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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  1. These are such good tips. Some of the happiest times in my life have been during financially challenging periods.

    Brandy–what do you attribute your downturn in income? We are still in a real estate boom here in Georgia, but I worry that it is a bubble once again. I worry that we bought last summer at the height of the market and that things could go down in value dramatically.

  2. Lisa, as long as you’re not planning on selling anytime soon, you can wait out a drop in income. Prices are holding steady around the country right now, and a drop is not expected.

    The number of home sales (nationwide) was down considerably this year, most notably during the summer, which is usually when sales are highest.

    We personally have had a loss of our top-producing agents; one moved out of state, another accepted a full-time job elsewhere, and the others are doing about a 1/3 or less of their normal sales. Real estate is not a steady income, and we know that. That’s why we do our best to be prepared to weather the low-income storms.

  3. I will add one more to the list. Yesterday afternoon we took our dog Scooter for a walk. When we opened the drawer and pulled out the leash, he began to dance, prance, spin and jump. It’s hilarious and [b]free[/b] watching his excitement.
    Jeannie @ GetMeToTheCountry

  4. These things are so true! I think the most meaningful one that has worked the best for me over the years is cultivating the spirit of thankfulness. It really works, whether the trial is financial, or otherwise. Also, giving and thinking about others is right up there as well. It’s so important to not give in to despair, but instead to look on the bright side of things. It takes another kind of courage to do that, though, and I’ve know people who don’t choose that way to live.

    I well remember an instance over 30 years ago that helped form who I am. I was visiting a friend who was not financially well off. Neither was I. She spent the weekend I and my 2 daughters spent with her bemoaning the fact all day, every day. She served meals consisting of macaroni with tomato sauce over it. No spices, no cooking other than boiling the macaroni. Then…again..constantly commenting on how this was all she could afford, etc. I went out and bought a bag of groceries, but could not afford much, either. It was a great leaning experience for me. I thought “bologna!” I don’t have to eat like this, or act like it either. I continued to spend time learning to can, freeze, cook, etc. and stretch those dollars. I u-picked, learned to garden, and practiced a cheerful attitude. Although the weekend was rather painful to experience, I am grateful for the lessons I learned there–they’ve served me well for many years.

    I love this post. It is so encouraging and uplifting and holds truths that we all need to be reminded of no matter where we are in life. Thank you for sharing.

  5. This is one of my favorite posts you have ever written. I would like to say that most of these could apply to those dealing with sadness and grief. We are dealing with a wayward adult child that has broken our hearts. This has about destroyed our joy and our finances trying to help , but at some point there is only so much you can do both emotionally and financially. I will be reading and rereading this post.

  6. Brandy, I think I say this every time that I comment or write to you! You are an inspiration! Thank you for sharing yourself with the world! I’m sorry for the lean times you are experiencing right now. I wonder, do your kids even notice? I love, love, love your attitude. Nature and books could keep us busy forever, I think! I love how you create such a lovely space for your family! I’m truly grateful for your influence in my life!

  7. Sheila, you are on my heart today. We are in the same situation. When you have put your life and resources into your children, the lack of gratitude, or interest in you, from them as adults can be heartbreaking. I have spent almost a year in tears and depression over our youngest son. I am beginning to see some daylight but it is still hard to be around other parents who are bragging about the closeness they have with their adult children. Especially around the holidays.

  8. Thank you for a timely and meaningful post, as always. You write so well and obviously from your heart and your own personal experiences. We have prospered over time, but it is due to carefully managing our resources. We give thanks for our good health and the comforts we are able to enjoy today. We take nothing for granted and give thanks for each good day.

  9. I love this post, and would add that even when you have money to spend, these things are worth doing. There is such a pressure to consume during the holidays instead of produce. When I lived overseas for 5 years in a Muslim country, our Christmas celebrations were very small but meaningful. We had a gift exchange and the maximum you could spend was $5-$10. My favorite Christmas was when I visited a group of European friends overseas and we celebrated Christmas with a candlelight feast and European Christmas carols. I don’t even remember what I got for Christmas that year.

  10. Whenever I begin to feel my joy slip away, I stop and get out my thankful journal. I begin listing all of the things I am thankful for, no matter how small it may be. I also have started sticking post it notes with things I am thankful for in places I will frequently see.. my computer, my desk at work, my calendar, etc. No one else might see them, but I will and they make a difference. The one on my desk simply says “Thank you for the opportunity to make a difference.” I teach first grade in an urban school and there are days that I have to look at that hot pink sticky note and remind myself why I do what I do. It works!

  11. I agree with you Sheila…..one of my favorite posts too! I also agree about these helping with sadness and grief. I lost my Dad 6 months ago to a horrible cancer! We also moved my father in law in with us 14 months ago. So lots of grief, sadness, stress etc. I quit my job to spend my time helping our parents as much as possible. I agree with an above post about walking the dog…..I was able to rescue an 11 year old dog and walking her and just spending time with her are the highlights of my day! I am in the process of decluttering, selling a few things, donating things. Even if I can’t spend like I used to on things for the home a clean organized home goes a long way! Throw in some diy projects and I am getting the cozy home I long for.

  12. Brandy, I especially love your last point…learn something new. There are so many things that you can learn that will help during a financially difficult time. The feeling of accomplishment as you master a new task, understand something better or try a new recipe is such an amazing way to ward off feelings of depression. I love learning new crafts, but I also enjoy reading articles on how to live and cook frugally on Pinterest, which is completely free to use. All of this helps me feel like I am in control of my life. After all knowledge is power! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us.

  13. Brandy,

    I felt really uplifted reading this blog today. I have been disturbed by someone in our group who won’t do even a minor task (and one time over the next 7 weeks) because she doesn’t want to become over-committed. She told us this right after returning from a cruise. It happened to be right after the rest of us had volunteered for something and had worked really hard for the past 2 months. So it was like a kick in the shins to us. I was pretty discouraged about it and, in fact, was so shocked, that I was speechless which was probably a good thing.

    But when I read your blog just now, it was as if the worry just lifted from my soul. I am going outside soon and watch the birds,
    and breathe the fresh, clean air. Later, I am going to put on a pot of veggies and make soup. I will sit and appreciate the blue sky and think with sadness about how India is experiencing record pollution, how people in China don’t see the blue sky except rarely because of the pollution. I will be happy that concern with and actions about climate change may result in far less pollution and hope that children everywhere may someday breathe clean air.

    Thank you for your blog. It brings interest and happiness. Happiness should not be deferred but should be be a day to day experience.

  14. I literally list the things I am thankful for before I go to sleep at night as often as I can, especially when I am feeling anxious about money. I always pay the bills first and use the rest for groceries. This can lead to some pretty lean weeks but all in all, we are doing fine. God has blessed me with a wonderful husband and great kids. We have our challenges, but we have a home, it is clean and organized, everyone has what they truly need and no one is starving.
    I feel “alone” sometimes because I like to stay at home and cook and clean and I can’t go out to eat or shopping with my friends very often, but they understand.

  15. Oh I so needed to read this today!! Thank you for this post!! I will be reading this over and over again! We have a variable income as well. My hubby gets paid every other Saturday and it all depends on how many jobs he gets each day and they are based on a point system where points equal a certain amount of money. Some checks are great especially if he had a great two weeks, and others can be very very small if those two weeks there was hardly any work. I appreciate your website and your blogs so much!! They help when we need to cut back and help me refocus on making small changes that add up to saving money. This year has been very difficult and it just got more so this past week. And we know going forward it will only be more difficult since we now have medical bills that we have to pay every month.

  16. I grew up with a Dad who was a Real Estate Broker and remember the high-low income cycles. In the long run, though, learning to live on a budget was a blessing I’ve carried with me into my adult life.

    One organizing tip that I use when I have no money: completely empty a room, do a deep clean and then re-organize the furniture and furnishings using what I have already. It keeps me busy, cleans the house and costs nothing. Win-win-win.

    I’m always learning about new resources. This weekend, I learned about ‘Produce on Wheels’ in the Phoenix AZ area. They offer 60 pounds of fresh produce for $10. Anyone can participate.

  17. Such great reminders. For me financially it is health insurance. For 2018 my premiums are goi g to be$800/mos. That is half my paycheck every 2 weeks. As a single mom of 2 kids i make less than $40,000 yr. I am tired of living month to month and it gets very depressing. Thank you for your encuragement.

  18. We’re in a lean time, as well. We’re using the time to de-clutter the whole house and do all the minor repairs we can with what we have.
    We’re looking to downsize in the future/near future and we figure we may as well get started. Even if we decide to stay put awhile longer, there will be less stuff and all the little repairs will be done.

    For a little outside fun, we opened a geo-caching acct. (for free) and we’re hoping to do some local hunting. We have a wonderful park with a lake and the library located at one end. So, for a short 6 mile roundtrip, we can take a picnic lunch, watch the ducks, take the pup to the dog park, geo-cache, & stop at the library. To me, that’s a lot of fun for very little gas! We’ll be watching for some nice days….which means over 40 and sunny for a Kansas winter!!

    I’m also a jigsaw puzzle lover. And we love board games. Those are must-dos around here during winter. Add a bowl of popcorn and hot cocoa and it becomes a fun event!

    I always try and make a seasonal list. I find that the stuff I enjoy most costs little or nothing.

  19. Thank you so much for taking the time to compose this inspiring post. It really made me think and it inspired me! In fact, you always inspire me! I never miss a post.

  20. I’m currently learning to do hand lettering. While there are books that teach you, I have found free tutorials as well as simply copied work I’ve admired. It is incredibly soothing and fun to do and at very little cost – I usually use a regular pencil, a pen, or (if I’m feeling fancy) a crayola marker.

    My wedding is coming up and I’m trying to keep it low key but my dad has other plans and wants bigger and bigger extravagances (last time we talked, he wanted a five tier cake – for decoration!!!) and two weeks away from the wedding, the guest list is still growing. I’m blessed to have a coordinator who goes above and beyond her duties to help me manage his expectations. I am also able to keep within budget because so many friends and church members have offered their help from decoration to setting up to filming a video.

  21. Great post, as always!

    I’d like to add that the public library can a great source of free programming. I was at my local library today and there was an artist-in-residence, making art and welcoming people to try it out for free. There was parent/caregiver and child get-together as well in the morning for ages 0-9 months, 10-3, and 3-5 years with songs and story-telling. There were advertisements for learn-to-code programs for kids, learn to use a 3D printer programs for kids and for adults, and weekly STEM-based programming for middle-school kids, all FREE! And that’s just the programming that I came across today at the library, and I know for a fact that there is tons more. Not all libraries have as extensive programming, but all libraries will have some sort of programming. It’s definitely worth checking out!

  22. Sheila add us with this also. Heart broken Again and we did what we could because of the grandchildren and dogs but have paid the price of a broken trailer that can no longer be used (literally broke an axle) and spent money on gas that would have been for our gas to see grandkids next month when we have no income. PLUS added expenses of 2 dogs that haven’t had their shots or anything…

    I have Philippians 4:11-13 in purple (even though black is my favorite color) posted on my wall where I can see it several times a day.

  23. We live in the boonies. It costs us a gallon of gas to go to the local village and 4 gallons to go to town and back. No more Hubby stopping at village to pick up whatever I forgot to get at store on way home from work as of Dec 1st when he retires.
    No more volunteer for overtime so to have money to go do something extra, help a child or go visit anyone as everyone lives over an hour from us (we moved here for his work). This post made me stop and think. I have Philippians 4:11-13 posted on the wall where I see it all the time BUT even with all the planning of Hubby retiring and stocking of food/non food and money to pay bills …I had not thought of things to bring joy especially since we won’t be going to visit family as we planned after helping daughter.On top of replacing a trailer that broke an axle while moving her and the 2 vehicles and $1500 a month health ins.

    So here is the 10 I thought of.
    1. watching our dog and daughter’s 2 dogs play.
    2. Cook something new
    3. board games/puzzles (I even bought a couple “new” ones for Christmas for us)
    4. make meals a celebration,not hard to clean off the table, light a candle instead of sitting at a tv tray watching the news.
    This is the only time Hubby gets to watch the news when working it will be nice to sit at the table instead.
    5. I can load free books to my kindle. ( our library is just starting this so I need to stop and get signed up there also). Hubby is a HAM radio operator so he can “chat” with other HAM operators on the radio.
    6. start planning spring’s garden
    7. look at houses on line since we are looking to move. Best would be in between the kids/grandkids and parents instead of an hour away from all of them.
    8. Start making next year’s Christmas gifts
    9.Start researching for free things in this area.
    10. write on the white board what we are thankful each day

  24. Thank you all for your kind and thoughtful comments. I hope each of your situations will someday improve. I am sure many other readers can relate to these situations.

  25. Brandy, I just love you for always faithfully choosing the positive/faith/optimistic side of life. Especially when difficulties come. Those are the times that make us or break us, depending on our response. Positive or negative. Three years ago I suddenly lost my precious adult son. That is the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with. Sometimes the grief comes even in my dreams. Yet I find that if I think of someone else who needs an encouraging word and send them a card, or if I work on a project at home such as you mentioned it turns my grief into productivity. Without faith I could not do it, but the Lord is faithful. Even broken hearts heal with time and a greatful heart. Thank you for being such a light in the darkness for us all, and for making this a place where women nuture women.

  26. Thank you for your thoughtful post. Like several others, I find it relevant to all sorts of upheaval, not just financial. We are a family in upheaval. I could not recognize the link for watercolor portraits. Was it on the YouTube channel or should there be another link? I am interested in finding it for my daughter and I to do together. Thank you.

  27. Brandy,
    I would say you forgot one of the most important things from your list and that is reading your blog. It truly is a gift to each one of us. I hope you realize what an important service you provide to all of us. You enrich our lives weekly and we all appreciate it greatly.

    I think serving others is a great way to focus on something other than our current situations. It helps me.

  28. I agree with Holly. We get ours through our local insurance co. They do all the work for us for no fee. We’re able to get insurance for 00.00 this next year. We’re just a family of two making under 35k. (We always guess on the high side so we don’t have to make it up later.) It really could save you a small fortune, at least til it’s changed. Our agent told us it can’t be changed til 2019 because of the laws surrounding insurance co.’s.

  29. My husband and I enjoy watching TV, but don’t pay for cable (we have the cheapest Netflix $7.99 streaming plan.) We have a Roku device and an Apple TV device. Both were hand-me-downs from my parents and my Uncle when they were upgrading their devices. My husband follows most of the superhero-type shows on regular broadcast television and can watch them when he wants using the channels thru the Roku or Apple TV. We were very fortunate that these loved ones thought of us instead of just donating their devices or letting them sit and gather dust.

  30. If you haven’t already looked into it, your family may qualify for CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), which (I understand) covers much of a kid’s healthcare. It’s a government program, administered by each state. Just do a web search for it and put in your state information.

  31. Becky: I totally agree. There are always others worse off than we are in some way or another, and when things really feel desperate, just being thankful for the bare necessities helps. And helping someone else, even with a kind word, an inquiry as to how they are doing, makes a person feel better.

  32. Brandy,
    I agree with Kim. Reading your blog is a blessing. Thank-you for your post. It made me think about things I can do to make my husband happy and myself in the process. Little things like decorating the table with my best dishes and a table cloth to make a simple dinner seem special. Enjoying the outdoors. Enjoying the warmth of my apartment. Being content with what I have is a blessing.

  33. This is a wonderful post!

    When our income was cut by 75% three years ago, I made a “Not to Buy” list, listing things I did not need to buy in the foreseeable future. The list included our home (though we do have a mortgage), items of furniture (listed individually), dishes, cooking pot, pans and implements, garden tools, and the list went on and on. It really helped me see how blessed we are and how little we actually needed to purchase. Really when it came right down to it food, utilities, the mortgage payment, gasoline for the cars, maintenance we needed and couldn’t perform ourselves and a few clothing items as the children grew were it. Such a blessing!


  34. Excellent post, Brandy. I have been married nearly 50 years. Looking back on 5 decades of marriage, I can honestly say that some of our best times were our worst times. Our life together hasn’t been a bed of roses, but pulling together to make it work–whatever “it” happens to be–has always brought us closer.

    I was at a high school reunion last week. I grew up in a lower class/blue collar neighborhood. Two girls (yes, at 71, they are still girls) mentioned that they never knew until they were grown just how poor they were. I expect this applies to your children as well.

    Now, a suggestion for utilizing free things without added costs. Have your children go online and reserve books at the library. Then, ask your husband to make a stop on his way home one day each week to pick up the books. (You mentioned that the library is on his way). Some books will be immediately available; others might get picked up the following week. I agree that libraries offer many good programs, but when every penny counts, you still can read! BTW, I used to read books at night under the covers with a flashlight…as long as the batteries held out! LOL We lived a couple of miles from the library. We’d walk to the library and then, overloaded with books, take the bus home. (Too many busy streets to ride our bikes).

  35. So much depends upon where you live. In my county in Michigan, your kids would be eligible for Medicaid and, if you were 60, you’d be able to enroll in a Silver plan with a deductible of $500 and a maximum out-of-pocket of $1600 with a subsidized premimum of $378 monthly. Some Bronze plans would have a $0 premium after the subsidy but have a maximum out-of-pocket of $6650. Healthinsurance.org is a site where you can find out about the plans offered in your area before entering a lot of personal information information first so you can look at “what if” scenarios.

    I ate up much of my IRA paying health insurance premiums prior to the Affordable Care Act’s implementation to make sure I was covered while taking care of my elderly mom so I understand a bit of what you are going through when it comes to health insurance taking up such a giant chunk of your income.

    I am glad you have found Brandy’s website as a resource to help you make the most of the rest of your income.

  36. I´d like to add one thing that really brings me joy even though we have a lean time, too: surrounding ourselves with like-minded people! That includes your blog and several blogs of your readers, but also parts of our families and friends. It´s really uplifting to have people who just understand and enjoy the same, simple things we do!
    Especially with young children there´s much we can´t and don´t want to spend money on. It´s a huge blessing to have friends who enjoy playing games or going for a walk or to a nearby playground with our families.

    Serving and giving are two ways we learned to really enjoy, too. And learning new things – absolutely! I´m so glad we have internet and are able to improve our English, watch youtube-videos or pinterest posts… most times I don´t miss anything. Whenever I do, I try to be thankful. That´s something I focused on more recently, partly because of your blog.

  37. Brandy thank you for sharing this. Sending prayers your way for a change in finances soon.

    I find it so easy to isolate when I have financial challenges. Breaking my isolation is key to my mental health: telephoning or Skyping with friends and family brings me joy, attending/hosting a pot luck meal, and participating in a 12 step program.

    Writing in a journal – and going back to read older journals – helps me have perspective. I need the reminder sometimes about just how strong I am when times get tough.

    Finally – the separation of self-worth from financial worth is important.

  38. Sometimes we do that, but not too often. Recently, I’ve been downloading e-books, as has my eldest, and my husband is considering the audiobook download option.This means we don’t even have to go in for some things.

    Reading definitely still happens every day; we have a home library!

  39. Brandy- Your post is so beautiful. This one was such a blessing. In the season of gearing up for the holidays, I’m so grateful to think about and remember what my mother did to make Christmas truly special. When we were kids, she had a tiny wooden creche for Baby Jesus. Every day she would ask us what we did that day to help other people. If we had done something for others that day, we were allowed to put a little bit of fresh hay in the creche to make a soft bed for Baby Jesus. I think this program was started at our church.
    My favorite quote is: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Not sure where the quote is from or who said it, but I always try to remember that. Thank you so much Brandy for sharing your life and wisdom with us and for reminding us that joy is beautiful and free.

  40. This is a very timely post for me as I’ve been forced into an early retirement with debt that I had anticipated paying off before retirement – plus my pension will drop more next year once Govt. pension kicks in – one will only half replace the other – so it is time to get creative!
    I don’t drive but get a monthly transit pass as I live in a big city – although I am evaluating the kind of pass to buy as I think I can save a bit by making an adjustment – at least until I turn 65.
    I’m lucky in living in an area of town with quick access to 3 green space areas for walks, picnics, free swimming & tennis etc. There are also many wonderful libraries within easy reach as I am a voracious reader (although at the moment I am still working my through my huge stash of books that have been piling up at home).
    This morning I attended a free writing workshop – including a lovely catered breakfast sponsored by CARP (Cdn. Association of Retired Persons) and a media conglomerate known as the Zoomer Plex. This also includes a couple of radio and TV stations which also offer access to free concerts and tv programming at the complex – all with refreshments provided.
    The Cdn. Opera Co. has a number of short free concerts & talks during the week and we have 3 Universities which offer a variety of talks, exhibits & music evenings – and most are free. Where I live University courses are free after 60 – although you do still have to pay for books and any supplies needed.
    The city puts on many free events, exhibits & concerts – especially during the summer at Nathan Phillips Square (at City Hall) and down at the waterfront. On the 25th there will be a concert & fireworks as they light the Christmas tree – oh and the Santa Claus Parade is this Sunday and attracts around 100,000 people!
    Both the main Art Gallery & Museum have free entrance at certain times during the week and other museums are free if you take the time to get a pass available at your local library (but on a limited basis).
    The church that I have started attending is famous for their weekly free concerts & they offer other musical evenings for a nominal fee (as do many other churches in town).
    Because I have a transit pass I also use it to ride streetcars & buses to parts of town that I’ve never visited before (it’s a very big city) and getting off and exploring different parts of town is endlessly fascinating.
    At home I’m tidying & making it as comfortable as possible – one where I can have friends over more often for potluck suppers & games nights. I am also taking up baking again and I’m looking forward to working my way through some new recipes (while watching the pennies) – it’s something that I’ve always wanted to have the time for.
    And finally, I’m taking up writing again – I may get lucky and eventually sell some bits of work but even if it’s just for myself I want to give it a whirl.
    People sometimes need a bit of encouragement (or a wee kick in the butt) in order to look for things to do – it’s much easier to just sit home and moan. Thank you for this post Brandy.

  41. Maxine, your comment about not knowing you grew up poor reminds me of my own family. Both my parents come from very humble backgrounds. Only as an adult have I realized how “poor” my grandparents were. When I was a kid in the 80s we would go to visit my great grandmother and cook on the wood stove. We had chamber pots in the house (yes, in the 1980s, not 1880s). I had no clue that this wasn’t how all country folk lived. My great-uncle once told me a story that when he was 18 and serving in the Air Force, he surprised my grandparents with a visit (my grandfather moved to Windsor from the Nova Scotia countryside). As an 18 year old kid, my uncle thought my grandpa had struck it rich because he had a toilet in his house. This was in 1958. Anyway, I didn’t clue in to any of this until I was an adult. All I remembered was all the love and fun I had with my family. It never, ever occurred to me that nobody had any money.

  42. I understand the feast or famine cycle of real estate being married to an agent. Great reminder. It was gang busters this summer and just stopped suddenly. We always have a slow down after school starts, but this usually slow. I hope and pray for work for your husband. I love your website! It is a cup of cold water in a thirsty world.

  43. Brandy thank you so much for a wonderful post and I hope your families income picks up shortly 🙂 . It gives us food for thought on other ways we can save in general and keep a positive attitude which is most important in times of trials.

    We too are cutting expenses back as far as possible to save a good deposit for our home so all advice and suggestions are greatly received and appreciated.

  44. Sheila:
    I am so sorry to hear about your struggles with your adult child. Trouble can come in many ways – if your adult child’s problems stem from substance abuse, please consider Al Anon – a program modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous designed specifically for the loved ones of a person with alcohol and/or drug abuse. As they say in meetings “The program works if you work it – and you’re worth it.”

  45. I so enjoyed this article, thank you! I know all this stuff, but it’s so good to be reminded.

    We’re not in a time of low income (and I am so sorry that you are), but I always believe in being able to be happy without a lot of money. Then we can set aside what we have to be ready for those rainy days. You are the expert at doing this beautifully!! It’s always an inspiration. Thank you!

  46. Thank you Brandy and all the rest who’ve submitted both encouragement and useful Ideas. I happen to be in a belt tightening stage of my life.

    Some things I do which are either free to me or which reap mighty rewards are as follow. Weekly I partiipate Bible study at a local church with other ladies who share both similar and different interests and concerns. Twice a month a group of ladies from our church meets for board games and delight. We call it Play Day.There’s a weekly opportunity to play board games with other seniors who meet at the community center and a weekly ladies’ coffee at a local bank. There are occasional free concerts and performances at local churches (sometimes they feed me too). Don’t forget free community activities such as festivals and parades. There are opportunities to read with youngsters in the schools to help the literacy program. As a paying member of two programs, I get benefits. The Native Plant Society of my state provides amazing opportunities to do things while volunteering for free. Twice a month I join with others to dig in the dirt at a nearby preserve. We visit and share knowledge and plant materials while we work. Once I was privileged to attend Family Day at Bamberger Ranch, home of largest man-made bat cave. Hope to get to again. This weekend I plan to work on developing a specific kind of plant hike at the Gault Archeological Dig site. Again, I do these extra things for free. By having paid for another year’s membership in an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, I get the occasional free ticket to a Shakespeare play or to some well-done concert as well as many possible tours which are either free or low-cost.

    I pay attention, both by reading the newspaper as well as fliers and by listening and asking questions. It’s amazing what all there is to do at almost no cost. Volunteering wrks well for me. At church I join in the Handcrafters group which you might call a prayer shawl group and the Landscaping Team.

    Have you noticed that I hardly have time to clean house or read or even breath? BTW, I don’t have TV at all.

  47. We have a Christian health sharing group instead of insurance called Samaritan Ministries. My husband was out of work a few years ago and some friends told us about it. For a single parent with children you would pay 260 per month. (For a 2 parents family with kids it is 495/ month). The best thing is that for every “incident” which is an illness or injury, you pay the first 300 and the rest of the bills for that incident are shared at 100%. After your family has 3 incidents a year, that first 300 will be shared. If you go in to the doc, and the bill doesn’t reach 300 and you are better, then you just pay that and move on. Plus, when you call Samaritan to start the health sharing process, they pray with you for the ill person! Then once the bills are submitted, other members directly send you a check and many send a card with encouragement. I cannot begin to tell you how much LESS we pay for our healthcare and what a lovely process it is to deal with this organization, rather than fight an insurance company. My husband’s employer offers insurance, but we have stuck with Samaritan.

    The other wonderful part of Samaritan is that YOU choose whatever Doctor/facility YOU want to go to. AND you and your doctor decide what treatment/test/procedure/medicine you have to take care of your problem. There are no restrictions in this regard and that is very freeing. We mostly see integrative medical doctors and have had acupuncture, supplements, and other health treatments paid for that would NEVER have been paid for by an insurance company. My 17 yo son sustained a concussion in Oct 2016 while playing football and has had pain ever since. In January, we will be going to a clinic in Canada for 2 weeks and then a clinic in Colorado for 2 months to get treatments that would never be covered by an insurance company. I cannot begin to tell you how it feels to have that available to us at this time. The doctors here haven’t been able to do anything for him.

    The only thing with Samaritan is that if you have a pre-existing treatment, it will not be covered. One of my sons was pre-existed for a problem, but after he had no treatment for 2 years, that is gone. I also have a pre-existing hypothyroid condition, but it has been under good control. The one time that I got very sick with the flu and just wasn’t recovering, my doctor did a lot of labs, supplements, homeopathy and found out that my hypothyroid had been triggered by the flu. Well ,even though my hypothyroid was pre-existing, since it was the flu that caused this episode, Samaritan covered everything but 300 (including the supplements and homeopathy.

    If you do have a serious pre-existing condition that would preclude you from joining, I have a good friend that had the same issue and her family joined Christian Healthcare Ministries (chministries.org) and they have been very happy. CH ministries does not cover things like supplements and homeopathy, but it’s a great option if you have a pre-existing condition.

    Please look into these for your family! Health insurance rates are crazy and when one of my sons was sick several years ago, the insurance rejected many of the treatments that we tried, including the one that cured him. I was a single mother for a few years with my oldest son and remember the days of just getting by. God bless you!

  48. I just posted a reply on another’s comment about health insurance. Please check out Samaritan Ministries (Samaritan.org) or Christian Healthcare Ministries (chministries.org). We have Samaritan and love it. If it’s just you and your husband, it would be 440 per month and it covers so much more than any insurance. If you have a serious pre-existing condition, then look up Christian Healthcare Ministries.

  49. Brandy..thank you! I needed to read this. I’ve been overburdened and overwhelmed since our son’s dyslexia diagnosis. Since we made some schedule changes and the doctor realized I’m anemic, I’m starting to regain my footing…this post motivated me.

  50. I was highly impressed by the number of homeless in your area. I suppose many are there because of the warm winter weather. No one is moving to Buffalo at this time of year! Are there other reasons for the high homelessness? Apparently Buffalo is doing a lot lately to house the homeless and the TV news said the other night that they are down to 8 truly homeless people at this point. I don’t really know the population off hand but I’m guessing at least 50,000. That seems like a very low number. They must not include the people who regularly stay at the City Mission or other places that are available. It’s literally life threatening to be outdoors overnight in this area in winter. But your summers are equally bad. Do they all spend their days at the library? When I was a young military wife, I often spent the afternoon at the city library, where I could enjoy air conditioning at no cost to me! I found a lot of recipes to try and lots of interesting books and magazines to read and it was a short walk from our apartment. We have “Code Blue” in this area when temperatures are expected to be very cold and they literally pick people up off the streets and take them to shelters. There are also various organizations who hand out sandwiches, hot drinks. socks, gloves, etc. in cold weather. Some homeless people won’t stay at the mission because people steal what few things they have while they are sleeping–although they do have clothing available if it is needed at no cost.

  51. Kim so true about this blog and Brandy. I read it when I get up and then when Hubby gets home we talk about what I ‘ve read.It’s a positive conversation so starts the whole day on a positive note for me and ends the day on a positive note for Hubby as he works 3rd

  52. I second trying All Anon for families of alcoholics. I attended it during college when I had immense guilt about leaving my mother in her depression and alcohol with a marriage that was falling apart to my stepfather. It helped me see that I need to take care of myself and my own emotional well-being. I was not being a service to anyone if I was sad all the time. Now I have my own family and realize even more the importance of maintaining positive emotional health over all other things such as earning more $ or working harder to achieve more recognition. Children of alcoholics more often become academics or tend to intellectualize things is what I learned. So being in touch with your feelings and giving them validation is important. My heart is with those families dealing with addiction.

  53. I know a woman here who helps the homeless as part of her job. She said one of the main reasons for people coming here is that when they are escaping a domestic violence situation, flights to Vegas are the cheapest available. They need to get far away from where they’re at, so they come here. They think there is work (I don’t know why; we had the highest official unemployment rate in the nation a few years back; it was over 25% officially; it’s not that now but it’s not great). They don’t come with the intention to be homeless, of course. But things happen–jobs don’t come about, and they have nothing. Also, a large number of people lost their homes here during the recession. It started here (house prices started dropping drastically a year before the official start of the recession) and 1 in 7 houses went into foreclosure during that time. Construction is just now starting to pick up again, and many people were involved in that industry here, as before the recession we had the two fastest growing cities in the nation. They couldn’t build schools fast enough to keep up with the rate of growth at that time.

    The NPR article about homelessness that another reader linked in the comments is interesting. It says there are over 115,000 homeless children in New York currently. It also gave some reasons for increases homelessness in the nation. It’s doubled in the last decade–not a surprise, given the recession.

  54. Hi Brandy! I really enjoyed this post and will be sharing a link to it within a post on my blog, Poofing the Pillows, next Monday. A friend and I are sharing ideas for positive living next week and your post fits perfectly. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

  55. Love this post, as I have have many medical bills, and insurance payments, lately. Work has been extremely stressful, more so than normal. I am, however, grateful for what I have.

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