Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Spending or Saving Part 3

Welcome, this post is the third in a series.  You can find the first two here and here.

Before I type another word, well – okay, in my case we know it will be lots of words – I want you to know I’ve culled many of these ideas from a wide variety of sources.  The ideas and principles are not specific to any one author or particular body of work.  

And, it's important to me that you understand although my writing style tends to be definitive, I’m not the end all expert on these matters.

I’ve collected ideas that apply to Weekend Farmer Husband and me personally, and ideas that were consistently mentioned in the articles I read.  The widespread nature of this content leads me to believe these are big ideas and principles we all need to know.

Big ideas are often inspirational, directional, and sometimes a little too lofty.

Maybe they seem that way because our culture demands quick answers, and in an age of YouTube self education and Wikipedia easy answers we aren’t too often careful enough to consider the Why and the What before we get to the How.

Yeah, I can’t help myself – How Now Brown Cow? You hear it too right...? So many years of preschoolers in the home...(this book comes home from the library with some frequency)

We’ll get to the “how” grasshopper.

But, let’s try and build a solid foundation first, so that if a couple of our bricks get loose along the way our structure is still sound and we only have to make minor repairs since we know the big bad wolf sometimes comes along a tries to blow our house down!

It ALL belongs to and comes from God.
As master designer and sovereign creator of time and all that is, God has proper jurisdiction over the whole of His creation.  Our human experience is but a breath, and our numbered days reflect the generosity and abundant care of a loving God.  The scriptures tell, and our own hearts confirm, that we deserve no good thing, yet unbelievably, as one of God’s early acts of creation He blesses us. (Genesis 1:28) If we but dimly understand this, we necessarily acknowledge that anything we have received is a gift from the Father. (James 1:17) We are merely stewards of all He gives.

Everything we have is a GIFT.
This is true whether we have plenty or if we live in want.  Any and every condition our bank account reveals is for our good and God’s glory.

Most of us who come here have plenty.  I suspect most of us had and have enough to eat, clothes to protect our bodies, homes to shelter us, and abundance far beyond what we would consider basic needs. 

Yet, there are some of us who experience true want.  There’s more month at the end of the money, and bills pile up and more than collect dust they attract collection calls.  

Most of us have noticed our tax burden has increased with the onset of 2013, each paycheck comes to us with a little less and we stretch ourselves even more from paycheck to paycheck. 

Others of us have more than enough and we experience pleasure with the finances at our disposal.  Perhaps we are anticipating a great ski vacation at spring break or a shopping jaunt next weekend to the nearest urban center.  Maybe we have a book addiction passion and our shelves burgeon with the printed word. We have more than enough

All of us are likely somewhere on the continuum of just being shy of poverty to western wealth.  

The principle applies to all of us.

The apostle Paul testifies clearly in his letter the Philippians that he’s experienced both – he has had contentment and want.  And what is his determination and teaching for us from the counsel of his life and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit?  He has learned the secret of being content- He can (and by extension we can) do everything through Him who gives us strength.

Being hungry because there isn't food in the larder or money to get groceries is a hard gift. 

I pray for us, that none receive this gift to its depths, but I humbly submit that this kind of want is as great a gift as dollars in the budget to spend on luxurious food as you will. 

It is in our needy places that it is more likely that we’ll see God and His mercy and love, and make practical doing all things through Him who gives us strength.

When I lose sight of this idea, God often arranges circumstances to realign my view and I come to understand Him more completely as provider.

Or, sometimes, He in unreachable gentleness, puts the perfect song on my Pandora play list:
(Y’all make sure you come back after this…this is but the beginning of these ideas)
 ((Ahem- what I’m saying is there’s more to read after the video…))

We’re never done learning.
At least I hope we’re not as I’m easily bored (true story), and when bored my attitude sours and my actions head south.  

That’s more than confession. 

It’s understanding that if I don’t bring a long term commitment to bearing up under the responsibility of revisiting the practice of faithful stewardship, I’ll likely make unnecessary or frustrating mistakes.  

Life moves fast and circumstances change.  This is a vast area of practice, study, commitment, and feet on the ground doing.  Artists, athletes, business professionals, nurses – really, any professional engages in ongoing improvement and development if they’re seriously committed.  

Financial stewardship is no different.  In fact, that’s one of the motivators in writing this all down.  Even though I recently read up a bunch and put together a mini presentation, I am just as likely as anyone to forget any morsel of wisdom I've gleaned if I don’t review and reevaluate my practices in this area.  Our expertise seems to last only as long as our attention in matters of meeting financial goals.

Financial turnaround/success isn't based on income growth but on getting a grip on spending.
It is this principle that inspired my uninspiring series title.
I do like to be a little contradictory sometimes…

In most cases the single biggest challenge for an individual or couple trying to get control of their finances is NOT their income level.  It’s their financial literacy and their own awareness of the tension between spending and their end of the month balance.

So often I’m attracted to blog posts, podcasts, and book targeted at saving money.  Back to the how – I want to have specific things to do.  And, frankly, I’m pretty good at the saving money part.  I can stretch the dollars and do without and make do right along with all the experts. 

But, those practices seem to have very little impact on long term change.  They do affect the month to month bottom line and produce a little wiggle room when necessary, but they aren't the things that move us forward in most of our financial goals.

I used the term “financial literacy” above.  Here’s what I mean:
If I want my 3rd grade daughter to become a good reader I give her access to books. 

She’ll read both cover to cover, and yes, will enjoy both.

One will substantively increase her literacy.

One will keep her occupied for a short time and probably give her some ideas I wish she didn’t have. 

Although I don’t have a bias against “Captain Underpants”, I do have a bias that includes increasing reading literacy with books that include historical context, vivid (not base) language, complex story lines, and depth of content.

Do you see the analogy?

Our income went from adequate but shrinking to zero in one moment in May of 2012. Our literacy regarding spending was immediately enhanced.  Financial literacy is the awareness, depth of understanding, comprehension, and behavior that makes up the totality of a financial plan.

I think Weekend Farmer Husband and I have received some good teaching about financial literacy and how spending is the key factor to impacting the bottom line.I’m not advocating a lack of attention to saving – we’d have been in much deeper waters if there hadn't been some saving practices at play in our personal circumstances. 

But we spent our way through those savings, and it was our spending that had the biggest impact on our savings.

I can’t believe it either…I’m not finished.

Could there possibly be more to say?  I think so.

Let’s touch on budgeting, the tipping point between frugal and cheap, and a family financial manifesto soon. And if you would, chime in! 

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