1. Know that God will provide for your needs.
2. This video:
Ohhhh man. Seriously, it's one of my favorite videos of all time. Steve Martin's expression is priceless.
Seriously though, it really does seem like my generation especially has some major confusion about this. It's scary how many people are in major debt over things like big t.v.'s and fancy cars. Those credit card companies can own us so easily over little things that add up over time.
I know a lot of folks out there advocate for an all-cash system. They say to put money in envelopes at the beginning of each month as budgeted for each area, then spend only from that cash. When it's gone, it's gone. A lot of people have seen enormous success from operating that way for their household budget. Personally, it's a little too much and a little too stressful for me. We still operate in "cash," but instead use our credit card like a debit card. We budget an amount for each area and use our credit card for all of our household expenses, like gas and groceries. Then we pay the credit card in full, on time, every month. We have all of our accounts linked on a program online where everything is budgeted into categories and we can see every time we use a card or take out cash. We categorize each transaction to make sure we don't go over budget. If we do go over for something due to something unforeseen, like a car repair, we try to adjust in another area to make up for it. So even though we use our credit card consistently, we know exactly how much is going in and coming out. That's how we use our credit card like cash. Make sense?
It's really important to have a savings account with the amount of whatever three months' basic living expenses is for your family. You never know what might happen; the summer we were both unemployed, that savings was our life line. We never in a million years thought at the beginning of that year that our lives were going to change so drastically in just five months' time, and we would have fallen into major debt without it. I am so, so thankful that I was taught and raised to save, save, save because in the end it- wait for it- saved us.
You know what else is cool? Paying for things in actual cash (not using a credit card at all) can actually save you quite a bit of money. If you see a big purchase looming on the horizon, find out if there is a discount for paying in cash. We saved for basically years for our new countertops, and knew that we had the cash on hand to pay for them. We would never have made a purchase like that on credit if we didn't have the money to pay it off immediately; the interest would wipe us out over time. So we asked if there was a discount for paying in cash, and sure enough, there was! We got 15% off for paying in cash. Pretty awesome!
I always price compare and I always give myself a buffer period for purchases outside the realm of every day living. I've found that sometimes the waiting makes me realize I don't really need or want the item so much after all, or I'll find something that works even better. Patience always pays.
If not buying things you can't afford sounds so laughably simple, then why is it such a pervasive problem? Because our "microwave" culture wants instant gratification. We want to keep up and we want things to be new and special and pretty. We aren't ever content with the gifts we've been given, and a lot of this idea has to do with the issue of contentment. I've been stretched a lot in this area and I think my heart has come a long way, but I still have a long way to go.
Our pastor actually gave a pretty rockin' sermon this weekend on the topic of instant gratification and material stuff. I'll share more later on my own journey with contentment, but in the meantime, check out what he had to say here:
Paradigm Shift: Temporal to Eternal, Paul Abbott, Cedarbrook Community Church