My husband and I live a contented life with our little girls in the sprawling, mountainous country of Arizona. We are happy here - restless with ambitions and dreams glistening overhead, but gratified nonetheless. I can honestly say that I don't want a bigger house or more stuff to fill it with. My heart - my life - my arms...are already full. I am rich. So very rich.
Maybe we're not millionaires (yet), but we do have enough...more than enough. On many levels.
When it comes to money, here are five basic principles that we strive to live by:
1. Do away with debt. Debt is a burden on your shoulders, a boulder on your back. It paralyzes you. Like a ball and chain, it holds you back from being creative, from experiencing contentment and peace, and from accomplishing great things. My husband and I have always strived to live without debt (and still do). In college, we lived off of scholarships, hard work, and boxes of pasta to avoid school loans. As a young married couple, we lived in the tiniest studio apartment and had only one car. Even now, we drive used cars (without car payments) and live in a modest home (we do have a mortgage, but we're working toward paying it off...).
Earl Wilson has been quoted as saying, "Today, there are three kinds of people: the haves, the have-nots, and the have-not-paid-for-what-they-haves." Better to be in one of the first two categories than the last one. If you have debt, I strongly urge you to move toward a debt-free lifestyle. A debt-free life is a free life.
2. Give generously. It's ironic, but - the more you give, the more you will get. It seems impossible, contradictory...but we have found this principle to be true over and over again. If we ever start to feel a "money crunch" around here, my husband and I usually look at each other and say, "we better give more." To the church. To charity. To suffering friends. By giving, we receive - much more than we could ever anticipate. Give money. Give love. Give time. And you'll get it back. You'll see.
3. Stay healthy. One of the best ways to avoid large expenses is to be healthy. Exercise. Drink water. Eat healthfully. Visit the dentist. Laugh a lot. The medical industry is a huge industry that can gobble up your income if you're not careful. One way to save A LOT of money is to be aware of your body and to take care of it. Preventative measures are of crucial importance.
4. Take care of your own...stuff. We have a house so we clean it. We have a yard so we pick the weeds and prune the bushes. We have cars so we change the oil regularly. We have bodies so we exercise them and fuel them with wholesome foods. We strive to maintain what we own with pride, with hard work.
5. Quality over Quantity. I'm sure that people sometimes wonder how it is that we can purchase Mac laptops, designer jeans, and organic foods. They may assume that (a) we are making a lot of money or that (b) we are going into debt to do it. In fact, neither of those assumptions are true. We simply research thoroughly what we want and what will last - and then we save until we are able to afford it.
For example, I might buy one pair of expensive designer jeans that fit precisely and that make me feel fabulous (and then I'll wear them every other day for months). One of my friends, however, might buy 5 pairs of cheaper jeans in that same timeframe, but be unsatisfied because they fit poorly, stretch out when washed, and generally look "uglyish." My husband often refers to this concept at the "dollar store mentality." So many people buy doodads from the dollar aisles at Target and as they casually canvas the grocery store. They buy things - a lot of things - but not high-quality things, not things that will last.
Above all, we try to remember that things are rather insignificant. What matters is people - beating hearts, laughing babies, inquiring minds, candid conversations.
I don't want to be trapped by money. I don't want it to hold me captive. I want to manage my money (I don't want it to manage me). I want money to be a tool...to improve our QUALITY of life and, more importantly, to help others.
YOUR TURN: What money principles do you live by?