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Less Coming In, More Contentment


During the month of October, I’m following along with Edie & Ruth on their 31 Days of Less & More journey. I’d love for you to join in by reading the posts and completing the projects, or just sit back and read along each day.

Less Coming In, More Contentment

Jesse was going through old financial statements not too long ago and we were aghast to read the numbers. During the first year he was in law school, there were six months when we made less than $900 — and some months it was as low as $650. I recall that season of our lives fairly vividly, but seeing those numbers on paper again after a number of years have past was a shock to our systems.

Our rent alone during those months was over $500. I’m still not sure how we made it on so little! No wonder we rarely ate meat and did so many other pretty “extreme” things. (Yes, we had money in the bank to cover most of law school, but that money was locked up in CDs and we’d both decided that it would be untouchable to us except in the case of a dire, life-threatening emergency.)

Our commitment to live within our means and stay out of debt was hard. There’s no doubt about that.

I remember we’d pay our tithe money, our rent check and our basic utility bills and then we prayed that somehow the rest of the money would stretch until the next check would come in. How we were going to afford basic necessities was constantly looming over our heads.

And yet, those months were some of the most precious and memorable in our lives. We saw God provide for us in amazing and unexpected ways. We learned to be wildly creative. We were forced to be incredibly entrepreneurial.

Most of all, we discovered that contentment is a state of the heart, unaffected by outward circumstances.

We didn’t have money to buy anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary. And often, we didn’t have money to buy even what seemed like a necessity.

It was so good to learn that stuff doesn’t buy happiness. It’s easy to say that, but living it really solidified it for us.

I tested and tried out the theory — out of necessity — and I learned that it’s really true. You can be wildly fulfilled and content even in the leanest times.

To this day, even though our financial state has changed a great deal, I just don’t spend much money. Because stuff is just stuff. Time with people and making memories matter so much more than the things we own.

Contentment is a choice. So choose today to bloom where you’re planted. Choose to make the most of whatever situation you find yourself in. Choose to stop focusing on what you don’t have and start being thankful for the many blessings you do have.

And remember, no matter what difficulties you might be dealing with today, somebody else would love to be in your shoes.


For more on this topic, check out Ruth’s post on Less Coming In and Edie’s post on More Contentment. I promise you’ll be inspired and blessed!

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  • Jessica says:

    Very, very true. I grew up in a working poor home. My parents worked in a non-union factory making minimum wage. They also cared for my younger, severely handicapped sister, who was born when I was 3. She’s deaf, blind, and profoundly mentally retarded (she’s 31 now). We lived in Michigan. Some years I didn’t have a winter coat that fit, and I remember one year, its zipper broke, mom didn’t have a sewing machine and didn’t think to ask around if anyone else did, so I couldn’t zip my coat shut. My shoes often had holes or they pinched my feet if I outgrew them before my parents could afford to replace them. We ate one meal a day, not usually a healthy one either, but it was food. I got free lunch at school. Christmas gifts were from Grandma or from church ladies. My parents had a hard time with monthly bills- they paid them and never got behind, but it also meant that the furnace was set to 50F in the winter. I slept with quilts, comforters, afghans, polyester blankets, a hat, flannel pjs, mittens, and socks on. Our house was old and poorly insulated in the upstairs- so in the summer it was too hot to sleep up there (no a/c either). The only time I remember being discontent would be when other kids at school made fun of me (starting about middle school) because I didn’t have whatever clothes or shoes were “cool” at the time. Around then, I started babysitting for a neighbor and then I had to start buying my own clothes, shoes, and toiletries at about the age of 12. It taught me the value of money and budgeting from that very early age. I still have a hard time spending money on “wants”. Now that my husband, our three kids, and I are in a solid financial state, I give generously to local food banks and our outgrown clothes are donated to community centers, likewise linens and other accepted goods. Instead of cooking a big feast for my kids’ birthdays or during the holidays, I spend the same amount of money and hit the stores with my coupons, or I donate the cash. I vividly remember what it feels like to have a hungry tummy and to be freezing cold in the winter. When I start to get annoyed about my house or things like that, I think about how much better I have it than I did as a kid, and how much better I have it than billions of others in this world and that shuts my whiny self up!

    • Kathy says:

      Your story moved me to tears. Thank you for sharing it, and reminding us how bad it can be for so many people and how important it is to GIVE. So many times I think ‘well, they’re getting donations from somewhere’…but that somewhere should be ME!

    • Emily says:

      I agree. I was also moved to tears. I never wanted (let alone needed) for anything in my whole life, and my family and I are in the position that my children will never know what it feels like either, as all their needs (and many of their wants) are fulfilled. What a good reminder that it isn’t that way for so many out there and that I need to be more involved in helping those who so desperately need help. THANK YOU!!!

      • Crystal says:

        Thank you so much for sharing.

        “When I start to get annoyed about my house or things like that, I think about how much better I have it than I did as a kid, and how much better I have it than billions of others in this world and that shuts my whiny self up!”

        Perspective makes such a big difference, doesn’t it? Such a great reminder!

  • I agree that stuff doesn’t buy happiness and that living it does solidify the fact! When we went from two incomes to one several years ago, it was actually a relief to not be tied to so many “things.” 🙂

  • It’s beautiful how you were so faithful for so long and now God has blessed and rewarded you! Whoohoo! (Insert hallelujah dance here.) 🙂 Go Jesus!

  • Lisa says:

    amen sisters oh how we love to give it blesses you so much more than receiving .

  • Ginger says:

    So inspiring! Isn’t it crazy to look back at was a reality not all that long ago, and see where the journey has led? 🙂 We didn’t get to talk about it recently, but your early blog and money-saving tips were also a HUGE help to me! I pinched and saved, stretched, and did without – but it didn’t really FEEL like doing without.
    Things are nice, but they sure don’t bring peace. 🙂

  • Lana says:

    Well said! I have found that spending money on experiences and memories is far more valuable. On the rare occasions that all of our family is home we have a great time spending money on a nice breakfast out or admission tickets to an outing then having something new. We recently saved up and paid cash for new kitchen appliances and it was not exciting at all. They were just necessary replacements. It felt odd because 20 years ago I would have been so excited about it.

    We have also been through times when we saw God supply our needs so abundantly that we had way more than we needed. My husband was unemployed for several months 25 years ago and friends just kept bring us food until we had it stacked on our counters and around the walls in boxes. He supplies our needs above what we could even ask.

    • Crystal says:

      “We recently saved up and paid cash for new kitchen appliances and it was not exciting at all. They were just necessary replacements. It felt odd because 20 years ago I would have been so excited about it.”

      It’s interesting how time and perspective changes things, isn’t it?

  • Sandy says:

    Thank you for the reminder. A year ago at this time I was unemployed. I had to live as meagerly as possible, utilizing my savings to survive. I got a part-time job in February and was grateful to receive health insurance as a benefit. I was able to eliminate the $810 a month premium I was paying for private insurance, but the income I received did not cover all of my expenses, and so, turning to my savings continued. I did nothing which would cost even the smallest amount much less make a purchase for myself. I made due with what I had. In July, I received full-time employment with paid health insurance and not only am I able to pay all of my bills, I find I spend money on things I wouldn’t have dreamed of considering the 6 months prior. Your post has reminded me to revert back to my original plan; to strive in getting back to solid ground.

  • Susan in St. Louis says:

    Thanks for this reminder! My husband was laid off from his (very well-paying) contractor job this week, and we are watching to see how God leads us next. I think this season, however long it ends up being, will be a good reminder for me/us that we really and truly don’t NEED a lot. In fact, I kind of feel grateful for the reminder being forced upon us.

    That said, it’s also a challenge…a baby due in two months and getting our house on the market shortly thereafter, with a possible short-term relocation. 😉 We’re looking forward to seeing how God works out the details in the coming year!

    • Crystal says:

      Trusting Him to give you peace and you seek His clear direction. It’s hard to be in a place where you can only take one day at a time. And yet, it’s such a good, faith-building place to be.

  • Mona says:

    I remember looking at statements from when DH & I were first married. I couldn’t believe we made it on so little! It really made me think about what had changed and why we seem to think that we need so many extras – satellite tv, eating out, smart phones, etc. I’ve been on a purging fit lately, but there’s still so much stuff even though we’ve really cut down on the stuff coming in (having a smaller home helps!).

    BTW, I’ve loved this series!

  • Crystal, I just love your story. It’s such a great testimony to God’s goodness and faithfulness. It encourages me each time I hear. God is faithful.
    I recognize that in our family’s life right now. Each little blessing comes from above. I’ve noticed over time how much more content I am becoming in this season in our lives of living on less.

  • Uma Selvam says:

    Totally agree with the last sentence.

  • Nicole says:

    Love this! We’re in a lean time right now and we have seen God provide so much, it’s a great faith builder. Thank you for posting your experience.

    Nicole @ WKH

  • sona says:

    Crystal, do you have a hyperlink that lists ALL of this series? And perhaps one that lists the subjects too? I am behind in reading and having it hard to find all the series here and at the other two sites. thank you for any help.

  • Jen says:

    Loved the post! We have been church planters and missionaries and have been the Lord provide for us so many times when we didn’t have enough money to pay our bills. I pray about all our basic necesseties and have seen the Lord answer in so many ways!

  • Amber says:

    The last line of this post will be my new motto for November. It hits home sometimes that our “little” would be the world to someone else. Thanks again for the reminder of what, or who rather, is most important 🙂

  • claudia says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Today was one of those feel sorry about my circumstances day:( We have two decent incomes but we’ve made previous bad decisions and focused on “stuff” today we find ourselves recovering from the two worst weeks of our marriage. We vowed to never do that again and spend wisely, after the last 15 days. However, today all bills were paid and there is very little left for the next weeks. I thought about the young girl at the bank and our conversation as I was making the money orders for rent, daycare and car payment. We talked about how she was just starting off and kept asking me where I worked because she was impressed with my paycheck, then we quickly saw the checking account come down drastically, yet she continued to talk to me about wanting to go back to school so she could get a job where she could get paid well, work Mon- Fri and have vacation time. I let her know that I could help her find a school and that she could do it. I had to smile to myself and thank God for putting this young lady in my life and remind me of what I do have. Now I read your blog and have to say, “God I get the message” and I’m at peace with my current situation, it’s not permanent!

  • leah says:

    Lately, I feel like the widow with the cruse of oil that never ran dry. With our new house payment being almost half our income and four little ones, I am constantly in awe of how God provides.
    My baby is seven months old now and we moved four months ago to our new home, after our landlord gave us notice to quit for having too many children. I was quite a mess that day, being eight months pregnant and all, but the Lord took us through everything .
    Tuesday is our eight year anniversary and looking back the Lord has brought us through so much. We rarely buy each other gifts and vacations are out of the questian for now, but we have more than many in other aspects and for that we are grateful.
    Now I pray for help with my house and children as I have been dealing with postpartum on and off. There are so many ways the Lord has bless me, it would take a book to fill, but tonight I broke down and was sobbing because I had so many things that needed done and the baby wouldn’t stop crying. He has a cold and wants to nurse round the clock and it has drained me. That’s just when I feel most overwhelmed and everything seems like it is going wrong but that’s just a lie of the Devil. We still sometimes half to choose which bills will get paid each month but all in all we are very blessed!

    • Guest says:

      Hang in there Leah! Praise God He is faithful to help you. Wish you lived in south Texas would have loved to help in any way. Praying for you and your family.
      Psalm 68:19

    • Jenny says:

      I have lived the hard times my entire life. I am now in my 60’s and it is not getting any easier in fact it is getting harder. My teeth are giving me health problems and there is no way to fix them. My health is giving me issues and no money to go to the doctor. There are nights I hope I die in my sleep.

      Life is hard, It should not be but it is.

      Sometimes it does feel like the Devil wins.

      • Guest says:

        The devil will win if we allow him too! I don’t know where you live but there are resources out there. Call churches and other local agencies and explain your situation. They might be able to refer you to someone. So sorry life has not gotten better. Living is difficult but God has given us HOPE. Do you have family who can help? Praying for you and wishing Gods guidance.
        Psalm 68:19

      • Cate says:

        Jenny, I will pray for you. I wish I could help you out financially but we are extremely low income ourselves after I had to go through two rounds of radiation in two years. Our local hospital paid for my radiation or I would not have been treated. Is there some lower income program you can check into for the doctor visit? You can ask the clinic where you go….they provide for the lower income here. The dental thing, that is hard. There seems to be nowhere in our state that provides for dental care unless you are a child….not fair to older people. I wish I could hug you and tell you that things will be all right. There is always a way to get help…first start with God, ask Him for help and then listen as He guides you. Try every avenue you can and I will continue to pray for you.

  • I too look back on a lean financial time in my life and am constantly amazed out how God provided for me. Along with wondering how I was going to pay the house payment, I remember times when I had to pull items out of my grocery cart because I couldn’t afford everything I wanted, or only put a few dollars of gas in my car because that’s all the money I had! But, God was faithful and I’m so thankful that His mercies were new every day!

    I definitely think going through lean times in our lives help us rely on Him more than ourselves! And you’re so right Crystal, “stuff is just stuff.”

  • Lisa says:

    Some of my fondest memories are of the early years of my marriage, when we had a little black and white TV, and we ate a lot of hamburger (which is much more expensive now than it was then). We didn’t have a lot, but we were content.

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