Sunday, February 6, 2011

Caution for the Future and an Important Question, "Are You an Ant or a Grasshopper?"

Have you ever felt a sense of "urgency" before? Like if you didn't get on the thing that was tugging at you, that you'd totally miss the boat or miss an opportunity or be in trouble if you didn't act quickly? Well, that's how I'm feeling lately about our family's finances. We are not in any kind of trouble whatsoever (so don't worry family members who read my blog), but for some reason, I feel that if we were to have one or two crises, or some sort of unexpected expense, that our whole financial situation would be in jeopardy. I think a lot of families feel that way or are right on the cusp of that. That if the car broke down or someone had an unexpected stay in the hospital or the furnace went out, that a seriously high repair bill or medical bill would put them in a hole that would take months to crawl out of. Why? Because studies show that fewer than 4 out of 10 families DO NOT have a savings (us included). It's hard to admit that, because I know what the Bible says about God blessing your storehouse (your savings...and He can't bless it if you don't have one!). Not that we couldn't save, we absolutely could. But we just don't for no other reason than laziness, I guess. And it's time to change that.

I have a lot of personal reasons for feeling this urgency, none of which I will go into here. But I just realize that time does not stop. We are not getting any younger and there will be a time when we are older and tired or sick or unable to work and will have nothing to fall back on.

It reminds me of Aesop's sobering tale of the ant and the grasshopper. While the grasshopper spent the warm months singing and making merry, the ant worked to store up food for the winter. When the cold months came, the ant was snug in its nest with plenty to eat and the grasshopper found himself starving and dying. When he asked the ant for assistance, the ant rebuked him for his idleness and turned him away.

I know we spent a good many years (our 20's) making a lot of merry and not doing a better job planning and saving. I think a lot of young couples do that. But now, in my mid-thirties, I realize that NOW is the time to act and to get our storehouse filled, for when times get hard and for some reason, I feel like that ARE going to get hard...for all of us.

The Smurf storehouse.
If little blue mythological cartoons have enough sense
store things up for the future, then why shouldn't I? (heehee)

So, I've been reading about and analyzing money saving strategies and I have come to a conclusion. You can't just clip coupons and turn the thermostat down and try to get the best cell phone plan available. There has to be a COMPLETE mind shift in the way we think about how we live our lives, what we deserve, what we accept and what we desire for our lives. Do we need to purchase those items? Are there better alternative heat sources that I haven't looked into? Do I really even need a cell phone that can access the internet?

I've had the attitude, "Well, it's just money...may as well enjoy it while we have it." But that is foolish and destructive and doesn't at all honor God's will for us to be good stewards of our resources. Shame on me for being so foolish. God forgive me! Instead, my attitude should be that of gratitude and thankfulness, not wasting one gift that God has given me. But so often I do. I waste so much, and that has to stop.

Material things are not important. Are they fun? YES! Is shopping fun? Absolutely! But what will having that fun right now in the moment cost you down the road? Is being disabled at 55, on a fixed income, with an electric bill that DOUBLED this month, having to choose between paying that and buying groceries because you can't afford both, fun? NO...IT'S NOT. But that's the reality for a lot of people I know right now. And the thing that keeps gnawing at me is that it does not have to be this way for those of us who are coming up. God blesses us and takes care of us and gives us MORE than we need. It is up to us to use those gifts wisely and to use a little foresight. To save and put some away for the inevitable "rainy day." And to not be one of those people in perpetual bondage to debt, collectors, worry and fear. God wants us to be free from that. And He will make a way. I just know too many people who have batten down the hatches, put their heads down, gotten to work and have emerged stronger, financially solid, and FREE! With God's help, a mind shift and a little bit of self deprivation (which is freeing as well actually), it is TOTALLY DOABLE!

I want that for us. Are we in a lot of debt? No. We got rid of credit cards and high interest loans a long time ago. But do we have some debts that should have been handled better and taken more seriously (i.e. student loans, medical bills)? Yes. And it's time to tighten our belts and get to work on being free from them. Not only am I feeling a tug or urgency, I'm feeling a conviction to do something about it. And from what I've learned in the past about how God deals with us, that conviction will only make me more miserable and more unsettled until I begin to do something about it. God does not guilt us or condemn us, but He allows us to see the ugliness of our own sin and when He is in us, that sin is unbearable. Until it's out, we can have no peace. Am I right here? Have any of you ever felt this way too? I would imagine so.

So I will keep reading and learning and soaking up all the information I can to begin to make better financial choices for our family.

The first step to it all is KNOWING where we are. Ignoring your bills and obligations doesn't help anything. I learned a cool thought
from a friend in my life group. That all dark things brought into the light have to die. So those bills shoved in a drawer need to come on out and see the light of day! They need to be looked at, dealt with and eradicated, smallest to largest. That's my first goal. Get it out there and LOOK at it for crying out loud.

My second step is going to be, to look at what we don't need around the house. And cable is looking like a pretty good victim about now. We soooo don't need cable. We pick up local channels just fine with digital rabbit ears, including PBS, which has great cartoons for the little one during the day. So why are we spending $100+ on it every month needlessly? I'm not sure why...but getting my hubby to agree to this one will be tough. Maybe now that the Super Bowl is over and he got to watch it in HD, he can agree to let go. We'll see. :)

All I know is that I feel like hard times, they're a comin', and I want to be prepared!


  1. Great post! I look back on my 20's (before kids) and think of all the money we wasted eating out. We are much more careful with our money today and yet I realize that we need to STILL live carefully and continue to put money away.

    We live more carefully today and have for a long time, but I know that we could be better still. We lived with basic cable and with dial-up internet for years.

    After our oldest went to college we paid for the internet because the dial-up was not working well enough and causing homework problems.

    I do want to tighten the belt a bit. We have one in college and another starting college next year. They have scholarships and are also working their way through college but we help when and where we can (well, the oldest is, the youngest will next year).

  2. Angie, you're on the right path! When I counsel people about debt, I always tell them to do just as you're doing - know where you stand. To the penny. This is an excellent first step! I'm looking forward to reading about your progress.


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