Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Living Below Our Means

I'm not saying we were always able to do it, what with two growing children, but our intent all through our married lives has always been to live below our means. This general attitude toward money has stood us in good stead through some pretty tough times financially over the years.

We lived in a trailer for a total of 11 years on the property we bought when we moved to this lovely rural area we live in, before we built a house on the land next to it. We were the only people in our church who lived in a trailer, even though DH had an executive job at the time. When he lost that job after several years, we were glad we had been frugal, as we paid off the trailer and lived there without payments or interest. That made a big difference in surviving that time of unemployment.

Our children grew up with everything they needed, but not with everything they wanted. Knowing how present giving tends to escalate over a period of time, we started out with very limited Christmas presents when the girls were little. Grandparents were more than willing to be the ones that did the gift showering, anyway. The girls always ended up with more than enough toys, so I usually boxed up some of them and put them away for a few months. Then, when the novelty had worn off of the others, out could come this box of brand new things to be enjoyed. We did the same thing with Birthdays, too. So they never lacked for nice clothes or toys, but they weren't overwhelmed with them, the way so many children seem to be today.

We rarely drove new cars, usually driving used ones for well over 100,000 miles. In fact, now that we're retired, we've bought our first new car since we were carefree young marrieds - a bright blue PT Cruiser!

My DH never liked to travel, so our vacations involved splurging locally on going to movies, buying furniture, shopping for nicer clothing than usual, eating out and just generally being nice to ourselves and enjoying each other's company.

We weren't penny pinchers, or at least I never felt like we were, but thanks to our efforts, we managed to send both girls to college and pay off the mortgage on our home by the time we retired, plus reward ourselves with that PT! I wish I could say we had tithed all that time. We did through most of those years. In fact, we tithed through some of the roughest years. But there were some, for one reason or another, where we slacked and did not. I'm not at all proud of that. But I do credit the fact that we tithed as being the reason we were able to make the 90% we had left go as far as it did.

I'm not telling all this as a way to brag on us, but as a way to make a point. I don't think people even consider the idea of living below their means anymore. In fact, it seems that quite the opposite is the norm. Everybody wants the best NOW. No waiting, no saving, no doing without. Instant this ... instant that. I'm relieved to see that both of our girls have grown to see the advantage to living at least within their means, if not below it, as we did. That, in this day in time, is an accomplishment!!


jan said...

An excellent post. My parents were Depression children and careful about how they spent their money. I have passed that on to my children, but unfortunately their spouses (whom I love dearly) both feel that they should have it all now.

Dirty Butter said...

We somehow absorbed much of the carefulness with money that our Depression era parents had tried to instill in us. Our daughters eventually came to see the peace of mind that living within what you could afford offers.

One hubby, whose financial upbringing was more footloose and free, finally just turned the household finances completely over to our DD. After that, things began to calm down for them in all areas of their marriage. The other hubby split the financial responsibilities, leaving our DD with the important financial goals, so once again money stopped being an issue in their home.

Modus Vivendi said...

while reading, I visualized a dreamland. Your trailer have looked as a fabulous hut: everything there was breathing the incredible peace. Thank you.
"Living Below Our Means" is the best decoration for my Christmas tree. And this comparison isn't just a metaphor. While reading about your trailer I have sensed the Christmas crib-your trailer as the cradle of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In other words, "Living Below Our Means" is a key for a story of the three Magi who welcome our trailers as the most significant palaces.

In the light of above, the title obtains the new meaning. Our poverty isn't an amount of things we have but the attitude towards the daylight, the level of our gratitude- living under the poverty line is living without the faith.

Just one thing alerts me. You end with the words:
"I don't think people even consider the idea of living below their means anymore. In fact, it seems that quite the opposite is the norm. Everybody wants the best NOW. No waiting, no saving, no doing without. Instant this ... instant that"

Please recall not a way the most celebrate Christmas today but the Jesus' birth. Was it otherwise then?

Now I'm thinking about my destiny brothers, about the people with the disabilities.
In some sense, " Instant this ... instant that" is all our doings in a current world.
And as the dependants we have no other choice.
And my own pictures, the blog of Modus Vivendi... everything has appeared such way (for example, as I got the remittance from the prior unknown benefactor some times ago, I have purchased a camera- all my pictures were enabled to appear such way ... I would like to do the best and not to stop, but it is impossible to do without the appropriate tools...
In other words, I didn’t know what I will do tomorrow. Writings like these "comments" demand the computer too...
Sorry, I have dove in murmurs and thus become ugly.
Though the ambiguity of my situation looks quite devastating, but it is the obligatory to comprehend in full God's daily care for all and for me.

I heartily have enjoyed your article. Thank you for the wonderful post. Merry Christmas, dear Rosemary

Dirty Butter said...

Dear Tomas, sometimes you get too deep for this simple soul! But you have such a warm and kind heart that shows through in all your comments and posts. I wish only the best for you in this Holy Season. May God Bless you in all that you endeavor.

Chana said...

i miss reading your posts hon..i will be back regularly i hope soon..

thank you for your beautiful friendship. for the kindness and thoughtfullness you have given me and mine.

God Bless you and yours. Merry Christmas to you all and God's good will to you all. XO..much love.

Dirty Butter said...

Dear Chana, you are one of those cyber-friendships I hold very dear. I look forward to hearing from you and am always blessed by what you have to say. I pray that this new year approaching will bring a more peaceful healthy time to your family, with more of the carefree happiness that your children deserve. And I pray that you, too, will have a year of good health, so you can enjoy your family to its fullest.

Looking forward to many more posts and comments.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to your whole family, but especially you and Keka!!

Norma said...

I never thought of it that way, but I suppose we did too--when I worked, we never used my salary--always put it in savings. Titheing is also a good way to live below your means.

Passing along financial good habits to children seems to be very difficult. I think they are more influenced by peers than parents.

Dirty Butter said...

Norma, I don't think our influence really takes effect until they have gotten old enough to find out that we, as parents, weren't so dumb after all. With our two, that would be about 30 years old! LOL

jbruno said...

Cheers, DB. This is definitely a disturbing trend in our society.

When I worked as a bakery manager, we had a guy who had just gotten married, barely making $13 an hour who decided to buy a $200,000 house. He proceeded to fill the house with furniture immediately and remodel each room.

Needless to say, every time we seem him, he's talking about how much money he's in debt, how many kids they need to have, how they can't move for 15 years, blah, blah, blah...

I'd rather be comfortable in a small apartment.

Perhaps it's time for Americans to realize that the ability to buy is very different from an obligation to buy. We're in the 21st century for God's sake; keeping up with the Jones' should be a distant, almost primitive concern.

Dirty Butter said...

I agree, jbruno, that keeping up with the Joneses should be a distant memory. But it still seems to be a common motive for over spending.