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.
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.