My husband and I got married in college after an unplanned pregnancy when we were only 20 years old. We had a 4-month-old baby, a tiny apartment, our renewed faith in God, and our love for each other. 

We dreamt of a better life and worked hard for it, trusting God with the rest. My husband was working full-time and going to school full-time. I worked small jobs here and there: babysitting, coaching, cold calling while taking care of the baby and trying to finish school.

This was difficult and hard, but we leaned on God and each other. 

My husband created an envelope budget system, where we would label the outside of several envelopes according to our budget (rent, electric bill, water bill, gas money, etc.) and placed the exact amount of cash we had to spend in each of them. We had to make the little money we made go a long way. Our friends laughed when we told them we didn’t have enough cash in our “fun money” envelope to hang out with them on the weekends, but we had our own cheap merriment just the same. 

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We would spend many evenings together making meals that would feed us all week. Because of our limited budget, leftovers were key. While we cooked, we would laugh about how tiny our kitchen was as we accidentally bumped into each other. We danced joyfully to music while we cooked the few recipes we knew. Afterward, we would snuggle up on the couch when the baby went to sleep and viscously vied for a Jeopardy win. As we are both competitive, this was inexpensive, but exciting entertainment (and the winner got a massage!). 

Our big Friday night fun was a trip to the grocery store.

We would joke around about how loud our baby was being and giggled at the judgmental glares sent our way while desperately trying to shush and soothe. We would carefully check prices as we shopped and when we got to the counter, we would both try to guess the exact amount we owed. One of us was often right because we were counting every penny, and we’d reward the other with a big high five (and a massage later for the winner, of course). We would pull out our envelope labeled “groceries” and hand over the cash.  

We would spend some Saturday mornings going from garage sale to yard sale to find cheap ways to decorate our house or toys for our child or clothes for ourselves. It was always fun to see what we could find and how much we could save. We would roll down the windows and zoom around town together, just the three of us, enjoying the beautiful Saturday as a little family. Our car was an old, run-down Crown Vic that often smoked so much we had to carry around a jug of water to keep it cool, but the absurdity of it made us laugh, often and much.

You could find us on Sunday mornings enjoying the free coffee, service, and childcare at church with our “tithe” envelope in hand. My husband chose to trust God with our 10%, despite the minimal amount of money we were making. We enjoyed worshipping the Lord and growing in His Word.

It left our hearts uplifted and merry. 

Eventually, we finished school and got better jobs and moved into a house. Gradually, we got even better jobs and had more kids and bought a bigger house.  Now, we have four kids, more house than we’d ever dreamed of, more money than we need, and a life that keeps us oftentimes too busy. 

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Our cup runneth over so much, we decided to have a garage sale to try to clear out all our clutter. As people came to purchase our stuff, I was sweetly reminded of the good old days.

While I’m grateful for the life we live now and the many ways God has blessed us and been faithful to us, I’m reminded of the time when life was simpler. We may not have had much, but we had each other. Back then, we dreamt of finishing school, more money, better cars, and an easier life, but now I see that those days, in and of themselves, were truly a treasure. While we didn’t have much, we had all we needed. 

Ashlee Bowman

Ashlee Bowman is an educator, blogger, book lover, runner, wife, and mother of four who is passionate about empowering moms with Biblical truth and connecting them with The Truth: Jesus!