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Encouragement

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Encouragement

Over the past decade, there have been many years where I debated every penny of expense.

Our income was so tight that even "free" things were evaluated for the cost that they had. An outing to see something still cost gas money to get there, when we didn't have that money to spare, was definitely not free. The same went for a trip to the library; even though it is just a few miles away, it still cost money in gas. Every penny needed to be evaluated and every expense spared if we were going to be able to make ends meet.

Our income is again at that stage. A variable income can be up or down. It can be just enough, not enough, or more. 

You may find yourself in the same situation now or in the future. Perhaps you have major car expenses or medical bills. Perhaps you have had a decrease or loss of income. 

Perhaps you have all of these things right now.

As we have moved back into this stage of low-income this year, accompanied by a child's trip to the hospital, other medical bills, and some vehicle repairs, I have looked for no-cost ways to add joy to our life. We've been in this situation before and we know what we can do to bring joy into our lives without spending money.

 

 Gallery Wall Detail The Prudent Homemaker

 

1. Take Advantage of Free

When there isn't money for any extras, free deals offer a great pick-me-up.

Free Photo Prints

Many places offer free photo prints. Walgreen's regularly has coupon codes for a free 8 x 10 print (often right before a holiday). I've used these to hang photos in my house as well as to give as gifts. 

Many places offer 100 free prints when you start a photo account with them. These don't have to be redeemed all at once. Both Sam's Club and Walmart have this option for local pickup (so no shipping costs; online companies often offer this option to new customers, but you'll need to pay shipping).

Free Seed Exchanges

Some libraries have free seed exchanges, and there are many online sites where you can swap seeds (postage may be required unless you have a local exchange). Here's how I save seeds from my own garden.

Free Movies and Concerts at the Park

A community or city near you may offer free movies and concerts in the park. These are often held in summer, but in warmer climates, they may start in fall and include early spring as well.

Free Movies from the Library and Red Box

Looking for some fun family entertainment? Try borrowing movies from the library or using a free Redbox code. You may even want to start a tradition of a weekly family movie night. At my house, we do this each Friday night.

Free Magazines

Recyclebank regularly offers free magazine subscriptions for points redeemed after you read about recycling information on their site. 

Your local library is a great source to borrow free magazines; as long as it is a past issue within the last year of a magazine that they carry, you can check it out and enjoy it at home.

Free Gift Cards

Swagbucks is a way to earn gift cards by searching online, taking surveys, etc. I've redeemed points for Amazon gift cards, as well as a restaurant gift card and gift cards to Lowe's and Sam's Club.

$10 off $10 purchases that stores offer are a good way to find something you want/need. Use them on a clearance item to make them go further!

Friday Freebies

Kroger grocery stores and affiliates in the U.S. have a free product you can add to your card each week. You need to add the product online on Friday, and then you can pick it up anytime in the next two weeks. I like to pick up two at a time when I'm already planning on being at the store to save on gas. Around Christmastime, many of these freebies are for candy that is perfect to use as a stocking stuffer.

Enjoy the beauty around you

Watch a sunrise or a sunset; take the time to watch a bird or a bee.

 

2. Organize

Organizing your surroundings gives you a great sense of peace and calm, and it doesn't have to cost anything.

Tidy a drawer or a closet for a sense of peace. While you're at it, pull out anything you're not using and let it stop cluttering your life. 

Organize your meal plan. Plan out your meals using what you have on hand. Unable to shop? See my two weeks of pantry-only meals and two weeks of bean meals recipes.

Organize a schedule to accomplish more in your day. You can see mine here.

 

3. Sell Something

Sell something you're no longer using, such as outgrown/unwanted clothing, infrequently used kitchen supplies,  You can have a garage sale, sell on a local Facebook garage sale page, sell on Craig's List, or sell on Ebay (or whatever online sales resource you have available where you live). If it doesn't sell, or you don't want to sell things, you can donate your items to a thrift/charity shop, and quite possibly receive a receipt you can use to deduct that amount from your taxable income--which nets you more of the money you've earned come tax time. Even if it's just a little income, it's still an increase on something you weren't using anyway and the money can be used towards your needs.

 

4. Practice Gratitude

Write three things for which you are grateful in a journal each day (if you don't have a journal, search for a free journaling app or start one on your computer).

Thank people around you for the little things, even the things that they should be doing and/or do every day (such as thanking children when they do their chores).

Send an online message to a friend to thank them for their friendship.

Al Fresco in August The Prudent Homemaker

 

5. Make Every Day a Celebration

Use cloth napkins if you have them.

Set a nice table; if you have flowers or greenery in a garden, cut some to bring to your table.

Play card games or board games in the evening.

 

A Penny Saved The Prudent Homemaker

 

6.  Practice the Principle of Waste Not, Want Not

Use fewer utilities

Reduce expenses, even if you think you've already cut everything

Make soup stock with bits of leftover vegetables

Collect seeds from your garden 

Make breadcrumbs with the ends of your bread

Combine errands to save money on gas as well as give you more time

 

 

 Earrings 2 The Prudent Homemaker

 

7.  Make something over that you already own or use something in a new way

 

Turn an old pillowcase into a nightgown

Turn an old sheet into cloth napkins, a slip, handkerchiefs, etc.

Make broken jewelry into something new

"Necessity is the mother of invention."

Use a fancy cup or jar to organize something or as a planter

 

8. Serve Someone

It's easier to be happy when you're more concerned with the welfare of others than your own happiness.

Make a dessert from items you have on hand for your family--or a friend--and give it to them.

JustServe.org is a great place to find service opportunities near you. In our city, some of the service activities available include collecting clothing, school supplies, feminine hygiene supplies, and easy to eat food for homeless teenagers (there are over 2500 homeless teenagers in our school district); there are opportunities to serve refugee families by sharing household items you no longer need, tutoring refugees in English, etc.

 

9. Read

When you're focused on a story, you can enjoy a different place altogether. I find that reading fiction helps me come back to my own life with a bit more spring in my step and excitement for life.

 

Pink Rose Cupcakes The Prudent Homemaker

 

10. Learn Something New

There are so many free ways to learn something new, and learning something new can make you so excited about life, no matter what your circumstances. You can learn from library books, learn from You Tube, learn from a blogger, etc.  

Here are a few to try:

Break out your children's watercolors and try painting a portrait like this (they're super easy!) or follow some great tutorials on YouTube (I love this artist's channel)

Learn or improve a foreign language

Learn to draw or do a new art form (I have a page of simple art projects on my Pinterest board here).

Try a new recipe using ingredients you have on hand.

 

Financial trials are difficult, but they don't have to take all the joy from your life. Look for ways to have happy moments each day in spite of the trials of the day!

 

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You're Not Alone

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After I wrote my "Thank You" post in September, I received an outpouring of email from readers, telling me about their financial struggles.

I want to tell those of you who are struggling to make ends meet and to pay for your basic needs that you are not alone. You are not the only one who is barely getting by. Even though you may not know anyone personally who is going through financial difficulties, there are others who struggle with the same difficulties each day. They wonder how to put food on the table. They wonder how to keep the roof over their heads.

I am ever so grateful for those of you who have shared your struggles with me. It reminds me again and again why I am writing, and I rejoice that you have found my website and blog and are finding ways to stretch whatever resources that you have.

I am excited to hear about your opportunities to glean apples when you don't have money for food.

I am thrilled when you share the blessings from a friend who saw to your needs and shared of their abundance with you.

I am happy that you are finding ways to cut your grocery bills significantly.

My husband found a video the other day that echoed his feelings. It's a good reminder how important it is to be grateful for all that we have received this day. It's called Daily Bread:Experience, and it really made me think about the fact that today I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food to eat. Today I am warm and have my family around me.

If you're struggling to see the good, I encourage you to count today's blessings. Write down the good that you saw today. Tomorrow, do it again.

Be grateful that today you saw the morning come. Be grateful for each smile. Be grateful for each bite. Be grateful the tonight you have a place to sleep.

Count today's blessings. There was good in your life this day.



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Thank You

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When I started my website, the intention was to help others who are struggling as we have struggled. I never knew how many ways I would be blessed by my readers, however.

I didn't foresee the friendship I would make with a reader who lives in another part of the country.

I didn't know how many letters I would get from readers who are struggling and who are finding ways to keep going thanks to what they have learned from this blog and my website. I have had several of those letters recently from readers all over the world, and they have touched me so much. Thank you for those letters. They have encouraged me and helped me to remember why I am writing.

I smile when I get those letters. I know you are struggling. I smile because you are here, and it's a good place to be when you're wondering how to feed you family because your income has stopped or been cut so drastically that you don't know how you're going to keep going. I smile more when you find ways to glean food and to make presents for your family from what you already have.

On occasion, I get asked if things are better for us now. After all, it's been 6 1/2 years now.

Let me tell you about the real estate market in Las Vegas.

The electric company currently records 60,000 abandoned houses without electricity. These houses have not yet been foreclosed on by the banks. There are another 20,000 houses where people are still living but are behind in their mortgages.

If no other houses were to come on the market, at the current rate of home sales, it would take 17 months to get through these houses alone.

Interest rates are rising. Loan rules are changing again and requiring a much larger down payment.

Because banks haven't been foreclosing much, prices started rising. An artificial bubble started, as there weren't enough houses on the market.

Most houses are still underwater, and not by just a little. At one point my current house was worth less than 50% of what we paid for. (Our last house dropped in value by $10,000 a month for months before it sold, and then it dropped even more. It went from $350,000 to $80,000.) The artificial bubble (artificial because 80,000 houses that should have been on the market weren't), though, had house prices rising again, though not as dramatically as before.

The shortage of houses is about to go away. The number of houses on the market quadrupled in the last three weeks. The investors rate of return is going away. (Investors made up 80% of the buyers here the last several years). The bubble (much smaller than the last one) is popping.

We didn't have a sale in the last couple of months, and our agents (my husband is the broker and owner of the company with 40 some-odd agents who work for him) haven't had as many as they were having, either.

This means things get tighter.

This is why I know that sometimes, I won't be going to the grocery store. First we pay the bills, and if anything is left over, then we go shopping. If not, we eat from the pantry. (I get asked a lot about how we budget with a variable income. That's it in a nutshell.)

This week, a reader who lives in town, whom I had never met in person, emailed me. She is moving to North Dakota, and she asked if I would like to have some of the food that she's not moving with her. She hoped her offer wasn't too strange.

Of course I said yes.

She put out a bunch of things for me on her front porch. She couldn't meet with me, because she was on her way to her chemo treatment that morning.

She thought of me on her way to chemo.

Are you crying yet? Because I am.

And then a couple of days later she brought me some more things from her pantry and a few from her freezer. There was a little bag of frozen strawberries. Liberty asked for strawberry shortcake for her birthday. There is enough there to make one for her. I had to hold back the tears when I saw that bag of strawberries.

God is good.

If you've noticed my mention of staying home from the store lately, it's because I've needed to stay home from the store. Adding to my pantry at this time is a great blessing.

I want to say thank you to all of you who have blessed my life so much. Thank you for your kindnesses. Thank you for thinking of my family. Thank you for sharing.

Thank you for telling me when you're out of ideas for what to make with the little bit left in your pantry, and letting me rejoice with you when you find a way to put something on the table, serve a new frugal meal that your family loves, find that you're going to be able to stay home with your children and not need to return to work, and are able to make Christmas presents for your family when you thought this year would mean no presents for anyone.

Thank you.
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