Saturday, September 22, 2012

Stewardship for Kids - & Living With Enough

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.

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