certainly wish you all the best in life and hope your spirits are lifted a bit and that you feel a little more hopeful. Being older 😉 – as a suggestion it may help you to find someone in your life who can be a bit of a mentor and who has been through similar times. We “mature” frugalites often have a bit of life wisdom. Thanks for sharing your heart, you never know who it might help. :)

  34. Lyn says

    If I could add, just as Crystal mentions, a good attitude really helps. Although it is normal to get down sometimes (don’t we all?) it makes the journey a little easier if we try to see the positive. I try to remember that there are men and women who are seniors who are living on Social Security and don’t have a pension to fall back on. There are those who are much sicker than I am even who have to live on a disability income. Sometimes it only takes me to look outside of my own life for a moment to remember all the good that we have. Not only that, but staying with a negative mindset won’t change anyone’s situation. I hope you feel encouraged by all the responses here and know that there is hope – even if your financial picture does not drastically change. Living on less has made me a better person in many ways.

  35. heather says

    thank you for posting this! I feel the same way some times! I love reading these and it always puts a smile on my face when I’m done:-) love your advice!

  36. says

    I would look first for a cheaper place to rent…..
    I know how hard it is! We are a family of 6 with an income about the same as yours. It is wealthy though compared to before….it can be a matter of perspective.
    I think Crystal gave some good ideas on making extra money, but look for the things that can make some money and not take tons of time. Look for ways you can work for food….I often help out with harvesting people’s gardens and can food, take food that need to be put up quickly and can it, make jam etc. One year we got lots of plums, so we had plum jam that year…..paired with cheap peanut butter and bread, we survived!
    It is going on winter now, but even if you live in town or an apt. grow a tomato plant in a pot, a cucumber plant or two, some basil and other herbs. You will be amazed at what it adds to your daily diet and can save you money.
    I have been able to save some, but forgoing some extra things that are not necessities, but nice to have. if you just save even that extra $25 a week, it adds up.

    • Lyn says

      @Martha Artyomenko, I would agree that the little things add up. I’m a big believer in that, and I’ve been able to be at home for years on a smaller income because of it. Our tiny garden did not fair so well this year but we did end up with some tomatoes (am presently ripening what’s left – they will go in the freezer for later). But every little bit helps. There’s still parsley, mint and basil I am harvesting and putting up (almost free is still cheaper than buying!) Extra things get frozen or put up one way or another, and I strive for as little waste as possible. This alone saves a lot of money!

      It’s amazing what one can do to make things stretch. There are so many frugal tasks that can be done as one has the time. I also do some of the programs like Swagbucks, it is not a lot, but it is still a help, and I can more easily buy some of the things we need, as well as groceries.

      Right now we have a stocked freezer, pantry and fridge, and are planning to live mostly off of it for maybe several months. This allows money for other needs with not having to buy so much groceries.

      If one looks at frugal living as a challenge and a game, it can be quite fun. I’ve been living frugally for many years now. Living frugally long-term due to necessity is not the worst thing in the world. I could think of many more things that could be worse.

      • Martha Artyomenko says

        i love looking at it as a game! Instead of feeling deprived, I make it a challenge! We try new things! I think one thing it taught us that we can eat other things than we thought we could!

  37. maya says

    I understand living on a tight budget also. my husband’s pay is less than 1200/mo. A moneymaking idea is selling things on craigslist. I know it was mentioned, but here is how I do it. I pick up free things on the side of the road, fix up, clean up and sell them. It is amazing what you can find. Here are some of my past finds:
    A couch and chair that we used for 3-4 years after picking up for free and then sold them for $75. (I was sad to see them go but we needed the money) A bookshelf with glass doors- my husband screwed the back on again and fixed a hing, I cleaned it good and sold it for $15. A changing table/shelf combo, added more screws, cleaned up good, and sold for $45. all these were free on the side of the road!
    I also have 2 yard sales each summer. You might not be able to do that in a rental. I sold some of my stockpile last month and it went fast! I had always been afraid to try that, but people were happy to get good deals.

    • says

      @maya, I do the same thing! Except I go to area thrift stores and Goodwill and pick out name brand clothes and re-sell them. I’ve picked out several pairs of jeans for $4 a pair and re-sold them for $50. It can be a grueling process, but I’ve made $200 from a single trip.

    • April says

      I have gotten free baby items on the Internet thru Franklin goose such as a wipe warmer, bottle warmer, travel bottle warmer and I plan on selling them on craigslist. Also the government has free cellphones from safelink or you can get cheap landline phone service if you receive food stamps or live in public housing the give you 250mins a month for the cell. Also I sign up for all the free baby samples I can find it helps out a lot.

  38. Amy says

    A few other suggestions for Audrey . . .

    If you have both a land-line and a cell phone plan consider getting rid of the land-line.

    If you have multiple providers for internet and phone service in the area, consider looking around and switching especially if your rate has been hiked recently. The introductory rate for my wireless internet service saved me $10 a month for the first six months. Do consider the cost of set up fees in switching services.

    If you have wireless internet and neighbors, consider sharing an internet service. I’ve shared my internet with two other neighbors in my apartment for 4 years. I’ve noticed that wireless signals travel between houses too. Maybe knock on some neighbors doors and ask what their rate is and if you can join their service. If they’re anything like me, they’ll like paying half (or in my case, one third) of the whole bill.

    When costs are really tight, consider having a yard sale. You don’t even need a yard. I posted a listing for my first “moving sale” on craigslist, listing my intersection as a location so buyers would know how far I was from them. I made a list of just about all the things I had gathered to sell and included this in the post. It may not be the case for you, but I certainly had some redundant household things that I was happy to get rid of (a dust pan and a vacuum, unused picture frames, gifted things I didn’t need as well as some furniture). Maybe you could sell some of your baby items? One factor to the success of my sale, I think, was living in a college town and doing the sale around back-to-school time. Since you have a car, you can definitely sell some things to college students who also need that microwave delivered and can charge extra for delivering it.

    If gas is a significant cost for you, figure out whether public transport or biking would work for you. Keep in mind that they will take more time for transport so it’s not a feasible option for everyone. I’ve happily been car free for 5 years, but still occasionally need a friend to drive somewhere.

    I gather that you’re not working much because of your little ones. Consider a few things you can do for work while with your children. I’ve known a single mom who worked at the day care that her son attended during the day. That way childcare time and work time can fit into the same time. You could probably also be a nanny and with luck you can find a family who will let you sit their children while spending time with yours. Pet-sitting would be an occasional job, but might fit into your schedule.

    Secondly, I would like to warn Audrey about the potential hazards of relying on wishful positive thinking. I think it’s always best to consider your situation and future prospects realistically and rationally. Delusional optimism is never good. Furthermore, forcing yourself to have a positive attitude while actually seriously suffering monetarily, energy wise, or psychologically, is a bit cruel. (For a really great talk on the harm of the “positive attitude” cult, I refer you this really great lecture from Barbara Ehrenreich that is accompanied by an animated cartoon created for the the UK’s Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). One of their projects is putting animated cartoons to compelling talks. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5um8QWWRvo )

    So I compel you to treat your situation rationally and realistically. What will the time and money put into this investment–more education, blogging, working, tithing–return? How much risk is in the return? Working for hourly wage has little risk, a lottery ticket has a lot. Figure out and pursue actions that have the least risk for return.

    All the best.

    • Christy says

      @Amy, I would be careful about sharing an internet connection with anyone if you bank, pay bills, buy anything on the internet. I have been looking for ways to cut back on how much we spend on the internet and it has been fruitless. The time factor (which Crystal writes about a lot) of relying on old-fashioned methods for banking, bill-pay, Christmas gifts, photo sharing, etc. would just not be worth it for me. I am also a teacher in the public schools and do a lot of my school work after my son goes to bed (for obvious reasons). There can be security reasons and FERPA violations if I check my work e-mail (parent concerns) or use my on-line gradebook on an unsecure connection. It is not worth my time factor again to have to do all these things while still at school since that is time away from my son. I can do these things while he is slepping.

      • Christy says

        @Christy, And the land line thing–we only pay $75/month for 2 cell phones–they only call, text (which we hardly use), and take pics (which we have used maybe twice). The problem is that we share 400 anytime mins. We get unlimited after 9 p.m. and weekends. I have been afraid to drop the land line and then go over my mins. or have to switch to a more expensive plan. The sprint guy already told us we have a really old plan they don’t offer anymore and they don’t have anything even near it in price. None of our family lives near us and I like my son to talk to family members before 9 pm (LOL!)! Also, we fax a good bit for my husband’s work, flexible spending account, etc. We went a while w/o a fax machine, but it costs soo much to do it at the stores, so I just don’t know how much getting rid of the land line would help. I would like to, but…

      • Amy says

        @Christy, I’m not sure exactly what sort of secure connection you’re needing to access your work email. If you’re able to access it over your home wireless internet, it seems to me that you should be able to use it while your neighbors are also using that wireless network. When I’ve shared internet service, I’ve shared a “security-enabled” network with my neighbors. It wasn’t a public network. It was password protected. It works just like being connected to a wireless network in a house where every family member’s computer has the password to the network. The difference for us was that we had three front doors rather than one. I hope your work’s security restrictions allow for sharing your network if you’re thinking of trying it!

      • Amy says

        @Christy, I’m not sure exactly what sort of secure connection you’re needing to access your work email. If you’re able to access it over your home wireless internet, it seems to me that you should be able to use it while your neighbors are also using that wireless network. When I’ve shared internet service, I’ve shared a “security-enabled” network with my neighbors. It wasn’t a public network. It was password protected. It works just like being connected to a wireless network in a house where every family member’s computer has the password to the network. The difference for us was that we had three front doors rather than one. I hope your work’s security restrictions allow for sharing your network if you’re thinking of trying it!

  39. redheadmommy76 says

    My husband lost his job last April (’09) 3 weeks after our third child was born. 6 Months later, he was still jobless and we were pregnant again! It wasn’t until his 9th month of unemployment that we were blessed with a new job for him.

    Those 9 months were the hardest we’ve ever been through. BUT, I learned so much and I’m still learning how to live more frugally.

    I’m new to the couponing thing. In fact, I’ve only been doing it for about 3 months and I’ve saved hundreds. I use the Coupon Mom’s philosophy and methods and I LOVE Crystal’s blog… it helps me out SO very much. I also use ALLYOU.com for tips.

    I agree with Crystal, keep tithing. Tithe your 10%, then a little more as a “Thank” offering. I’ve found that it free’s my heart and mind knowing that I’m doing the minimal amount God requires and then thanking Him by going over a bit. Don’t get sucked into the trap of tithing after you budget. TITHE FIRST, then budget everything else.

    We’ve never gone without a HEALTHY meal. Never. My kids have never gone without diapers, wipes, etc… and during this hard season we weren’t couponing or using anything other than top of the line products. (duh) Anyway, the PDO idea is a great one, lots of my friends do that. And, I also recommend WIC and Food Stamps. You have been paying for everything you’ll get out of it, so it’s not charity. It’s sorta like insurance.

    Most importantly, be sure your home is centered around the Word of God. If you do that, dedicate your days to Him, and follow His leading, you will be blessed beyond words.

    I’ll be praying for you and looking forward to hearing about the good things God has in store for you and your family!


  40. Kit says

    I have to thank you, Audrey, for sharing your situation.

    While I enjoy reading blogs like Money Saving Mom and others, it sometimes seems like most people are simply living lives of quiet minimalism, as opposed to the outright struggle for every penny. While I have no advice, as my situation is similar but with even less monthly income, it is helpful to know I am not alone in the struggle.

    • says

      @Kit, I understand what you mean. Oftentimes, people talk about cutting back, but some of us read the couponing blogs for the free deals, because that’s all that we can afford. Many have a “blow” part of their budget, and some of us use any extra (after utilities and housing) to buy food, IF there is any.

      I agree that it’s nice to know that you’re not the only one! Oftentimes, as we look around us, it seems like we’re the only one, when others talk about the great deals they bought, when we can’t afford anything at all. The comments on this post have been so refreshing for me!

  41. Betty says

    That was a really, really great post! I could sense your passion and it was really encouraging! Thanks for sharing

  42. says

    it is for situations like this that I think help from the government is a good idea. You have been paying into this system your entire working careers, so now is the time to get the help you deserve. Even if you just get help from WIC or food stamps, it could make all the difference in whether you can continue to make ends meet or end up in deep debt. You are barely hanging on right now and need the help. Good luck!

  43. Barb says

    Compare it to having a garden. How can I plant a garden if all that grows are weeds? Weeds always seem to grow faster/better than actual produce. Once the produce starts to grow it seems to push out the weeds. It takes time, persistence, and faith. I always notice that where I didn’t plant something, the weeds start to grow more abundantly. And there always seems to be some weeds but they start to get choked out by what was planted.

  44. kim says

    Audrey I’ve been in your position as well. Crystal and the other commenters have some great things to think about and I’ll add to it only a bit. Please prayerfully consider looking into WIC. It’s there for a reason and I want my tax dollars to support newer families like yours. Also, I urge you to prayerfully consider some type of employment for yourself. You never know what God has in store if you ask! When I was in your position, I had the opportunity to work as a secretary for my church for a few months while the main sec was on leave, and I was allowed bring my kids. I also provided child care for a friend of mine two days per week for two years. When those opportunities dried up I found part time evening work so that the kids always had a parent and never went to daycare. I have no family living nearby so Grandma wasn’t an option. There is no shame in working to help out your family, especially of that’s where God has placed you. Best Wishes.

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