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31 Days of Giving on a Budget: Using Frugality to Splurge on Others (Day 20)

Welcome to December’s series on 31 Days of Giving on a Budget. In this series, I’ll be sharing inspiring stories from my readers and posts with practical ways to give — even on a limited income.

If you have a Giving on a Budget story to share of a way you or your family has given to others this year or this holiday season, please email me your story (or a link to your post on your blog) and a picture to go along with it, if possible. I’d love to hear it and possibly share it during this series!

A testimony from an anonymous reader

I was the tight-fisted frugal one when we got married, but my husband was so impressed by my freebie-grabbing, creative penny pinching and compulsive saving that he quickly got on board! Even though we’ve only ever had one income for our family of seven, and that one income has always come from the notoriously underpaid field of education, we’ve never had any debt except for our mortgage which we vowed to pay off in less than five years (and we did). Our vehicles, home renovations, computers and all other purchases have always been paid for with cash.

A few years ago we heard about an orphanage in Burundi that was in distress. The 20 young occupants shared two 10 x 10-foot rooms and had no running water or electricity. A piece of property had been located that had roomier buildings, water, power and a little land (i.e. for gardening, or some animals to help feed the orphans).

Burundian refugees in America who were supporting the orphanage had no idea how to raise the exorbitant (to them) sum of $15,000 to pay for this in full, as apparently there were no mortgages in this primitive country.

Hearing about it through an emailed prayer request, my husband investigated the need, prayed and fasted, and ended up writing a check for the whole amount of $15,000! He was able to visit the property a year later with our daughter. What a heart-stopping, choked-up moment that was for them!

He took the above picture of the orphans in front of their new home and would have packed one or two of them into his suitcase to live with our family if he’d been allowed to! I love that guy!

My seamstress daughter also designed simple dresses like the one below which her sewing ministry was able to make for the girls:

God’s ways are awesome and we’re so blessed to be a part of His will.

My tightness paid off in that we were able to splurge for others far away when it was really needed!

-reposted from the archives

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  • DEBBIE AUEN says:

    What a true inspiration you are….I hope your blessed acts of kindness come back to you all in tenfolds…..You have blessed so many whom truely know the definition of NEED…….God bless you all!!!!!!

  • J says:

    Lovely and the dress is so pretty! The color is particularly striking.

  • Jamie says:

    Wow, what an incredible story. I can’t imagine how fulfilling that must have been to see the new orphanage. Your story is an inspiration to me. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Laney says:

    Stories like this warm my heart. Thanks for sharing!

  • Linda says:

    This is amazing! I love hearing stories like this one. I’m so glad you shared, you inspire me to do more.

  • What an inspiration – thank you for sharing!
    Especially with the commercialization of Christmas, it is easy to get wrapped up in the holiday spirit of “getting” rather than giving!
    Merry Christmas and may the Lord richly bless you as you have others!

  • lyss says:

    That is so awesome! Love it!

  • Amanda says:

    This brought tears to my eyes! What an inspiration!

  • Mary says:


  • Jenny says:

    Totally step 7 of Dave Ramsey’s plan- giving like no one else!


  • Coco Bean says:

    That is really amazing! Thanks for sharing your amazing story. It really makes me think how I can share to those who are in need in a larger way.

  • Liz says:

    This is an incredible story, but I have to ask, how in the world, on a teacher’s salary, can you support a family of 7 and save enough to pay off a mortgage in less than 5 years? I thought that must be a mis-print. I am a teacher and cannot support myself and my husband on one salary, nor can I pay off our REGULAR monthly mortgage payment (add all our other bills) or support any children on my salary. I coupon, and spend way less than the “average” person in probably all categories on our budget. We don’t have texting, cable, car payments, etc. I honestly want to know how to do this! Please share tips, because I am at a loss as to how this is possible.

    • Tori says:

      Another teacher here—-I want to know, too. Please share your secrets!

    • dina says:

      I also would love to know! We are a 1 salary houshold with 2 kids and have a strict budget so an extra hits or ideas would be fabulous! Thanks for sharing your story!

    • I teach, too, and want to know the secret! My salary can support me and my husband (he was in grad school until just this past Tuesday!!) and we can put aside a good amount of money, but not nearly enough to pay off a house or feed/care for children! We live in the northern VA area and I make $40,000 before taxes. Houses in our area (decent, but not extravagant, and about 30 mi outside the city) go for $250-300k. We live in an apartment now and are saving all we can for a 20% down payment of around $50k.

  • kathleen says:

    That is awe inspiring. What an amazing husband you have!

  • Thanks for sharing this story! Our family still has a little more than $25,000 to pay to be free from our student loans, but we can’t wait to reach the point where we can be really generous. After reading “7” by Jen Hatmaker recently, I’ve really been looking for ways to be generous small ways in our own community. You’re really an inspiration!

  • Cher says:

    Your family is beautiful, wonderful and awesome!!! Wow. Just wow!! You put a huge smile on my face and I’m overjoyed about your fantastic gift to the orphans. I think of James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world. God bless your generosity and may he be your joy, love, hope and your all!!!! Thank you for your wonderful inspiration. I agree that every little bit that can be well managed to bless others in need is just the best. Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

  • This is so inspirational. It makes me want to do more. Thank you for sharing.

  • Mary says:

    What an amazing story! The story of the “giving” part was just as amazing as what the orphans received.

  • christina says:

    beautiful story!!!! very inspirational!!!

    • pinky says:

      Beautiful act of giving. I am desperately wanting to do a great deed like this one. I have been saving money to do something life changing for people especially orphans. Please help me, direct me to a place where I can be involved personally instead of just writing a check. God bless!

      • Nikki says:

        Check out Compassion International. I think Crystal has mentioned this before. We work with children who are supported and it is always encouraging to have their supporters come for a visit!

  • Jennifer says:

    What a beautiful story!

  • Mary says:

    God will bless you abundantly for your giving! I want to be next and have a testimony too!

  • Danielle says:

    What a beautiful story. It is truly inspirational. I am in awe of your fine work.

  • kim says:

    I don’t know if you all are still watching the comments but I thought I’d reply to the questioning about how we could do this. It’s a long story–maybe one of our daughters will try to write it someday 🙂 Bottom line is that it’s pretty supernatural–the numbers and accounting columns just don’t add up! The more we give, the more we have…

    I did live very frugally from a young age–some inborn instinct made me save like crazy from age 11 with a paper route to age 17 with an office assistant job. We married young with a $15,000 nest egg due to saving and investments so it didn’t matter that we were still in college. We had full rides in college b/c we were both over-achieving first borns, so no student loans. Took the bus, never bought anything new, ate simply, enjoyed nature and free museums for fun, etc.

    We eat whole foods made from scratch, bought in bulk (ie, and thus avoid high-priced convenience foods and restaurants (not to mention health costs from issues caused by the consumption of processed foods full of artificial food dyes, sweeteners and harmful preservatives, but I digress!)

    We take advantage of friends’ cabins and close to home day trips for vacations, hand me down clothes, books, toys, etc. and any other freebie opportunities that come along. Our children have been raised to appreciate those things and we don’t have TV so they don’t beg for new stuff.

    We also did foster care for several years and received compensation to supplement my husband’s income…because of our lifestyle that, too, was scrimped and saved and enabled us to add on to our house and buy a large van debt free. We live in an area with safe, affordable housing and are grateful for that…our 4 bedroom house with a yard for chickens and gardens was $120,000 in 2001.

    This has become a long post and I don’t know that anyone’s still reading, but you asked so I tried to answer!

    Thanks for your encouraging words…it means a lot that we bless others with our story.

    P.S. Here’s another example of how you can’t out-give God: this week my husband answered a missionary’s specific need for a certain item he needed and he earmarked an amount for our local CPC. The very next day he found out that everyone at work was receiving a year-end bonus for the exact amount of those 2 donations! He now works for a dot-edu that’s run on grant money from places like the national science foundation–cuts abound and bonuses are unheard of. But those kinds of things happen to us all the time due to his spiritual gifts of faith and giving…it’s not something you can muster up or achieve with any 10-step program!

    Give and it shall be given unto you…pressed down…RUNNING OVER. Lk 6:38

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