Monday, 29 October 2012
I wondered tonight if I'm afraid of being poor. You might think that's an odd thing to be afraid of. Growing up, my family didn't really have a ton of money, and while I don't even think that we kids thought that our family was "poor," I knew we didn't have enough money to do expensive things. For example, I remember one summer I really wanted to do this summer camp that did an overnight stay on a boat in the Chesapeake Bay, but the cost was like $130 bucks for the whole week -- now I'm thinking WOW! What a bargain in this day and age! I remember, at that time, being embarrassed to even ask for that kind of money from my parents. I think I might have, and they said, "Well, if you really want to, I guess we can work something out." But I don't think I really wanted to -- or I felt bad for wasting that kind of money, so I didn't end up going.
Fast forward a few years. I never had a job in high school, but worked my tail off to try and be as well rounded in high school so colleges would give me good scholarships. And I got a full tuition scholarship, which covered about half the cost of my college education. Then, during college, I remember becoming nervous about what would happen if my dad suddenly lost his job. Mid-year, I switched to a cheaper dorm, even though it was only $200 cheaper. I auditioned and made a traveling team for the school, which paid $4,000 for the summer. Through the rest of college, I worked a part-time job at a church, paying all of my college expenses not covered through my scholarship or grants out of pocket myself. I never once wanted to inconvenience my parents.
Now I have a job and live alone. I work for a church -- a non-profit organization -- and I'm just out of college, so you can imagine that I don't make a lot of money. I live very frugally and have money in the bank in case anything would happen to me and I'd be unable to work for a while. And this is the kicker: I get really, really annoyed at people who say they are poor.
Let me elaborate. I know that not everyone can make as much as Candidates Obama and Romney do -- oooh, political dig, but I just offended both of them so get over it and let's keep moving. But there are people who say they are poor and do not live within that means. Granted, there are people who are forced to live paycheck to paycheck; I understand that. But more often than not, multiple friends of mine will complain of how they don't make enough, or they don't know how they're going to get through, and then, through my observations, they make ridiculous purchases. And it makes me want to scream. Here is a list of things you should never do if you are short on money (in my cheapo opinion):
1) Order beverages at a restaurant, especially alcohol. And no, I am not judging you, but I just ordered water and my bill is $5 less than yours, and that's before tip.
2) Buy any kind of pet. I don't know if these people realize, but certain pets can cost up to $1000+ a year!
Oksy the list is over. Those are pretty simple things. Other things that just make me shake is when people assume their kids need new toys or clothes all the time. Growing up, maybe we were like super poor and amish-like, but we wore a lot of hand-me-downs, and I didn't know any better to say that that was wrong. I wore Philadelphia Eagles sweatshirts and Chicago Bulls shirts to school and I didn't even like either team -- but they were clothes! We got a new outfit and new shoes for the first day of school, a new outfit for Christmas, and a new outfit for Easter, and that was it! Maybe birthday too, but if I did, I don't remember. What 8 year old boy wants clothes for his birthday?
Another thing. And this will get kind of personal. I believe in marriage. I believe in date nights. But if you can't afford to go out to dinner every week, don't go! Get creative and do something for a date that doesn't cost as much money! Take a walk! Take a picnic! Build a fort out of blankets and get a Redbox! Not every date has to cost a fortune at an expensive restaurant! Seriously though...
It's not that I hate my friends, or that I "judge" them -- well, maybe I am? I don't think they're bad people. I just can't help but get frustrated when they talk about their money problems because I know they could easily settle for the cheap "dumb" phone without data and save themselves $50 a month, etc. We're so spoiled in America -- you could easily cut out half the things you think you need and still live in plenty.
The reality is, for most of my friends, and probably for most of you who are reading this: you're not poor. Not even close. If money is tight, you probably need to examine your budget. And if you really feel like it's tight, you'll realize things that you could cut out that would free up extra money for you. You could live easily within, or below, your means. And when you do that, you have more money for God to use -- more money available for you to bless others with.
Looking back on my childhood, I never knew then that we technically lived below the poverty line. And I never would have known, because my parents raised me to be grateful. We hardly ever went out to eat. We didn't have cable. My parents didn't use credit cards. Most of our toys were bought at yard sales. We ate off-brand food. And while we didn't have a lot, we were happy with what we had. I don't think I'm scarred now because of how I was raised with less than everyone else. And if anything, I think it may have been a positive thing in my life. So, I don't know that I'm afraid of being poor as much as I am very conscientious about what to do with it. I want to steward what God's given to me. I don't want to ever complain because I know I still don't deserve what the Lord's blessed me with. He truly does provide for all my needs.
I guess I just wish other people had the same attitude.
Do you sometimes consider yourself financially poor, even if you aren't? If you feel like money is tight, have you considered that maybe you aren't being a good steward of what God has given you? What are some scriptural principles we can follow that will help us get our finances right with God?