My husband is a hard worker and a very good provider, but when the political climate at his job skyrocketed last fall it became apparent that a change had to take place for his health and the sanity of our family. We toughed it out for a few months until my husband finally gave his two weeks notice just before Thanksgiving. We didn’t know exactly how things would play out or how we would even survive. For the first time in our marriage, we were taking a GIANT leap of faith. Some called it foolish (we wondered if it was), but we knew something had to change. You see, my husband was about to enter his final semester of a 6 year endeavor to obtain his Masters of Divinity degree (96 credit hours). We were tired—no exhausted—and we had a new baby (our 3rd) due in just a few weeks. We needed to do whatever it took to survive that next semester which was already going to happen on very little time and sleep. Today, I want to share with you how God has provided for our needs over the last 7 months and counting, but also some of the practical things we did to survive. I hope there will be some useful ideas for frugality that you may be able to use too!
Here was our situation for…
Money coming in:
Even though there was no full time job, we were not completely without income. My husband drove limousine very part time, but there was almost no work in January and February.
My husband taught piano lessons to 2 students each week.
My husband tunes pianos occasionally.
My husband is in the Army Reserves.
God provided many opportunities for my husband to fill pulpit in area churches—one consistently. They then provided an honorarium which not only covered our gas, but helped with our overall income. It was also a wonderful ministry opportunity for us and we cherished that time.
I nanny 1 day a week, but I was off for my maternity leave in January and February.
I took advantage of Market Research Groups to make a little money and receive fun, free products to try.
How we prepared:
My husband purposely quit his full time job the beginning of December so that he could take full advantage of the busiest limo driving month of the year. He worked 5-6 days a week and we were able to get slightly ahead financially.
We also had a little bit in savings that helped.
I knew that we were about to have a new baby in the middle of a frigid winter and that things could change financially, so I gradually stocked up on EVERYTHING leading up to my husband quitting his job. We had a solid months worth minimum on everything except perishable groceries. I stocked up on toiletries and paper products, including diapers and wipes, to get us into the month of May when my husband would finish school. This made things so much less stressful and easier to survive the winter too.
I took advantage of some of the Gift Card deals around the holiday season where I bought gift cards to stores we frequented and then received another one back as a bonus. This was a fun and practical way to make a little money up front as we prepared.
I had bought almost all of the kids summer clothes on deep clearance coupled with coupons last fall, so we had minimal expenses for clothes. The last few items we needed, I found at Goodwill on Toddler Thursdays for $1-$2 each.
Things we did to save money:
We ate out less, but when we did we only ate at places where we had a gift card or there was a freebie. This helped us get through our gift card stash we had been accumulating for years and was A LOT of fun! Freebies abound in a big city, so we also had plenty of free family outings. Here are just some of the deals we got in on.
- My husband had his birthday during this time, and he and I are each signed up for about 10 birthday freebies. www.birthdayfreebies.com has a great list.
- Noodles and Company did an awesome promotion where you could bring in 3 non perishable food items per person per day for five days and each receive any regular size entrée complete with meat! We did this 4 of the 5 days and ate off of it for 2 weeks! Some went in the freezer. J
- Caribou Coffee often does BOGO days and there were even some free things due to their new Perks Program!
- Dunn Bros. Coffee did a BOGO
- Red Robin had various freebies and offers
- Kids eat free at various restaurants on certain days.
- Chipotle did a BOGO offer.
We were more mindful to ask for military discounts everywhere we went. Some provided amazing deals!
We took advantage of WIC and some local food pantries. It was amazing how many times God provided a specific food need through a food pantry item!
I’m a part of a Freezer Meal Swap Group, so we actually saved money by preparing large amounts of one meal and getting 5 others back each month. I’ll be writing a post on this soon!
LOTS of coupons and combining deals. We did a lot of shopping at Target where we combined sale items, Target coupons/mobile coupons, manufacturer coupons, Cartwheel (I LOVE CARTWHEEL!), deals where we got gift cards back and then paid with our Target RedCard for an extra 5% off. Yes, all of that in one transaction! We also did a lot of shopping at CVS for similar reasons and that was a place where I had gifts cards from the holiday season so my totals didn’t hurt as badly. After my shopping, I often submit receipts to apps like Ibotta or Checkout 51 to make a little bit of money back too.
We only bought items we ABSOLUTELY needed. I tried to wait as long as possible before buying and prayed to see if God would provide it another way. He often did!
For baby gifts, I gave an extra package of newborn diapers I had left from our youngest (since she loves to eat) with an extra new outfit I had or an inexpensive item I could buy from their registry with coupons.
For any other gifts, I found items where I could use coupons or combine it with something I had to still give a nice gift and spend very little. I also appreciated my Taget RedCard where I could save at least 5% and then have the item shipped for free if we couldn’t attend.
It’s also surprising how many things are free. We definitely haven’t skimped on family dates! There are multiple places where kids can play for free, free museums, free attractions, and historical locations that are free. Some are free all the time, others are free sometimes or with a military ID. We have actually had more family outings these months than ever before—and all for free! We were even able to get a free 1 year membership to the Children’s Museum!
Little things we did to save:
I used less soap in the dishwasher, when I washed my hands, in the washing machine etc. You really don’t need as much as is recommended.
I figured out as many meals as possible that used up pantry and freezer items.
I typically use about half the meat a recipe calls for—especially chicken. I also used a little less cheese and skimped on any other more expensive ingredients if possible.
I tried to use fewer wipes on the kids and be mindful of all other paper products.
I only went out if I had to and tried to do all the shopping at once. We became better about stopping for things that were on the way home from church.
My husband rode his bike as much as possible.
Ways we saw God provide:
Our neighbors called us on two different occasions to give us some extra food they had ended up with from their church food pantry!
We had a baby at the beginning of this time. We thought it would be a financial drain, but it turned into a blessing as MANY people brought us meals, freezer meals, groceries, specific items we needed, and LOTS of Target gift cards!
My husband graduated from seminary during this time. Again, we thought it would be a financial drain as I threw him a party and many extra expenses were involved along the way, but we were flooded with financial gifts!
Almost every time my husband went on a limo run during these months he received extra tips. This had rarely happened in the past.
People randomly gave us money! I still don’t know why exactly, except that God laid it on their heart to be a blessing to us and they were!
My husband received several unexpected calls from people asking him to tune their piano.
Above all else, the family time we have had during these months has been priceless. Our kids were at a point where they needed to see their dad more often, and emotionally, I needed my husband around sometimes. We had activities we wanted to do, and we have crossed almost every single thing off of that list. Money has been tight, and we have had to give up some purchases in order to have time together and a healthier, closer lifestyle. We don’t intend to stay in this position long term as my husband is actively seeking a ministry, but looking back on these months, I wouldn’t change a thing, and I praise God for the opportunity to have this time!