What's your budget view-point?
A long time ago I read something somewhere (I wish I could remember where, to give proper credit. If you recognize this, please let me know!) in which a woman talked about how perspective is everything. Apparently her husband had made frequent mention of growing up "poor", in a negative way, and so she was shocked when she finally learned that his family had lived on about the same income that hers had. She went on to explain that she'd never once thought that she was poor growing up. Her family had even made regular donations to a food bank and surely, as she'd believed as a child, if they were donating to the poor, they couldn't possibly be poor themselves.
Two families. Two totally different viewpoints. And two totally different outcomes. In the one household, the child grew up feeling deprived, something that can very often lead to huge financial problems in adulthood - debt-creating overspending to compensate for a "miserable" childhood. In the other, clearly, the blessings of what they did have were stressed, as well as the need to help those less fortunate, leading to a woman who grew up believing she'd been lucky as a child.
There are two very distinct ways of going about a frugal lifestyle. You can do it with a "woe-is-me" attitude or a "we are blessed" attitude. (More in full post.)
The biggest problem with the "woe-is-me" perspective is you are much, much more likely to get yourself into financial jams. You'll blow your food budget on a $25 pizza order delivered to your house because you're feeling like you've earned it and you've been deprived of this pleasure, rather than having the fun of making a pizza at home, for a fraction of that cost, and feeling grateful that you're able to do so. Make mistakes like this too often, and you'll find yourself in debt and struggling to climb out of a seemingly ever-deepening hole.
I do understand this can be hard. As that article says, here in America we are constantly being bombarded with images of the so-called "good life" and those images are always filled with fancy homes and expensive cars. Success in our society is not marked by a person who lives quietly and well, who has good friends and a great family, who honors God and is genuinely happy. Success is measured by bank accounts. Is it any wonder why people get so caught up in the race to have more, more, more?
Then there are those who openly criticize anyone who embraces frugalness. These people, frankly, astonish me. Why on earth someone would think you are being cruel to your child by not taking him to McDonald's for a "treat" is beyond me! If it means you are using money that should be used elsewhere, you are only being financially irresponsible. And furthermore, it's not like you're doing your child any favors anyway - feeding him a meal that's genuinely bad for him. What kind of treat is that? Unfortunately, these critics can be quite vocal and rude, and sadly, undermine the efforts of a parent who does want to take control of her/his finances, by making her/him feel somehow inadequate as a mom or dad.
There are way too many people in this world who really are truly poor. People who are homeless and hungry. But are you one of them? Do you spend a little too much time bemoaning what you don't have, rather than being grateful for what you do? Are you, however unwittingly, handing the "woe-is-me" attitude down to your children? You might want to try a little thanksgiving.
No, don't go out and buy a turkey and some cranberry sauce! What I mean is, don't wait for November. Make a list now of all your blessings. I mean this literally. Take out a piece of paper and write down everything you have for which you are thankful, both tangible, like a roof over your head, and intangible, like the love of your friends, family and spouse. Tape this list somewhere that you'll see it every day, like your bathroom mirror. Thank God daily for these things and keep them foremost in your mind. When you start to focus wholly on your blessings, the other things quickly lose their importance. A joyful hug from your son or daughter is worth a thousand diamond necklaces, and if your attitude is one of happiness and thankfulness, your children will pick up on it and mirror it in their own lives.
Random ways to "gift" yourself any time you feel you might be slipping into the "woe-is-me" trap for a moment:
1. Read your Blessings List. Out loud. To the dog if no one else is around to listen.
2. Make some artwork. Collect cards, drawings, and pictures your children have made for you, or if they're young, ask them to make you something new. Select a few and frame them, or make a larger, single collage. You don't need expensive frames. You can find inexpensive ones at garage sales and dollar stores, or make them yourself. Hang your artwork proudly. I promise you, in twenty years when your kids are grown and gone, this art will mean much, much more to you than any "real" paintings or prints you might have in your home.
3. Go to the library. A friend of mine once told me any time she feels the "shopping bug" biting, she makes a trip to the local library. Once she's checked out some books and music CDs and a few movies, she feels just as good as she used to when she'd go on a credit-card rampage at the mall. Sure, she eventually has to give these things back, but she's done with it all by then anyway and she's satisfied the "must have something new" craving that hit her.
4. Go garage sale shopping. Plan to buy something - any one thing you want - as long as it doesn't cost more than $1. Really shop around with that one dollar and by the time you make your choice, you'll feel absurdly pleased with your "splurge" even though you didn't just drop a fortune.
5. Take a day off. There will likely be some things you have to do, regardless, especially if you have very young children, but do as little as possible. After breakfast, put dinner in the Crock-Pot (and if you don't have one of those - get one!) so that you won't be working in the kitchen in the evening. Let the kids off from school work and instead designate the day as "free reading". Or, if you're a homeschooler who takes summer break, tell the kids that they're to amuse themselves for the day, with books or board games or anything else that requires little parental supervision. Relax as much as you can. Read a book. Work on a craft project. Sit outside in the sun. Consider it a vacation, even though you aren't going anywhere and use the day to recharge.
Even if you've made some really bad money decisions before, even if you're already in that debt-hole and now trying to get out, no matter how slow the going, it is not too late! You really can change your outlook and attitude and work to make sure your children don't grow up thinking nothing less than $100,000 a year is acceptable.
This really is all about remembering what the important things in life are, and money? Isn't one of them.
Labels: budgeting chatter