You may look at our family now, and think we are flourishing, but for MOST of the last 14 years of our marriage we have struggled financially.
We spent so much time living paycheck to paycheck, checking the bank account each day, and always searching for ways to increase our income. Over the years, I have experienced so much discouragement and frustration over our financial state.
It is hard to go through years like this, especially when you don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. But there were some things we did that helped us stay encouraged while being in that space. I also want to share tips that helped us get out!
These tips helped us to have hope, and get control of what we wanted our life to start looking like, and I hope this will help you do the same.
1. Set a Budget.
This alone is a GAME CHANGER. At first, I didn’t think we made enough to even set up a budget. Our family was living on 1 income that wasn’t very high. It felt like we weren’t bringing in enough each month, but a budget helped us gain control of the money we did have. It helped us designate where we wanted each dime to go, and shine a light on some areas we could tighten up.
We looked up some Dave Ramsey resources to help us get started, and made a line for every category. We personally did the “Every Dollar Budget” . This designates every penny to a specific category. So, that random $20 at McDonald’s was planned into the “eating out” category we created. This helped us get a plan and stick to it.
2. Find ways to cut corners.
During this time, our grocery budget was SUPER tight. I would coupon every week, and plan my meals around what was on sale in the grocery circulars in the newspaper. I found ways to get cheaper meats, produce, buy store brands, and make meals that stretch.
I have a full article sharing many of the tips I used to really cut down my grocery bill HERE. This was one of the few areas of our budget that was flexible so, I found ways to take advantage of that.
This also applies to buying clothes from consignment stores, and searching for items we needed on Craiglist. When we received unexpected medical bills, I would sit on the phone for hours, and fill out tedious forms to get the amounts lowered. I put in a lot of effort to go the extra mile to save.
Yes, this takes time and research, but I made “saving money” my part-time job so that we could stretch the amount we were getting each month. If you put your mind to it, you can find ways to save.
3. Watch Your Circles.
It is so beneficial to have friends who you look up to financially along with friends in the same financial space as you. I think that so many issues come from comparison when you are in a place of struggling financially. Having relationships in all areas of life is so beneficial in general to keeping a level head.
Sometimes we would feel that everyone was progressing faster than us, and having a balance in the people we associated with put a lot of things into order. We realized we were doing the best we could do, and that we were still blessed.
If you only focus on people with more, it is impossible to see the blessings right in front of your eyes. You will spend your whole life wishing for more, and never be satisfied no matter how much you make.
4. Dream & Set Goals.
I’ve observed there is a key difference from the people who stay in a bad financial place or pull themselves out it and that is that they DREAM. They have a clear vision for what their lives could be, and don’t let go of it.
My husband and I would sit down on a regular basis and share our financial goals. It would be such an encouraging conversation because it made it feel attainable.
We would talk about our financial goals. We would talk about our dream travel destinations and even look up prices, and photos to picture ourselves there. We would talk about the home we hoped to move in and what it would look like.
These conversations are so important to staying inspired. Also, when you are on the other side the ability to look back and reference those conversations is priceless.
5. A Grateful Heart matters.
I would read books non-stop on gratefulness, happiness, and staying appreciative. This was one of the keys to staying joyful while experiencing financial hardship. I actually felt very grateful for the life we had. Even back in the day, in our small row home without a dollar to our name. I would find cheap ways to decorate, and make it cozy.
I would make “blessings lists” on a regular basis, where I would challenge myself to name 10 things I was grateful for, and it made all the difference in the world. Keeping yourself encouraged, and things in perspective is so important.
To this day, I still do those things but it makes all the difference when you have eyes to see how good God has been TODAY. Not just focusing on the future, and having your happiness based on those things, but being able to enjoy life along the way and the journey.
6. Have Faith.
This seems easier said than done, and in many ways it is. However, when I look back I totally see God’s hand in it all. Our finances changed gradually, and in His perfect timing.
There is nothing like struggling with finances that will make you rely on God. We realized that He was the source of any extra money we received, and that He would provide our needs every single day, and He would bless us in due time.
I prayed and prayed, and trusted and trusted. I knew He would give us a breakthrough, but I needed to keep my trust in Him. He would open doors for little blessings along the way as well. This encouraged our faith constantly. We prayed for the little miracles as well as big, and saw prayers answered time and time again.
When I prayed, I made sure it was specific. I prayed that God would help me to find sales in the store before I began shopping, I prayed for the house I now live in, I prayed for Him to help us pay off debt, I prayed for vacations for our family, or the medical bill I just received to be forgiven.
He was faithful to answer every time.
Not always in my timing, but He answered. He is faithful if you will trust Him!
7. Start a Side Hustle.
Through many years of struggling financially, I always had a side hustle. Some brought in $50 a month, some brought in $300 a month.
I was always searching for ways to pay a bill, pay off some extra debt, or increase our grocery budget. Side hustles had a lot to do with that.
I sold Mary Kay for a while, and did classes on the weekend. I did surveys online to make some extra money. I also did mystery shopping, where you can get paid to go to different stores/ restaurants and do reviews. I babysat multiple kids over the years as well to bring in extra. They all brought in some form of income. Some jobs more than others, but they were a blessing and helped us get a little ahead and stretch out the budget a bit more.
Of course the pages turned when I started my blog. I had many years of trying different things, and then I decided to try my hand at what inspired me the most: blogging.
And the rest was history….
I do make a full-time income now so, yes our finances have changed a lot. However, before I was bringing in this type of income, we still were living on a smaller income, getting ahead, and finding ways to stretch what we had to truly enjoy life.
We still felt blessed, and focused on what we DID have more than what we didn’t. This perspective was everything when pushing through the times when you feel like you can’t catch a break and everyone else seems to be succeeding.
I HELD onto my faith, and trusted that things could change at any time, and that everything would happen in God’s perfect timing. I focused on doing what I could do every day to be a good steward of what God had given us, and continue to dream and believe.
I will admit, at this point God has blown our minds way past what we even dreamedof. He did more than we expected.
Things can still change at any point for any of us, for better or worse so, every day we pray for wisdom on how to use what He has given us.
Stay encouraged friends, you never know what is around the corner.
I couldn’t of dreamed up how quickly God would turn things around for us. So dream, have faith, and make the best choices you can for TODAY, it will get better!
If He did it for me, He can do it for you!
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For more posts on finances, check out: “How we live on 1 income.”