Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Living Frugally

Woman Placing Her Wash
I am an observer. As a child, if an older girl put her chapstick on a certain way, I would try to copy that (silly I know). That was a pretty simple thing, but I also would observe others, taking mental notes on how to run a home and family efficiently, and I would dream about how I wanted to run my home some day too. As an adult, I've continued this habit. Unfortunately, my flesh has won some battles, but my prayer is that it would not win the war.

In my observation, I have witnessed that people who are comfortable financially, people who are not ensnared by debt, have a secret.....they are very frugal! More frugal than many middle class or lower are willing to be.

Its ironic, how the middle class seems to be in the most debt, and also the group that think they deserve the most (again, from my observations). They deserve to have a nice house, they deserve to rest, they deserve to....and so they will do whatever it takes to have it, and most times rather than wait, they pull out the credit card, and go deeper in debt.

Amy Dacyczyn, the author of "Tightwad Gazette" says it best:

"I have been a closet amateur budget analyst for many years. People have told me about the shortage of income that leads them to their troubles. Because my opinion was not asked for I didn't point out the Froot Loops in the cupboards, the Pampers in the bathroom, and the cable TV.

"Even more responsible families on modest incomes nearly always have areas in which they could economize. They could give up red meat in favor of dried beans or whole milk in favor of mixed.

"My standing as a "professional budget analyst" enjoys a briefer history. Recently I have talked or corresponded with people in the most desperate circumstances -- those who have declared bankruptcy, received public assistance, or lived on the smallest of incomes. Without exception I was able to identify areas where they could save. The savings might not be enough to cure the financial shortfall, but rarely do they do everything possible.

"Those who were honest admitted that I was right. If it were a matter of life and death they could resort to "desperate measures" such as eating oatmeal or changing a cloth diaper. But in truth they felt comfortable living on the financial edge.

"I have not scrutinized every budget on the planet Earth, and I know rare individuals exist who live on the edge while making every frugal choice possible. However, I have not seen it.

"The majority of the desperate hesitate to make the choices that our family has done routinely for years.

"In the same way that the late guy still arrives late with the gift hour due to the return standard time [before this section of her book, she talks about how people become accustomed to an acceptable (to them) time to arrive - 20 minutes late, on time, or habitually early. She says even with daylight savings, when clocks turn back an hour, they adjust their mental clocks, and instead of being 40 minutes early (as you'd think someone would be who is habitually 20 minutes late!), they continue to be 20 minutes late....that will help understand what Amy says next], many of those living on the edge [living with only a few dollars from paycheck to paycheck] or out on the gangplank [living beyond their means, and continually taking chances by going further into debt] fail to benefit by increased income. They might have more stuff or more fun, but they instinctively maintain the same distance to the edge regardless.

"If they cannot pay a bill because "the transmission gave out," truthfully the problem is not mechanical at all. Rather the fault can be found with all the extras that they were not willing to give up in order to have the needed cushion.

"For most of us our relationship to the financial edge comes down to a matter of choice. The choice may be the decisions we make today, or we may be living with choices we have made in the past. While the past choices cannot be changed, remarkably the ones we make today become tomorrow's past choices [that last sentence is a breath of fresh air for me :) ]

We can make choices that allow us to take a giant step back from the financial edge and set up a cushion. A sustained effort to scale back will result in savings for more than just a cushion. WE can save for long-term goals and increased financial independence."

This book is going to be so helpful for us and I'm so thankful someone recommended it to me.


Proverbs 1:5

A wise man will hear, and will increase learning;

and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels


Proverbs 11:14

Where no counsel is, the people fall:

but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety


Proverbs 12:15

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes:

but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.


Proverbs 19:20

Hear counsel, and receive instruction,

that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.


One of the wisest bits of parenting advice I ever received was to be obedient to God if I expect my children to be obedient to me. I had such a rough year surrendering to God, as I realized, I was demanding my children be obedient to me, yet I was terribly rebellious in my own heart and not obedient to God in several areas.

As you see from the above, God is pretty clear that a wise man or woman listens to counsel. However, I bet most, if honest, would have to admit that they are pretty set in their own ways.

But what if your own ways aren't working? I can say, because of bad decisions, and honestly, laziness, on my part, our ways have not been working for us.

That is when I think it is important to be humble enough, ultimately, wise enough, to seek counsel, which is what I have been doing for some time now.

Going back to my observations (I'm kind of jumping around here today, but hopefully in the end, it will all come together!), people who are financially secure and have savings for a rainy day, do not go out to eat often. They pack lunches and snacks and going out to eat is a special treat, as it should be. We've kept our check book online for as long as we've been married. If I were to give you a glimpse into our register, you would see that we've spent many, probably thousands, of dollars on eating out. How sad! How wrong.

I've had to humbly ask forgiveness from God first, and also my husband, for I would say 98% of this was from my decision, and from my lack of planning. This has been a sobering reality for me. I hope from my admission, the Lord would help you look deep into your heart, and you too can begin this journey of making things right. Its never too late with God, thankfully!

My sister and I were talking this weekend about a show she watched featuring Suze Orman. My sister jokingly acted like someone from the audience and Suze Orman. I'll try to capture it here with words (it was very funny!)

My sister acting as an audience member: "Hi Ms. Orman, I have a question. Is it okay to get one burrito if I'm on my way home from work and really hungry?"

My sister acting as Suze Orman: "Let's have you answer your own question. What is your debt? What is your income?"

Audience member: "But I was just hungry."

Suze Orman: "You have debt and not enough income - I think you have your answer."

As funny as this is, it is so true! Its been hard for me to admit that all debt is bad, despite what most Americans believe. As long as we have debt, then every extra must be scrutinized and we need to have open hands to let go of all that we think we deserve. Here is another truth that I've had to prayerfully accept - we deserve nothing.

Today, I'm not going to go step by step into what we are doing to decrease our spending. I've been ribbed a little when it comes to where we've chosen to grocery shop. Laugh with me a little here, but in this fragile, very pregnant state, I don't think I can take more ribbing ;) In all honesty though, the decisions we're making are done together as a couple, but most importantly done with prayer. What is working for us, may not apply to you.

The most important thing I want to share is this. How willing are you (am I) to be when it comes to getting out of debt? The thing that hit my husband and I is that we are so captured up in the "American way", by working 40+ hours a week and having a mortgage, to name a few things, that we actually are slaves to these things, and cannot be freely open to have God do His work through us. Seriously, that is the reality of it.

How completely awesome it would be to have no debt, even with our home, so that we can take on a job no matter how little the income, in order to be free to do as the Lord wishes? Do you think this is even possible?

Go ahead and scoff, but my husband and I think it is VERY possible and we are completely excited about it too :)

On that note, this may be one of my last posts in a while. I am only about 2 months away from giving birth, and in that 2 months are some very busy times. I need to be frugal with my time as well, and keep working on some things around here.
Let's keep our eyes fixed on Jesus as we go about our days. I am learning that is the only way to get through this world. I've tried it on my own and I continue to struggle with taking the reigns back some days, and it plain does not work. Being completely surrendered to God, through serving others and by talking to Him as you would your best friend, is the only way. Try it, it is a wonderful thing :)
Ta ta for now :)


Liz said...

Will miss you Jen...try to stay in touch some...let me know how things are going...

Stay, stay at home, my heart, and rest;
Home-keeping hearts are happiest,
For those that wander they know not where
Are full of trouble and full of care;
To stay at home is best.

Weary and homesick and distressed,
They wander east, they wander west,
And are baffled and beaten and blown about
By the winds of the wilderness of doubt;
To stay at home is best.

Then stay at home, my heart, and rest;
The bird is safest in its nest;
O'er all that flutter their wings and fly
A hawk is hovering in the sky;
To stay at home is best.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow