By Crystal Paine
My husband was rummaging through old financial statements not too long ago, and we were aghast to read some of the numbers. During the first year he was in law school, there were six months when we made less than $900 — and some months it was as low as $650.
I recall that season of our lives fairly vividly, but seeing those numbers on paper again after a number of years was a shock to our systems. I’m still not sure how we made it on so little!
During those years, we lived in a little basement apartment that only had four windows on one side. I could plug the vacuum cleaner into one outlet and vacuum the entire apartment without ever switching outlets.
We only had one old vehicle almost the entire time my husband was in law school, which he usually used for transportation from work and school. We hardly knew anyone in the town that we lived in, and there were not many safe places that I could walk to from our apartment.
Realize things will get better.
It would’ve been easy to swallow up in despair, and I won’t pretend there weren’t moments when I felt sorry for myself or wished we lived in better circumstances. But I decided, with God’s help, to try and make the most of what might seem like a less than ideal situation.
Maybe we didn’t have money to go out, but I challenged myself to think up creative ways we could still have fun without coughing up money. We’d check out a movie from the library and have homemade pizza. In the winter, we’d brew some coffee, pop some popcorn, and play a board game. Sometimes, we’d go to the park with a picnic, or we’d browse the book selection at Barnes and Noble.
We couldn’t afford fancy restaurants but that didn’t mean we couldn’t eat well. I had fun trying new recipes, searching out good deals, and stretching our grocery budget as far as possible. I discovered AllRecipes.com and enjoyed using their ingredient search feature to come up with new recipes to use what I already had on hand.
Instead of going out and buying things, I’d go to the library and check out a stack of books. Sometimes we’d check out CD’s too, so we’d have new music to play in our home throughout the week.
Learn from the experience.
Yes, living in that little basement apartment in an unfamiliar town and barely squeaking by financially would never have been something I would have chosen for myself. But I’ll always be grateful that God allowed me those three and half years to learn to be content, learn to love simplicity, and learn to make the most of what I had. I hope I never forget those lessons.
You know what all of those lean law school years taught me? They taught me that contentment is a state of the heart, unaffected by outward circumstances.
Make a choice.
Contentment isn’t a result of having life turn out exactly how you hoped it would be. Contentment isn’t something that you can only have when you have money, a good job, health, and strong relationships.
No, contentment is a choice. So choose today to bloom where you are planted. Choose to make the most of whatever situation you find yourself in. Choose to stop focusing on what you don’t have and start being thankful for the many blessings you do have.
No matter how hard your struggles, no matter what difficulties are currently on your plate, if you start looking for things to be thankful for, I promise you’ll begin to see the world in a whole new light.
Crystal Paine is a wife, mom of three, author of The Money Saving Mom®’s Budget. Visit her blog, MoneySavingMom.com, for high-value coupons, online bargains, freebies, and practical ideas and inspiration to get your life and finances in order.