Lessons Learned During the Summer of No Paycheck

Tomorrow my husband starts getting paychecks again. (Cue the Hallelujah Chorus now!) We’ve managed to scrape by, pay all of our bills and put very little on the credit card. And amazingly enough, we still have money in the bank. An itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, yellow-polka-dotted amount of money, but still, it’s there, and it is actual money.

When the summer classes didn’t come through for my husband this summer, I started to feel that God wanted us to learn something different. Well, I think we did just that. In fact, we learned a lot more than just one lesson. Some were new lessons, others were reviews, so to speak, but all were important.

I learned that Heavenly Father always takes care of us

He takes care of us when we are doing our part, and maybe even when we’re not. I’ve already written about our little lawn mower miracle, but we had so many of these types of tender mercies this summer I can’t even remember them all.

We’ve had friends drop by food that would have gone bad while they were on vacation several times when our fridge and pantry were rather Mother Hubbard-ish. We’ve been invited to countless parties and potlucks where our children were able to eat lots of food that we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to provide. All in exchange for a plate of brownies made from food storage.

Our parents have visited and helped to alleviate the burden of groceries and other things during their visits. I’ve even won an uncanny amount of blog giveaways this summer, which meant I didn’t have to buy Sophia a birthday present because I won something for her.

I have had only a handful of vocal students this summer, most of which pay me in cash at the beginning of each lesson. That money was our grocery and incidental money.

Since it’s summer, I couldn’t always count on students being there, so I never really knew what my grocery budget would be like from week to week. Sometimes when I was despairing that we wouldn’t be able to afford this or that because too many students were gone in a week, I would get a random phone call and have a student to teach just for a couple weeks while they were in town visiting (who does that?) or to help them get ready for a quick audition or something. This happened at least four times.

I’ve even started teaching Romanian lessons to a girl who was in the opera chorus with me because she wants to learn an Eastern European language. And no matter what, I’ve always had enough money for at least a few groceries each week.

I learned that prayers are answered

And they are sometimes answered so immediately that it makes your head spin.

A couple months ago I was going through the finances, trying to figure out how to make everything work, and it wasn’t working. So I bowed my head right then, and I told Heavenly Father that it would be awfully helpful if I could get just one more student. That was all.

I am not even exaggerating when I say the phone rang as soon as I said “amen.” It was an older lady who wanted lessons and told me she’d pay me well. Turns out she wants to sing in her church choir every Sunday and wants me to help her learn the music beforehand. She always pays me for an hour but we’re done long before that (that is to say, she decides when she’s done) and she won’t hear of paying me any less.

I learned that the best things in life really are free

We’ve had one of the best summers ever and have spent very little money on entertainment. We head to the beach, we go letterboxing, we have family movie nights from our own DVD library, we go to the park, we go on walks, we spend time at the library, we go to the free concerts downtown, and we just hang out at home together.

Sure, we’ve spent a bit on gas and a few library fines (why can I never get books turned in on time?) but it’s peanuts compared to what we’ve spent to entertain ourselves in years past.

I learned that we can live on a lot less and still be happy

If not happier. Stuff is cumbersome, and it feels so good to simplify.

It also feels really good to score a wonderful deal on groceries or find something great at a yard sale or Goodwill. And eating out is completely unnecessary. (Except, of course, when it is necessary.)(Which is hardly ever.) We, who ate out at least once a week in times past, have eaten out only a few times this summer. Most of which were during opera performances in other cities.

I learned to be patient

Lots of things that seem like needs really aren’t. Things like haircuts can wait (let’s just say I can wear a ponytail now and my husband had quite the afro going on for a while this summer).

Things that I want for the house, like bedspreads and curtains, can wait. Even paper towels can wait for a few days. We always have rags.

I learned to make do with what I have

When I finished painting the dining room I ended up stealing stuff from all over the house to put the room together. It turned out better than I ever imagined just by stretching my creativity and thinking about what I already had.

Every time a need came up, I tried to be as creative as possible to meet it before I spent any money. I must say, sometimes I amazed even myself!

I learned that we can build up our food storage

By shopping the sales this summer, I was able to stock the pantry and even get quite a bit of food storage going. I’ve always said it’s too hard or too expensive and never really tried to get it much beyond a couple months’ supply.

But if I was able to do what I did this summer, I can certainly do more during the school year. It’s one of those commandments that I have always kind of ignored, but I will be better from now on.

I learned that we need to be a team

The finances have never been something we’re really on the same page about, for many reasons. But this summer has brought us together in that department more than anything else ever has. I’m pretty sure we’re finally on the same page, and we have plans now to get out of debt, increase savings, and for how to generally use our resources.

That feels good.

I learned that when you have money problems, you don’t really have problems

I don’t mean to sound flippant, because it’s not as if we have ever been rolling in the dough, and we’re very aware that it’s hard to stretch a salary further than it’s meant to stretch. I just have really realized this summer that there are so many worse trials out there to be dealing with. Our financial difficulties are nothing in comparison, and I’ll take them.

To those of you dealing with harder stuff, my heart hurts for you and I pray for you daily and think of you often. Your courage and strength are inspiring to me.

Believe it or not, I am very grateful for the last three and a half months and their paycheck-less state. I am a better person for them. But I’m not gonna lie—I am also extremely grateful for payday tomorrow. I’m going to sleep a lot easier knowing how I’m going to pay the mortgage and all those other bills sitting on my desk!

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Mariley Johnson

Living on a super tight budget is always hard, but nothing makes me feel more accomplished than thriving on it. Like for example, life exsists WITHOUT cell phones! This just baffles people that we don't have one. No cable. You can watch everything for free on the internet. Hulu.com is a great thing. I can't even stand paying for a $1 red box movie when i know i can get it free from the library.
Congratulations on survivng the summer!


I love this post! Very timely for me. I haven't had piano students since spring (my choice) and it has been hard to not have that little extra $$.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and wisdom today. You know I love your blog, it is one of the first ones I read every day.


When you cue the hallelujah chorus, do you really sing it? Cuz, I mean, I wouldn't with my voice…or lack thereof. But if I were a singer, I probly would:)

Thanks for the positive attitude—it's nice to hear all the good things from your fun summer.


I think money is a necessary evil. And I have always said (and still maintain) that the most fun can be had without spending a dime. The creative activities are the most fun anyway. I am so impressed with you. Really. I know how hared it is to make things stretch, but you have learned so much, and just reading this post, you taught me some things. Thank you!

Alyson | New England Living

Fantastic post! And amazing testimony of God's mercies. I think it's so awesome that you've thrived through it all and I'm so happy for you that a paycheck is coming! Yay!


AMEN! Wonderful post! you should submit it to the Ensign. It looks like you've been truly blessed this summer. I know the feeling of a "Mother-Hubbardish" cupboard — what a great word! I hope and pray that things get better for you…

I really believe that the best things in life are free and that anyone can make do with what they have.

by the way, I have no idea what letterboxing is… please share. 🙂


Awesome, awesome, awesome!! Wow! I quite love you.

Kristina P.

These are amazing life lessons, Lara.


This post is absolutely insprirational! And motivating for me to cut back. Because if C lost his paycheck I think we'd be in trouble.

The Crash Test Dummy

That was bee-U-tiful. LUBBED IT! I needed it too because I'm poor now too. 😉

Great lessons. I would love to somehow use this for my Magic Quilt. Would you mind? And would you mind donating a swatch of fabric from this summer which represents these lessons? A 12X12 swatch will do. Please, please, pretty please?

Jenny P.

Really great lessons learned! We've had a pretty sparse summer too. My husband's work is commission based – he builds houses, see? So if people aren't building, money isn't coming in. We've gone long stretches too with nothing coming in and it's tough. But you do learn. We've done great without television all summer, and I've learned that when the milk runs out, I don't have to replace it within forty five minutes. I can wait a few days, get creative, stretch what I have.

Loved the post, Lara. Glad you shared.


This is so true thank you for the reminder.




Great entry from a great life.
Amazing how God does care for us.


As the food storage preparedness specialist in my ward I have to say, YAY you're finally working seriously on your food storage!!! Seriously, one of the things I am trying to figure out right now is how to better inspire more of the sisters in my ward to be serious about food storage.
Good job on being frugal for the summer, I know what it is like to pinch every penny, I think that in 11 years of marriage the most income we have ever had in a year was 17 thousand, but with faith and the Lord's help we always manage.


I've always told my kids, "If you can't learn how to be poor, you'll never be rich."

Because until you learn to live with what you have, 'what you have' will never be enough. That's why you guys are doing fine, and Michael Jackson died $200 million in debt.

Now that 2 of my 4 are starving students, they're seeing first-hand what I've been talking about.

Everyone needs to learn how to 'live poor'. It's a very enriching lesson.


Congratulations on making it through, and finding yourself stronger on the other side. And thank you for the words of wisdom—it's good to have such an inspiring perspective.


I'm so glad I decided to come read this today. Beautifully put, and beautiful lessons. Its safe to say we've learned many of these lessons this year too and they're difficult, but also kind of life affirming when you get from one mark to the next. Thank you for sharing.


You. Are. Amazing.
Thanks for sharing this!


I know what you mean… Having to live on so little at least three different times in our married life have been more of a learning experience than when we are comfortable. It's taught me to be appreciative and careful about what I already have.

Great post!


Your testimony and faith are strenghtening to me. This lesson is one I am trying to live with as much grace and faith as you have. Thank you for sharing your experiences. So much.


What an enlightening post. I know that some of my best memories come from times that were tough, but I also know that money comes and goes. Buying things will not make us happy unless we need them, and we share what we have. I admire creative people like you who get furniture and make it grander than when it was new, or who with a few dollars worth of paint create beautiful rooms and artworks. Wish I had that talent, and I can't wait to see your dining room. Until then, I think I will try harder 🙂


Oh, Lara, I'm needing this post very very much. You write about a hard time with a lot of optimism and hope, and I appreciate it. Thanks for sharing your experiences.


I second Kerri's comment.


This is a beautiful, honest post. And what a humble attitude you always have in times of financial strife. I just love you guys!


I know we are blessed even more when we acknowledge Him and his tender mercies during hard times. Thanks for doing this so well and reminding me to do it too.

Latter-day Saint Nana

There is something about unexpected poverty that strips away all the distractions and straightens out our path of what is real, what is important. Love your post!


You are a rock star. This was a great post and an important for you and many others. You will be so grateful, someday when you look back and reflect on the blessing you've been given.
You learned the lesson. Good for you!! I'm so glad you are getting paid again. What a huge relief I'm sure. But you made it through…and perfectly. Good job!!
Stopped by from MMB.


This is such a positive way to look at a difficult situation! I loved reading this post. And yes, you and your family are very blessed.

Sharon Cohen

I love how God teaches us in hard times – in our own hard times and through the testimonies of those who have endured them. I love how God blesses those who love them. He does not remove the trials or the tests but He sends down blessings to assure us of His love. Your post should be shared with those of little faith so they may know where to turn.

I'm visiting from Mormon Mommy Blogs' Post of the Week. If you find time to check out my post and leave a comment, I would be delighted. Mine is #23, When You Choose What You Got.