Friday, November 11, 2011

Finance Friday

I took on this topic a few weeks ago because it was very heavy on my heart. You see, we're pinched. Things are tight. We are like so many people who are doing their best with what they have. And when you're 40 years old with 5 kids you just don't expect to be at a point in your life where you learn to do without.

We've been through the emotional ringer as we've made choices that have been both brilliant and unexpectedly disappointing. I've had a pantry that is full of food and nights we're we've had the last blue box of Mac 'n Cheese (made with water, not milk). I've swallowed my pride and stood in lines at the Department of Human Services, called for information on heating assistance and filled out free and reduced lunch applications. I've applied for jobs above and beneath my skill level as has my husband. I've skipped some of my kids sporting events to avoid the $20 dollars it takes to get in and recently cut the cable to save $53 bucks a month.
The journey has without a doubt been

When you don't have your

  • fancy lattes and
  • new clothes and
  • cable and
  • lower gas mileage cars and 
  • movies and
  • expensive birthday presents

you miss out on

  • coffee with girlfriends and
  • the opportunity to feel good and
  • you go less for more and
  • have no dates or
  • exciting gifts to give your loved ones...

Which is sad until you experience the most amazing shift...

You are forced to face yourself.
You must ask yourself if you are you because you have the latest electronics, fashions and cars.
I'm not kidding.
When you're at home because you don't have the gas to even drive across town you have a swell of negative feelings and you come to the place (or at least I did) where you must find out if what makes you you is your ability to afford to consume
are you you because of your inside ... your soul?

Here's the truth:
Up until our recent financial bout I would have never, ever, in a millions years thought I was a material person.
I mean, I've been through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University for cryin out loud!
We choose to live without credit cards years ago.
I charged nothing long before I couldn't not afford it!

But when you have no new purchases, no new electronics, no cool cars ... only old, used and sometimes falling apart personal property you find you have no-things to distract you.

Listen, the marketing gurus have done a FABULOUS job!
My kids are convinced they are suffering with out cell phones and cable and video games.

But they are not.
We are not.
We're discovering both individually and corporately as a family
our life is not more valuable when we own cool things.

Life is valuable because we have each other. And love. And breakfasts together on Sunday. And a family connectedness that only comes from enjoying time together. We have fun. And a warm nurturing home where we bake and play and work together. There are lots of things to do that don't require admission or $12 bags of popcorn.

Regardless of where I work (and I just got a supplemental retail job ... more on that later), what card I carry, what benefit we qualify for or how long this financial slump lingers
I am doing ok.
My kids are doing ok.

So what?
I can't eat out more?
I don't pay $7 bucks to see a mediocre movie at the theater?
My kid doesn't have his own cell?
I don't go buy another pair of black shoes? 3 will have to be enough?

This is rough?
This is suffering?

Let me ask the mother of 5 in Haiti if I am suffering.
Or the family on the other side of the tracks who's furnace isn't working.
Or the woman who checks me out at the grocery store who's son is incarcerated.
Or the neighbor children across the street who's mother won't let them out to play because they live in fear of being discovered as illegals.

What is suffering?
What is doing without?

Do you feel better about yourself today because you have iPhones and manicures and new cars and another new pair of shoes and vacations?

Give them all up - involuntary or otherwise - and watch how you wrestle with yourself.

I may have been angry at the beginning of our financial journey. It may have been painful being stripped of all the consumerism I attached myself to. It may have even gotten a little ugly while fighting over late fees and grocery bills.

But now, with a plan on paper and a future that looks brighter everyday I know of that which is my substance. I know what makes me me. And I'm raising my kids not of privilege but with work ethic and understanding and compassion. At least I hope and pray I am.

It's Friday friends. Finance Friday. And these are my thoughts.

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