A 12-Point Financial Pep Talk

When I was younger, I devoured books by Grace Livingston Hill. Almost all of her stories were the Cinderella type, except instead of sleeping in the cinders by the fire, the main character was living through the Great Depression. I remember reading about a heroine who was able to make a fashionable hat out of nothing but a newspaper, so that she would be presentable going to a job interview. I dreamed of being that nobly resourceful. Recently, I saw someone post statistics that compared Great Depression prices to comparable prices now and said that prices are worse now than they were then. This person called what we are experiencing a “Silent Depression.” To agree with that statement is to show an ignorance of how desperate times were in that piece of our history. I’m pretty sure there is no shortage of work available right now. But painful inflation? Yes. We have that in spades, and it makes a person feel like she’s going two financial steps forward and three financial steps backwards.

So here we are now, in this season of inflation, which might not be a Silent Depression but can make you a little depressed all the same. All you have to do is make one trip to Costco to feel like your entire paycheck just went to buy a pound of hamburger for your family. How do we adjust our thoughts and actions, so that we can live wisely and find some joy during this time in history?

Decide what to trust.

When I find myself hyperventilating over the Costco total or the medical bill or the shocking rise in our mortgage payment, my go-to verse is Psalm 20:7: Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. (As an aside, do you actively memorize Scripture, so that you have it mentally on hand when you need it? If not, start now with this verse.) I always mentally modernize this verse, so that it makes sense in my life. I usually say to myself, Some trust in chariots and some in horses and some in their 401K and some in their bank balance. Some people do trust in those things. That immediately begs the question, What do I trust in? Am I just like everyone else in this world?  The answer is no. I trust in the name (which means the character) of the LORD my God. That prompts me to think about God’s character. He is the good shepherd who supplies everything his sheep need. He is the bread of life. He is the good Father who would never give me a stone if I were to ask for bread or a snake if I were to ask for fish. You know, there’s an initial time when we place our trust in the character of God (I did that when I was eight years old), but the decision to continue to trust in him never ends and especially not during tough financial times.

Create a working budget.

I discovered budgeting in our early marriage years, but a year and a half ago I discovered the YNAB (You Need A Budget) app, and it is the best $90 per year investment I could recommend to you. The pain of inflation is exacerbated when prices are out of control and our personal financial management is out of control. The harder the financial climate, the more important it is to have a detailed budget set up and that you put in at least a few minutes every day managing it. I spend 10 minutes every morning, over a bowl of cereal, reconciling my bank and credit card with my budget in YNAB, and I give a look over the budget just to refresh my mind with where we are financially. Doesn’t hurt to pray over that process, either. Ask God to help with the places that say “underfunded.”     

Give thanks.

Lean financial times means no new clothes, and that makes me very sad. I love clothes. I’m just saying it out loud, and mostly I want really expensive new clothes. Sigh. Violins. I think my closet is where I most feel the pain of having a tight budget, so after a tiny wallow in self-pity when I’m getting dressed in the morning, I thank God that not only do I have clothes to wear but a choice of clothing to wear. I thank him that I can go many days without doing laundry, because I’m so rich in clothing. Giving thanks flips my heart from cup half empty to cup half full.  

Spend less.

Right now, I have five things on my shopping list at the department store. These are normally things I could afford to go pick up, without giving it much thought. But today I’m looking at my list and thinking, Do I truly need these things? I just deleted four out of the five­­, because there were four wants and only one necessity. I also just put myself on a spending freeze on my Amazon book wish list. Sniff. Sniff.

Stretch the dollars you do have.

My grandma lived through the Great Depression, and I could see the effects of that in how she lived. She labored to find sales on everything. She sewed her own clothes. She used a spatula to scrape every last ounce of food out of a bowl. On pizza night, she would fill glasses with ice and split a soda three ways. She mixed her shampoo with water, to make it go farther. She dived in the dumpster, to pull out salvageable items and sell them in a garage sale. She gave me an opportunity to see what it looked like to stretch a dollar. One way to stretch a dollar is to add black beans to your taco meat. My mother-in-law and her sister said they ate pinto beans and ham and cornbread once a week. Legumes are crazy good for you and are an underutilized way to stretch your grocery budget.    

Make a weekly menu and shop only once a week.

I’ve found that I am much more apt to make homemade meals, which are less expensive and can be way more nutritious than eating out, if I make a weekly menu, make a grocery list from that menu, and then go do all of my shopping in one afternoon. I don’t think any of us do well going into a store frequently, where impulse buying is the temptation.

Lessen cleaning product and paper product expenses.   

I stopped using paper towels and use kitchen rags instead. I stopped using paper napkins and use cloth napkins instead. I don’t buy paper plates. All of those paper products are unnecessary. Once I got in the habit of not using them, I don’t miss them at all. I use ¼ of the recommended laundry detergent. I mop with a steam mop that uses water, so I’m not buying floor cleaner. We don’t need nearly what is marketed to us when it comes to cleaning and paper products.

Earn More.

We’re switching credit card software at work, which means we’ll be losing all of the credit card history for patients and having to start over. I mentioned to my boss that I could come in on Fridays and start getting new credit card information from patients. I don’t want to work more hours, but we could really use the extra money right now. Sometimes you’ve just got to get a side hustle.  

Keep being generous.

Dad taught me that when I get a paycheck, the first 10% goes to the work of God in my local church. Matt and I have been married for almost 33 years now, and we have scraped the bottom of the financial barrel many times. But in all of our years, there has not been one single month when we haven’t given that first 10% to the work of God in our church. It’s a nonnegotiable in our house. And we’ve never once not given to the nonprofits to which we’ve committed charitable donations. I can stand here and say to you that God has always taken care of what we need. Always. I urge you, in this time of horrible inflation, to keep giving to God’s kingdom work. If this seems impossible to you, go back to Psalm 20:7 and preach at yourself to trust in the character of God.

Don’t let money feel like it’s everything.

When I was growing up and some financial hardship came upon our family, Dad would always say, “It’s just money.” He grew up in true poverty and worked to become wealthy. He knew that money goes just as easily as it comes. Jesus said, if I may paraphrase, “Hey, life is more than what you can afford to put in your grocery cart or what you can buy on Stitch Fix.”  

Give out of your poverty

I can’t count how many times our checking account has been emaciated but then God has put someone’s need in front of us, and we have given to help that person anyway. It’s ridiculous to do that. But I find that there’s this mindset Matt and I both have that answering God’s call to give is thrilling, and leaning our full weight on his character as provider is an adventure. Those times of extravagant giving, when we’ve been flat broke, have been some of the most romantic moments in our marriage.

Encourage others

In the book The Other Half of the Church, I learned that suffering done alone turns into trauma.  Don’t be afraid to talk about financial suffering with your brothers and sisters in Christ. The Bible talks about money a lot, so this should be part of our conversations and not something private. Pray for one another, asking Jesus to supply specific needs. I have a friend, and she and I have labored hard to build emergency savings. It’s really depressing to have to break into our savings to pay for some unexpected expense, but over the years we’ve often said, “Well, this is why we have the emergency savings.” We need to encourage one another about our money situations.

I would be interested to know if any of you have suggestions you would add to this list, for how to persevere through lean financial years. Please leave comments, so that we can all benefit from one another’s wisdom and a word of encouragement.


  1. Melissa Couch says:

    I loved this Christy! A few things to add:
    -If you’re able, pay premiums etc for one year. They always give a discount.
    -Use a free budgeting app.
    -Get on the Budget plan with your power company, so you know what your power bill is going to be each month and it is averaged and spread out equally over the year.
    -use the library for books and they also offer an app called Libby where you can listen to audiobooks instead of paying for them on audible.
    -Look into Mint for phone service. I paid for the whole year and now that made my phone bill $15 per month! Seriously! If you use my name or a friend’s as a referral, that would take care of our next year’s phone bill. You could do the same by referring your friends.
    -Check for subscriptions that you may not realize you’re paying and cancel!
    -Find a consignment store to take your clothes and start earning credit toward clothes.
    – I know this sounds gross, but I do have friends that donate plasma regularly and get paid for it
    -Our local gas station, Sinclair’s, has an app that if you sign up, instead of using your debit card, they give me $.30 off per gallon of gas and they are already the cheapest gas station in town.

  2. Lindsey Norman says:

    Thank you for being so vulnerable. I love your reminder about being grateful for what we do have. Our lack isn’t so much lack as it is a limit on more. We are blessed now, in this moment. Gratitude truly changes our perspective.

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