Saving Money When I'm Barely Afloat?
- Crystal Paine MoneySavingMom.com
- 2012 1 Oct
Editor's note: This article originally appeared on Money Saving Mom. Used with permission.
Is It Possible to Save Money When We Are Barely Keeping Our Head Above Water?
Recently, Audrey left the following comment on a post I’d written on my blog:
I know you talk about all these ways to save money, and anyone can do it, but it just doesn’t seem possible for us! I use coupons to save money, but even then we have no wiggle room in our budget for anything. We never have. My husband makes $1400/month (sometimes $1600) after tax.
I guess I just feel discouraged a lot, because we want so badly to save money (we don’t ever want debt), it just doesn’t feel possible. We’ve been trying for four years to save money and it just gets depleted because my husband’s hours get cut (which seems to happen to us a lot, no matter who he works for) and he can’t find more work. Any advice or encouragement for those of us who do rent because it’s cheaper, but have to use up more than half our income on our housing?
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We’re paying $900/month here (water, sewer and garbage included). That leaves $500/month to spend on the rest of our bills — phone, electricity, internet, etc. We don’t have cable (for obvious reasons), and we have a great deal on internet and phone, and I use coupons like crazy to save money on everything, but with our two kids (3 and 1), it’s just barely enough to get by (well, it’s not right now, we’re getting behind on bills).
I hate how broke we are all the time (and always have been). Thankfully, the only debt we have is a bill we’re a couple months behind on. But we don’t have a car payment (our old car is desperately in need of repairs though — I’m afraid the tires are going to fall off, but we can’t afford to fix it!), we tithe, we don’t have credit cards, etc. But it just seems impossible to set money aside for big purchases (or even little purchases, like getting the car fixed!).
I have no idea how to remedy this situation. I do odds and ends from home. I clean houses when I can, and that sort of thing, but that brings in an average of $25/month, and my husband is already burnt out working as often as he is. He’s had no luck finding a second job (he’s already working so much already), either. I’m just not sure how to get ourselves out of this hole!
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I wish you lived closer, Audrey, and I’d have you over and give you a big hug and sit down with you over a cup of tea to try and encourage you. I know how it feels when it seems like you’re working so hard and getting no traction. You’re wondering how on earth the ends are going to meet at the end of the month or what you’d do if your car breaks down or how you’re going to pay your utility bill.
Six years ago, that’s exactly where we were. And it was really, really hard. I’d grown up being taught to trust in God, but in those first few years of marriage, the rubber met the road and I realized that actually trusting God was a whole lot harder than it sounded.
The lessons we learned during those times of feeling pretty desperate financially were so hard but, oh so good! And we wouldn’t trade them for the world. It strengthened our trust in the Lord, it strengthened our marriage, it matured us as individuals, and it inspired us to learn all sorts of creative and entrepreneurial things we never dreamed we’d learn or attempt!
Here are some things which helped us to pull through that time and start making traction little by little:
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God delights in providing for those who trust in Him. Claim His promises. Pray His Word back to Him. Cry out to Him for provision, for wisdom, for guidance, for creativity, for open doors. Pray about the little things and the big things; nothing is too small or big for God.
And realize that He will never, never, never, no never leave or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)!
2) Stick To Your Budget
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Be very, very vigilant in adhering to your written budget. While it might seem like you’re getting anywhere, sticking with your budget will ensure that you’re not sliding backward or getting any farther behind than you possibly have to.
3) Realize That Your Attitude Can Make or Break the Situation
I wholeheartedly believe that you’re not stuck unless you choose to be. You can always be learning, growing, improving yourself, and seeking to improve your financial situation — even if it seems that your actual income is staying the same.
Have a cheerful, grateful spirit. Focus on counting your blessings rather than all the difficult things in your life. And determine, by the grace of God, that you are going to do all you can to make the most of your situation, to stretch your resources as far as possible and to use any extra time you have in your day to increase your income.
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4) Set Microscopic Goals To Begin With
No matter your income or financial situation, you can set goals, even if they are microscopic. You likely can’t save $100 this month, but I’m guessing that if you squeezed, you might be able to save $2 or $5 — or maybe even $10. Start there and set this aside in a savings account as your Emergency Fund (or however else you want to designate it) and add to it each month. Over time, you just might be surprised at how it will grow!
In addition, don’t just set goals for saving money, set goals for earning money, too! You said that you’re usually doing around $25 per month cleaning houses. What if you were to challenge yourself to bump that number up to $35 this coming month? And then little bit, by little bit, continue to bump it up.
I also recommend setting goals for improving yourself — such as skills to learn and books to read. Choose things which will help you be able to increase your income, make wise financial choices and which will encourage you in your current situation.
As always: don’t bite off more than you can chew. I’d suggest starting by setting two to four tiny goals each month. Once you accomplish those, add a few more. When you feel ready, increase the goals by a tiny little bit and then a little bit more. Setting goals — even if they are teensy-tiny — and then actually reaching them can give you enormous encouragement and you just might be amazed at the momentum it gives you!
5) Look For Any Extra Cash You Can Come Up With
What about expanding your house-cleaning business by contacting local multi-unit rentals to see if they need someone to clean their units when a renter moves out? Or making connections with realtors and asking them about cleaning foreclosed homes for them or having them recommend you to sellers who want to have their home professionally cleaned after they move out?
Think outside the box of what normal professional cleaners do and you’ll likely land upon some really successful ideas. Contact business owners and offer to clean their office space. Advertise your business on Craigslist. Offer a discount to your current customers if they refer you to others who then end up using your services.
You also said you have a blog and that you’re currently making about $2 per month off it. I’d suggest you try to learn and implement some of the suggestions on BloggingWithAmy.com in order to steadily increase that each month.
While some may disagree with me, I think almost anyone who is willing to put in some time and effort can earn at least an extra $50 to $100 per month by spending three hours of blogging each week. You already have your blog set up and running, so I’d encourage you to work on monetizing it and growing it — if it’s something you enjoy.
6) Improve Yourself
Seek to make the most of every opportunity to learn, to grow, to glean. Always be learning new things, trying new things and coming up with new ideas. Don’t be content with the status quo.
Read good books which challenge and motivate you. As much as is possible, remove negative influences from your life which just suck time and energy. Replace them with things that encourage and inspire you.
7) Don’t Give Up
Finally, do not give up. Your situation will not change overnight; gaining traction is not instantaneous. But if you’re willing to keep working hard, to keep experimenting, to keep setting goals, to keep pressing forward, to keep sticking with the budget and to keep going when the going gets tough, it will pay off.
Don’t lose heart! Keep looking to the Lord and asking Him to provide for and guide you. He is faithful and “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).
Crystal Paine is a wife, mom of three, author of The Money Saving Mom®’s Budget. Visit her blog for high-value coupons, online bargains, freebies, and practical ideas and inspiration to get your life and finances in order.
Publication date: October 1, 2012