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From a Complete Mess (with Major Stress) to Content Miss (with Room to Bless)


Note from Crystal: Thank you all for the dozens and dozens of entries you submitted for the Mvelopes Best Budgeting Story Contest. It was hard to choose from among all of the entries! Congratulations to Missy who won our hearts and the contest with her below entry. I know you’ll be blessed by it!

Guest Post from Missy who blogs at Far From Flawless

It all seemed to come to a head one July day when I received a call that my 3-month-old was on his way to the hospital in an ambulance, having what seemed to be a seizure. My husband had left the month prior, along with his paycheck and health benefits. I was working a limited 15 hours per week as a newly singled mama with three children age 0, 2 and 3 years.

Things were bad. I was concerned about my smallest prince in the ambulance ahead, but at the same time I was wondering, “Was it really necessary to call an ambulance?”

My tiny baby did have a seizure, but he recovered to be just fine (thank you, Lord) and my marriage did fail. But the tools learned in that season are priceless ones that keep working to this day.

I entered a new season of life as a single mother. I was able to increase my work hours and thereby increase my income, but still remained part time for the sake of my young children. On my limited income, I learned four keys for budgeting:

1. Eliminate All But the Necessary

The cable was cut off. The home phone gone and only a limited cell plan put in place.

We didn’t participate in extra-curricular activities (soccer, gymnastics) and I made no commitments to anything that would incur a monthly bill. None.

I even canceled trash pickup and obtained permission to take our bags to a nearby church dumpster. I was brutal in eliminating bills.

2. Maximize What You Have

We made good use of our internet service and PBS for entertainment. We purged and sold items of value.

The cash for an unused vehicle was more useful than the vehicle in storage. I adjusted my payroll withholding to make the most of each monthly check.

I paid all our bills at the first of the month: Tithe, Mortgage, Power, Water, Phone, Insurance. Then I lived on what was left. Often that meant not going places in order to save gas and stretching meals in creative ways.

3. Get Real and Get Savvy

I had to be realistic about myself in this season. I wasn’t one who could spend $40 on a manicure or a night out with the girlfriends. Instead, I learned all the “Kid’s Nights” to the local restaurants and it was a real treat for our little family of four to venture out every now and then.

I asked for help at our church with AWANA fees and accepted help at Christmastime when it was offered. This was humbling, but I recognized God taking care of us in these practical acts of kindness.

I learned that we could have fun and live well with much less than I once thought. Yes, my definition of living well shifted, but it was a relief to not compete to measure up in the ways I once thought were important.

4. Give A Little, Live A Lot

You may notice Tithe was at the top of my expense list. It wasn’t always so, but I believe it is essential to demonstrate trust with more than words and so I committed to tithing. I have never regretted that decision.

I also become aware of so much we didn’t need and donated much to our local Habitat For Humanity Rehome store. The children all learned to love sharing and passing to others the things we no longer needed.

Our gifts were small, but I hope to instill the joy of giving in my little ones. We all treasure experiences more than our stuff these days.

In order to make our life work on a small budget, I was forced to account for every dollar in the door. It became a priority for me to not only exist but to begin and saving.

As the children grew and entered into the public school system, our childcare costs ticked slowly down and I was able to expand our budget to include small vacations and a gifts fund. When we wanted to spend on something extra, I knew right away whether it would be smart.

The second great lesson was that saying “yes” to one thing always meant saying “no” to something else. Knowing my limitations forced me to be clear about my priorities and taught me deep joy and pride in making it alone.

I’m so thankful the leanest days are behind me, yet I am daily grateful for the treasures found in the hardship.

Surprised to find herself in the role of single mother, Missy was even more shocked to become a remarried stepmother in a blended family of seven! She is a hard-working optimist doing her best to enjoy life and demonstrate Christ’s faithfulness in this not-so-perfect world. She blogs in between the office shift and laundry loads at Far From Flawless

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  • Wow – thank you for sharing my story!

  • Guest says:

    Thank you for sharing your amazing story, Missy! You have shown that where there is a will there is a way. I’ve been reading a lot of people’s comments on what is considered essential versus non-essential. Your story exemplifies what many believe to be essentially isn’t really essential.

    So glad you are in a better place and have seen and experienced the Lord’s faithfulness first hand! I also love that the church did what it is supposed to – take care of God’s people!

  • Jessica says:

    I hope your ex husband was paying child support and covering the children under his health insurance.

    • Jessica, we do receive child support … I wish I had mentioned that!

      • Jessica says:

        Good. Not only financially, but it’s important for children to know that their father is living up to his responsibility for meeting their material needs as well as their emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual ones. I’ve known too many moms whose boyfriends or husbands left them in the lurch, and it was the kids who really paid the price of a stressed out mom and the lack for sufficient food, clothing, medicine and so forth. You’re a great example for your family in not being too proud to accept help when you needed it but also at the same time doing everything you could to improve your situation. Blessings to all of you!

        • many blessings to you, too. Initially (during the time described above), my former husband moved several states away. But he has returned to the region and My little ones see their dad each week and we have a (mostly) amicable relationship after several years.

  • Amy says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, Missy! I wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your blog.

  • Emily says:

    Wow! Your story is truly incredible and so encouraging for those going through a rough season. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story 🙂

    • I never dreamed I would be a single mother below poverty level – but I’m thankful for so many who walked alongside me, encouraged and provided. God’s people were truly His hands and feet in my most difficult season (so far!).

  • Emily E says:

    This is a very inspiring story! Thanks for sharing, Missy!

  • Amanda says:

    The hard part about this is that while going through a divorce the husband is NOT ALLOWED to cancel the benefits. For other moms that may be in this situation now please understand this and have the Child Support stuff handled immediately including the fact that he can’t cancel the spouse or children off the health care plan until the divorce is final and even in SOME states he has to provide insurance for the first year following a divorce.

    • Laws vary state by state and can be difficult to enforce. In our situation, he resigned the job which covered our healthcare along with his own.

    • Rita says:

      I would also ask that he provide a life insurance on himself while the children are minors — payable to you. Ask that proof be provided every Jan. 1st.

  • Stephanie says:

    Thank you, Missy. I am touched by your account and convicted to live more purposefully. Thanks, Crystal, for posting her story. I love your site.

  • This is such an inspiring story! God really took care of you when you needed it the most.

  • Dana says:

    Thank you for sharing your story, such a horrific time and you came through it by persevering and working hard to make it all come together.

    Thank you Crystal for posting this, it’s nice to see stories that feature working moms.

  • motherlovin3 says:

    Excellent posting and message, a person does not have to be a struggling single-parent to benefit from the message.

    • We all need to clarify our priorities and live purposefully while engaging in our communities. I hope others don’t have to face my specific difficulty, but if it happens then we can know there is still much good to our lives.

  • Allison V. says:

    Thanks for your story, Missy. I’ve been doing the single mom for 3 years now. My kids are 4, 6 & 7. Thankfully I got a job that paid 50% more than my ex-husband ever earned, so we didn’t have to downsize. We still keep things pretty simple, tithe always comes first, and the bills always get paid. It’s hard doing it alone, childcare is a nightmare! I do get gov’t assistance for the kids because I don’t think I could handle living on $600/mo without it! God is good. I still wonder about blended families someday but the idea isn’t quite as daunting as it used to be. Thanks again for sharing. It’s very encouraging.

    • Allison – you are so right! The childcare challenges of single mom life are huge and a constant drain of energy and attention. Congratulations on your getting a job that pays well and your testimony of tithing blesses me so much. I know how easy it is to hold that back!

      Be open to whatever future possibilities the Lord has for you…blended family or not. I believe if we seek Him, we can’t go wrong. When the tough days seem more than the good ones, just keep doing what you know you need to do and reach out for help!


  • Jennifer says:

    Wow, what an inspiring story! What a strong woman you are! Thank you so much for sharing Missy and I wish you and your new blended family many blessings.

  • Melissa says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m going through almost that exact thing at this moment and feel completely worthless. I love my kids so much and I know I have to pull it together but I just don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. Your story shows that there isn’t a simple wake up and the world will be perfect again answer but that through hard work both myself and my child will be better. Thanks again for the encouragement.

  • Robin says:

    Several years ago before the same happened to me, I learned how to live lean thanks for MoneySavingMom and books like the Tightwad Gazette. Cut it all down. And you know what sometimes God works out that you can even work from home and still juggle homeschooling. Don’t give up on your dreams even if it feels like the world is falling apart. I am glad I fought for what was important and that was me finding stay at home work. People gave me stuff to sell and people who loved the Lord would just give me cash. Somehow it all worked out until I could get more money coming in the door. It is still hard but God gives me breaks.

  • Kathy says:

    Thank you Missy for sharing your story. You are an inspiration to others.

  • Anissa says:

    What an encouraging story. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It has given me hope that things eventually get better and to keep moving forward. May God continue to show you and your family favor and blessings.

    • sj says:

      Thanks for this post, def what I needed tonight. I am in a similar situation. I was a single mom for 4 years and we were ok, yeah we didn’t have everything we wanted but the bills were paid. Then last year I married and after 7 weeks my husband left I was pregnant with another baby. Now, with 2 little ones, no child support, every day is a struggle. I have met with a financial counselor from my church to try to get some insight, since I felt like I Had cut everything… after telling her my income and basic bills, her reply ” I don’t know what to say, you have more bills than money and seem to have cut everything already” Any suggestions would be appreciated.

      • Allison says:

        That sounds tough. All I can think of is that maybe there’s a way you could earn some extra income from home? Since you have two young kids, that may not be possible. Anyway good luck!

      • Lindsey says:

        Not sure how you feel about this, but with the cost of childcare and two little ones needing it, I would suggest you really look into opening a licensed home daycare. I’ve run the numbers and if I did this I would only have to watch 4 full time kids to make what my husband makes in a year. Obviously we live off very little and without govt. assistance. You can even enroll in a food program that would feed your children during daycare hours along with the other children you choose to watch. Some women watch up to 10 or 12 children and make quite a lot of money doing this. We homeschool or this is most likely what I would be doing too. Praying for your family!

  • Chrissy says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I have found myself in the midst of a very tough season and I am trying to imagine how I can ease the transitions for my little one. Life is so tough some times, but it’s so good to hear that you have come out on the other side in a better light. It gives me a little hope when today I was struggling to find some.

  • Missy,
    As I read your story (with tears streaming down my face), I am reminded of a time in my life almost identical to yours. I too remember canceling the cable, not being able to do “extras”, and wondering how I was going to pay the house payment!

    Much like your story, God was ever so faithful during that extremely difficult time! Looking back at that time in my life, I know the only way I survived was because of the Lord’s faithfulness!

    Thank you for your vulnerability in sharing your story and encouraging us!

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