Why running out of money was the best thing that happened to us!

Guest post by Elise Adams from Adams Organizing

Four years ago this August, I was rescued from a life of homelessness and violence when my daughter’s father was arrested. So when I came back to my hometown and began rebuilding my life, I was relieved to get on government assistance. A full fridge and a safe house felt luxurious to me.

After living in hotels, I was quickly content with a subsidized apartment, food stamps, and a little money to pay my utilities. I felt blessed to stay home with my children.

Fast forward a few years… I’m married to the man God picked for me (since my “picker” was obviously broken!) and we have a baby boy. After a job loss and a year on unemployment with a lot of bad decisions in between, we arrived at the the worst day of our life together just four weeks ago. I was getting ready to leave a business trip and we were counting on our IRS tax refund check to catch us up on bills. But it didn’t arrive on time.

I will never forget that night! I cried myself to sleep wondering, “How could I be back in such a desperate place?”

Then something twisted deep inside my stomach. I promised myself that we’d never be in such a desperate situation again. No matter what it takes, I told myself, we will not ever run out of money so completely that we are afraid that we won’t have enough to pay rent.

For some of you this is a shocking story. How can anybody allow themselves to sink to such desperate situation? Didn’t we know any better? Are we crazy? Or maybe we’re lazy?

Yes, in some ways, to all of those questions. Yet, what I believe kept us stuck in a situation that most of you would find unthinkable is the very same reality that keeps Dave Ramsey’s listeners leasing cars and using credit cards: Denial.

It was easier to pretend that we aren’t really poor. As long as the lights stayed on and we weren’t evicted we could pretend we were safe and secure.

This is why I am so thankful that we ran out of money that day four weeks ago. I am so glad that I cried myself to sleep that night, promising my own soul that we’d do whatever it takes to climb all the way out of poverty.

Today, just four weeks or so later, we have made huge changes:

  • My husband is working 42 hours a week now and he is taking a full class load toward his nursing degree.
  • I’ve totally re-focused my blog on this whole area of personal responsibility.
  • We’ve changed how we budget–using only cash for everything after bills.

No matter where you find yourself today financially, might you still be indulging in a bit of denial? Are there areas that you let slide because it’s easier? Maybe you are struggling with unemployment or are taking government assistance to get by? I’d love to hear your stories!

Elise Adams is an author, motivational speaker, and radio personality who is determined to help everyone she meets ‘survive, thrive and get on with their lives’.  She blogs over at AdamsOrganizing.com where she openly and candidly attacks the tough topics of addiction, chaos, and homelessness from a personal recovery perspective. Her latest project is a Free Video Class she calls ‘How to survive ANY crisis without Losing your Sanity’. Elise, her husband, and three toddlers (three other kids live with their other parents–can you say ‘blended family’?) live in the Pacific Northwest.

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Comments

  1. says

    My husband and I were in a simmilar situation financially and I can relate to how desperate it can feel. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Tammy says

      Same thing here.My husband lost his job June 9,2010 and no unemployment came in for almost 3 months.His last pay check was garnished to repay the advance the company gave him when we were suppose to move.The comapny fired him 2 weeks before we were to move from North Carolina to Indiana.

  2. says

    Elise,
    I am so glad that you wrote this. I, too, have been in the same EXACT situation. After I left my husband (now ex) we were living in a Domestic Violence Shelter until I secured housing for my children and I. The divorce was so ugly, it took 2 trials and 1 year and 3 months until the divorce was final. I promised the same things for myself and for my children. And being on government assistance was the best thing that happened to me, too. I am in college full time for computer programming and will have my degree this time next year and keeping my gpa up and will hopefully be getting full rides to further my degree on scholarships.
    Thank you so much for writing this article. This is something that I have kept to myself and rarely speak about due to stigma. (If you know what I mean.)

  3. says

    I can totally relate to the situation that you were in. About two years ago my husband was laid off from his job in the construction field and we were living off his unemployment and my part time check. This happened not too long after we had our first baby and bought my new car. I never thought that I would be someone on government assistance but we had no choice but to get WIC and Food Stamps. It definitely hurt my pride having to get assistance but it was such a relief to be able to have food in the house. I am lucky now that we are on our feet, he has his job back and I am still working and now going to college, so we can improve our lives. We are no longer on government assistance. I once thought that people on government assistance must just be lazy people who don’t want to work. That was really wrong of me. Being in the position I was in definitely gave me a different view and more compassion for people who truly need help. My heart goes out to anyone who is really struggling.

  4. says

    I’ve been “broke” before while I was in college and paying my own way. Thankfully, I’m not living paycheck to paycheck anymore. For anyone who is, that is never the way. My life is stress free financially – and not because I have everything I could ever want, but because I have everything I could ever need and I want what I need. Elise, I hope things improve for you and your family, and you keep living on cash! Cash is king (as Mr. Dave would say)!

  5. says

    I wish I could say I’m in denial about our situation and ignore the thoughts and feelings of being poor, but I am very aware of what is going on. We are a lot better off in comparison to most people, but we are ALWAYS broke because we pay our bills on time and always pay more than the minimum on our loans. Because I’m currently unemployed and without insurance, I still have to go to the health department. For the past year the government has been paying for my paps, colposcopies, and birth control because I can’t pay. When I visited the health department today at our new location, I was told I was going to have to pay $50 up front and another $25 for my pills. Having HPV, I have to get check ups every six months, sometimes every three, and have biopsies taken annually to make sure I don’t develop cancer. I broke down today, telling the nurse that I’ve never had to pay, why would things be different here. She replied, “Well, we have to get something from helping you.” I looked at her dumfounded and replied, “I have $3 in my wallet and $1 in my checking account. What more can you possibly want from me?” I walked out in tears. After speaking with my mother, I decided to call my old health department, which is luckily only an hour away. They were shocked I was treated so poorly, being unemployed and unmarried (0 income) and told me to come back to them. I told the woman I loved her over the phone. She saved me $75 and a heart break since I knew I was going to have to forgo my check ups and pills despite my very serious condition.

    I’m only recently fully unemployed since I graduated and I feel that my family and I have paid into the program that I am relying on now. I am thankful to have help so that my finace and I can work towards our financial goals. I have a great prospect lined up and hope to have a job by the end of the week, but being turned away today was heartbreaking, especially when I looked around to a room full of immigrants who were receiving care, many of whom were probably not legal citizens. (I do not have anything against immigrants so please, no one get offended.)

    It feels the worst when you sit down with a paycheck and budget out the funds to realize that you only have $40 left over after food and bills to last you two weeks and get gas. I read blog after blog and book after book on what to do, and I wonder how much everyone else has left over after bills to save, because we don’t have any. I’d really like to feel like I was safe and secure, and often times wish I could find that denial everyone else has so I can be under less stress. I’m 22 years old; I shouldn’t feel like this.

    Sorry for the long comment. =P

    • Chrissy Stoll says

      I’m so glad you were able to get the healthcare you needed, and I hope you find a job soon. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be in your shoes – Thank the Lord, we’ve always had enough even if it sometimes *feels* like it’s not due to our priorities being a bit skewed. When things get tight, we re-evaluate every single bill: Do we need cable TV? Nope. Netflix? Nope. Cell phones? Nope. A car? Maybe not. Can we refinance our house or find a place with cheaper rent? Possibly. The answers would surprise you if you really sit down and think what you absolutely NEED. Also, we then sell some things on craigslist or ebay, which helps. I’ve also advertised around church as a babysitter (you’d be surprised at how many people will take you up on it, and even beg you to watch their kids full time in lieu of daycare!), mowed yards (wrong time of year for that here, but depends where you live), and done other odd jobs. Hope this will give you some ideas. God Bless!

    • says

      Oh Lesley, (((Hugs)))
      Never give up girl! NEVER GIVE UP! Thank goodness you are learning these lessons at 22. It may not seem like it now, but THAT is a gift! God wastes nothing and as hard as all this is, it has great purpose in the big picture. Take it one day at a time. It’s all any of us have, really…

    • grace says

      hey Lesley
      the government has in place help for those who need it. We get food stamps, heating help, and we just stopped government healthcare. Most people look at us funny like we are “using” the system. While many people do, it really it is there for those who need it. In our situation, people behind me in line just see the food stamp card and Ive gotten some nasty comments. What they don’t see is that my husband works more than full time. I picked up a part time job plus sell things on ebay, textbroker, swagbucks, surveys, etc. desparately trying to get off. But those who are going to stick up their nose will always find a way regardless. Keep your head up I think its awesome that you are willing to try and pay more than minimum and raise the standard rather than be happy living off the government permanently. And for what its worth I also have a cancer causing strand of HPV….and yeah it stinks and its really expensive :) Good luck!

    • says

      Thank you for sharing your struggle. It can be beyond humbling to go through these truly tough experiences. I choose to add these experiences to my ‘why I’ll never be here again’ list to keep my fires of determination stoked!

      Don’t give up…I know we won’t! Then we’ll all be in a position to ‘give like we’ve never given before’ soon.

      hugs, Elise Adams

      • Mary R. says

        Elise,
        I have an extremely painful, undiagnosed condition in my face/ear/mouth. I have given up hope…………never thought I would……..10 really successful retail management. Then 10 really fantastic years in the retail banking industry. I got fired because a medication I had tried affected my cognitive ability. We are suing…my Dad is rich but??? THE PAIN……I cannot handle the pain……considered the worst many times …so anyway today I actually started thinking about paying and planning my own funeral so the devastation would not be left for my Father. YOUR STATEMENT ! Don’t give up ..then I will be in a position to give like I have never given before…..im crying…..I have awsome cooking skills, people skills and couponing skills….can you imagine being in a position to feed people?

        • Meg says

          Mary,
          I can only imagine how much pain you are going through! I am so sorry you have gone through so much to the point of wanting to give it all up, all together.
          I’m in the middle of a 10 year quest to find the exact qualprit of chronic all over pain, extreme fatigue, cognitive issues, horrible imflamation in over half of my major joints and migraines that I have to a)give myself a darn $100 shot each time or if the shot doesn’t work b)go to the er to have them do ivs and iv meds. And I’m 26 :( So, while I’m not in your exact shoes, I do have a small idea of what pain can make you do and feel.

          Please don’t give up. Your right, it is awesome even in a beat down-I-don’t-think-I-can-take-anymore state that you still have something to offer the world!

          Right now I can’t physically go our and help, and financial we’re strapped to the bone but I can coupon like a fiend, *thanks to Crystal for all her deals and help!* and have been able to donate OTC meds, food and household needs to our local small food bank that is always in desperate need.

          I hope its ok, if not edit my post, I’m going to leave you a couple links that might help, they’ve helped me while dealing with not knowing whats wrong for sure and being in such blinding pain so very often… While you might not be able to find what is wrong, you might be able to find some advise or stratagies for dealing with some of the constant pain your suffering that could help enable you to do something, anything, even if its small :) Its still something!

          http://www.butyoudon'tlooksick.com has a great message board and is very supportive

          http://invisibleillnessweek.com/

          Hang in there! You’ll be in my prayers.

        • anonymous says

          Mary,

          You said your condition is undiagnosed, but from the level of pain you are describing it sounds like trigeminal neuralgia. If so, I believe that medication for neuropathic pain could help, or there is a nerve ablation procedure that may help if medications have not. Trigeminal neuralgia has also been knows as the suicide disease because people cannot take the pain, but there is a chance you could get treatment that would help – so please check it out or ask your doctor.

          • Holley says

            I just saw a story on Trigeminal neuralgia on the Nightly News with Diane Sawyer (NBC). The woman had been in pain for many years and she found a doctor that operates on you and puts a little piece of felt between nerves and bones that cause the pain and the woman is PAIN FREE! Go check out NBC’s website and see if you can find the story! Good luck!

        • says

          Thank you Mary, for sharing your story. I’m sorry I’m just now reading this–I’ve been speaking at a weekend conference and am just now catching up on my correspondence. While I am sure I haven’t experienced anything near your level of constant pain, I do have fibromyalgia so can relate a bit to the unrelenting exhaustion that occurs when we’re in constant pain. I DO believe you TOO can hang in there and get through this. This may be cliche–but it is true–the darkest is just before dawn and I know your dawn is still coming! Hugs, Elise Adams

    • Lena C. says

      Lesley, I can’t get over you being treated like that, at a health department of all places. I was under the assumption that all health departments were income based facilities, meaning you don’t pay if you don’t have it and you pay a small fee if you do. Good for you for looking into a different place!

      I completely relate to your story on so many levels. Right now, we have a total monthly income of about $650-700 with bills averaging about $900-1000 a month. I read blogs, books and anything else I can get my hands on looking for ideas I may have overlooked and sometimes feel like we are the only ones experiencing financial issues like this. Our situation is made worse because we live in a very rural area where jobs are literally zilch, zero, nada. So many job applications have been filled out, over and over again but no one ever calls. We finally decided that we are going to move about an hour away, to a much larger city, at the first of the year (income tax, we’re that broke) because it puts us within reasonable distance of 4 other significantly sized cities. We are hoping this brings some type of opportunity for work for both of us. Plus, it puts us within 5 minutes drive of my daughters grandparents who are willing to babysit for free so we can both work shifts outside school time hours if need be.

      • says

        You are not the only ones; there are MANY in your situation. Our income has been cut by 75%, and it’s been that way for the last 4 years.

        It sounds like you have a good plan in place.

        If you need some more ideas–perhaps on a homemade, no spend Christmas, or ideas to eat for even less–come visit my site.

        Best wishes to you in your job search!

      • Danielle B says

        Don’t give up.

        Back in November 2007 my husband and I moved ourselves, our 21 month old and our 6 week old two and a half hours away from all of our family. We had no one to rely on but ourselves, and that’s pretty much still true. We’ve had plenty of ups and downs, but most of the time we’ve worked and at least had a roof over our heads, food to eat and clothes to wear.
        At one point my husband and I were working back to back shifts at the local McDonald’s two minutes from our home. He worked morning/day shift and I worked late afternoon/evening shifts, since we had no one to babysit and couldn’t pay for any type of daycare or babysitting. We did that for about 9 weeks.
        I then found out I was expecting baby #3 and in the next few weeks started staying so nauseated I couldn’t help but to be in the bathroom almost my whole shift. I put in my two week’s notice and they let me go immediately. God provided though. A week later my husband was employed by Rent-A-Center and still has that job almost 2 1/2 years later. God WILL provide! Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

      • says

        Its supposed to be a sliding scale. I have no idea why the one we went to yesterday was trying to charge me. They looked shocked that I had been receiving free services. It isn’t crazy; that’s how government health departments are supposed to work. It was so frustrating and I left crying. There is no excuse for what they are doing.

      • says

        Rural areas are especially difficult. I’ll be praying that being closer to family and closer to a larger area will bring relief to your situation. Just keep hanging in there. This website (moneysavingmom) is a GREAT resource as I’ve been learning how to be more and more and MORE frugal :-)

        Hugs, Elise Adams

    • Terri says

      Hang in there Lesley! I am so sorry to hear that you are facing lifes challenges at such a young age, but I do know that you will learn from it. Stay strong! Things will get better!!!

    • says

      Lesley, we are lucky if we can cover bills. We don’t usually have money for food. So far this month I’ve spent only $3.70 for my family of 8. I don’t know that I’ll have any more for the entire month.

      If you need help with food, here is something I’ve written about obtaining food without money
      When You Need Food.

      Are you open to lowering your food costs even more? Right now I feed my family of 8 for $3 a day or less. Here’s how we eat for so little.

      I am amazed that your health department is free. I know ours is not.

      My husband is employed, but our income has been cut SO much (by 75%) and it has been difficult these last 4 years. We are doing the best we can on what we have.

        • says

          Thank you for the support. Government health departments are supposed to base your visit costs on a sliding scale. The more money you make, the more you have to pay. Since I am a zero income case, I don’t have to pay, or at least I’m not supposed to.

          We have cut our food budget, but we are a plant-based whole food household, meaning we are vegan and don’t eat processed foods which is what most coupons are for. We’ve also almost completely cut high fructose corn syrup from our diet. I would switch back, but I have been meat free for so long that even chicken broth makes me sick. Also, since switching to a plant based whole food diet, my asthma has all but disappeared, I’m rarely sick, and my HPV, despite being a very rare and hard to “cure” strain is getting better. In the past 5 years the only illness (other than HPV) I’ve had was viral strep caused by stress. Before switching my diet, I got sick all the time. I’d rather spend more on food than run up health costs, especially when we can’t afford to be sick. We spend between $100 and $125 for food every two weeks. This includes all my meals and my fiance’s dinners. I guess at the least, we spend around $7 a day for the two of us.

          • Andrea says

            You may be able to buy some of your food in bulk to cut down your food costs (if you aren’t already).

          • says

            Try buying things in bulk. We buy beans in 25 pound bags for .56-.65 a pound, instead of $1.12 a pound. We buy wheat berries in 25 pound bags as well.

            Interesting about the sliding scale. Our health department has set fees for things, no matter your income (immuizations are a set fee, etc.) . I’m glad you’ve had a positive experience most of the time getting the help you need.

      • Terri says

        I just love reading your posts and your website. You have very little, and yet you have so much. Your cost effective ideas are so very deeply appreciated! I have a small family, but need to watch every penny so that we can get out of this debt hole that we are in. Love all your ideas especially about meatless meals, etc. You are like a lifeline to me right now. Thank you sooooooooo much!

      • says

        I’m going to be reading your site too….thanks for sharing your struggles so openly. And I admire your determination to eat healthfully as well–I believe it’s possible :-)

        Hugs, Elise Adams

    • Kimberly says

      First of all I am praying for this country and all who are in dire circumstances like this. I care for many who are in situations where they need assistance and help of some kind as part of my job. Since you did not mention your state, I am not sure if the following will directly help you but I am putting all my online resources up incase anyone can use the information. I am obviously from NJ, if it can help you in anyway then you take the help. There is no shame in using the tools that are available, that is why they are out there!
      Burlington County Resources
      http://www.bccap.org/

      The state assistance website, great general information and the place to go if you do not reside in Burlington County

      http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/dfd/programs/

      General resource for parents with questions

      http://www.state.nj.us/njparentlink/childcare/choices/

      Application for food assistance within NJ

      http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/dfd/programs/foodstamps/apply/

      Energy assistance

      http://www.state.nj.us/dca/divisions/dhcr/offices/eap.html

      Emergency family aid

      http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/dfd/programs/workfirstnj/

      Health Insurance

      http://www.state.nj.us/health/senior/ship.shtml

      Pregnant Women, and young children

      http://www.state.nj.us/health/fhs/wic/index.shtml

      Food Pantries, and assistance

      http://www.endhungernj.org/Forms/ProvidersSearch.aspx

      PSEG energy assistance

      http://www.pseg.com/home/customer_service/bill/help/index.jsp

      http://www.bpu.state.nj.us/bpu/assistance/programs/

      Child Support

      http://www.njchildsupport.org/Article.asp?AID=36

      Resources for other financial and social needs (legal, dental, medical, elderly etc.)

      http://www.needhelppayingbills.com/html/new_jersey_assistance_programs.html

      .

    • Danielle B says

      Don’t just look to the government for your assistance. While it is there to “help” people, it’s not the best or only way.

      Think about your local church and church based food pantry- even if you don’t go to that church. Most churches and church food pantries are there to help their community, not just their “members”. Call the various churches around you and ask if they have a food pantry. Be open and honest with others in your life. Put out the word that you’ll gladly accept any food stuffs that others might just be throwing out, such as leftovers from parties or gatherings, as well as any food that friends and neighbors might not want to leave in their fridges while going away on vacation or holiday family trips.

      You may be surprised at what blessings come your way!

      • Stephanie says

        Very true. Our church will help out those in need with the only stipulation being that they come to a service or two. (Amazing how many are not willing to do that, which is why they started doing this; so they can figure out who really needs help, versus those just looking for free handouts when they are really needed.) They need not be members. There are times when the food our church gets goes unused and so we “distribute” it to our congregation during a women’s get together.

      • says

        This is so true, Dannielle. And I find that when we work together with other struggling families in our community and in our church we live so much better! We all have something to share, no matter how little it is and this encourages each of us to keep going!

  6. ALaina says

    We waste so much money on stupid stuff and then end up broke before payday. Fast food, soda, dinners out, random driving around–it is costing us our future. We are in serious denial. My husband recently quit his job just so we could get the $20,000 cash payout from his 401K. Now we are living off that until he can get another job. We are so STUPID and some days I want to hang myself in the garage with my blue leather belt.

    I hate my life. I hate responsibility. I hate worrying and having to plan. I wish I could just be left alone.

    • says

      Please get some help! Nothing is worth wanting to hang yourself! There are many people who would be affected and saddened if you did this. Please, I urge you to seek someone to talk to. Sometimes just getting things off your chest can make things seem clearer to you. Is there someone you can talk to for counseling about your emotional situation and your finances – a parent, sibling, clergy? Sometimes you just need someone older and wiser to help get you on track and to write up a plan that can get you out of your cycle. There are also anonymous community counselors who can help you over the phone. Please call 1-800-273-Talk if you need to talk to someone about how you are feeling. Hugs and positive thoughts.

    • Elias says

      I’m sorry you guys are struggling Alaina. Please don’t feel so discouraged. We’ve done the same things: eating out too much, taking out on our 401k, we even blew through 25K we gained in a real estate investment. I think practice makes perfect. We’ve messed up over and over and I still struggle with finding that balance between spending and depriving myself to the point that I say, “I don’t care anymore. We’re going out to eat.” Meanwhile the bank acct is almost empty. But after lots of trial and error we are getting SO much better and at least you are seeing the bigger picture now. Some people never learn. Don’t give up hope. You can do it and one day you will look back and see how strong you’ve become. I started out looking online at money management sites just like you and I”m proud at how much we’ve grown.

      • says

        Alaina, This would make you NORMAL. We have all done “stupid”..some of us over and over again. You are a precious person, dearly loved and please hear this…YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES DO NOT DEFINE YOU!!
        You, Alaina, will have an incredible journey ahead. You will be able to speak truth into the lives of others in a way no one else can. They will need your words, your wisdom and your experiences as they find themselves in their own hard place. YOU are one of the “dots” God is going to use to connect things in the lives of hurting others. THAT means more than any cashed out 401K or wasted money on meals.

        You are loved!!!!

    • Carla says

      Alaina,
      Your post makes me feel that you are just so stressed right now that you don’t really know where to turn and who to turn to. Call Focus on the Family and they have counselors that can at least listen and show you that they care, and perhaps give some timely advice. Google the number.
      You are loved!!
      Carla

      • grace says

        I’m going to second Carla’s opinion on Focus on the Family. Dealing with a family member’s addictions, I called their counseling center and they have professional people who will talk and pray with you and give you practical advise and help.

    • says

      The blessing of coming out of denial is that we can finally change things. If recognizing how ‘stupid’ your choices are leads you to reach out for help to change things and relief of your stress then it can be a blessing in disguise. Thank you for sharing your pain with us. Please know that we love you and there IS help, support and peace past this dark time.

      Call the hotline, write me a private email on my website http://adamsorganizing.com or reach out to someone you know…don’t try to go through this alone.

      Hugs and love, Elise Adams

    • Andrea says

      I sincerely hope that Crystal has an IP tracker and can contact the authorities in Alaina’s city and ask them to do a well check.

    • Meredith says

      Not for financial situations but I can say from other experience, ask for help. There are so many wonderful people out there willing to lend an ear and a hand. It’s not worth ending your life over money. They make money every day. There is tons of it out there to get. However, God made one of you. Take care of that and cherish it.

    • Terri says

      Those are some serious words! Your family must be worried about you. Remember to take life 1 day at a time. Things will get better, you just have to hang onto hope!

    • Pattie says

      oh hunnie, I’m so sorry that you are feeling that way. My husband and I went through a similar situation, in fact- we are still in it. I work part time and he is in school working only 2-3 days a week. In fact, we moved over 4 states just to live with my mom. It hasn’t been easy, but we are learning through trial and error. Please know that God is always with you and suicide is not the option. Please consider contacting the help lines that were already provided to you. I will keep you in my prayers. :)

    • WilliamB says

      You just put your finger on the hardest part – when you start doing the non-stupid things, you pretty much have to face the stupidity of the past.

      It hurts. There’s just no way around it.

      It *does* get better. Please take advantage of the resources already listed, ok?

    • Jessica says

      Alaina, please look at all the responses here that you have received, and know that the Lord loves you and that there IS help available. Please, please, please pick up the phone and ask for help. It is no sin, and there is no shame in reaching out, especially when you are in desperate need. God bless you.

      • ALaina says

        Wow, thank you all for the wonderful responses. I am so sorry to have worried any of you :(

        I talked to my mother over the weekend and she suggested a lot of the same things as you guys.

        I am contacting my family doctor tomorrow (Mon 10th) so I can possibly up my anti-depressants. I have also gotten a call from a local insurance agency for a part-time job! AND we are considering closing our checking account and going all-cash and using an according file to use the Envelope Method (which we used as newlyweds and it worked!)

        Thank you all for the support and encouragement. Tears are streaming down my face as I type this. I’m not sure if anyone will come back to this post to get my response. If not, may the universe shower you with blessings, good karma, and love.

        Namaste. I WILL be okay. I CAN do this! With professional help and a possible new job, we can buckle down and get back on track!!

        • says

          Wonderful to hear back from you…so encouraged to hear that you could hear our love and concern. It is so wonderful to hear that you reached out for love and support. Courage and love to you as you keep on keeping on!

          ~hugs, Elise Adams~

        • Jessica says

          Oh, I am so glad you posted again, Alaina. I praise and thank the Lord that you were comforted by everyone’s words. I will be praying for you, especially for the new job opportunity. Bless you, bless you.

  7. Niki says

    What a moving story to share with all of us. Thank you for your insight, and for proving that anything is possible, if you believe in it.

  8. Cheryl says

    Great story. It demonstrates one of my favorite sayings, “Crisis brings opportunity to change”.

  9. says

    I am so proud of your honesty! I think we all are in denial! I agree that I have some of the same problems with laziness, etc. I’m not on state assistance but I have been and it has been helpful. I get so sick of judgemental people who don’t seem to understand. We’ve been big fans of Dave and did FPU and are working our snowball. Great to see you here!

  10. Elias says

    What a great story. Our wake up call was this summer when my husband became ill and we had no savings and little income coming in. It was almost a blessing to “see the big picture.” Panic turned into sitting down and figuring out what we needed to do to fix the mess we’ve created. I feel like we are in an okay place. We’ve moved all of our debts onto one interest free credit card (for 18mo) and really watched our spending. Even though I see all the successes we’ve accomplished at limiting spending, couponing, writing everything down, etc. etc. it’s still hard. I get a taste of eating out or buying something and it feels GOOD. I should clarify that I shop thrift stores and clearance but it’s still spending money. Finding the balance is my neverending challenge.

    • says

      So great to hear that you used your crisis to change your habits and make better choices! What an encouraging story you have too…thanks for sharing!

      ~Elise Adams

    • says

      Learn some really fabulous, frugal recipes that will make you not want to eat out! Apply yourself to frugal skill learning at home, so you’re not out spending gas and money on things you don’t have to have (such as mending clothing instead of buying clothing at the thrift store). Keep trying!

      • Sally says

        I agree. My family actually prefers to eat at home since I’ve changed the way I cook and added many, many new recipes and flavors. In fact, on the rare occasion that we do go out, we’re never very pleased with what we’ve paid for.

        Skill in the kitchen can be a huge asset. Food is usually one of the top three expenses for a family, so there is a lot of room to be flexible in spending. Each and every day, three times a day, I have an opportunity to make choices that effect our family’s financial future. These choices really add up.

        • Elias says

          Thanks for all the encouragement! I actually love the meal plans sites like this offer and the cool do it yourself projects. It has really helped me in the kitchen but it’s still a process of finding meals that the entire family enjoys. I am really coming along but I miss a nice steak dinner from Outback on the weekends! (I don’t miss the $50 bill though)

  11. Colleen says

    WOW How I struggle with this! I’m a social worker and often find myself thinking “But I’m so much more financially stable than my clients! I have a job, insurance, we’re buying a house of our own, ect.” But when a client told me the other day how much he gets in unemployment/government assistance – and that figure was more than my husband and I bring home a month – I about lost it. Granted, my husband’s paycheck has pension, retirement, and insurance taken out of it, but still! It’s really motivated us to start beefing up our savings account. Part of our issue is that I only recently started working full time, so we went from just my husband’s pay check while I was in college and job hunting to two, and that gives us a bigger feeling of security without actually doing anything to make us more secure. Great guest post!

    • Terri says

      Colleen,
      Maybe you could take your income, since you didn’t have it before, and use that to beef up your savings account. If you were living on your husband’s pay before, that would give you the extra money to save. I don’t know if any of us will ever feel financially secure, but I do know that every little bit helps. Even $1 at a time.

      • Colleen says

        This is the plan! It’s happening slowly but surely. It just never feels like it’s enough, ya know? When I think about needing 3 months of living expenses it sounds so hard, but I know one day we’ll get there.

  12. says

    Thanks for sharing your story! The economy has been so hard on so many of us. I find many many people in my age group who graduated with too many student loans, have small kids, and have an upside-down mortgage like us. With job losses, cut salaries, and climbing prices, it’s been even harder. I’m glad to hear that you’ve turned your struggles into an opportunity to help others through the same struggles! :)

  13. Tabitha says

    Thank you for your inspirational story. I come from a similar background, and know all to well the fear and desperation that come with the territory. I also know that what I learned to survive through difficult times, have been some of life’s greatest and most humbling lessons. I just want to send my blessings to you and your family.

  14. says

    Thanks so much Elise for sharing your heart! What an encouragement and inspiration you are! God is already doing some mighty things in your life! I’m just thrilled to see the many lives that you will touch and inspire!

  15. says

    Elise, what an eye-opening post. I am there as well, and yes denial plays a part. Prayer is where I am and moving forward. Thank you for sharing your story.

  16. Robyn says

    I too am wondering if she has an IP tracker and can get to Alaina for a well check,because I wouldn’t take that comment lightly…..though I don’t know if it is all that accurate? Can they pin down a specific address? Hopefully she/he will reach out for help asap.

    • Andrea says

      In many cases yes, they can locate an exact address with police involvement. I’ve witnessed it.

  17. says

    This is very similar to my situation. Both my husband and I have lost steady employment within the last six months. My husband started going to school full-time this semester and just started working a full-time job for $10 an hour less than what he was making. We are considering applying for food stamps at this point. With two small kids and a pile of bills some days feel hopeless. I just keep my faith in God and keep doing what I can as a freelancer to earn us a little more money. Thanks so much for sharing your story. It totally makes me feel less alone.

    • Terri says

      Joanie,
      As someone who runs a local food pantry, I encourage you to apply for food stamps, and whatever governmental assistance you can. Sometimes that little bit extra can be a life-line, help you get on your feet, and maybe feel more hopeful. Just because you ask for assistance, that doesn’t mean you have to stay on it forever, get help, and then remove yourself when your situation gets better. Keep goals in mind, it will give you hope.

      • says

        Such an important point, Terri. When we are down and out these assistance programs are very necessary….but we don’t have to stay there. Thanks for bringing this up. It is a burden on food pantrys and churches when people feel too ashamed to apply for food stamps when they really need them…the food pantry needs to be for back up, for when all other resources completely run out so that those who can’t get food stamps will have food too.

  18. GM says

    I’m glad this was written. I don’t live in denial (much) and even then it’s hard to make ends meet. I coupon, mostly pay my bills on time, and don’t own a single credit card. I also receive assistance. I have a condition that makes me unable to work at this time but you wouldn’t know it from looking at me. It’s very upsetting to see some of the beliefs held towards those who need help. Every article, every personal account is a step in the right direction. Thank you for your honesty Elise.

  19. Anna says

    I can soooo relate to this story, when I was 4 months pregnant my job, of 10 years, decided to “re-organize” and effectively handed me my walking papers. I got a lawyer and negotiated a severance, but suing was not an option because I needed to keep my health insurance (pregnancy is a pre-existing condition). Since I had the largest salary, we lost my >100k salary. At the same time we were going through the immigration process of getting my husband’s green card (don’t even get me started on what I think of the legal immigration process) and despite his education, experience, and skills, the only job offer he got and accepted was a night clerk at a gas station. So here we are 1 year later, my unemployment covers our mortgage, and his paycheck pays for Cobra, and sadly we have been digging into my 401k to pay the rest of the bills. I am angry and frustrated in my job search, I have 15+ years experience and a Master’s degree and I can’t even get the department stores to call me back for Christmas help. I miss going out to nice restaurants, I miss nice wine with friends. I miss traveling most of all. I do my best not to let stress rule my life so that my new baby feels that environment, but I am only human.

    • Jen says

      Anna, just wanted to let you know you are not alone in your job search. I also hold a Master’s degree, have experience, and like you mentioned, can’t get a job anywhere. I know what it feels like…keep your chin up :)

      • Elias says

        I’m so sorry Anna. Your story really touches my heart. I’m not in the same exact position but I have a teaching degree and there are NO jobs available in my county. I am blessed that we can get by on my husbands salary but my dream of pursuing a career I worked so hard to attain seems in limbo now. Hang in there. You are in my prayers.

      • Anna says

        Thank you for your empathy, it means a lot to know I’m not alone. After all the effort and legal fees to get my husband his permanent green card, we have decided that if things have not great improved by the beginning of the new year we are going to move to Holland where he is from. He can work easily there and no more worries about health insurance. I will just have to wait to get a work permit, but we will still be better off than we are here.

    • laura says

      anna,

      i’m not sure if it varies from state to state, but when i was pregnant in 2009 in CA we switched insurance mid-pregnancy due to a change in my husbands job and were able to do so specifically because they legally could not consider pregnancy a pre-existing condition. it may be worth looking into this as it could save you a ton (i know it did for us!)

    • says

      Sorry, Anna. Have you tried network marketing from home? I have a lot of education, but education wasn’t cutting it for me in a recession, either. I’m doing doTERRA business, and its a pretty easy way to build income from home.

      On the encouraging note, dani Johnson was a huge encouraging story for me. Pregnant at 16, made a huge fortune, married and divorced in 7 days, husband took all her money. she was addicted to a drug and homeless on the beach with $2 to her name when she heard God say, “take up your mat and go home,” she took her little bit of money and started selling things out of a phone booth and became a millionaire at 23.

      I have never adapted any of her eyes for making money, but the attiude behind her has changed my life. She has also gone through a period where she had to release money and receive healing from God.

      I pray life gets better for each one of you.

  20. Heather says

    I just wanted to say thank you so much for writing this. Right now my guy and I have 30 dollars between us until next week. We are behind on countless bills and together owe around 2,000 in debt. Yet, here I am dreaming of that 38 dollar Chanel lipstick I want to get on payday. I feel as though I am trying, clipping coupons, freezer cooking days, etc. What I almost need is a personal trainer on a financial level, I need tough love. My guy is the same regarding denial even after having lived on the streets of Las Vegas for months. How can we break the cycle? I can fully admit to my spending habits being related to the hopelessness I feel.

    • Heather says

      I had never heard of $38 Chanel lipstick until I read that! Wow. Whatever you are doing that lets you know about such pricey things: stop! If it’s TV, get rid of cable. If it’s magazines, don’t read them – cancel subscriptions and bring a book to doctor’s offices. In other words, if you think less about what you could spend money on, then your desire for high-ticket items will go down. It’s worked for me. Make your payday treat be something much, much smaller. Set yourself a limit ahead of time.

      • Heather says

        Thanks Heather! I appreciate your reply! And I think you are right regarding cutting off the source. Many nights I ease my stress by online shopping, not good! Time to block a few sites :)

    • Margaret says

      Heather,

      Your feelings are not unusual – but maybe this will help. Remember that you get a paycheck for selling hours of your life in exchange for money. And that the hours of your life are, by definition, precious, as they are a limited resource. Compute how many hours of work your splurge will take from you and then ask yourself if it is worth the tradeoff. Maybe it is to you, and maybe it isn’t. Maybe buying some peace for yourself with the $38 by paying a bill is actually more rewarding. Only you can say. But know this – having to payoff debt can be just a season in your life, rather than a way of life, if you choose it to be. But it is your choice to make. You have the power to make the choices to make or break you.

      As far as the hopelessness – plot your way out of your situation. We use the Dave Ramsey method, and Mary Hunt at debtproofliving.com is another terrific resource. Spend your money on paper every month to make sure you are moving forward, and keep a little “blow” money for each of you to keep you motivated. Make it all fit within your income, though. Then drop the guilt and get on with planning your life. Set some goals, financially and life- related, and get to it! Baby steps, baby :-) Do something positive, no matter how small, every day. You only stay in one place when you choose to do nothing.
      Best wishes and blessings to you!

      • Guest says

        I love this – “paying off debt can be just a season in your life, rather than a way of life” – YES! We used to pay off our credit cards every month but I was always frustrated that we were just paying off rather than saving and progressing. It is an AMAZING feeling to know we have emergency savings and can focus on moving forward rather than having to pay off things in the past or tread water.

        Thank you to Dave Ramsey and Crystal for inspiring us these last several years and showing us that there is another way to live!

      • Heather says

        Thank you so very much for this encouraging reply, Margaret. I could hug you! It took a bit of guts to admit to all this, especially in such a frugal forum. And a part of me feels silly for being this way, as my dh and I have no kids and well paying jobs. I think I am going to look into Dave Ramsay as he sounds amazing. I was up last night thinking about all this and saw the post as I am a frequent reader, and it truly struck a cord. I shouldn’t have to live life like this. I love the analogy of money equaling to our life, that is so true. Again, thank you so much.

        • says

          Yes, I agree. There is only so many hours you can work. I live in Thailand working with troubled teens. So I am forced to work little to live because of time. I recommend network marketing — a good company (not a dishonest one) — because it allows you to work hard but over time work less and less but still make income. A good NM company like mine will allow you to make partime income without that much effort. There are other ways to increase income as well, but I totally second that keep in mind that pay off debt is a season. Many blessings.

    • says

      So glad you had the courage to share your story here. As you say–fully admitting to our spending habits (almost in the realm of a confession ;-) get us started on a better path! I’m so encouraged by your responses to the suggestions you were given–you can use this tough time to completely change the direction of your family!!!

      Courage to you!

      ~Elise Adams~

  21. Lilly says

    I really needed to read all of your stories today. Like everyone else, I am struggling also. My husband and I split up almost 5 years ago. Our divorce was finalized over the summer. I have 3 small children ages 11,7 and 4. I feel like I have been in a “storm” for the last 5 years and don’t know when it is going to end. Last month I started a commission only position with an insurance company. For the month I have only earned $200. I cannot do this anymore. My electricity was turned off last week. Thank God for my ex husband helping out or we would literally all still be in the dar. I don’t have health insurance, suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder and a thyroid condition. I have food stamps but because my child support is just a few dollars over the limit, I don’t qualify for public assistance. I am going to apply for gov’t health insurance today and hopefully I will be approved. I hate living like this and never have been this low before. When I was married, my ex earned a six figure salary. Due to the economy, his salary was cut 50K.
    There are many days when I just want to stay in bed and cry but I can’t. I have three beautiful children who I must keep the facsade up for. I’m tired emotionally and physically. Sorry for rambling but I just wanted to say I can relate to all of your stories.

    I will pray for us all. Oh and I love Dave Ramsey! My radio station in the car is set to a local christian rock station which features Dave. Sometimes more than not, that station and the music is the only thing that brightens my day (besides my children of course!).

    • Guest says

      I am so sorry to hear that you’re in such a challenging place. I think sometimes the emotional turmoil in our lives (divorce, losing a loved one, losing a job) clouds our perspective of everything. You are going to come back from this. I also want to let you know that my parents’ financial struggles when I was growing up are what helped to solidify that I would NOT be in that position. You obviously don’t want to completely unload on your kids but I believe it is good for parents to share the struggles as well as the triumphs. Your kids are going to see that their mom was in a bad place financially but she turned to God, she put one foot in front of the other and she turned her life around. They’re going to remember that and they’re going to be better prepared for life as a result.

      Keep your head up!

    • says

      Elise, what Lilly just wrote to you makes me smile. I am reminded of the story in the Bible where the woman at the well was preaching Christ after she received healing. In our lives, our pasts can become something to inspire and transform others. I have known extreme pain, but I have never been divorced and know that pain, Lilly. But I will pray for you, and I am thankful for people like Elise to encourage you.

    • says

      Thank you so much for sharing your story! I’ve been in many of the same places as you share about–nearly homeless often and fully homeless for several years, utilities have been shut off a time or two… My point being–you can get through this. It’s like Dave Ramsey says–just get mad enough about where you are to take those scary steps to get all the way to where you want to be! I know you can do it!

      In the mean time–while you are struggling forward–don’t forget to take care of yourself. Yes, I know that seems impossible right now. But no matter how financially challenged we are (poor–lol) we can turn the TV and get some sleep, take a walk around the block or through a local mall and eat less sugar. These steps don’t instantly change our circumstances but can greatly increase our courage!

      Love and hugs, Elise Adams

      • Lilly says

        Thank you to everyone who read my story and replied! You’ll never know how much the support means to me. I know things will get better and God’s plan will unfold when it is supposed to. I really do appeciate you all! (((HUGS)))

  22. says

    Hi Elise,

    Thank you so much for sharing your study. From the comments it brought about, I believe you have encouraged others and reminded them that they are not alone in their situations!

    I applaud you for sharing about using government benefits assistance programs; there are so many unnecessary misconceptions, shame, and judgment around these programs.

    For those of you struggling financially, please know these programs are there to help you during your time of need! Despite the negative stereotypes, shame should not be a part of the equation. Many of you (or your loved ones) have paid into the system to help others; now you need the help!

    I encourage you to see what help you can receive from non-profits (501c3)! In the city I live in, there is an incredibly amount of programs available for free if you qualify based on income: financial coaching, tax counseling, health care counseling, adult education programs (including computer classes, civics classes, new career certificate classes), food assistance (in the form of SNAP, food pantries, hot meals, classes on food security), fuel assistance, and so much more!

    I work with seniors, and there is a campaign nation-wide called “One Away,” showing how many elders are “one situation away” from poverty. Utilizing both the tips you receive on MSM and the programming that is available in your town, it really is possible to prevent such dire financial situations from happening by building your economic security!

    Sorry for the long post, but one last plug (since I work in this field): if you know of anyone on Medicare struggling with their health insurance costs, have them contact their State Health Insurance assistance Program (SHIP). http://www.hapnetwork.org/ship-locator/
    Yesterday at work, I was able to point out a Medicare drug plan that would save a client $2000/year!

    Be encouraged everyone! You are not alone and there is help available!

    • says

      Thank you for your encouragement. I certainly don’t want anyone to believe that it is wrong or shameful to reach for assistance when we truly need it. My family is still on government programs and will stay on them until we make enough money not to need them anymore. My point was to encourage people not to stop pushing forward…don’t be satisfied with just a little comfort! We can move all the way from desperate to our full destiny of self-support!

      Thanks for your encouragement!

      ~Elise Adams~

  23. Heather says

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. Earlier this year my husband and I made the decision that I would quit my job and raise our children after our second was born. We have lived in denial about our financial situation for several years and we started to feel the pain of it when we made this change. We knew we had quite a bit of debt, but it really hit home once I was only working part-time from home. I feel that being in this situation has actually made us stronger as a couple and has brought my faith in God to a level that I never thought it could be. My husband and I talk so much more and are very open with each other about not having the extra money to do the things we used to. I pray several times a day, in the beginning I prayed that God help me find a way to save my family money (I found coupons, cloth diapering, and freezer cooking) and then I finally surrendered and put it in God’s hands and it’s amazing the amount of stress that has left our house. I decided that I would do everything I could to bring in extra income, save money, and pay off debt but in the end all I could do was have faith that God has a plan for my family and wouldn’t let us go with out what we needed. We know find pleasure in the small things and truly feel closer as a family. I pray for everyone that is in this situation, but also want to remind them that while it may be a hard place to be in it does get better…Just believe it will!

    • Mary says

      Heather, I loved your post, commitment to your husband is where it starts, you and he as one, moving each other toward the final prize as St. Paul would say….glorifying God. From there you reach out to your children as it should be…then everything else falls into place. Prayer and blessings to you and those that are hurting.

  24. says

    Amen. Everything you said applies to my life–more than once. You are right it is lazy and it is denial. Thanks for a great kick-in-the-pants-right-when-I-needed-it-post!

  25. says

    We owe a lot of student loan debt and I cringe thinking about it. I currently stay at home due to daycare costs plus I can’t find a job in the school district. I’m discouraged about taking a job for less than a certain amount due to daycare costs. I think it is normal for us on to feel grief about our debt. I think I let it consume me too much though.

    • says

      Sometimes it costs more to go work! My husband figures I save our family $60,000 a year by being home.

      A friend of mine has a $30,000 a year job. I asked her for a quick figure of the amount she really made, after just figuring in daycare, gas (she had an hour drive) and the second car. She quickly surmised that she really only made $5000 a year. This didn’t include anything else she spent, including clothing, or more for food. I think it’s more than possible to find ways to save $5000 a year! Keep trying!

  26. Danielle B says

    My husband and I were still in denial of some form, even though we’ve experienced the pit of financial mess and loss and had just filed bankruptcy in March of this year. Then, about two months ago or so we hit our moment of “running out of money”. Our bills were all past due again, the pantry was starting to run out, etc. Two months later, we’re still struggling, but we’ve stopped wasting money.
    My goal this month is to fix absolutely every single bit of meals and snacks in our home. We’ve already broken this twice (getting a chicken-in-a-cup from Wal-Mart for my son and daughters while grocery shopping, and my husband got a frappe from McDonald’s this morning) but we’re still trying. I’m tired of living in denial, and I really hope others are too. The truth hurts so much at first; it literally makes you miserable. But over time, it sets you free. That’s what I want- true, lasting freedom.

    • says

      That is a great goal! I really can’t imagine eating out. We eat from home all the time. If I don’t feel like cooking, we can either have leftovers, or we have a later dinner. I do try to cook extras so that I don’t have to cook all the time.

      I know that recently it seems like “everyone” eats out, all the time. Yet, when I was a child, eating out was a treat, reserved for very special occasions, such as a graduation meal. It’s amazing how much money you can save by just eating from home.

      • Danielle B says

        Thank you! I’ve always tried to menu plan and such, but was never consistent in following through. That’s really what I need the most focus on- planning my work and working my plan! :-) We’ve made huge improvements over just the last two months, and I’m really hopeful that the last 3 weeks or so of October will be a success. My mom rarely cooked and I grew up eating out all the time, so I think overcoming my fears in the kitchen has been the biggest part of learning not to grab food outside of the home.

    • WilliamB says

      Eating out can be a habit. So can eating in. And habits are hard to break. Use this knowledge to your advantage! It takes a while to develop it but I swear, after a while it gets so hard to eat out. You spend so much time thinking how you could make this thing at home, how it would be better if you made it the way you liked it, and you’re spending *how much* for spaghetti and plain tomato sauce?

      At least, that’s what goes through my head when I think about going out to eat.

      • Danielle B says

        Thank you! I think that you hit the nail on the head. Eating out or grabbing fast food has been a habit for the last seven years. My mom didn’t cook very often, and neither did my husband’s family. Both of our families were always eating food outside the home, and I think that’s been the most difficult hurdle- learning HOW to cook and prepare yummy meals inside the home.
        The more we practice at this though, the better we’re getting. This is our third month of really working to only eat what we prepare at home and we’ve already seen huge improvements from when we started.

  27. Brooke says

    I would just like to say having my son at 32 being UNMARRIED, being evicted due to having hyperemesis (severe illness during pregnancy) and unable to work, having to get on welfare, WIC and food stamps and living in subsidized housing is the BEST thing that has ever happened to me!

    I have learned how to coupon, I have a stockpile, I am never in need of ANYTHING, I donate to less fortunate which is funny because my stats put me in the same category lol, I am able to go finish college now because I am enrolled full time unlike before when I was working full time and going p/t at night it took me 5 yrs to earn my associates, I’ve learned to respect money and I only pay CASH. I am better off now that I’ve fallen and the best part is I am now showing my 3 year old the value of a dollar, saving money and using coupons. He’s learning how to be financially independent, he now has a foundation that I didn’t. God willing he will never be on welfare because of the lessons I am learning and teaching. Everything happens for a reason and I now KNOW that God loves me and he truly exists, he wakes me up every day, loves me unconditionally and teaches me lessons to better me.

  28. says

    Thanks for sharing your journey!! As a single parent, I have had to face many challenges I NEVER thought I would. My son was diagnosed with Autism when he was smaller, and it caused a GREAT deal of financial hardship on our little family. It was then that I was forced to find ways to financially deal with the hardships presented. Couponing was one of those ways, using a budget another, and realizing that I had to ask for help. The lessons I have learned have been difficult, but they have provided me with the comfort in knowing that whatever gets thrown my way I can deal with it.
    It is also a reminder that all of us, no matter where we are in life, can fall on hard times.

  29. says

    Elise, you brought up a really good point in focusing on being in denial. I need to really remember that. My story is different from yours but it includes addiction, homelessness and poor decisions. I’ve had so little money my whole life, and it’s the same now… I often find feelings of self-pity and frustration welling up inside of me. Using denial seems to help make it easier to justify behaving as though we have more money than we actually do. Every month it’s the same, hubby and I say we’re going to make a budget and it hasn’t happened yet. Honestly part of it is that when we get out the calculator and start to see what the numbers really look like, it’s so depressing that we just want to feel better, so we just buy stuff until money runs out then spend the rest of the pay period in a pitiful state while waiting for the next paycheck.

    Our credit card culture makes it all the more easy to be in denial. You can always rack up consumer debt and try not to think about how little money you have in real life. For our family, we made the commitment to not have credit cards at all. I think that decision is going to serve us well, or at least limit the damage we can do. But it’s hard doing the right thing. When my baby needs a winter coat and we have to wait 2 pay periods, I just hate it. I wish I had that magic plastic card to meet needs right away. But it’s all about faith for me, I can’t say that I see a light at the end of the tunnel but I’m just hanging on trying to do the right thing. In the meantime, I think facing reality is a step in the right direction.

    • Danielle B says

      Your comment struck a chord with me because it is almost EXACTLY how my husband and I spent the last seven years.

      The truth will make you miserable at first, but then it will set you free. The only true freedom that exists has its foundation set in nothing but the cold, hard truth. Whether it’s political freedom, spiritual freedom or financial freedom, it cannot exist outside of truth. And until you face the reality of your financial situation, you will never know financial freedom. I’m not saying this to sound judgemental or harsh. I’m only saying it because I wish someone would have said it to myself and my husband seven years ago.

      I know exactly what you mean about the pain of sitting down with the calculator, checkbook and stack of bills, but that has to happen. Either do it now, or do it when you’re filing bankruptcy- take it from someone who knows. And it wouldn’t even matter if you started earning thousands of dollars more tomorrow morning, because your finances would still be a wreck and you wouldn’t even know where to put that new money. Again, take it from someone who has already trudged that path- it’s a dead end road.

      I could never get a budget worked out until I set it up in Excel. I was able to put in a simple formula around line 20 (in the third column where I had entered the amounts of the bills due) to add up all the bills on the previous lines. On line 22 (still in the third column) I put in the estimated amount of my husband’s paycheck. Then on line 24 (still third column) I entered a formula to subtract the total of the bills from my husband’s estimated paycheck. Then I sat down with the bills and started entering them in on the different worksheets (one worksheet for each payday). This way I could see what bills could fit in which paychecks, which paychecks needed to go towards rent, etc. and juggle them around as necessary.

      After working on this for a month or so I began to see a pattern of which bills needed to go on which paychecks of the month. Now it’s really easy to just enter them in each month. I get a bill in the mail or in my email inbox, I immediately pull up Excel and enter the bill and its amount on the paycheck that it needs to come out of. This way if I want to splurge on something, I pull up my Excel sheet, scroll down to the bottom where the difference between my husband’s estimated paycheck and the bills that have to come out of it is, and check to see if we can afford it. If not, I can’t splurge, otherwise I’ll start that horrible cycle again.

      It’s also much easier to budget for things like seasonal clothing shopping, birthdays, holidays, etc. I just enter them in where I think they might fit, such as Winter Clothing—-$75 on the second paycheck of the month since that’s where we usually have more room. Later on in the month if I see it won’t fit there I can move it around accordingly.

      Right now we have to carry past due balances on two bills (our electricity and natural gas) because there was just no other way to work it. But I called and worked out payment plans with both of those companies and now we’re making progress again. In three more months both of those bills will be current again, and we’ll have a little more room in our monthly paychecks.

      After realizing how much we were really paying for internet and cable- because I finally forced myself to truly study and plan for the bill- I called and downgraded our services to basic cable for $21.00 per month and Economy Internet for $20.95 per month. This is cheaper then even just carrying the Economy Internet by itself. I’m not doing this forever, but just for a few months until we get caught up again.

      We don’t have debt to account for anymore because of filing bankruptcy in March of this year, but if you do have debt you need to pay off, start by budgeting your most basic “must have to survive” bills first- rent/house payment, utilities, insurance, car payment (unless you can sell the car and buy a used one with cash), groceries, household supplies, and gas money. THEN budget in paying on your debt. That was a HUGE mistake my husband and I foolishly made, but at the time we were just trying to keep from being garnished by a hospital bill. We thought we were doing the right things, but hindsight is 20/20.

      Anyway, sorry for such a long comment. I just wanted to share with you in very real way the path my husband and I chose and the devastating results at the end of it, as well as the real solutions that are helping us to overcome those bad habits now. Seeing those real numbers on an Excel spreadsheet was the only thing that pulled us out of our haze. Nothing else worked, because we had tried it all.

      Here’s to a better path for you and your family! :-)

    • Danielle B says

      One last thought- you may have to take the lead on setting up the budget initially.
      My husband and I had tried for years to “do the budget together” and it never worked. It always turned into a huge arguement between us because we had different ideas of what it should look like. He didn’t want to lead on the issue, but I wanted him to lead. But at the same time, I wanted him to lead the way I thought he should lead. It was absolute madness.
      Finally he begged me to just set it all up because he didn’t have any idea where to start. I knew I was going to just have to do it. So I set it all up in Excel and then showed it to him. He LOVED it! He uses spreadsheets for a good part of his job, and it was easy for him to see where his hard-earned dollars were going. However, he wanted me to continue on entering the bills as I thought they should go. He works 50+ hours each week and is trying to earn his degree from the local community college, so he didn’t want to spend his tiny bit of time at home working on the budget.
      So, we worked out a deal that on every Sunday evening before the week starts, we sit down for 15 minutes and look at it together. That way if he has any advice or thinks something I’ve budgeted should go on a different paycheck he can say so, and I’ll move it. If he thinks we need to budget money for something, such as purchasing more ammo for his handgun or for time at the shooting range, then we look at the budget together and find a place for that to go. If there’s no room for it in the month, then he can see that for himself and is content with that. Plus, he always knows what we’re doing with each paycheck, so there’s no question of splurging once we actually get into Wal-Mart or Costco. Now we can help keep each other accountable, since we’re both seeing the budget every week. What use to tear us apart now pulls us closer together. :-)
      Hope that helps!

  30. Katie says

    Dear Elise,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I came across a guest post you wrote on another blog several weeks ago, and I’ve been rooting for you! I’m so happy to read about the changes you all have made, and I’m so thankful for your honesty as you share your story.

  31. says

    I left this post really troubled and had to come back, put in my thoughts. I wish I knew where all of you live so I could reach out and help everyone of you that are having financial troubles. Yes, I have been there but not to the extent that most of you are. I was raised by two very special parents that we very frugal(both were raised during the Great Depression also their parents were very poor but in those times they didn’t know they were poor). My Dad earned a fair income but only paid cash and saved for what we had. We raised a garden and canned everything we could, only had one car at times, lots of homemade clothes and hand-me downs. We were told ” No” alot there was no extras. This in turn has made me and my precious husband(his parents had similar lifestyles) alot like them. When we got married we didn’t earn much, never had a credit card, didn’t spend more than we earned, did not have a phone for 3 months, took our lunches everyday! Never felt denied. Fast forward 33 years we don’t have cell phones, no cable, have only had high speed internet for 1 year now and no debt. It can be done. We look to the Lord Jesus Christ as our provider and always, always give him our tithes. We eat out of our garden, eat the meat that we raise. With all this said we realized( what Margaret so elegantly stated) how long it took to earn and how fast money went when blown. What is going on with our economy troubles us that is why we need to reach out to others. Like I said in the beginning of this we would love to help but our help would be to give produce from the garden or beef from our freezer did I tell you I can spaghetti sauce, Arby’s sauce, Taco bell sauce, tomato paste, and lots more. And yeah it’s hard work. We still don’t have a abundance of money but everything is taken care of some how by the graceousness of our lord. It is a mind set. So set your minds on what is important and when you loose it all it is really OK because it all wasn’t yours to begin with. Many Abundant Blessings to all of you!!!

  32. says

    I’m glad things are better for you. Denial is a big thing, especially with debt and credit cards. Like you siad, Dave Ramsey talk about it alot. One of the hardest things to do is to come to grips with what has gone on, and set yourself to change. Trust me, my wife and I have been through the same kinds of things.

    J

  33. L says

    Great post, thank you. It is posts like these that bring people out to discuss things in their lives. We can all encourage each other through discussions like this.

    We live on a frugal single income of about $1,600/net each month. We have been fortunate for my husband to work some overtime shifts this year. We are not rich by any means, but we are blessed to have a roof over our heads, food, and clothing, which is more than some people in this economy.

    This year we have worked on saving. We put most of the overtime money away immediately. We did the same several years ago when we got ourselves out of debt, one month, one paycheck at a time. It was not easy to do, but I have learned that little steps do eventually get one to a better place.

    We live in an “instant” society in that we want things now, we want things to be solved quickly, we tap our feet while the microwave heats something. :) It takes time sometimes to achieve such things in life. No one gets into debt overnight, and it takes a while for sure to get out of it.

    We will probably never be in a position to have a larger income due to several reasons, but that is okay. I share the things above to encourage others to hang in there and know it can get better. It just won’t get better overnight, but it can one day at a time if you persevere.

    If we can do what we have on my husband’s income, I know many others can too. Another key for us has been to live within our income. We don’t live in a fancy home, or have a new car, etc. Having a budget really has helped us to keep in check, and we only use cash as well. If we don’t have it, we don’t buy it, and we stay clear of credit cards now.

    **As a side note, Tavis Smiley on PBS is doing a week-long series on poverty next week (Oct. 10th – Oct. 14th). You can look at pbs.org to find out when it will show in your area, but I think it will be an enlightening series on poverty in America.

  34. says

    What a great article, Elise. It’s a good exercise for anyone to consistently re-evaluate their budget, their motivations, their scheduling and so forth.

  35. Betty says

    Elise: How did your husband get into school full time? Did he qualify for a special program or grant?
    I am single mom living in San Diego, California. I am blessed to have a good job but it’s so expensive to live here money is still tight. I have been trying to find programs to assist me in going back to school (not loans) but most I have found say I make too much money or am too old.
    Any information would be greatly appreciated.