Sunday, May 29, 2011

Living Within Our Means

We have an accepted offer on a house!  I don't want to prematurely get excited, so I'm waiting until a few more things fall into place before getting started on packing :-)  But, it has me thinking about our finances and standard of living.

My dad has always taught me the importance of living within my means. As a child, and a teenager, this was preached often, though it mattered very little to me at the time. My dad's means were relatively large, my needs were relatively small. We had a nice house, in a nice neighborhood, I attended private schools. When it came time for my license, we purchased a nice little car. We had cell phones, vacations, computers. College education was provided to me by my dad, I had a nice wedding that didn't require a loan.... Financing was rarely necessary for things.

I don't say this bragging (obviously) since I had worked for exactly 0 of what I was "earning", but my dad managed to always balance home life, work life, financial obligations without getting too ahead of himself. He never bought a house for show, he didn't buy us fancy new cars in need of loans.  Though he certainly could have.

Now, as an adult, I'm realizing how difficult this balance is. My eye is always on a nicer home. A nicer van. A longer vacation. With financing readily available for anything you'd need, it's sad that the meaning of "living within your means" is so convoluted.

Putting a vacation on a credit card, and paying it off within 6 months doesn't sound too crazy. 12 months, interest free financing on furniture is on TV s all of the time. 5 year loans for a new vehicle is pretty standard. People live in homes that are four times the value of their yearly salary, without saving for even a quarter of it first.

I'm not writing this in a judgement seat, rather in a state of confusion. How did we get here? How did "living within our means" come to mean living in a state of being maxed out financially? Without a desire to give more, and live on less?

As Gibbs & I look to the future of our children, and begin thinking about paying off student loans, saving for college funds, retirement accounts, etc., it makes me wonder how much will ever be enough with this type of mindset.

Money can so easily enslave us. Once we make it, we spend it. Then, your dream house, your dream car, become a trap. Working to fulfill financial obligations we perhaps shouldn't have been making in the first place.

Instead of outward concern for others, it becomes an inward obsession with maintaining your standard of living.  Instead of passion for God, your family, your mission field (whether that's at home or abroad)  it becomes working to pay the bills. To get a bigger house, flashier cars, private schools...

It's exhausting (and rewarding) to do a word study on money in the bible. God has a LOT to say about it clearly. I think the overall picture if well worded by this verse, and I will try to keep it in mind as time goes on...
Ecclesiastes 5:10
Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.

2 comments:

  1. your blog is my favorite blog. though your posts have been sorely lacking in references to myself. i will try and be more inspirational.

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  2. I appreciate that! Though... I wonder if you are biased a bit by being my best friend? And yes, if you could get on that inspirational thing, it would help me.

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