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Have you heard the one about the homeschooling family that lives on less than $22K a year in an area that costs above 100% (116%) of the National CoL Index?

I haven't quite figured out why so many people still persist in perpetuating the myth that living on a single income and homeschooling on a dime aren't possible. I can only suppose these are people who can't imagine life without a daily trip to Starbucks and dinner out several times a week. The people who actually shop at malls (*shudder*) and think "Brand Name = Best". The people who really live by the "Keeping up with the Joneses" mentality.

That? Would not be us!

Welcome to our world. We cook from scratch. Buy from thrift stores. Find 95% of our homeschool materials for free. This is my blog and this is how we do it.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

There's nothing wrong with you!

There's a very good reason we have such a problem with spending in our culture. We're not just being bombarded with commercials and advertisements designed to convince us we Just. Can't. Live. Without. such and such gadget, but we're also subjected constantly to an attitude that money equals success and therefore a lack of a large bank account must mean failure.

And who wants to feel like a failure?

This starts very young. It's not just the entertainment industry and retail businesses feeding us this horrific lie, either. Starting all the way back in grade school we are told that we must perform well in our classes, not to become better people, not to acquire knowledge to help us someday make a difference in the world; no, we're told this because it will be important that we "get into a good college" when we graduate high school. And why is that so important? Because, of course, we have to "get a good job." That's it. In the end, public schools are teaching us that it's all about the money. (More in full post.)

With that kind of pressure on us, is it any wonder so many of us wind up in the big houses we can't afford, driving the expensive cars and wearing the designer clothes, so we can at least appear like we aren't failures, even if it means being way over our heads in debt? And the pressure only grows when we have children, as others tell us we're depriving our kids and damaging them for life - even abusing them (!) - if we don't let them live like we're quite well off, even if we aren't. And if we aren't affluent enough to afford all the latest this-es and thats? Well, there comes that failure label again, only now, we aren't just personal failures, now we've failed our children, too.

It's all a bunch of horse hooey.

Children need to be fed. (Nutritious meals - NOT Burger King!) They need a clean, safe home, whether it's an apartment or a condo or a house or a manufactured home or a trailer. They need clothing - no over-paid designer's name stamped on the pocket necessary. They need an education, which doesn't have to cost thousands of dollars to be good. And mostly, they need the love, care, and time of their parents/guardians. The things beyond these basics are treats and should be handled as such. No child *needs* to watch television. This is a treat. No child *needs* to have an ice cream cone with mint chocolate chip ice cream and chocolate sprinkles. Again, it's just a treat.

Give them too many treats to often and you wind up with spoiled children who have no concept of money nor of self-restraint. And self-restraint is not a bad thing! It prevents you from buying every little thing that catches your temporary fancy, which will only drive you straight to financial ruin.

So right now what I want to say is this: There is nothing wrong with you! (Or your spouse.) You are not a failure just because you don't have a six figure income. Your house does not need to be a palace. Your car doesn't have to be a Mercedes. If you've been struggling with this lie, if you've been feeling ashamed or guilty or anything else because our society gives off an attitude like nothing less than a McMansion is acceptable, take a moment to step back and re-evaluate.

Whether you are just beginning to get control of your own finances, or if you've been living within your means for a long time, real success is not the amount of money you have, but rather how well you are living your life regardless of how many dollars you can call your own. Ignore the critics and focus on what's really important. So what if your own home is only 1100 square feet in a working class neighborhood while Family X lives on some million dollar estate? They are no better than you are and you are not a failure because of it. Don't compare what you have to what anyone else has. It doesn't even matter in the end.

Remember, it's a cliche, but it's true. You really can't take it with you. And when you come to the end of your life, you will not be looking back at your bank account. You will be looking at your friends, your family, your loved ones, at the memories and milestones.

And should someone ever imply you're a failure for not having some smashing career with an outrageous salary, just remind yourself that you are doing what's right, and doing what's necessary to live by the means you have for you and your family. Yes, sometimes you might slip or maybe you're currently facing a mountain of debt you're trying to climb out of, but if you keep working at it, one baby step at a time, then you are a true success, not just the flimsy image of one.

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2 Comments:
Blogger ChristyH said...

I am a former nurse and I used to work in a nursing home. What always struck me is that most people there never wished they had more money or spent more time at work. They only hoped that their family comes to visit them. Time invested in people pays off. This goes along with what you are talking about with money and things. Our children see what we value.

Christyiawyx

July 8, 2007 at 7:39 AM  
Blogger ~Quasimodo~ said...

Oh Jenni, I love this post! We do live in something like an 1100 sq. ft. home, with half a six-figure income (sometimes) and 5 people in our family. We are happy. Our children want things, yes, and so do we, but we all have learned to live in this little home, happily, and without much money. Granted, we do have a $400 house payment and no debt (well, besides some debt we incurred recently...not more than $1500, probably less than that since we are diligently paying it every 2 weeks!), but still...it's not easy. The Lord has always blessed us very much and we have always had what we needed. I loved hearing that there is nothing wrong with us....not that I have a big problem with my husband's income, but sometimes he feels he is not giving us everything he would like to. Pish posh....he is a wonderful man, provides so much love and security, and a wonderful example of an upright Christian man for me and our children. THAT's what counts for me. Thanks for the reminder.

July 8, 2007 at 11:20 PM  

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