Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Happily poor(ish)........

Like many of you, I appreciate reading about other’s experiences as they attempt to raise their families in the way they should go. I like to read homeschooling magazines, Christian education articles, joyful homemaking magazines, etc. But I would like to see a book written to encourage those who are attempting to do these things with a SMALL budget.

I want to know how the qualifying-for-state-healthcare income level family does multiple children and one income living with graciousness. Let’s hear about stretching the budget to fewer than $400 per month for groceries and consumables (family of 5). What about home schooling in the pages per day style, while not paying $16 for workbooks? Speak on staying content with the Goodwill (almost too spendy now) or garage sale finds. Please, anyone out there on a SMALL income, tell your story. It is just as important to others as the stories of large blessings.

It seems that part of the problem is our cultural (yes, church people too) definitions of success. If you own your home and 10 acres outright, can afford to buy new clothing, and NEVER shop at the Dollar Store or Walmart, then you are a success. However, if you are a family who loves the Lord, and the husband is providing for the daily needs of the household, you shouldn’t feel ashamed to not have $600 per month for health insurance or to live in an apartment. Being poor is not a sin. Living in an old house with wavy and scratched up wood floors is not wrong. Accepting the Oregon Health plan in order to afford a hospital birth is not wicked. Wearing the same pajamas for 8 years is not evil, just a bit depressing at times.

Don’t get me wrong, all those aforementioned lovely things are AMAZING blessings from God, they are just not my blessings. I’m very glad that some of you out there have 2 washing machines and/or freezers, and can afford to buy new clothes for your oldest/biggest child every fall and spring, but I need encouragement from those who have gone before. Let's hear from the veterans of traversing the way of JOYFUL poverty, wearing the same clothing to church every other week, eating Raman soup for lunch and dancing before the Lord in their second-hand shoes …. :-D


  1. I wouldn't begin to put myself in the "poor(ish)" category, but we do operate on a tight budget and I can relate to some of the things you're talking about:

    Goodwill too expensive? Check.

    Garage sales for most of our stuff? Check.

    When the kids finally come, our family of 5 will have about that much for groceries, and that will be pushing it. We shop at Costco [smile].

    I get a few new polo shirts for Christmas, and flinch every time I see the price of jeans (so I get them on sale, but even then...). And that's about all I wear.

    I now have health insurance through my job--which is great because that means we can continue in our adoption process. But we didn't have it for years, and there was no way I could afford it before now.

    I can still wear the six Sunday shirts that I've had since before college, so I don't wear the same clothes every week (unless I haven't done laundry [smile]); and I wear my new shoes until they fall off my feet, so I'll never be able to give someone else "second hand shoes."

    For me, a major breakthrough happened when I finally started our Party Tithe. I experienced a freedom in rejoicing in God's blessings in a way that I had never been able to do so before.

    ...that's all I got. I'm no veteran. I'm just a bumbling newbie who has been blessed incredibly and is finding freedom in a Party Tithe.

    Hope that's helpful in some way. If not, please disregard [smile].


  2. Thanks Luke! Loving the encouragement. Great to hear about the health insurance... That's always a biggie.

    I should probably clarify that we do not have to wear the same clothes each week, occasionally every other. (my son wear the same suit to church each week, (walmart $30) but the rest of the fam has at least 2 Sunday outfits.

    I'm not trying to complain, but rather point out an attitude that I have encountered that says if you don't have ___, you are being cursed, or that you shouldn't have more children, etc.

    It is so encouraging to hear others stories of God faithfulness in the middle of difficulty, even if that means still being poor(ish). :-)

  3. Hi Lana, what a nice blog you have!I understand completely what you are saying here, and I agree! I don't have the money to buy workbooks for every subject either so I thought I'd just share with you some of the freebies that I have found and use a lot. Maybe you already know about them, maybe not, but here they are anyway:

    1. has a freebie every week and almost every week it's something I can use, math, lapbooks, writing.

    2. If you haven't discovered lapbooking yet (a great way to learn on a tight budget) has some great free lapbooks. We just finished "the legend of the easter egg".

    3. this is a blog that posts all kinds of freebies, I was able to get some free Thomas tank trains a while back. Check it once in a while, there's sometimes some good stuff there. (not necessarily for homeschool stuff, just freebies)

    Hope to see you some time soon! We had fun at the Valentine's get together with you guys.

  4. Lana, you don't know what a blessing this was for me today - learning to be JOYFUL during difficult financial circumstances. My husband just lost his job a few weeks ago, and while we were struggling even before that, we are really hurting now! Our day yesterday was tough -- after spending the morning at a local social services agency to receive help, my husband was turned away, because he "makes too much money." It's a sad irony, really. Living in northern NJ (and all its stereotypes) doesn't help.

    Then in the afternoon we took our 6 yr. old son to a local food pantry to receive food. It was humbling for us -- but he thought it was cool to get FREE food! :)

    It's hard to find joy in that - at least for me. But you know, I believe that God wants us in this position, as difficult as it is. My husband is a pastor (although the job he lost was for an A/V company -- he's taking a 'break' from the church, long story) and I really think that, when the Lord calls him back into ministry, that he'll be so much more understanding to people of all economic brackets!

    What this has taught me is to trust God COMPLETELY -- and it's been amazing! Each week we never have enough for groceries, so I'm forced to get on my knees. And sure enough, we're provided for in one way or another. It's this complete trust that has really liberated me from the worry and panic. But ... I'm human. I still have days where it hurts, where it's hard, where I hate where we are. Your post today got me back on track -- I have every reason to be joyful!!

    So ... you asked for some specifics. Find a local food pantry for starters -- that's been helpful for us.

    With the loss of a job, we also lost our health insurance. Thank goodness our daughter Grace's clubfoot is treated at Shriners (in Philadelphia)!! We're in the process of applying for NJ state health care -- anyone who makes under $65K-$75K qualifies. Sad, if you think about it, that under that figure is considered "low income." Crazy! Does Oregon have something like that?

    Thrift stores -- yes. Finding kids in church who are a little bigger than my kids for hand-me-downs -- yes. :)

    I've also gotten into weekly meal planning, which has saved me anywhere from $20-$75 on my grocery bill. It was a little difficult to start (I'm not very disciplined) but it's SOOO worth it!

    One last tip -- my husband visits garage sales, thrift stores, etc. and finds goods to sell on the internet. For example -- he bought a high-end DVD player for $50 ... and resold it for $550! Woo-hoo! See what I mean? God provides in some pretty big ways!

    OK - sorry this has gotten a bit long, but this was SUCH a great post and I'm so glad you wrote this. I love your parting thought, about dancing before the Lord in second-hand shoes. I am going to remember that! Thanks for reminding me of the JOY that I can have in ALL circumstances!

  5. Hi Lana,

    We are obviously far from having a large family, but with Ryan having to resume his studies as a full-time graduate student as a result of losing his job in the recession, we have experienced the humbling of relying on government health insurance, living in an equal housing opportunity apartment and other services. Before that, our grocery budget was still only about $150 a month. I'm not schooling children yet, so can't relate to that. I find that I'm more joyful about living in tight circumstances by making a game out of it. What can we get for cheap? The hunt can be time-consuming, but rewarding in the end!

  6. Oh, don't I know what you mean! Raising a godly family IS a ministry of faith just as missions is. I am always sad when folks treat families without a lot of means in a degrading way when they would have treated that same family with respect if they were living on the mission field.
    Anyway, I've been making my own laundry soap as of late. It should save me about $30/month. We eat beans and rice at least once a week and it's one of my kids' favorite meals. Buying oats bulk is a very cheap breakfast and healthy as well. I use meat more as a flavoring than an entree-bulking up meals w/pasta, rice, etc. We shut down our land line and went entirely w/cell service. There have been years when I used the library almost entirely for our homeschooling, except math. I use a catalog like the one from Veritas Press and make a lot of holds so I can be more knowledgeable about the books I am getting.
    Anyway, I hope maybe some of that can be a little help. Glad Mark is doing better. :)