I have been following your site for a few years now. I have a pretty difficult question for you. My husband is a youth pastor and makes $460 per week. We have three children with one on the way.
We want to save and budget better but don’t know how to on such a small amount. We do not have cable, or internet at home and the only thing we do that we do extra is eat out due to our crazy ministry schedule. Any help or suggestions would be AMAZING!!! -A very stressed wife
My heart goes out to you in the stress you’re experiencing! I wish I could hug you in person and tell you it’s going to be okay.
You might have some tough days ahead of you, but you are going to survive. So don’t lose hope, okay? That’s the first step to your success.
Here are some practical ideas and suggestions that I thought of for your particular situation:
1) Get On a Strict Written Budget
It’s easy to feel discouraged when you only have a little bit of income coming in, but I know many, many families who are surviving on $460 per week or quite a bit less. So it is entirely possible.
But a budget is imperative. Even if you feel like you don’t have enough coming in, you need to maximize the mileage of every penny you’ve got and a budget is the best way to do that.
I highly recommend reading The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Your library should have a copy. It will walk you step-by-step through the basics of setting up and sticking with a written budget.
2) Prioritize Your Basic Necessities
Once you have your budget put together (and I’d heartily encourage you to sit down and get it done by this weekend, if at all possible), really go over it with a fine-toothed comb and consider what your basic necessities are. These will be things like food, shelter, transportation, and clothing.
What are the barebones payments/purchases that you must make to survive? Make these items your top priority in the budget before considering spending money on anything that is a non-necessity.
Often, when you strip your budget down to the barebones, you’ll realize that you actually have more wiggle room than you first thought you did. And that’s always an encouraging thing!
3) Cut Everything You Can Possibly Cut
Taking the time to consider and determine your basic necessities will prepare you for this step: to cut out as many expenses as you can. It sounds like you’ve already cut many things — like cable and internet — but you could definitely cut out eating out, as painful as it may be.
Find creative ways to make meals at home more doable by using the crockpot, having freezer foods and snacks at-the-ready, and prepping ahead for the week on the weekends. It’s not a fun proposition to give up eating out, but remind yourself that it’s a short-term sacrifice you are making for the good of your family’s budget and for long-term success.
4) Experiment With Ways to Bring In Additional Income
If you can carve out a few extra hours each week, put these toward doing things to increase your income. Sell anything you have that you don’t need on Craigslist, eBay, or in a garage sale. Look into the possibility of doing house-cleaning, teaching classes, or babysitting. If all else fails, there’s always the option of getting a newspaper route.
I encourage you to read The Other 8 Hours and 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think if you’re feeling like you just don’t have any extra moments in your week to put toward income-earning possibilities.
5) Don’t Give Up Hope
As I said in the beginning, your attitude will make or break this situation. A can-do, committed, creative attitude will take you worlds further than a frustrated, complaining attitude will. And I promise you’ll enjoy the ride a lot more, too.
Choose to bloom where you’re planted — even if it feels like it’s among thorns!
What advice do the rest of you have for this reader? Please chime in with encouragement and practical tips in the comments!
photo from Big Stock