I’m convinced that we teach our children stewardship in everyday life.
“What kind of car should I get when I can drive, Dad” – said my 15 year old the other day, as we drove past several automobile dealerships. Without hesitation I replied, “The one you can afford.”
“Dad, why don’t you get the air-conditioner fixed on the truck?” – says my 13 year old, often – since the A/C hasn’t worked in at least 3 years and summers are HOT in Oklahoma. “Because I’m not willing to invest any more money in it,” I reply.
This past summer, the same truck developed a “knock” so bad that even my neighbors commented on it. I still drive it. It will fail. (Two mechanics have confirmed this, noting it is not worth fixing given the age of the truck.) I will need to make another decision about a truck – but for now it works. My kids can see that something that works – even if not working perfectly – doesn’t require me to “go replace it” – “with something new” – “right away.”
“Dad, why do you buy all your clothes at Goodwill?” – from each of my girls. My reply, “I don’t need new clothes when I can get fine clothes at 1/10th the price.”
Even my wife was surprised, I think – when I bought a sewing machine about a year ago – to hem & stitch & mend clothes I buy from thrift stores. (Prior to that time, a loving “Grandmother” in our lives did my sewing – before she passed away.) But my stitching skills allowed me last week to "Do-It-Yourself" two pair of skinny jeans for my daughter - for $6 from Thrift store jeans - compared with 10x to 15x that price for new ones from the Mall!
At the start of this school year, we sat and had a conversation with our kids before two days of planned school-clothes shopping. Day 1 – we gave the kids money and a simple tracking envelope for the Malls. Day 2 – we gave the kids money and a simple tracking envelope for the Thrift stores. At the end of Day 2 – we sat and did a side-by-side comparison on monies spent and quality of items purchased.
Our kids think a drink from Sonic or 7-11 are a treat – because we don’t stop there everyday!
We could buy more & spend more – and of course could easily put money on our credit cards. We try, though, to demonstrate a life of stewardship to our kids in our daily routines. We’ve said to our kids many, many times in the past years, “We have the money to do that – but we’re not choosing to use our money to do that.” (We do intentionally and deliberately spend on items that are important to us – and that includes having freedom to share resources & give – as well as intentional travel to open up “the world” to our kids.)
I share this as I note that I read a few weeks ago, Enough: Finding More by Living with Less.
The book – like my listening to the financial radio-show host, Dave Ramsey in the 1990s - left me a bit perplexed. When I used to commute daily - and Dave Ramsey was on the hour of my commute – every time I listened to him, I thought, “Don’t people know this?” Ramsey has been known to say that gives advice like his Grandmother used to give him. Thankfully, I grew up in a home that instilled in me an attention to issues of stewardship – in a household that taught me that “stuff” does not make life worth living!
If you didn't grow up learning about having enough - or stewardship - then this book and Dave Ramsey might be helpful - not just for your pocketbook & finances, but for finding contentment in life's stuff!
Life is worth living when we live with less stuff, within our means – and with enough room at the margins to be able to share with others.
Of course I know, I’m privileged – and I may find myself in a situation in the future when I can’t live within my means . Emergencies happen from hospitalizations or accidents. Lay-offs and down-sizing are real life issues. But even now I can learn to live with less – so others can live with more – and I can learn to live as I reasonably plan my best for life’s inevitable transience!
If you’re an American, Brit, or European – the statistical probability is you have more than enough.
The book – ENOUGH – helps you to think about this and live within your means –and share with others. You can start by living with less – by picking up this book at your local library – instead of buying it! Or, if you buy it, be sure to share it with someone else when you’re done with it.