I’m just going to go ahead and tackle what I think is the biggest issue in detouring us from contentment. This is the one I think may rub some people the wrong way, and I’m sorry if it does, but chances are that if it rubs you the wrong way…it’s because you know you’re guilty of it. Now, this is not meant in any way to be shaming, but meant to be a help to get people to realize some of the destructive mindsets and behaviors that are keeping them from true contentment. So, please hear me out here and take this for what it is meant to be…help.
Money. Oh, money. Seems we never have enough. Talk to the person with the tiny little house and old vehicles or the person with the gorgeous house with the in-ground pool and new vehicles and you’re likely to hear the same thing when it comes to how much money they think they have. In most cases, people in either one of these situations will tell you they don’t have enough. Is it true? Well, depends on how you look at it. Do they have adequate shelter, food, clothing and transportation for their family? If so, they have enough. However, if they have debt of any kind, they don’t have enough money. You know what that means? They are living above their means. They are living a lifestyle that their income does not support. There’s a problem there and no one needs me to tell them what they need to do to fix that. Let’s just pretend for a minute that someone does though.
If you have credit card or loan debt, your absolute first priority with those paychecks you get should be to pay down that debt…as quickly as possible. Do you realize the absurd amount of money you are paying in interest if you don’t? That makes no sense whatsoever and is disastrous for your future. Here are some practical tips for how to save a little money each month that you can instead put toward that debt. I can say these with confidence because they are exactly what I have done and even though we don’t have that credit card debt with the monstrous interest hanging over us anymore, I’ve realized I don’t even miss the things we changed to save money and either does anyone else in our house, even though they seemed like they were going to be so terrible at first.
First off, how much are you paying for your cable/satellite service? Chances are it’s a ridiculous amount. We cancelled our service, got a good old fashioned antennae so we would have local channels and got Netflix (the cheapest package) and recently just added Hulu. Even though the kids cried and whined about it and I was bummed about not having the few channels that I did enjoy, we have been without it for at least 2 years now and NO ONE in our house cares at all! That was a HUGE savings. Seriously, it’s tv. Why would you spend that kind of money on tv when you have debt hanging over your head?
Next up, heat/air conditioning. So, here’s the deal. I’m cold pretty much all the time in the winter. Like, even if I’m in a house that is 70 degrees or more, so I’ve learned to deal with it by wearing slipper socks when I’m in the house and layers. No biggie. That made it an easy decision for me to lower our heat in the winters. We have propane, so heating our house is very expensive (and thankfully we have a fairly small house to heat). Last year I decided to keep our heat at 65 degrees and guess what? No one froze to death! We had blankets we would use when we sat and watched t.v. and really no one even seemed to notice all that much. Yeah, there were the occasional times where it got a little chilly, but you just add another layer of clothing and you’re all good. We’ve done that for two winters in a row now and have had some of the coldest/snowiest winters here in Michigan these past two years too! Same goes with air conditioning. Now, I can’t stand to be hot when I’m trying to sleep, so this one is actually a little harder for me. In fact, we sleep with fans on in our rooms all through the winter. However, I got smart and when we moved to this house, I bought curtains that block out light and also hold heat or cool air in, depending on the season. That definitely affords us a little more time before we have to break down and turn the air on. Now, I know what some of you are thinking “That’s ridiculous, I’m not going to be uncomfortable in my own home just to save a few dollars.” Well, do you have debt of any kind? Because if you do, having to layer or deal with a little heat is a small inconvenience to pay in order to save yourself a lot of money.
Clothes, clothes, oh how I love clothes. If you’re like me and LOVE clothes, then maybe that’s your weakness and where a lot of your extra spending goes. This includes shoes, purses, jewelry, etc. I have two words for you “Thrift Store”. Now, before you turn up your nose at the idea, let me just tell you that I have a closet full of Ann Taylor Loft, Banana Republic, Gap, Nike, etc. clothes that were all purchased from thrift stores and people always compliment me on my outfits.You can find amazing pieces of clothing at thrift stores. My boys get the majority of their school clothes at the beginning of the year from thrift stores and consignment shops. They have all the name brand things they want to have like their friends, only we pay a fraction of what other people pay for them. I’ve been picking up shorts for them lately and let me tell you, they are thrilled to have “new” clothes, no matter if they come from the thrift store or not. Why in the world would I pay full price for clothes?!
Food is up next. Now, we’ve always been pretty good about meal planning and buying mostly only what is on sale. If you aren’t doing that, that’s a great place to start. The harder one for us though, is not going out to eat very often. That includes fast food and pizza as well as sit-down restaurants. You know what that does? It makes your kids more appreciative and excited when they do get those things (and it makes the adults more appreciative and excited too). This means you have to be intentional about meal planning so you aren’t stuck in those moments of “I don’t know what we’re going to have for dinner, so we’ll just grab a pizza.” That creates unnecessary spending. It also means having to say no sometimes when you are asked to go out to dinner. That can be hard, but when you really stick to it and when people know the reason why you have to say no, they are usually quite understanding.
That leads me to another good point. You need to surround yourself with people who are supportive of what you are trying to do. If your friends or family are constantly razzing you because you won’t go out to eat or go do things that cost money, that is going to make your path to being debt free very hard. Unfortunately, you will probably encounter at least some people like that along your way, but you have to be committed to making this change for you and your family and not allow them to wear you down.
What you can do is things like using bottle/can returns money to save up and have pizza one night or collect change in a jar and decide as a family how you want to treat yourselves with it when it reaches a certain amount. These are things that bring a collective effort within your family and you are able to experience the accomplishment and the reward together. This teaches your kids that your financial responsibilities need to be taken care of first and the fun comes with seeing how when you take care of responsibilities first, you can reap the rewards guilt-free.
Maybe you don’t have debt and if you don’t, that’s awesome!!! In fact, I highly recommend that you only have one credit card and that you keep it with a trusted family member for use only when necessary. I cannot say enough how destructive I think credit cards are. Even if you don’t have debt though, many of these same things can still apply to you and your family. This especially applies if you find yourself running out of money at the end of the month and don’t seem to ever have money to put into savings. If that’s the case, you’re spending too much!
I truly believe that if we are being responsible with our money, we will have an overflow with which we can bless others. Even though we have been very conscious of our spending, we still seem to have extra to give to help out when there is a real need and I know that is because we are being blessed for being responsible. It’s funny how I find it so easy to give, when I know I’m taking care of my responsibilities and not being frivolous with my spending. I saw this yesterday and thought it was so fitting with what I was writing about today.
No matter how much money you have, it’s always easy to fall into the trap of wanting more. Sure, I want that cute pair of shoes or to go out to dinner with my friends, but there’s something so much more satisfying about it when I know my responsibilities have been taken care of first and now I can get those shoes or go out to eat without feeling like that money needs to be going somewhere else.
What does this all have to do with contentment? Well, when you are content, you don’t feel the need to spend money that you really shouldn’t be spending. You are happy in your circumstances and don’t need all of those material things to make you happy. When you are content, money is placed in it’s proper position in your life and it isn’t something that controls you or causes you great stress or great joy. It’s just money.
So, don’t let money have that much of a hold on you. Being content is worth so much more. It’s worth it for you and for your family. It’s worth it for now and for your future. I choose contentment over money. I hope you will too.