Held Back By Money… or Not?

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I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time. For two years now, I’ve pondered the words my older brother said to me when I was considering grad school, but concerned about the cost, he said, “Don’t ever let money be the reason to do, or not do something.”

It was a statement of freedom. Of empowerment. That money doesn’t have to dictate my choices. He followed the comment with, “There is so much money in the world, and if God really wants you to do something, He’ll provide the money to make it happen.”

I did end up going to grad school, and just five months out of student life, back at work, it seems I’ve settled back into a mindset of “well I don’t have money, so I can’t” and “I’m living a poor person life right now, sorry” and “I wish I could take trips like them.”

Money is important, and we need to live within our means. The repercussion of spending what we do not have could wind us up in a position of vulnerability, debt, and destitution.

That said, living like a “poor person” is a mentality and lifestyle that goes beyond mere frugality. It’s the opposite of empowering and is a self-inflicted state of being that gets rid of choices, and puts you at the disposal of others.

I feel the crunch of getting out of debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and wanting to save up in order to move on to a new market where I can make a decent wage for my degrees and experience. But, I’m not going to get there by living as a victim to my circumstances and with the mentality that I’m poor.

I’ve yet to see a paycheck for my work, yet I’ve published a book that a whole slew of people have bought. I’ve gotten engaged, and used mileage built up via credit, to make the flights possible on my most recent trip to see my fiancé in his country. I can buy groceries every week, put gas in my car, and pay all the car bills that make it possible for me to get to work each week.

I’m not poor.

Nothing about what I do in my daily life depends on other’s charity.

And after paying another round of payments off with my last piddly squat paycheck, I know that as long as I continue to dream big, and however slow or fast make moves of living my best life, money has no authority over what I can and cannot do with my life.

God knows the plans He has for me. And I will continue to prosper under His hand, knowing full well He has all authority to give me more or take it all away, like Job, the wealthiest man of his day from the Bible, who at God’s allowance, lost EVERYTHING including his children. Imagine losing your home, money, job, and children, and health all in the same week. Job lived through it and came out more blessed on the other side as he trusted God during the process.

God’s perspective is higher than mine, and He sees what I need and how he’ll provide, before I do. So far, He’s been gracious to give me a job to at least be making something during this transition period after grad school, but I know this is not the end. It can’t be. I need more and I ask him every day to show me the jobs I should be applying for that pay in a way that I can be a blessing to people, instead of a burden.

On the flipside, when a high paying job presents itself to me, I don’t want money to be the sole purpose of taking it. As my brother said, “Don’t ever let money be the reason to do, or not do something.” I want to be passionate about my work, not just take a higher paying one for the paychecks.

Money shouldn’t be the reason (a reason, yes, but not the ultimate reason) for making any life changing decisions. DO YOUR LIFE. Think about what you want, then go for it!

Live the life you want, now.

Be happy, now.

Be debt free, now.

Give generously, now.

Set goals, and then achieve them, now.

Money isn’t the mindset and lifestyle that will allow you or I to live your best life. It is a part of it, but money never needs to hold us back.

The Cost of Money and The Blessing of Less

 

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Photo Cred: Katie Harp

Everything comes at a price they say. The water we drink, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the education we get, the entertainment we buy, the technology we use, who we put ourselves around because of how we spend our money. And the more money we have, the more we can eat, watch, consume, buy, waste…

I’m a lucky one. And to be honest it doesn’t matter what living conditions you had in the United States, if you were born and raised in the USA you are a lucky one too. With the highest GDP in the world, the US is one of the strongest leaders in technology, business, investment, and “getting rich” in the world. And think about the 1,000s of people trying to enter the US right now. No. It isn’t perfect. But, yes, if you grew up there your life was ‘better’ than most of the rest of the world and this is how I know:

I moved to Spain a few months ago now and started classes at an international business school in Madrid. Here, I’ve met people from all over the world, and it has been wonderful. But while in school, I’ve realized that though everyone comes from different places, I’m meeting a certain “type” and “class” of people from all over the world. The wealthy 1%. Columbians, Indians, Venezuelans, Spaniards, Australians, Scandinavians, South Africans, and people from so many other countries across the world, I’m meeting the type and class of people who can afford a top-notch master’s program in Europe and all of the costs that come with it.

And that’s how I know that coming from a middle class family in the States, the USA is rich.

When I hear on Facebook people in the US complaining about their quality of life I ask why? Because you have freedom to choose a profession? Because you GET to go to school, and work without force, and have freedom to worship whatever deity you so choose? Because you get to buy a new TV and phone every year? And can afford Netflix, internet, data plans, and food? Because you have a place to live that you can afford, even if you don’t like the price?

You see, it’s EASY to want more. It’s easy to play the “if only” game and then feel sorry for ourselves. I know this because I just caught myself doing it a few weeks ago.

“If only I earned more…” “If only the government didn’t take so much tax out…” “If only my car insurance didn’t cost so much…” “If only I had more money so I could…” What? So, you could… what? Truly what would more get you?

Probably a lot. More money could get you a lot more. But a lot more of what?

Where are you putting your money? What are you spending your time doing because of your money? Investing? Giving? Entertainment? A new couch, because the old one is dated? A bigger house because each kid deserves their own room? Do you ever just buy someone a little gift at work, like a cup of coffee or lunch just because? Do you ever say, no don’t worry about Venmo-ing me this time, I know you’re going through stuff?

The reason I ask these questions is because of my current Spain situation. I don’t have “extra” I have enough.

I have enough for rent, for groceries on a budget, minutes for my phone, and enough to take a few trips while I am in Spain to other countries… I believe that to not take extra trips would be a waste while I am on this side of the pond.

But here is the thing, a few weeks ago I was PISSED. I was jealous of people around me who are planning weekend trips every weekend, shopping for fun, and can afford better apartments closer to the school. I was angry at my tight, gotta watch every penny budget. Until I realized something.

My tight, gotta watch every penny budget is actually freeing. It has freed up my time and energy to now focus and be choosy with my life.

I deleted Netflix because that is an extra that I can’t afford right now, but now, my time is more free and I’m not wrapped spending HOURS watching shows or movies each week. I deleted Spotify for the same reason, and now at the gym I’m not engrossed in my own music, but I listen to little conversations in Spanish around me. I can’t afford to jet off every long weekend like most students around me at school can do, so that means I get to know Madrid better and I get to be super picky about my “special” trips this year while I’m in Europe. And lastly, I don’t spend my time shopping the 100s of beautiful shoe and clothing stores here (when I already have way too many shoes and clothes in the USA). THANK GOD I can’t afford more on that end, I don’t have the space for it in my life back home!

I’m honing in on what actually makes me happy, what is actually important to me and ultimately God, as far as money, how I spend my time due to money, and who I let influence me due to where I spend my money. (Right now, my money is being spent and invested into my education and because of that I’m letting a school and master degree students from around the world influence me).

Money comes at a cost. Not for the money itself, but for what you do with the money, and the people you let influence your life because of money.

Money is good. And I want more of it, someday soon. But right now, I’m experiencing the blessing of having less.

Think about your own money habits, is there anything you can change, get rid of, or do that would free up your time in a new way or bless others by?

Can you jot down any good uses for and how you can be more purposeful with your time and money?

It’s Better to Give Than to Receive

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PC: Paige Marie

“She wants me to use my gas money, to drive the opposite direction, to pick her up then drive back to the park two blocks from me, just because she doesn’t feel like driving tonight?!” I stared at my phone aghast at my friend’s request for a ride to the park where we decided to go walking that evening.

Stomping to the fridge, I pulled out a water bottle to cool down wondering how to respond to my friend’s text. “She knows I don’t have extra money. I’m barely making it as it is! I can’t use any extra gas tonight. I’m at a quarter of a tank and don’t get paid for two days.”

But then, I remembered the previous week when she covered the appetizer as I couldn’t and I wasn’t going to eat any of it because I felt bad.

“I wish I had more money to be generous back!” I moaned, taking a swig of water.

Lord, I prayed, what is the difference between being frugal and being stingy? You know my bank account. What do I do?

_     _     _

Though this account isn’t verbatim, I prayed a similar prayer a couple of years ago upon graduating college and I wonder have any of you been in a related circumstance?

Fresh outta college looking for more than a part time job and unpaid internship, paying my own bills, buying my own groceries, and not letting finances dictate my life in an emotional balancing act: Being honest with where I was at with friends, without complaining to them that I couldn’t afford the restaurants they could. Trusting God with my bank account, while taking responsibility for my purchases and expenses. Exhausting!

That’s when I offered my question to the Lord- how can I be frugal (prudent/ economical) without being stingy (penny-pinching)?

Growing up is hard, I tell ya, and finances are a kicker. The reality is most of us grew up with parents who spent more than they earned, instead of guiding us to save, give, and spend money appropriately. The average American last year was over $7,000 in debt on a single credit card. It’s like an epidemic of see something you like, swipe that magic card, incur more debt, and turn a blind eye to the insatiable, consumer appetite that eats away at our culture.

What’s more is Christians are in the same financial crisis as non-Christians. God’s word tells us to be in the world and not of it (John 17:16). However our multiple TVs and cars, $5 daily lattes, and penchant for dining out, look the same as our unbelieving neighbors to whom we are supposed to be an example.

So when the Bible tells me that it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35), to look out for the poor (Ephesians 4: 27-28), and to let love be the only debt on my record (Romans 13:8)- how do I take care of my finances as a responsible Christian?

I’ve learned over the unstable post college years that God ALWAYS provides. And when He says it is better to give than to receive He means it! It tickles Him when His daughters are generous with what we’ve been gifted.

Perhaps you are in a place of frugality, how do you give back without abusing what little money is getting you by? It’s time to get creative my friend! On my end, I realized that I’m young and healthy; I have energy. I’m single and don’t have kids; I have time. I’m loved by the Most High King; I have an excess of love. Though short on money, I lived with abundant energy, time, and love. These gifts I used by encouraging friends with notes, babysitting a neighbor’s daughter for free, baking cookies for a friend who let me attend an event without paying, and donating time to the church as a tithe instead of that 10% the Old Testament talks about. There are so many ways to give, even without money!

Perhaps you are in a financially stable position and can give away those dollars and cents that make the world go round. Think back. Were you ever in a place of financial need that people gave to you? Be generous with those monies that God blessed you with; you never know when you might need a financial favor someday. Next time you go shopping, buy that cute scarf for a teen girl in your church instead of yourself. “Adopt” a college student and take him grocery shopping because you can. Give a gas card to your babysitter in addition to paying for her time. There are financial burdens all around. God is delighted when we use our creativity to meet those needs as well!

Those post college years words like, “don’t worry about it, I got you,” sounded like gold wrapped in emotions of gratitude and a good dose of humility to the point of tears once. I’ll never forget one friend saying over a simple cup of coffee, “This is my treat. You’ll return the favor one day.” I already see it happening as I trust God more with my finances and give to others in a variety of ways.

Back to the original question: the difference between being frugal and being stingy? Stingy lives in fear. Frugal lives in wisdom.

The bottom line is I serve a God who lives in a heaven paved with gold. To Him money is just a number. God cares about our hearts and character. He’s taught me humility to receive from others when I’ve had “nothing,” wisdom to save over spending, and generosity to give back when and how I can. Whether you have money or not to spare in this phase of life, you can always give.

Think about what God has given you much of. How can you give generously?