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How do I save money when I have nothing left? I’m broke.

How? How? How?

It’s a question we get a lot, and honestly, it’s the same question we had. We had cut all the obvious things, and made big changes, as I mentioned in this post. Let me share with you the next steps of our story and some ways you can “find” and save money.

Here, I talked about how we moved in the direction of me coming home to be with our kids. While it totally can be done, you need to know that it wasn’t easy. Sometimes on the other side of something, we forget how hard the thing was when we were muddling through it. So, I won’t say, “Just stop doing ______  ” or “Just be sure to do ______.” The concept can seem simple, but not to someone trying to make heads or tails of budgets, saving, and all things money.

What happened after the two-year plan

Real quick, let me remind you that our income was cut. in. half! Simply put, we were at a loss as to where to go from that point. With almost no extra to pay down debt, we had no idea how to pay down the student loans we still had. That’s when we discovered Crown Financial Ministries’ Debt Elimination course.

Do you consider yourself pretty good with money? I would guess that even if you are living paycheck to paycheck that if you pay your bills on time that you do (and rightly so) consider yourself good with money.

For us, neither of us can say that we were regularly subject to wise financial practices. However, according to cultural standards, we were “good” with money: we always paid our bills on time and mostly kept the checkbook balanced. Notice I said, “mostly.”

As good as that sounds, it’s deceiving. Even if you can manage all the monthly payments, you are bound to all the debt and burdened by the weight of it. And let’s be honest. By manage, many times we mean barely manage.

Whew! Until we worked through the Debt Elimination Workbook we really didn’t understand how poor of an understanding we had. As assigned in the course, we began writing down what we owed our creditors, tracked daily spending, and at last saw how ugly the real picture was. We were convinced that we needed to be keeping better records and implement a budget.

How to Save When Theres Nothing Left

Next Steps

The course also recommends using the envelope system and, therefore, cash for purchases. Our envelopes were and still are for groceries, gas, auto needs, miscellaneous stuff (eating out, birthdays, etc.), and our little farm expenses. We then set up a separate savings account so that we could plan for insurance and taxes and pest control and not be caught by surprise during the year. (I explain how that works in the post linked below.)

Related post: One of the Best Budgeting Moves You’ll Ever Make

Even with all this, we still at times defaulted to the credit card. You know that funny little Murphy’s Law? “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Yep. That one. When you have no money saved, and you’re barely scraping by, the only thing to do in an emergency situation is borrow money. While we didn’t use the credit card freely like we had in the past, there were times when we felt we had no choice. It is a never-ending cycle, friends!

Kicking it up a notch

That’s when we got wind of Dave Ramsey. I’ll be honest, he’s hardcore. He’ll tell you like it is, and most likely hurt your pride and your feelings. Nevertheless, he knows what he’s talking about and can help you get out of the financial dump.

We began our Total Money Makeover on one teacher’s salary! We stopped spending, and started saving so that we could  have a cushion for when emergencies come up. And ya’ll, they will; I promise they will!

It took us some time to get an emergency savings fund, but when we did, that was a total game changer. The difference is, when you have actual money to pay for emergencies, like the air conditioner going out in June in the South (yes, that is an emergency!), you aren’t digging a deeper hole. Many times we have had to replenish our emergency fund following said emergency, but we were paying ourselves back interest free instead of someone else. Pay yourself back!

How did we save money when there wasn’t much to save?

Okay, so that’s all fine and good, but how? How do you save when you don’t have a thing?

Along with continuing with those things I mentioned in my jump start post about finances, below you will find ways to save money when you’re broke. I’ll admit, they take grit and determination, but you can do it!

  • Eat cheap. Like beans and rice cheap. We did this multiple times a month.
  • Sell stuff, lots of stuff.
  • Come up with side hustle. I started selling crocheted blankets and hats and scarves to make a little extra. The truth is, I was so busy at times that I had a waiting list. The hubs would at times have odd little computer jobs locally. Everything we made, we either saved or threw at debt (depending on what phase we were in). For more side hustle ideas, check out these.
  • Use “extra” money to pay debt. When income tax time came, we finished our emergency fund and used any remaining refund to pay on student loans rather than take fun vacations. It took years for us to squeeze in a fun vacation, and even then it was camping (which we loved), but you get the idea.
  • Check out this post where I shared 23 money savers!

Related post: 10 Sure Ways to Dig Out of the Financial Hole

Those first steps were huge for us. After we had $1000 in our emergency fund, like Dave Ramsey recommends, we could begin really making headway on our remaining debt.

Are you ready to kick debt to the curb?

You’ll work hard, crazy hard. It will get tough, then tougher until you start making headway, but the freedom that comes from being debt free is amazing! Hard work pays off. Think about how much money you would have left each month if you didn’t have credit card payments or student loans or car loans. You are talking hundreds, my friend, hundreds.

And if you need proof? Here we are purchasing our big, fat, homeschool mobile. She goes by The Meg, and sometimes Marshmallow. We can’t seem to agree which name is best, but my favorite name for her is Financial Freedom. That’s what 100% down looks like!

Financial Freedom

Are you ready? Join me in living like no one else and kicking debt to the curb!

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