Why we choose less: part 2

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Yesterday I published a post on choosing less activities to make our family happier. If you haven’t read it yet you can do that here. As I’ve been pondering this “do less to get more” idea over the past year, I’ve also thought about how it applies to our family materially.

We hope to teach our children, by example, to live below their means. We live in a house we can afford and that doesn’t stretch the budget. We don’t go out to eat very often. We cloth diaper 100% of the time. I give John his weekly “high and tight” at home, saving $10 every week. Things like this may not seem like much but they add up to a lot over time. And more importantly, they will make an impression on our children. Yes, we could technically “afford” for John to get his haircuts out in town, but this is one way we’ve chosen to teach our children to think about the money that they spend.

This whole idea really comes to life in the light of the Christmas season, too. I was saddened every time I saw commercials advertising the newest big (or little) gadget this Christmas. I guess I’d never paid attention to them this time of year before, but it seems that the expected gifts have gotten much larger and more expensive from when I was a child. When I was a kid it was a lot to ask for a bike or a set of Legos for Christmas. Now kids ask for iPads and tablets and iPhones and xboxes. Those things aren’t necessarily bad (though I personally don’t like the way electronics have taken over our communication and entertainment – but that’s for another post!). The question I keep asking myself is ‘what are we teaching our kids?’ By maxing out our credit cards, (or maybe you don’t even use credit cards, but you go over budget and spend the next three months paying out for those expensive gifts) it can’t be teaching responsibility to our children. It may also be giving them the idea that you work for them and that you will go to whatever lengths to make them “happy”.

Let’s face it: happy means something totally different than it used to mean. In our culture, happy is getting what you want, but that doesn’t bring true happiness. In reality, happiness is truly being content with what you have and approaching every situation with joy. I don’t want to teach my littles that happiness equals the latest new gadget. If they are raised this way they will spend their lives disappointed, dissatisfied and very unhappy. Disclaimer: I want to be clear here that I am not judging anyone for choices they make, or saying we should all spend the same amount of money on our kids, or anything ridiculous like that. I’m just sharing our personal journey of conviction to spend less.

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Our kids got very little for Christmas this year. Olivia is getting an art desk. I had wanted to get her an easel, but found a used art desk someone was selling for $10 so we compromised with something that won’t last a lifetime and be handed down to the next generation, but it’s totally worth 10 bucks to get a few years of use. They’re also getting a children’s devotional Bible to share – one I can feel good about reading to them and that will encourage scripture memorization. They didn’t get electronics and gadgets (again, not judging if your kids did!) I don’t feel like they missed out on anything. They were super happy with their couple of small gifts from us. Of course the grandparents all spoiled them with great creative things, so they weren’t lacking in toys.

My point in sharing this is just to encourage you to think about what expectations and what character qualities you are setting your children up for. Last year we got Olivia way too many things. I’m not saying we’re perfect – we are learning! We have learned that we don’t want to create a big deal out of Christmas gifts. After all, how can we tell them Christmas is all about Jesus if we spend too much money on them and are irresponsible with the money He has given us? Yes, kids are fun to shop for and to watch the excitement in their eyes when they open each gift, but we really want to teach our littles that it’s not all about them.  Otherwise, they’ll be crudely disappointed as adults when they realize the rest of the world doesn’t revolve around them. We spoil them sometimes, don’t get me wrong, but I think it’s good for kids to grow up seeing their parents work hard to save money, not spend it. What are your thoughts? What ways does your family practice fiscal responsibility? I’d love to hear other ideas and thoughts on the subject of choosing less!

“Better is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith.” -Proverbs 15:16

*Photo credit: Elizabeth Intrater

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