This blog post first appeared over at www.allisonvesterfelt.com - you can read more about Allison there!
I’ve been worrying about money a lot lately. It’s probably unwarranted, given the fact that I have all of my basic needs met, and haven’t missed a meal, well, ever — but when I look around my life I can’t help but see a few things I need, and even more things I want, and it makes me feel frustrated that I can’t afford to buy any of them.
I use the word “broke” really intentionally. We’re not poor. We’re just in one of those seasons where things seem extra tight, and we feel extra frustrated by the lack of freedom we have financially.
But the more I obsess over it, the more I realized that living with less is actually a blessing. Here’s why.
When resources are limited, I have to get creative. I believe this creativity is not disconnected from my artistic creativity. My husband and I have been searching old warehouses for useful materials, making a coffee table from an old elevator pulley. We’re also working on crafting a bed frame out of salvaged wood pallets, building a bookshelf, and refinishing a dresser we found at a thrift store.
As much as I hate to admit it, when I have money, I’m more likely to spend it — and spend it impulsively. I end up buying things that are enjoyable for a time, but that a few years down the road are probably going to be sitting in my garage, or in a storage unit, or at Goodwill, unused. Having limited finances forces me to really think before I make any purchases.
I’m so thankful for my bed. That’s what I was thinking this morning, as I walked around straightening the sheets and comforter. Okay, I admit that’s not how it started. It started with me feeling frustrated that we don’t have a bed frame, or a set of sheets that actually fit our mattress, so I have to use a non-fitted sheet, tucked between the mattress and the floor instead. But just as I started to ramp up my complaining, I started to think about how thankful I am to have a mattress as comfortable as ours (it’s really comfortable).
I had my lowest moment while I was laying in bed sick, thinking about how normal people would go to the doctor when they felt like this. Normal people would buy an antibiotic, or even over the counter drugs that would help to ease the pain. My husband and I don’t currently have health insurance. Then suddenly it hit me. My picture of “normal” is seriously skewed if I think that “normal” people have access to health care.
Sometimes I say I believe things, and I live like I believe them — as long as life is going okay. When things are easy, or moderately difficult, I stick to my guns. But it isn’t until things get hard that my true character is revealed. Having limited resources forces me to put my money where my mouth is (literally) with things like generosity, selflessness, and Packing Light.
I grew up in Portland, Oregon, so I am no stranger to recycling, reusing, refurbishing and even composting. But it’s amazing how easily I forget to make simple sacrifices to conserve resources, and how being strapped for cash reminds me — to combine errands to save gas, carpool, alter or fix old clothes before buying new, shop second hand, turn old bread into croutons, etc, etc, etc.
A few years ago I was inspired by the story of the Rich Young Ruler from the gospels and, with a friend, quit my job, moved out of my apartment, sold all of my stuff, and traveled across the country to write a book about what it was like to live a life where we were Packing Light. What I learned was that getting too attached to “stuff” usually holds me back from becoming the woman God made me to be.
I think that being wealthy (living in a wealthy country) gives us an unrealistic sense that we have total control over our destinies. And while I do believe we have a great deal of control in our lives, the truth is not everything is in our hands. And I’m actually much happier when I can admit that I don’t have control over everything.
I know this sounds like the opposite of number 8, but sometimes I feel so bossed around by the consumer world that we live in. Advertisers convince me that I’m unhappy, and that I won’t be happy until I buy their product, and as stupid as it seems, I actually start to believe them! But something crazy happens when I don’t have money. I see something I want, and walk away because, well, I can’t afford it. It makes me feel pretty powerful, like I have more control over my life than the “market” does.
If nothing else, I pray that these seasons of living with less give me compassion for people who live with less than I do (because no matter how “broke” I feel, there are always people who’s resources are even more limited than mine). And I hope the compassion I have runs so deep that I am quick to share my resources with those who are in need, no matter how much, or little, I have.
Are you feeling broke lately? Can you think of reasons to be thankful for it? To reply, Click HERE.