I think we all need to go back to a much more simple way of living. I don't suggest that we can't have modern conveniences, but think of how much human contact we have sacrificed for our modern technologies. Do we even send cards and letters to communicate with our family and friends anymore? Do we even do the small act of baking a loaf of banana bread or something like that for someone who is feeling down, or needs a bit of help? Where are the simple meals brought for families who are sick, have new babies, grieving over the loss of a loved one, etc.? Do we struggle with gift giving, thinking that the monetary value of a gift is more important than the thought and love behind it? Do we go into debt to give expensive gifts that disconnect us with each other more (televisions, hand held computer devices, iPods, iPhones, computers, video game systems)? Are we all plugged into our stuff more than we are plugged into our family, our friends, our churches, our Christian family? Do we miss meaningful connections with each other because we are too busy doing stuff, being involved in activities, our childrens' activities (don't even get me started on that issue), that we aren't really achieving things that are important? Has achievement become an idol? Has stuff become an idol? Can we function with joy or hope without them? Do we stuff our bodies with unhealthy things because we are too busy to cook a meal and share it around the table together? Are we eating too much because what we are really hungry for is human connection? Are we doing all of this stuff because we are looking for meaning and value?
Well, first of all, I want to say that I think a lot of what is wrong today is from trying to find our purpose in life in all the wrong things. We were all created by God to glorify Him and enjoy Him. Anything that we do should be towards that end...Period. To the extent we chase after other things to glorify ourselves, they become worthless and empty pursuits drawing us farther away from the One we were created to serve and enjoy. God is to be our source of joy, peace, acceptance, value, worthiness, etc. He is the great I AM. However, he does give us blessings in the material realm that we are to use to serve others for His glory. We don't own our salaries, homes, possesions, etc. They are really all God's that he graciously blesses us with. He is the source of our needs and sometimes he chooses to give us some of our wants according to His will and plan so that He gets the glory. Have you ever thought about your stuff as a gift? Have you ever thought of them as really belonging to God? If you grasp that, their hold on you becomes so much less. You start to think of possessions in a whole new light. You start to use those gifts in a whole new way.
Now that we have our mindset paradigm shifted, we can get on with how to live a more spendthrift lifestyle, making the most of the blessings God has given us and strengthening relationships with family and others. I have some ideas on how to do this, so if you are interested, read on.
1. Make a budget for your family. It really is key to knowing what you have coming in and what you have going out to make ends meet. It is truly eye opening when we list what we spend during a month, and yes, I mean everything. Your eyes are opened to a lot of waste: a magazine here, a snack there, a book here, a piece of clothing there. See what I mean. Do we need those things?
2. Work on a cash system for variable expenses: groceries, toiletries, gas, misc. expenses, entertainment, etc. Set aside cash for these expenses: when the money is gone, then you are done, or you had better figure out how to come up with some cash quick. Again, another good way to keep an eye on how you are spending your money.
3. Always go to the store with a grocery list. Stick to the list. Plan your weekly menus, check the recipes, check your cupboard and then make sure you get everything on your list. Nothing less, nothing more.
4. Make as much homemade as you can. It is so easy to make homemade baking mixes, cookies, biscuits, snacks. They are better for you and cost so much less. If you want some help here, I would be happy to share some awesome recipes for some mixes that would be helpful or sources for those.
5. Cook once eat twice. Try cooking a couple of whole chickens, a big roast, or a large pork tenderloin and using the leftovers for another meal. Saves you time. Cook extra meat and freeze it.
6. Try a small garden.
7. Try to organize your trips out. Saves gas.
8. Make homemade little gifts. You know it doesn't have to be extravagant to mean something. Buy a bulk bag of chocolates (cause you know just about everyone loves chocolates) and package them in a special way. You can buy a large bottle of lotions or instant coffees or other such thing and repackage them in smaller containers to get more out of your purchase. Again, it is the thought and love behind it that counts.
9. Encourage personal correspondence by making someone some homemade stationary. Or make yourself some homemade cards. You don't really have to spend a lot of money on the items to make that. Buy a pack of white notecards with envelopes, a good alphabet set and some patterned paper and you have the basics for some darling stationary. Go online and get craft store coupons sent to you by email and use them for these supplies. Super savings.
10. Spend less time on the computer, in front of the tv or playing video games. Get outside and play as a family, play a board game, play cards, read a book out loud together. Reconnect with your family. You will save money on videos, worthless entertainments out, and other such nonessentials. Plus you will be building family ties. Priceless.
11. Practice hospitality to friends and strangers. This is not entertaining them with fancy food, or fancy tablescapes or such. It is a simple meal of simple food shared around awesome fellowship. The food is just a backdrop. Pull out the crockpot, put on a pot of soup. Keep it simple. You want folks to feel comfortable and share in conversation, not a player in a stuffy put on production. You want to be comfortable.
12. Make some of your own home decor. Again clip those coupons for the craft store. Use rub-ons on mirrors, vases, glass frames, etc. It's fun and it is rewarding seeing your work of art on the wall. Get the kids involved in decorating their rooms. A few well chosen tubes of acrylic paint and a canvas will get them going. My boys each made a canvas for their room. They are awesome.
13. Oh and cut out the credit cards. That is a no brainer. Practice the art of saving for things that you want but don't need. And practice saving for things that you might sort of need, but can't get yet. Search for bargains: even free shipping online saves a lot.