Ten Lessons I’ve Learned From Being Slightly Poorer
Late last year, my husband quit his job to start out in the exciting and uncertain world of freelancing. It was a real leap of faith, but one which we are seeing God honour, as, slowly but surely, work is coming in, and our bank account is – without fail – staying in the positive each month.
God has taught us SO MUCH during this time! Going from two salaries down to one has been a steep learning curve for us, and I’m not saying it has all been easy (one of our arguments went something like, “Can’t you just cook a pizza in the oven?” “No, I want Papa Johns! I’m SO fed up with having no money!”) but, first world problems aside, it has been a time of exercising faith, and trusting in a God who knows our needs before we even ask.
These are the things I’ve learned (in no particular order, but you have to put God first, either way, don’t you?):
1. Give to God first
The first fruits are the Lord’s. You need to know this, especially when you’re poorer! Money can become even more of a fixation/obsession when you’ve not got much of it, so make sure you give to God and his church to show him this money does not have power over you. Surrender it and trust it to him, and he will do the rest.
2. God is looking out for you
This follows on from the point above! Trust him. We’ve had so many crazy instances of having just enough or finding an extra £1 coin somewhere, or wondering how we managed to afford my season travel ticket this month. We have a coin jar by the door, and each Sunday I check it before we go to church – weirdly, when we need it, there is always exactly enough money in that jar to afford Sunday lunch at church for the both of us. I’m not into the prosperity gospel of “name & claim / believe & receive”, more like “give back & stay in the black”.
3. Generous people are the best
My British stiff-upper-lip and also that thing called pride means that ever having to ask someone for money would be cringier than David Brent on the dance floor, but there have been occasions where friends or family have given us a generous gift or paid us back in a way that has been a real blessing. Or just bought our coffee or paid for a drink so we can have those little extravagances that we would otherwise pass on, in times of strict budgeting. It’s hard to accept sometimes (that thing called pride again), but is a wonderful picture of grace and I know one day I’m going to take all those people for coffee or place a mega Papa Johns order for them.
Ok, moving on to practical tips, without trying to sound too middle-aged:
4. Mend stuff when it breaks
You probably don’t need to buy new pairs of jeans every year, even if they are only £15 from Primark. Buy a needle and thread and mend some stuff. It’s quite an easy thing to learn if you were never in Brownies / Girls Brigade and is a fairly relaxing way to spend an hour or so while you bingewatch Netflix. YouTube means that all of us are without excuse when it comes to those simple household tasks… Have a go! If it’s broken anyway, what’s the worst that could happen?
5. Get rid of stuff you don’t need
By the time you hit a certain age, you will have accumulated loads of random clutter that you haul around with you every time you move, and yet never actually take out of the box. We did a big purge, but instead of chucking it, we listed a load of stuff on a boot sale app (Shpock or Gumtree) and managed to make a few hundred quid with the various slow cookers / games consoles / computer monitors we had crammed into our flat. It also makes you feel grrreat to have a bit of cupboard space.*
6. Get smart with direct debits
It’s better if your direct debits come out all together, preferably when you get paid. This means you go into the month knowing how much you actually have, and not being lulled into a false sense of security when you suddenly get a gas bill mid-month and you’ve just spent the money on new trainers. Most companies will change your payment date, and you can also change your energy bills to monthly rather than quarterly, and in some cases, even-out the payment over the whole year, so you don’t get those nasty surprises in the winter months.
6.ii. Sub point: you probably don’t *need* unlimited data on your phone – I saved £30 a month by downgrading my contract. This does mean I have become one of those annoying people who always wants to know the wifi password in coffee shops / your house, but it’s probably helped me to rethink my internet usage and encouraged me to try this thing called reading books on my commute, rather than streaming YouTube clips or endlessly browsing.
7. Eat less
Umm yeah, this one is obvious. We have found that we don’t really need to eat as much as we were eating – especially meat, and especially snacks and coffees out and about. Once in a while is fine, but generally, we’re trying to eat less or get fresh fruit and veg from the market where it’s super-cheap and more pesticide free anyway.
8. Be more creative
Making birthday cards / cakes / gifts, contrary to popular belief doesn’t actually make you look like a cheapskate. Sometimes people actually really like to know that you spent more than 5 minutes browsing Amazon for their birthday gift. You can be generous with more than just money, and unless the person you’re being generous to is a bit of a diva, they should appreciate the time, effort and love you put in.
Journeys, meals, subscriptions, a slice of cake, bulk buys… Sometimes you can get amazing deals just by sharing the love. Eg. Apple Music Family Sharing / jumbo packs of toilet roll / holiday homes.
*With your newfound cupboard space, why not try renting out a room/corner of your flat on Airbnb? That’s what this guy did!
10. Vouchers and discount codes are your friend
Anyone who has spent some time with me recently will know I am a bit of a deal-freak. Sometimes these companies are actually giving stuff away. Even if you’re rich, sign up for some of these – that’ll give you even more money to spent on cigars and champagne! Nectar points, Clubcard points, Waitrose free coffee, vouchercloud, Money Saving Expert… Don’t go out to spend money until you’ve googled to check if there’s a deal going. Don’t obsess over it, but a quick little search should reveal some kind of code if there is one. Follow the deals…
Those are my top tips for now. I’m sure there are more that have escaped my brain.
The moral of the story is that you can half your income and still survive. I’m not saying that everyone should do this, but if God is asking you to, then maybe consider it, and take into account the ways your spending could be cut. A wise man once said, “Where he leads, he feeds; where he guides, he provides; if you’re in his will, he’ll foot the bill.”
This life isn’t all there is, so don’t waste it by wasting money that could help people. Don’t waste it by clinging onto your middle class life and missing out on the adventure God may be calling you to.
Follow Jesus and have faith. He will supply your every need.