“Ma’am, it says your card didn’t go through. Do you want to try it again?”

I could feel the tears starting to form in my eyes already because I knew that if that card didn’t work I had no other options to buy the rest of the groceries I needed for the week.

“Ummm, no sorry. I’ll just have to put it back”, I said as my voice cracked.

I hear a soft voice behind me at the check out, “I’ll get it hunny, no problem” she said as she slid the cashier a $10 bill to cover the measly amount I couldn’t afford at the moment.

I somehow managed a “thank you” before making it to my car to ugly cry and wonder when it would happen again. My husband had been out of work 2 months at this point and anything we had saved had been pretty much used up. I knew that I would keep running into a similar scenario each week at the store (or probably not even make it to the store) if I didn’t take some steps to focus on our budget.

Thankfully now, 10 months later, my husband is back at work after 7 months unemployed. And, while we are still working to get back on track after being in a struggling season, I know that if I hadn’t made the choice that day to get in control of our finances again we never would have survived… let alone actually thrived as a family, during this time.

 

When Money Is Tight 

 

When you are in a tough financial season you have a few options. Some people stay in denial and continue to spend because ‘things will work out at some point’, some people just go right to their credit cards for things, some decide to not spend anything at all, and some make a plan so that they can actually LIVE and not just survive.

Our months in this season were not easy at all, we had very few luxuries, holidays meant little or no gifts, and we had to give up some more exciting food choices to make ends meet. Luckily through this season, God humbled us to realize what we actually need in life, made us become closer as a family, and kept us on track to be good stewards of our money.

I want to share with you the tips that helped keep us afloat in hopes that they spark you into realizing that you can thrive during this time. You don’t have to be in the victim in this story, you can take charge and help your family make ends meet (or even get ahead).

Before I dive into those tips, I just want to give you my most important one that is to PRAY. God knows your needs and will ALWAYS provide. But you need to talk to Him, you need to ask Him for help, you need to humble yourself because you can’t always do it alone. Maybe you pray to have a way to get groceries one week and pass a sign for a food pantry. You might need to humble yourself and go get the assistance, it’s there for a reason and maybe that’s the sign God wanted you to have.

The other thing I want to share is that, during this time, we tithed 10% every single week. This money was definitely not the same as it was when we had more income but that’s why God only asks us for 10% of what we have. It’s personal and nothing to compare to anyone else. This came from money we got from unemployment and what I was bringing in from my blog and coaching services. Some weeks it was only $20 but we knew that that $20 needed to go back to God. Money is just something He lets us borrow while we are on earth and nothing we need to get attached to. Give back to the Lord and He always provides (may not be on our timeline but hey… it’ll came back around!)

 

How to Make Ends Meet 

 

Focus on your budget and track your spending

First things first, you NEED to have a budget. You can download free apps, create an excel spreadsheet or just use a notebook but, whatever you do make sure you are tracking your money. If you don’t know how much you need to make for bills you won’t know how to create an action plan.

Start with printing out last month (or even 2-3 months) bank and credit statements. Go through with a highlighter and categorize what spending you already have done. Make pink for eating out, green for kid’s stuff, yellow for groceries, purple for bills etc…. This will give you a great overview of where the money is going.

Next, go through and chart out all of the spending so you can see where you are putting your money. You can go through this list and start to see what you can start to cut out. When times are tough, or you just want to pay off debt, cutting out unnecessary spending is a must. Sometimes, we don’t even realize how much we are swiping our cards and where our money could be going.

Once you’ve tracked your spending, you can use this information to create a budget based on the bills that have to get paid (always priority #1), the spending that is a necessity each month (food, gas, diapers etc…), and what you can cut out to make ends meet. Stick to this each month and, while you are in this season, realize that luxuries are just something that have to go. Your kids don’t need a toy every time you go to the store and you can DIY a mani/pedi at home!

 

Cash Flow Life

Once you’ve created your budget, I highly recommend a cash flow system. If possible, do NOT use your credit cards at all during this time. There were times the past 10 months where we had to use a credit card for emergencies, like when my husbands car broke down, or bills that we couldn’t cover by cash. This is NOT ideal and if you can freeze all credit card use you’ll be in a good position.

This way, if you don’t have the cash for it (or in your account and use your debit card to pay online bills) than it doesn’t happen. This helped us take what I thought our grocery budget should be down to a place we could really stretch. We currently spend $100-$125 a week on all of our groceries, toiletries, and diapers and there were weeks in this season I cut it down to $50. You can read more about my tips on cutting grocery spending here!

Call the companies

If you are struggling to make ends meet or some bills are just out of control, your first call should be to the companies you owe money too. We immediately called our student loan lenders (ugh student loans) and got on smaller payment plans and some forbearance time while we figured things out.

You can call your cable company or gas company and see what they might have to lower your bill. I also suggest calling your auto and life insurance policies! We were able to drop almost $300 a year from our bill just by a simple call and filling in some paperwork. It’s worth the time to save the money!

If you are ready to pay a bill that you are late on, always call and see what they can offer you. Once my husband was back at work and we had steady income, we called all of our creditors to make things right again and almost every single one helped us lower a more reasonable monthly payment AND got rid of the late fees once we explained our circumstance.

Meal Planning

Meal planning is the #1 suggestion I give to moms when they tell me they want to save money. Meal planning allows you to eat out of the pantry and use up the food you already have (during our hard times I never got another box of cereal unless I couponed it for free or we had NONE in our pantry! The kids don’t need that many choices!). Meal planning helps you waste less food and get creative in the kitchen. I’ve done an entire series on meal planning on a budget that you can check out if you want to learn more about how to do it!

If you’re not sure about meal planning, the first two things you CAN start doing right away to see some financial gain is to stop eating out and bring your lunch to work. By packing just one meal a day for your family you can save anywhere from $15-200 a week depending on where you all eat! When I was a teacher, if I didn’t pack my lunch, my only option was the cafe across the street where I’d spend $15 easily on a meal for myself. I can pack 3 days (or more) worth of my lunches for $15!

I won’t go too much into eating out because I think you and I both know it’s a no brainer. If you are struggling to cash flow it, don’t do it! Spend time planning meals so you don’t have to and you’ll save a ton! For my family of 5 to eat out, we’d spend anywhere from $50-$100 each time and that’s just ridiculous! If you do choose to eat out, make sure you check out your local newspaper for coupons or find places where kids can eat free with an adult purchase!

Put yourself on a fun budget… but learn to say no

While luxuries were limited during this time for us, we knew we had to have some fun and live a little or we’d struggle mentally. It can be really hard to plan activities for the kids and your family when money is tight but I suggest you make a small fun budget. Maybe it’s just $20 a week that you spend to do something as a family but that little amount can go a long way! $20 a week could get you a trip for some ice cream, some rides at the local carnival, or a date night to the diner with your husband.

I suggest checking out sites like Groupon for discounts and deals and always plan ahead. You can also hit up the movies for a matinee when the prices are less or host a game night at your house and make it a potluck. I have more suggestions and a great list to get you started right here!

Declutter + Sell things

If your problem isn’t a spending problem but an income problem, you’ll have to find ways to make the money come in. The first thing I did was start to clean, declutter and organize my house. This way I came across so many things that I could get rid of (and outer order leads to inner calm in my mind!) and sell on the Facebook marketplace.

I love the marketplace for good finds and an easy way to make some cash. I suggest pricing things super low just to get them out of your house and pay it forward with a good deal. If you price too high you’ll never sell anything and, I don’t know about you, but I would rather have an extra $10 than hold out for $15 and get nothing at all!

You could also take all of that stuff and have a yard sale and hope to get rid of it in one fell swoop. Whatever you do, start to look around your home with a new lens. What are things you and the kids aren’t even using? Could they provide value to someone else? How much do you need this week to pay the phone bill, get some extra groceries, or that pair of sneakers your kids need? Use that as your goal for the week and aim to sell that amount. I can’t tell you how many times our sales from the marketplace covered things we forgot about like school activities, haircuts, or dog food.


Grab some side hustles

While you’re out there looking for ways to bring income in, I know it can be tough to find something that fits with your passions, the salary you need to make, and the life you live. Trust me, my husband was a school principal and I can’t even begin to tell you how tough finding a job that fit those criteria was for him!

While we were looking, I thankfully have my blog which brought in extra income though my e-courses and books, work as a health coach (email me at coachingwithcara@gmail.com for a free consultation!), and found some other side hustles to make ends meet.

I am thankful that working as a health coach helped me bring in enough money each month to cover our mortgage during this season. This way, a lot of the pressure was taken off my husband and we were scrambling a lot less. And luckily, since this was a passion of mine, I really was able to stay home with the kids instead of going back to work myself. {If you are passionate about health and fitness too, you can learn more about coaching here}

If you are in a tough financial period I first want to say that I’m sorry. I know how hard this is on your wallet, your mentality, your relationships, and your life. But know that you WILL get out of it. You need to just begin with being a good steward of your finances and taking control of what is happening with your money!

 

If you want to get started and more tips, head over and grab my Kick Your Debt to the Curb 5 Day Challenge!! And if this information was helpful, please PIN it or share it on Facebook!

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