Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Money, Money, Money

Some of you may have noticed the absence of a post from me last week. I can only say that it was a very rough week for my family...... not because of anything that caused physical pain, but because of stress inflicted upon us by the good old...........

or more accurately....... the lack therof.

As you know, last week was Tax Day- that day we all dread each year. Well, this year, it hit us harder than normal. Due to various circumstances we were hit with a MAJOR payment, one that we really couldn't make right now. That required us to set up a payment plan with the IRS.

Just when we were wrapping our heads around that bill, we were hit with yet another.

Several weeks ago my car decided that it was time to take a break. I told you about that experience in This Post. Our local mechanic examined the car and told us that it would need a new motor, a major expense, but one that we knew we would have to pay. Flash forward to last week when we got the call from the garage that the car was repaired and ready for pickup and we found ourselves facing another bill of over $3000.

It really shouldn't have surprised me when I opened my copy of Happy Women Live Better last week and found that the happiness trigger for week 4 was "Financial Savvy".  After all, God always seems to send us a message just when we need it most.

Yes, money, or the lack of it, can cause stress, but it can also create happiness. Getting that unexpected windfall can trigger a euphoric feeling within us. Our mind starts making mental lists of things that we can purchase, we begin planning shopping expeditions, and ultimately, we make those purchases and bring home our items. But then what?.....

The money is gone.

We have the items we bought, but it isn't long before those things too lose their luster. The clothes fade, don't fit, or go out of style. That chair or rug that we bought gets a stain on it. That beautiful piece of jewelry loses a stone or is broken or misplaced.

Ecclesiastes 6:7 says

All the labor of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.

That is how it is with money. We tend to work and work and work, all the time trying to make money to buy something else that we think we need. Yet no matter how much we get, we always seem to want more. And then we are hit with circumstances such as those that my family experienced last week when we just need more money in order to deal with problems that are thrown at us.

So what do we do?

Do we cry and moan about our situation?

Do we just throw our hands in the air and give up?

No, I think we need to learn to be happy with what we have, accepting the fact that God will provide what we truly need. In her book, Valorie Burton offers some good advice about how we can actually use the money that we do have to make us happier. 

1. Live below your means- At the beginning of Lent I posted This Post about my personal spending freeze on craft supplies. I am happy to say that I made it! I did not purchase one scrapbooking or paper crafting supply though I was tempted. I have decided that, for now, that freeze is going to continue. I have a lot of paper and adhesive and I am sure that I can find what I need for the projects that I have time for. I am also trying to find other areas where I can cut back and make do with what I already have.

2. Buy experiences, not things- I can totally understand this one! When I look through my scrapbooks with my children it is not the THINGS that I remember. It is the time that we spent together that matters most: the trips to the zoo, the yard sale where my children kept dressing up in the clothes that we were trying to sell, or the family garden where they harvested their first green beans, planted and picked by their own tiny hands. Those moments and memories are worth more to me than any amount of money.

3. Buy time- BOY, do I need to do this one! I am always saying, "I wish I had more time for...." I am sure that you do the same thing. Sometimes there are actually some tiny little things that we can do that will GIVE us time by only spending a little money. 

Let me give you an example. 

I was raised in the "pre-dishwasher" era. My mother spent many hours with her hands fully immersed in sudsy water washing dishes. Once I was old enough to assist, she scooted a chair up to the sink and let me rinse the dishes in the other side of the sink and place them in the dish drainer. Once I was even older, I took the task over completely. 

When I married my hubby our trailer was not equipped with a dishwasher. Our first home had one, but it was so old that we only used it for storage. A few years ago we remodeled our kitchen and I suddenly found myself the proud owner of a brand spanking new dishwasher. The only problem was.... I refused to use it. Why would I? After all, it might use more water and that would increase the water bill, right? It also required electricity, so the electric bill would increase. 

The frugality in me kept resisting until one day my two teenagers finally convinced me to give it a try. It didn't take many sessions of loading the dishwasher, closing the door, and going on to do something else to convince me that it was OK to spend that little bit of money as long as it provided me with a return in the form of more time. Time that I can spend relaxing with my daughter in front of the television, reading the latest book for my Bible study, or going on a leisurely walk in the fresh air. 

I would love to hear from you. As I attempt to help my family find the money to deal with these unexpected debts that we face, do you have any advice for us? Have you faced a similar situation and, if so, how did you deal with it? I have faith that God will provide, but I also want to do my part. I would love to hear from you.

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