Generation Cedar

10 Ways Economic Hardship Can Benefit a Family

Prosperity equals advantage.

Do you believe that?

I am fascinated with the irony of this mentality most Americans hold dear.  Maybe even more so since I hear often, as a mother of nine, about “affording all those children.

All of us believe, somewhere deep within, that to prosper financially puts us at an advantage. And in many ways that can be true (nor am I an advocate of “poor on purpose”).  Hey, we’re an entrepreneur family; I think of ways to make money in my sleep.

But history reveals hundreds of men and women whose very hardship catapulted them to distinction through the chiseling of character, (snatching our bosom-clutched, false assumptions right out of our hands), yet we still refuse to nod at scarcity or give it its due reward for human improvement.

Hard times can have immensely positive effects on people, families and society.

Scarcity doesn’t feel nice; maybe that’s the bottom line. But a panoramic view gives us slightly more confidence to praise the attributes of living on less.  We might be better–the whole society, it seems, was better in a less prosperous era.

From a USA News article, Americans are finding “things they can live without.”  Interestingly, when one thing is lost, another, often better thing takes its place.  Can you see from this list how prosperity so quickly robs families of important things, while a dearth can restore them?

Clutter. As Americans downsize, do more of their own cleaning, and look for stuff they can sell online, they’re discovering tons of things around the house they can get rid of…. “We keep being amazed at how having less stuff, with no deprivation, actually gives us better quality of life,” says Deborah Merchant. “We’ve gained emotional and spiritual maturity.”

Cable TV. Many people are cutting back on pay-TV services or canceling them altogether, which saves $50 to $100 a month…. Others are giving up television completely. “There’s no money for cable TV, so my Internet does me for all my news and other entertainment,” says Mariluna Martin of Los Angeles. “That’s money saved, plus no TV means no blaring of bad news, fear-mongering, ad pressures, and other unpleasantness.” Martin spends more time reading books and sipping tea at a neighborhood café. She finds that rewarding: “The changes I’ve had to make have made my life better. Things are simpler and healthier now.” Better than the money saved by cutting this service, families can be transformed as they discover a whole level of new relationships–talking, playing and living life together.

Privacy. To save on rent or mortgage payments….grown kids are moving back in with their parents….. “We have learned to enjoy a simple, cost-effective, and minimalist approach to life by developing an appreciation for nature and family,” he says. “Big, expensive toys and trips were fun before, but we really don’t need them anymore.”

Prepared foods. More people are cooking at home, and they’re doing it with fewer pre-made sauces, marinades, dressings, and other ingredients. “Moms are back to basic cooking,” says Chance Parker, a market researcher at J.D. Power & Associates. “They want to use fresh herbs and spices. It saves money, and it’s more healthy.”

Extra calories. Some Americans say they’re eating less to save money and drinking more water or doing other things to suppress their appetite.

New gifts. Regifting is a time-tested practice—but there’s always room to refine your strategy. Linda Amicucci of Tenafly, N.J., holds a “treasure party” with a group of friends after Thanksgiving every year to swap recyclable gifts.

New cars. It’s no secret that new-car sales plunged to levels 40 percent lower than the peak in 2006. But many buyers who have traded down to a used model are surprised at the quality of the merchandise.

Comfort. Thermostats all across America are going lower in winter, higher in summer.

A daily commute.  Telecommuting increased during the recession as well, and more people say they’re riding bikes or walking more to save on gas costs—or a gym membership.

Debt. Who needs it? “I have learned that it takes little time to run dangerously high credit card balances,” says Tom Poirer of Lowell, Mass., “but an inordinately long time to pay it back. I have learned to deprogram myself from the consumerist mayhem.”…We may ultimately end up with less stuff. But at least we’ll be able to afford what we have.

Can you hear it?  A country that has been (and still is) so consumer minded, so money-driven and stuff-hungry, that even these changes would sound crazy to a truly impoverished individual.

Added by the recommendation of a commenter: truly the biggest advantage to experiencing financial difficulty is the complete dependence on God and watching His provision and loving protection over His children. Few of us ever get to experience the sheer dependence on daily bread. It is a sweet place to be, difficult as it feels at the time.

Still, I’m thankful for many lessons our family has learned and is learning by “force”, simply because affordability is not an option.  No, I don’t think we should aim to be poor; but we would do well to respect its natural improvements on our lives and not be so afraid of it.

Read Helping Your Family Through Financial Hardship

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23 Responses

  1. Thank you!We’ve always lived that way and I can see the benefits it has had on our children. Less is more. I am working toward an all U.S.A. home. This if it isn’t from America,don’t buy it.It’s a challenge,but it really cuts the spending. Use it up and wear it out is our motto. Do really need stuff?The basics are enough.Try it.If you learn a craft or a new skill,you will not watch as much tv. There are so many other ways,just think about it. Have a blessed day.

  2. We have had an economic hardship because of my husbands job loss 18 months ago. It WAS NOT by choice that we have been put in the positions we have been in. However…I would not change it for ANYTHING! We have 12 beautiful children and they have watched God provide in ways that mom and dad NEVER could have! We never buy clothes because they are always given to us, we have had food left in the trunk of our car with envelopes of money, and many other things. The things we once thought of as neccessities are not realized as comforts and we are still blessed beyond measure! Is it easy? Not even close but we now understand more, what it means to have our needs met and not just feeding our flesh, so to speak! We don’t have video games or expensive toys, in fact we have one small tote for each child. Clutter is a minimum and our kids appreciate a candy bar! They know it is a true treat every once in a while. It is a great thing. We did not get here by choice at first, but I am so thankful for God allowing this time in our lives so that we were able to sit back and take a look at how comfort minded we were and it gave us the ability to look to Him. We are still without a job but God is taking us down a road we would not have gone any other way. A road of total faith for “work” not a 9-5 job for my husband. It will be exciting and not always easy but I can’t wait to see what God does!

    I would like to add a #11 to your list:

    All the people in your home and around you, can see the handiwork of God and realize He IS the provider of your life and it makes them want to “pay it forward” because they learn what giving truly means because they have been through it themselves! 🙂

    Thank you and blessings to you and your family!

    1. Heather,

      I am so glad you stopped in! You have been on my mind so often lately…I even tried to pull your old comment up and get your email and couldn’t find it, for some reason. I’ve wondered about you and prayed for you, hoping that you were, indeed, finding God’s provision a comfort in your lives.

      I can testify and say a hearty “amen” to all you’ve written here. And yes, #11 should be #1…I think I’ll add it 😉 God miraculous hand in our finances both now, since the storm, and over the years of many hard places, has been invaluable. Wouldn’t trade it for anything.

      Still praying for you…

    2. Thank you for your cheerful attitude in your time of trial, Heather. It gave me some much-needed perspective today 😉

      I will pray for you as the Lord walks you and your family through this season of your lives.

      Blessings 🙂

  3. Kelly,

    Can you comment on the recent Alabama tornados? It sounds terrible, and I wondered if God had laid it on your heart to give back, as so many have given to you.

  4. I just finished your book devotional for mothers. It was amazing! It helped me so much, I cant even begin to tell you. You are so inspiring!!

  5. Honestly, Kelly, this is such a challenging post for me. I’m afflicted with a bad case of a bad attitude about money, which is just plain self-inflicted.

    “Hard times can have immensely positive effects on people, families and society.” Still waiting to experience those positive effects 😉 Maybe the times have not truly gotten as hard as I like to think they have. Is there worse coming? {Shudder} But whatever I need in the way of character-building, I know God will be faithful to provide it, and He will grow me through it, even when (probably ESPECIALLY when) it comes through great difficulty.

    “…we would do well to…not be so afraid of it.” Yes, indeed, Kelly. Thank you! I needed this more than you know 😉

      1. “Keeping an eternal perspective is so helpful.”

        Yes. “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18.

        Thank you for your prayers, Kelly. Praying for you too…

  6. 6 arrows, I know exactly how you feel. Just earlier this week I was having my own pity party about money. My husband reminded me that God always provides. I just wish he would provide sooner 😉 I don’t like adding late charges to bills due. We do not live beyond our means with credit cards or anything like that. We don’t have car payments and no TV. We live very frugal. But we are self employed and do not know how long we have to stretch the money before we get our next payment. It’s not like a regular pay check. So yes, it is VERY hard at times. It is difficult to have a budget when you have no idea how much you will make each week, let alone each month. But I have learned one very important lesson. Worrying doesn’t help AT ALL. Praying on the other hand does help tremendously. It is often after I’ve done all my worrying that I finally pray and wow, God answers my prayer. And I also know God will wait to provide to see if I will run to Him or worry first. If I could just run to Him first every time maybe He won’t keep making me go through this same lesson 🙂

    1. Thanks, Rachel, your comment made me smile! Ah, yes, the old pity party: I wish I didn’t throw those parties so often 😉 And just recently I found a $20 bill that got hidden behind a torn part in my wallet. Do you think I remembered to mention *that* when I came grousing here on Kelly’s blog?! Got a long ways to go with thinking on the good things 🙂

      You’re right about praying FIRST, and worrying NOT. I’ve been getting better at living that out in a number of areas, but not finances yet. It seems to be the one area where I’m a stubborn holdout, wanting to take the reins when they rightfully belong to God. You can see how that’s going for me!

      I appreciate your comment, Rachel. Blessings to you!

  7. God has provided always, so I wonder why I’m having difficulty in trusting Him at the moment. I think it’s because I can’t see how it’s going to be ok, looking to the circumstances. I’m thinking of a song that says: “just tell the mountain how big your God is”. Help me to trust You Lord!

  8. Hey Kelly,

    Just a quick thought here.Maybe you could do a post on how we all save money.I’m sure everyone has some great ideas they would share.Maybe this was done and I missed it.Anyway just a thought.My daughter and I took a coupon class and it really helped alot.I would be willing to share how we save a bunch..Blessings!!

  9. My favorite part of this –

    “truly the biggest advantage to experiencing financial difficulty is the complete dependence on God and watching His provision and loving protection over His children. Few of us ever get to experience the sheer dependence on daily bread. It is a sweet place to be, difficult as it feels at the time.”

    This is the ONE thing my family has learned…and continues to learn daily. And it is the most IMPORTANT thing for us – to teach the kids dependency on God! Learning it firsthand is the best way for my kids to learn. (And their father grew up with a materialistic life, being deprived of THINGS while growing up he then surrounded himself with things as he got older, and still struggles with this today! But when it comes down to designer clothes or the electric bill he is beginning to see that going without electric is more costly and harder than having those designer jeans that can’t be washed without the electic! LOL)

  10. My favorite part of this –

    “truly the biggest advantage to experiencing financial difficulty is the complete dependence on God and watching His provision and loving protection over His children. Few of us ever get to experience the sheer dependence on daily bread. It is a sweet place to be, difficult as it feels at the time.”

    This is the ONE thing my family has learned…and continues to learn daily. And it is the most IMPORTANT thing for us – to teach the kids dependency on God! Learning it firsthand is the best way for my kids to learn. Plus it keeps us ALL focused right where we need to be focused – on God!!! I wouldn’t trade a single struggle from my life…each and every one has brought me closer to God while teaching me a valuable lesson. I wouldn’t want to deprive my children of that and think it’s better that they go through it while being with us than later in life while trudging along life’s pathways alone.

  11. I just loved this! My husband and I are on a very very strict budget. We may not have money, but we have lots of love and our every need is provided for and many wants (my parents bless us tremendously) are given to us as well. I am so thankful for this sweet time in our lives where His is allowing me the opportunity to improve and build upon my homemaking skills. I cook all of our means from scratch. I’m learning to garden and can. I’m learning to sew. I repair items before throwing them away or replacing them. We take time to make each purchase, carefully conducting its impact on our budget, home, and lives. We chose quality over quantity. My sweet husband helps me file and paint my nails and cut my hair. We don’t have cable. We spend our time talking and laughing (and occasionally a Netflix show). I’ve started writing- a passion I’ve not pursued in many years. I would have none of those experiences or skills if we had extra money or if I went out to get a job to provide all the extra I love the saying that necessity is the mother of invention. My husband and I are working towards building up a home business, which is so exciting! I love reading about all the benefits of a frugal lifestyle and ways to save even more money!

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