Why Bother to Live Within Our Means?

Why Bother to Live Within Our Means?

I don’t know what it is like to go hungry because I’ve always had enough to eat. I don’t know what it is like to sleep in a community shelter with strangers all around me because I’ve always had my own bed. I’ve never gone “dumpster diving” behind a clothing store in search of something to wear because I already have the clothes I need. And though I am not a financial wizard, I do know how to live within my means and reap the benefits as a result. 

Goals

I’ve never had the goal to be wealthy. But I do enjoy the comforts that accompany the money I earn. The lifestyle I enjoy now, did not come automatically, nor were there any short cuts.  Instead, the bounty I enjoy now came about gradually, making one careful and conscious decision after another about where and how to spend my earnings. 

I started out with menial jobs like every other young teen—babysitting, housecleaning, and restaurant work. My financial goals were simple and attainable. If I wanted to buy that three speed, green metallic colored Schwinn bike displayed in the hardware store window, I knew I needed to save for it. Later, when I wanted to buy a car, I saved for that too. It made sense that I could only spend what I had. 

With marriage came a mortgage, a small one at first. We purchased five raw acres of land for $5,000 and built our house from used lumber. It was a laborious undertaking, one I hope never to repeat.  

We’d found an old two story three-bedroom house that needed tearing down. The couple sold the house to us for a mere $500 and then informed us that we had sixty days to tear it down. The lumber we harvested became the means to building our first home. Our little investment of $5,500 gave us a much greater return when we sold it, ten years later.  

Marriage also brought a family and while raising our sons we chose to live with one income instead of two. This tighter budget strained our relationship, at times to the max, but our short stint of living within these constraints expanded our creativity. Though our income was small, we still found cheap ways to enjoy life. Camping and hiking at state parks, riding our bikes to the beach and using our big backyard for family shindigs. 

Though money is important, there are more important things than money. No one can buy a happy marriage, a home where harmony reigns or a heart filled with contentment. Living richly does not mean a six-figure income, it means enjoying what I have. 

Why bother to live within our means? Money does not ease our minds, but contentment does.

Why Bother With Contentment?

Why Bother With Contentment?

Way back in 1965, the Rolling Stones composed a song called, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” I didn’t pay much attention to this band or their music until the 1970s when I was in high school. By then I could drive my mom’s Super Beetle. She would hand me the keys, the grocery list and a blank check and send me off to do the grocery shopping. 

Driving while blasting music on the radio felt like my great escape from the discomforts brought on by adolescence. Though the song had more lyrics than I could understand, “I can’t get no satisfaction,” were the only words comprehensible to my ears. But they were all I needed at the time. Mick Jagger made millions of dollars singing that song, while I, on the other hand, did not. But this little scenario proves an important point.  Those in the marketplace know how to make millions from those of us who can’t seem to get any satisfaction. 

What Can We Gain From Contentment?

Being a teen, was by far, a most dissatisfying season of my life. I was restless to be somewhere other than I was, and blamed everyone else for my discomfort. Anger accompanied my feelings of powerlessness and lack of confidence. But I wasn’t a clueless teenager. I did take note of others who showed a peace of mind, confidence and a sense of humor. I wondered about their happiness and felt a tinge of envy. 

 Somewhere toward the end of adolescence and on the cusp of turning into an adult, I began aiming my thoughts toward getting some satisfaction. I steered my thinking away from the unrealistic ideas of becoming a cute and thin model like Twiggy, or a groovy, organic and earthy woman like one of my sisters. Instead I began making realistic choices to pull me up and out of the ruts I’d created with such unrealistic thoughts.  

Nothing changed instantly or overnight, but as I directed my thinking toward being content with who I was, and noted my unique talents and abilities, discontentment became something in my rearview mirror. I began taking on a different shape, more like one of those people I’d once envied. 

Contentment is an attitude that starts out small, but like any other thought, when it is nurtured, it grows. As we consider the idea of being content, we also experience how it can make us feel—good. With some practice, it can become a regular habit. 

Why bother with contentment? Though we may think we can’t get no satisfaction, though we may try and try, maybe if we tune into a different channel and sing a different tune, we just might find we have what we need.

Why Bother To Aspire To Be Content?

 

Why Bother To Aspire To Be Content?

Some personalities are more pleasant to be around than others. For instance, being in the company of a contented person is as enjoyable for me as sitting on my deck, in the sunshine, listening to bird song and enjoying the beauty of spring blossoms. Contented people make me smile, I can relax in their company, and after parting, I look forward to seeing them again. Not so with a discontented individual. Like a cold winter rain, being in their presence is anything but comfortable or warming. 

Benefits of Contentment

Contentment is an attitude we can aim toward and when we do, we gain gratitude, peace, satisfaction and a lighter heart. Contentment does not mean we ignore imperfections in ourselves or our circumstances, but the imperfectness we notice does not dominate the landscape of our thinking. Neither is contentment about never improving ourselves or our circumstances. Rather contentment means we find some tranquility and delight in what is offered in the present  moment. 

When I was hired as school teacher in a rural school, I thought I’d use it as a stepping stone, eventually finding a position in a larger school closer to home. But this year, as I started my fourth year in the same school, I decided to no longer think of my position as a stepping stone, but rather as the school where I want to stay. It is by no means the perfect school, but choosing to be content where I am has diminished the things I’d once thought of as imperfections.

Because of the size of the school, there is only one teacher per grade level. I’d always thought I wanted a teammate, another teacher teaching the same grade level as me, so that we could exchange ideas. But, becoming content with where I am has uncovered  the idea that it doesn’t matter that I am the only teacher teaching my grade level. Everyone of the teachers at my school gives me fresh ideas for instruction.

I drive a twenty minute commute to and from work every day and used to think that it was a long and boring drive. Now, choosing to be untroubled with the distance, I find it to be the most tranquil and scenic part of my day. I view eagles flying, mist hovering along green hillsides and a beautiful expanse of a lake. My commute has gone from being an inconvenience to becoming a time of thanksgiving and contemplation. 

Gratitude, peace, satisfaction and a lighter heart are the result of my choice to be content working at a rural school. Contentment also makes me more of an enjoyable person for others to be around. Hopefully, like the spring sunshine and the beauty of colorful blossoms, I can make another person smile, and look forward to seeing me next time.  

Why bother to aspire to be content. Cheeriness is worth it. Who wants to stand alone in the cold rain when it’s more pleasant on the sunny side?