Living With A Broken Dustpan: Lessons Learned from the Frugal-Not-By-Choice trenches

Living With A Broken Dustpan

Lessons Learned from the Frugal-Not-By-Choice trenches


There was a time in my life when I was unemployed and we (my husband and I) had very, very little money. It was a dark, depressing time. I was extremely hesitant to use credit cards or dip into savings because I had no idea if I would ever get another job or be able to pay it back. I had watched too many people sink deep into credit card debt and I really didn’t want that happening to me.

I was on a tiny, strict budget and I really stuck to it. I sometimes look back and wonder how we managed to make it work and I honestly don’t know. We had so little. Being frugal-not-by-choice is a terrible situation to be in.

My Broken Dustpan

One day my dustpan broke. Cracked. I didn’t know what to do. I really needed a new dustpan but I didn’t have the money to buy one. My husband and I discussed putting it on the credit card- it was a real need after all! But we decided to wait until we actually had cash to do it. This meant waiting until my husband could make it with his “side-hustle” which was very sporadic and not at all consistent or I could make the money with online tasks and surveys. So we waited. In the meantime, I was still using the broken dustpan. And I really made it work. I would get on the floor and push all the dirt to one corner of the pan and then hold it tilted so the dirt wouldn’t fall through the crack while I carried to the garbage can. It took longer but I soon got the hang of it.

We finally had the money to buy a new dustpan (online surveys WILL NOT make you rich but it did get me some money when I really needed it) but it seemed silly to buy a new dustpan (remember, we had VERY little money) when we were making do with the old one. Our old, cracked dustpan continued to serve us faithfully until I finally got a new job and we were able to easily afford a new dustpan.

Frugal Trenches Pinterest Image

But the experience taught me some important lessons:

  1. Even when you think you can’t use it anymore- it still may surprise you and give you more use!
  2. You may think something is broken but there is more there.
  1. If you really need an item but you can’t afford it, push off the decision one more day. And one more. And then see if you really still can’t live without it.
  2. When life pushes you to the point where you think you can do it anymore, when it seems that a broken dustpan is the only tool you have at your disposal- you have it in you to make it work. You are stronger than you give yourself credit for. You may think you can’t live with a broken dustpan, that you need something better than you have- but you may surprise yourself! You can make it work! You can do it!
  3. When you are struggling with money, it may seem like another blow to have to clean your house with a broken dustpan. It can depress you every time you have to sweep. It is another indignity that must be suffered. Things will get better. Things will change. When the sun does come out, you will have an experience that will have made you a stronger, tougher person. Click To Tweet

If you have ever been at a point where you feel so low and are cleaning your house with a broken dustpan, remember: there are other people out there who are struggling as well (in many ways). You are not alone. You are a hero.


How much do I put into my retirement fund? Not a lot, unfortunately. But I put what I can. Why? to create good financial habits. Read: Why I put $5 a month into a Retirement account.  

Basic Guide to Budgeting and Personal Finance

Are you clueless when it comes to Budgeting and Personal Finance?

I wish I had someone to teach me basics of budgeting and saving when I was just starting to work. I would have saved myself so much heartache. This is not a blog about getting out debt (thank goodness!) or about Pursuing Financial Independenceor Early Retirement (FIRE). There

Basic Guide to Budgeting and Personal Finance

are plenty of great people talking about those.

This is a blog about the basics of personal finance and my own journey towards financial security. I am a “millennial mom” who is doing her best to give my family financial security all while living on a low income. No high-earner here!

How do you start getting your financial life in order?

It's actually very easy. There are no secrets or get-rich tips. It comes down to proper budgeting and saving properly. Click To Tweet

If you read the following posts (I suggest in order but you can do whatever you want!) it will give you the basic foundation to start getting your financial life in order. Its simple and straightforward.

Budgeting with the Modern Envelope System– a basic budget with a modern twist.

Budgeting on an Uneven Paycheck– What if you don’t get a set paycheck every month? This posts helps you set up a budget to fit your uneven paycheck.

Setting up Your Savings Ladder- Where do you put your savings? How do you know what to save for? The Savings Ladder will tell you exactly where and how much to save.

Emergency Fund: A Primer- The emergency fund is part of your savings ladder. Why is it so important? Why do you need it?

Why I put $5 a Month into a Retirement Account- Creating good financial habits is the key to successfully getting your financial life under control.

3 Tips to Boost your Savings-Looking for tips to boost your savings? Here are 3. No shortcuts though! Just good, old-fashioned savings.

Close the Gap– Why should I budget if my expenses are more than my income?

Happy Reading and Good Luck!

Basic Guide to Budgeting and personal Finance


How Budgeting Saved My Marriage

How Budgeting Saved My Marriage

When I got pregnant with my first child we knew we had to save money. We had been bopping around before then, putting money on credit cards and paying it off, taking some money and putting it into savings, taking it out again. Not doing anything really stupid but not really being on top of the situation. We had put some money we got from our wedding in savings and we hadn’t really done any savings since then. We WANTED to save money but there never really seemed to be any money at the end of the month to put away.

When we realized we needed to save more money for the baby, we hit a snag. I am naturally frugal and have an easier time just NOT spending money. My husband is not a big spender, but he occasionally buys a coffee, a danish, a pricey ingredient at the store. While I was busy trying NOT to spend money, he was still spending money on things that I, personally, deemed frivolous. He would come home and the critic in me would start: “Are you sure you needed to buy a sandwich? You could have remembered to pack one at home”, “Another coffee? Really?”. And as you can imagine he didn’t respond to that really well. As we continued to bicker, I became more controlling and he became more defensive- “You’re not my mother” became a common refrain. When he came home with flowers for me in an effort to appease, it just escalated the situation! “I don’t want flowers! I want to save money!”. It was not exactly the harmonious, loving home that we both wanted to have. We had become something that we both didn’t want to be: A COUPLE THAT FIGHTS ABOUT MONEY.

We were heading down a dark road and it had to stop. All our interactions were becoming about money and the “SAVINGS” was a big, black cloud that hung over our marriage. We didn’t know how to get there and we were fighting as we tried to figure it out.

So we decided to do something we had never done before: We made a budget. (Cue the music).

And it worked. We stopped fighting. By creating a budget we were able to take the emotions out of the money which left us with nothing to fight about. Click To Tweet

We had a specific amount of money for household expenses, and a specific amount of money for each of us to spend. We each decided for ourselves how to spend that money.

Stop Fighting about Money

Why did this work? Because it was really never about the money. It rarely is. It was about the emotions that money evokes. You see, I grew up in a poor family. Not dirt poor- but a “live on a strict budget don’t get dental work until its urgent” type of family. When my father lost his job, things were really, really tight and stressful. So I was determined that I would have savings and money in the bank to try to avoid those tense times. It made me feel secure to know that there was a $50 bill in my purse that wasn’t being spent. Just in case. It was important for me to have money in the bank.

My husband, on the other hand, grew up with a financially controlling parent. Every purchase was scrutinized, discussed and analyzed. While they were pretty comfortable financially he never felt the freedom to purchase anything on his own. Even when he spent his own money, he would be questioned and guilted about his purchases. When he became independent, he needed to be able to spend his own money without feeling controlled or analyzed. He didn’t mind having a set amount to spend-he minded being told HOW or WHEN to spend it. He wanted to be able to decide for HIMSELF when to buy a cup of coffee or not.

Budgeting gave us both what we wanted. We put aside money for savings right when we got paid (instead of putting aside what was leftover) which gave me the feeling of security and purpose that I craved and that allowed me to stop feeling panicked about the money he spent. On his end, he was able to decide what to spend on which item without feeling guilty or uncertain about his choices. It was freedom within a framework- which is what he wanted.

The budget we created was made by both of us. We both agreed to the amounts and the system. We have lived on this same budgeting system for years now, with a few minor adjustments. We honestly rarely talk about money. When we do, it is to discuss changes to the budget or big purchases-its all done calmly and respectfully (and rarely). We already know what we each need and what our overall financial goals are so we only rarely have to discuss the “nuts and bolts”. There really is nothing to fight about and money does not make its way into every discussion like it used to.

6 Tips to Help you Create a Budget with your Spouse or Significant Other:

  1. Be calm and respectful. Realize that it is rarely about the money. It is about the emotion that money evokes.
  2. Respect the other person’s needs and wants.
  3. Write it down and agree to reevaluate.
  4. Choose a quite, peaceful time to assess how the budget is working.
  5. Give your partner space. Trust them to follow the budget and stick to the plan.
  6. Support the other if they mess up. The relationship is more important than the money.

How Budgeting Saved my Marriage

What budget did we use? This one right here!