It was only a few years ago that Austin and I shifted away from being a low-income family. We were living off of an Associate Pastor’s salary, which is comparable to a teacher’s salary. I wouldn’t consider us to be low income now, but our current salary still qualifies us for some state assistance initiatives.
When Our Finances Were The Worst
The most difficult financial period we suffered was in 2008 when we moved to our second church. We still owned a house in the town where we had been ministering.
We were given a parsonage to live in at the new church, but our salary included what we were saving on rent. Everyone said, “Well, at least you don’t have two mortgage payments”, which was not the case. The amount we were being paid in salary wasn’t meant to cover the cost of housing, because we were being given a place to stay.
It took us a year and a half to sell the place back in Virginia. Those were stressful times, but have prepared us for other seasons of our lives.
We’re Going Through Another Time of Financial Stress
If you didn’t know, we moved to the Dallas area earlier this year. We own a house back in NC that we simply cannot sell. Due to the type of house it is, banks don’t want to lend on it. We barely got loan approval to buy it ourselves. Not only that, the insurance company dropped us as soon as they found out the property was vacant.
Between the depreciation of the house, a major AC repair, the inability to rent it- we have started the bankruptcy process.
Letting go of that home is not what we wanted to do. We have invested several thousand dollars into fixing it up so that we could sell it or rent it. Neither of which is possible at this point, because we would have to come up with several thousand more to do either of those options.
More Than Just Making It, A Well-Timed Book
Right when we realized that we would need to let the house go, I received Erin’s, (from The Humbled Homemaker), book- More Than Just Making It. Since she started writing the book, I knew she was going to share her story of bankruptcy and financial heartache. I didn’t know how timely it would be for my family.
When I was sitting on her couch, visiting with her and Will back in February, I had no idea we would be on that same path a few months later. I certainly didn’t have an idea that bankruptcy would be in our future when I first talked with Erin over a year ago. I had shared with her some of our financial struggles, and she asked us to submit a story for her book.
When I was reading Erin’s book, I identified with many of the things she shared.
Here are 4 things she brought up that I related to in her book. I think most low-income families feel this way-
1. They Don’t Necessarily Have A Spending Problem
My parents have always said, “Keelie is so tight with money that she squeaks when she walks”. Regardless of that, we’ve had income levels that were so low, I couldn’t make it work.
Austin and I had an income problem. Erin talks about having an income problem in her book. She shares how she and Will met with a financial counselor that pointed out to them that they weren’t overspending, they just weren’t making enough.
Just because you have a full-time job, or two, doesn’t mean you are earning enough to pay your bills. There’s this idea that as long as you are working, you will make it. I’m sorry- that’s not true. If you aren’t earning at least a certain amount of money each month, you won’t pay your bills.
Austin used to say that he would work as many jobs and hours that it took for our family to make it. We put that into practice a few years ago. He worked around the clock. From 6 am to midnight every day, he was working one of his two jobs. Let me tell you something- he didn’t make enough for us to make it.
2. Your Trash Is Their Treasure
Erin shares a story about a church member giving them access to a persimmon tree. That tree was manna from heaven for her family. Fortunately, the church member found a good home for the unused persimmons, instead of letting them rot on the ground.
We’ve lived off of other people’s throw-aways, and in some cases, outright trash, for years. Every piece of furniture in my house has been given to me directly, or I’ve picked it out of someone’s trash pile. I call my back porch the trash porch because everything on it came from the side of the road.
I’m completely floored when I see what people are willing to throw away. Since we have been living in our townhouse, I’ve pulled so many things, new and used, out of the dumpster. If I can’t use it, I find someone who can.
3. Needing Assistance Makes Them Feel Bad
We lived on a bare minimum budget for years and years. Our income has fallen short many times. We have taken different types of assistance during different seasons of our lives. Having to rely on someone else to help take care of our family has made me feel really bad at times.
Austin and I have both worked in benevolence ministries. Between the two of us, we have worked in homeless shelters, food pantries (one is pictured above), and at camps for underprivileged kids. 9 times out of 10, the people that are coming in for assistance look ashamed that they are in a bad position.
I remember a family that came into the homeless shelter I worked at. They looked like a normal family. Their kids were in Tommy Hilfiger jeans, they drove nice cars, both had cell phones…yet, they were moving into an emergency relief homeless shelter. The mom sat right there in my office and cried.
If you just looked at the family and never heard their story, you could pass all kinds of judgment on them. Why would people that are wearing designer brands and driving new cars be signing up to live in a homeless shelter? Here’s why- they spent every dime they had moving their family across the country to take on jobs that immediately fell through. They needed assistance.
Of all the people I’ve given bags of food to, worked at the shelter, took care of at camp- I can only remember a handful that had an entitlement mentality. Out of hundreds of people, only a few weren’t apologetic of their circumstances.
4. They Don’t Know How to Change Their Circumstances
Austin was working as many hours a week as he could work and going to school with what was left. I couldn’t afford to put my kids in childcare to work. The only thing I was qualified to do was to be a manager at Chick-fil-a. Believe me, a fast food manager’s salary is not enough to put two kids in daycare.
For years, I tried to come up with ways to make money at home. Years. I tried so many different things, yet I failed. I had no idea how to change my circumstances.
Both of us faced severe discouragement over the years trying to turn the table on our finances. We are hard workers, good stewards of what God has given us, and truly determined. But….it didn’t matter for a very long time. We had no idea how to change our circumstances.
In 2013, I found work from home jobs that changed the way we do life. Even still, we are still very frugal. I coupon, go trash picking, buy clothes at the thrift store, and generally make do with what we have. All of the things we do now are the things I learned to do in our leanest times.
Erin has done an amazing job in her book with outlining exactly how to make ends meet. She talks about budgeting, eating well on a budget, thrift store and consignment shopping, and much more. Her practical approach is exactly the same methods we used to get through our financially driest days.
If you too are into money-saving mode visit frugaltrendsetter which will give you savvy tips and ideas that will help you to keep a tap on your monthly budget.
If you are in a place of financial distress, I highly encourage you to read her book. Not only do you get the practical tips on how to change your life circumstances, but you also get the perspective of someone that has been exactly where you are. I found it cathartic to read her story because I have felt the same way.
You can get it through the link below. I encourage you to check it out.