The Gift of Enough

It all started with a picture and comment my friend and coworker, Connie, put on Facebook.

car

Every time I pull in parking lot at work and see this car, I just smile. Why? Because it belongs to our CEO who speaks to 10’s of 1000’s of women each year and has written many successful books. But no matter how big her following, she’s never lost her “real.” And she not only shares that real but lives it. So here’s to Jill Savage!! Who has made it safe for all us moms to just be real.

living with less cover with black edgeI like my little “Living With Less So Your Family Has More” car, but honestly I get razzed about it all the time.  “What CEO drives a 23 year old car?” I’ve been asked dozens of times, along with other comments and questions like, “Don’t you think it’s time for you to get a grown-up car, Jill?”  or “If you add water, maybe it will grow!”

The other day at a speaking engagement, my assistant and I pulled the boxes of books out and didn’t shut the back hatch. We noticed it when we got inside the church. Someone said, “Don’t you have a button on your keychain to close it?” My assistant Mel said with a smile, “There’s nothing automatic on that car…you even have to crank the windows up and down!”

So in the midst of being teased about my little old Mitsubishi Mirage, you can see why it was nice to read Connie’s positive comment.

I’m also fine with the green gingham wallpaper I hung in our kitchen in 1997. It’s not falling off the walls. There’s nothing wrong with it.  It covers the rough plaster walls in our 100 year old farmhouse we live in.

Then there’s the bathrobe I had for nearly 30 years. No holes. It wasn’t even threadbare. But my family insisted I needed a new one.

My ability to be content with what I have is most often seen as something bad.  Something negative. Something that indicates that I’m not “up with the times.”

But last week when my friend Connie put the above post on Facebook, it was my friend Marianne Miller’s comment that just blessed my heart in a huge way.  She said, “Someone gave Jill “The Gift of Enough.”  She was actually referring to the title of her new book, but I read it in a different way.  I read it as “Someone gave Jill the gift of enough.”

When I read those words that way, I wanted to cry. Happy tears.  Tears of relief that my old car, my dated wallpaper, and my purple bathrobe were okay. They were simply representative of something inside of me that says that “enough is okay.”  And I can tell you who gave that gift to me…my mom and my dad.  I grew up with “enough.” Not more than enough…just enough.

Marianne also indicated that it was her father who gave her the gift of enough when she shared this story in her comment, “My dad’s car got towed once from the vice-president’s spot because no one thought his rusted car could be a vice-president’s car.”

I. LOVE. THAT.

Years ago when I traveled to El Salvador with Compassion International, our trip leader asked the question, “What is the opposite of poverty?” Most of us in the group answered, “Wealth.” The tour leader corrected us that actually the opposite of poverty is “enough.” Enough food in your tummy that you don’t go to bed hungry. Enough healthcare that you don’t have a family member who dies of a disease that could have been prevented.

Honestly, we all live with more than enough.  Even those of us who were given “the gift of enough” and drive old cars and lived in outdated furnishings. We even have more than enough.

Now don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying it’s bad if you’re driving a new car or just redecorated your kitchen (we actually are planning on stripping wallpaper and painting our kitchen this summer).  That’s not the point.

Today I just want to affirm others who are content with enough and withstand their fair share of criticism for not having “up-to-date” items.

Today I want to affirm those parents who are concerned that they can’t give their kids a trip to Disney or the opportunity to go to any college they want. I want you to know that you are giving your children “the gift of enough” and that is powerful.

book-coverAnd I want to encourage us all to consider what “enough” looks like and recognize that we really live with “more than enough” each and every day.

Do you have something you live with everyday that is not the latest and greatest but is simply “enough?”  I’d love to hear about it!

I’m giving away a copy of Marianne’s book The Gift of Enough: Raising Grateful Kids in a Culture of Excess.

Leave a comment before noon on Friday 5/29/15 to be entered into the drawing!

Living With Less: The Reality of Disappointment

Last week I had to face one of the discouraging realities of living with less…disappointment.

Three weeks ago, my daughter invited me to take advantage of a promotion at the gym where she has a membership.  They were offering two weeks of free admission to the gym and their classes.  I decided to join her for those two weeks and we took class after class together.  I not only enjoyed the time with my daughter, I found that I LOVED kick-boxing (and I absolutely hated step aerobics)!

When my two weeks came to end, I knew that I couldn’t afford the $45 monthly expense to continue.  I went into it knowing that.  But that didn’t make the disappointment any easier.

Yes, I know…I could have said no to the two weeks to spare myself from enjoying something I knew I couldn’t have.  However, I don’t regret in anyway spending that time with my girl.  We had fun!

And honestly, it wasn’t for nothing…it inspired me to exercise more regularly and it introduced me to kick-boxing which I surprisingly enjoyed.  Even if I do kick-boxing at home with a DVD, my world has been expanded a bit.

But disappointment was still real.  It’s a part of the living with less journey.  Like Mark and I said in the first chapter of our Living With Less So Your Family Has More book, “Honestly we’ve struggled to fulfill our commitment to provide our family with the things money can’t buy when we’ve wished our family could have some of the things money can buy.”

Like gym memberships.

Disappointment is very real.  But we can’t let it skew our perspective.

You see, I don’t want a gym membership bad enough to sacrifice time with my family.

I don’t want a gym membership bad enough to hardly see my husband because we’re both working so hard to provide materially for our family that we can’t provide emotionally for our family.

I don’t want a gym membership bad enough that we increase our monthly expenses and increase our stress trying to meet our financial obligations.

It all comes back to vision and what we determine are priorities for our family.  We’ve determined that we want to live with margin in our time and margin in our finances.  We’ve decided that providing emotionally for our family is far more important than providing materially for our family.

We have to keep that overall long-term vision in front of us to make the sometimes challenging…and yes, disappointing…decisions that help us live out our vision.

What about you?  Have you experienced disappointment in choosing to live with less?

Living With Less: Affordable College Education

As Mark and I state in the first few sentences of our “College: Higher Education at Lower Cost” chapter in Living With Less So Your Family Has More book…”If you want to know one Savage parenting regret, just ask us about our experience leading our older children through college.”  Both Anne and Evan have school loans that they will be paying off for a long, long time.

Bottom line, we didn’t discuss our strategy for college for our kids until it was too late.  And when we did discuss it, we didn’t agree.  And quite frankly, we had too many kids and too little income to be able to give them the finances for college.

However, after early mistakes and lessons learned from those mistakes, we do have a plan now that we both agree upon.  It’s not a nest egg for their college tuition, but it is the strategy and guidance they need to successfully find an affordable college education.

In a recent newspaper article by Claudia Dreifus and Andrew Hacker, authors of the book Higher Education?, state that “After so many years of researching the American Way of Higher Education, we’ve come to believe that when parents are selecting a college for Jennifer or Jason, their primary target should be a school that permits their child to graduate debt-free.  That means thinking creatively and forgoing dreams of luxury or prestige.”

Indeed this is what Mark and I have discovered.  In our case, assuming there are no full-ride scholarships on the table, our local community college has become the default first two years of college for our kids.  After that, a state school trumps a private university any day.
Check out the tuition differences:

Average Community College: $88/credit hour = $1320/semester
Average State University: $350-$400/credit hour = $6,000/semester
Average Private University:  $850-$900/credit hour = $12,000/semeste

If Mark and I had just educated ourselves better, we could have better led our older children in their higher education choices.  You can bet we’re leading our younger ones differently.

In addition to two years of community college, these strategies can also be pursued to keep higher education affordable:

  • Commute: Living at home and finishing your education can save thousands of dollars of education.
  • Grades/ACT/SAT scores: Grades and scores do make a difference…sometimes.  When Anne went to Taylor University for 3 semesters her good grades helped a little…about $1000/year off tuition–not much, however, when you consider the $24,000 price tag.  When Erica scored a 27 on her ACT we learned that if we lived one county over, she could have had a full-ride scholarship to the community college in Champaign who offered that to ACT scores of 27 and higher.  Too bad our community college didn’t offer the same academic scholarship, but this illustrates that every college is different and you have to do your homework.
  • Dual Credit High School Classes: Some community colleges offer dual credit programs that allow high school students to take college classes and get high school and college credit at the same time.  Sometimes these programs require parents to pay tuition and sometimes the school district picks up the tab.
  • Good money management skills: Once your high schooler starts working, guide him/her with good strategies for managing money.  Include setting aside a percentage of each paycheck for college expenses.  If you need a template for money management for teens, check out my free Financial Notebook download on my Free Resources page.  Click HERE to find it!

Whatever strategy you come up with for your family, discuss it early, agree upon it with your spouse, and lead it well.

What about you?  What strategies could you add for pursuing higher education for less?

Living With Less: Decrease Spending When You Increase Contentment

Yesterday’s conversation about needs and wants was so good!  My blog posts are also posted on my Facebook page and there’s always a second conversation going on over at Facebook for each post.

I thought two suggestions were worth mentioning here today.

Wendy suggested that when you see a sign that says “Save 25%” read it as “Spend 75%.”  I think this is an excellent suggestion that can help us battle the temptation to “fall” for a sale on something we don’t really need.

Becky said that without realizing it, advertising can cause us to feel that if we don’t shop we’re missing out on something.  So true.  If we don’t recognize the emotional pull that advertising has on us subconsciously, we’ll fall for it every time!

To further illustrate this and to give us some additional strategies, I want to share an excerpt from Living With Less So Your Family Has More. This excerpt is from the chapter on contentment.

In Greek mythology, the Sirens, who were three beautiful, seductive women, would sing their beautiful songs to lure sailors to their island. The men couldn’t resist listening to the sweet song, and ended up shipwrecked on the rocky shores. In today’s culture, advertising has a similar draw to us. We’re enticed by the right words, the right colors, and even the right music.

We’re writing this chapter during a one-week Florida vacation. Even today I (Jill) found myself drawn into the advertising hype as we drove to our favorite, free snorkeling site in Destin, Florida. “Sail Aboard Blackbeard’s Pirate Ship,” called one sign. “Oh…my boys would so love that experience!” I thought to myself—even though a cruise like that isn’t in our family vacation budget.

A few blocks further we happened upon Krispy Kreme Donuts and the “Hot Donuts” sign was brightly lit. “Mmmmm. Krispy Kremes sounds so good!” In fact our daughter Erica saw the sign and immediately said, “Can we stop at Krispy Kreme?”
And then right next to Krispy Kreme was a beach store having a huge sale. “Everything $5 or less!” screamed the big banner signs. “Wow, what a great sale!” I thought to myself. “Maybe we ought to stop.” Then I realized there wasn’t a single thing I could think of that we would need at a beach shop. The advertising was doing its job well, drawing my mind and my senses into its siren call.

Is there nowhere to turn without being assaulted by advertising? Think about it. If you go to a movie, you’ll watch a half-hour of straight product advertising followed by movie trailers advertising even more movies before the film you actually want to see begins. When you’re on your computer, pop-up ads pester you anytime you surf the internet. When watching an hour show on television you’ll see about 20 minutes of commercials. In grocery stores, there are ads on the child seats on the grocery carts, coupon machines right in the aisles, and “sale” signs blasting you with the “best” deals. In the checkout line, product placement of candy, gum, and magazines calls for your attention. And have you ever noticed the little plastic bar that separates your groceries from the customer’s groceries in front of you on the conveyor belt? Yep! You’ll find advertising there, too! Even the most savvy shoppers can get worn down into buying all kinds of things we really don’t need or don’t have the money for.

Another reason we struggle with contentment is that we get caught in the comparison trap. A small child always seems to want the toy another child has in his hand. The “comparison trap” starts early doesn’t it? And we don’t really seem to grow out of it. Our human nature naturally hunts out and sniffs out what “toys” others have that we don’t have. We have our own perfectly good toys, but someone else has something new or slightly different and suddenly we want it, too!

We’re all tempted to compare our life to the lives of others. Proactively, however, there are some strategies that help us to stop longing for what we don’t have. Try putting into practice these five ways to conquer comparisons and increase contentment.

First, develop a thankful attitude. Many times we’re unhappy not because we aren’t doing well, but because we think others are doing better. Instead of looking at what others have, let’s move our eyes to what we have. And let’s start thanking God for those things everyday.

Second, establish a reasonable standard of living. We need to develop our lifestyle based upon our convictions, not our circumstances. Wherever God has you financially, stay convicted to live within your means. Learning to live within a predetermined budget is important, too.

Third, learn to discern between wants and needs. Needs are the basics of food, clothing, shelter, and healthcare. Wants are anything beyond the basics. The world screams to us that wants are actually needs: every child needs this toy, every dad needs this tool, and every mom deserves this kitchen appliance. But the definitions of needs and wants must come from you, and not from culture.

Fourth, recognize that appearances are not necessarily accurate. When you see someone who has a bigger house or a newer car, they also likely have a bigger mortgage or a larger car payment. They may have “toys” that you’d love to have, but it may be they also have a huge home equity loan to finance all those toys. The stress they may be experiencing from debt may not be readily evident, but it could very likely be present.

And finally, ask for God’s help. If you struggle with envy, jealousy, or coveting, ask God to help you change your heart and your mind. Usually this means we have to start by confessing to God and asking for his forgiveness for how your heart is twisted up by the sin. But then we’re able to start with a clean slate that has new possibilities. Ask God to remind you of what you do have when you are tempted to want what someone else has.

What about you? How do you work to increase contentment in your life?

Living With Less: Do I Need It or Want It?

Just like most everyone else, I love a good sale.

And right now those after-Christmas sales lure us like a siren call.  But I’ve learned the hard way that is doesn’t really matter how good the sale is, I still have to ask this question, “Do I need it or do I want it?”

If I want it, I have to think about what I’m spending, not what I’m saving.  50% off means I still have to pay the other 50%!

Of course, if I need it, I’m thrilled.  Mark and I have worked on a spending plan and it sure helps when I’ve already planned to spend money and I’m able to save some of that money with a good sale!

But this year, I’ll resist the sale on winter clothes.  It’s not in my plan.

And you know, honestly, having a plan feels even better than finding a good sale!

What about you?  What strategies do you use to keep spending under control?

Living With Less: Less Activities Outside the Home Can Mean More Activity in the Bedroom!

When Mark and I wrote the book the Living With Less So Your Family Has More we wanted to challenge families to live with less stress, less activities, and less money than is culturally acceptable.  I recently discovered the CWIVES website: Christian Wives Initiating, Valuing, and Enjoying Sex.  I read through many of the pages on the website and I really love the message Dr. Jennifer Degler shares. 

I asked her permission to share one of the articles on her website here because it applies to the concept of living with less activities.  Here’s Dr. Jennifer’s post:

“I am too tired for sex.” Have you said those words before? Lacking energy for sex is the #1 sexual difficulty Christian women report according research conducted by the authors of The Secrets of Eve. The typical husband is rarely too tired for sex. He can come home from working a 16-hour shift, collapse on the couch, and claim that he is too tired to even lift a finger; yet, if his wife mentions she’s interested in sex—ta da!—he’s up and off the couch like Lazarus from the grave. How did he do this? He reached for his sex pot, the separate pot of energy for sex that most men keep in reserve.

Women don’t have a separate sex pot. We have only one pot of energy, and everything we do—laundry, running the carpool, paid or volunteer work, grocery shopping, and yes, having sex—comes out of our one pot. Wives have to deliberately save some energy for sex, or fatigue will rob us of a satisfying sex life.

If you want to save energy for sex, then you must learn to say “no” to some of the competing requests for your energy. Wives tend to say “yes” without considering how these additional activities can eventually shrink their interest and enthusiasm for sex. Let’s say you’ve been asked to serve on the PTA or to work overtime. Would you ever respond by saying “before I give you an answer, let me talk this over with my husband, pray about it, and consider how this will impact my sex drive and my ability to enjoy sex?” You can stop laughing—I’m not suggesting you should really say the last part (but I bet people would stop asking you to do so much if you actually said it). I am suggesting that you should at least think about the last part.

If you still have children at home, consider limiting your kids to one (or possibly two) activities outside of church. Otherwise, your energy pot will be drained dry by the endless round of soccer games, violin lessons, dance competitions, choir practices, etc. It’s more important for you and your husband to have an exciting, fulfilling sexual relationship than for your child to play soccer and the violin and dance and sing and do Scouts and be on the math team, etc.

Before you know it, your child will be grown and out of the house. Couples who have had a great sex life while raising children often find the empty nest isn’t so bad; in fact, it gives them the opportunity to finally have sex in every room of the house (look out, dining room, here we come!).

What about you?  Have you ever considered how valuable it is for you to say no to some activities because of how it affects your energy for sex?