Dear Lauren and Lydia,
There are many times in my life when I think, I sure wish I would’ve had someone give me wise counsel about various things…marriage, finances, parenting, personal care, etc. when I was your age. I have great parents and I was part of a church community so I’m sure there was good counsel there, but somehow I still feel as if either I wasn’t asking the right questions or not listening close enough or it just wasn’t talked about enough back when I was your age. No one’s fault…just my perception of life.
So…I find myself wanting to make sure you have good counsel and don’t make some of the mistakes I’ve made. You’ll make your own…we all do, but if I can save you a few, I sure would be overjoyed to do so.
This one is huge. I think I’ve been talking to you guys about money since you were little kids. I grew up fairly poor and so I hate to see money ever wasted. You know this about me. To the point where I can be a little over the top🙂. I’ve wasted far more money in my life than I wish I had. It’s so important to think about the long haul…to take the long term way of handling it. It’s so easy to be instantly gratified by whatever the latest thing is instead of just being content with what you have already. It’s so easy to buy cheap and fast when you could wait and buy what is best and will last.
I want you to know that if you could see the piles of stuff I’ve taken to goodwill in the last 10 years it would be astounding and it makes my heart sick to even think about it! Too much stuff. Too much clutter. Too much waste. Don’t do it!
When you travel someplace…no souvenirs are required. Don’t go shopping unless there is a reason to do so…as in a necessity. Don’t collect stuff…don’t fall for it. No one needs a collection of stuff sitting in their house. It just becomes junk at a later date and you wonder why you ever collected it in the first place. (I realize some people probably have great valuable collections…but for most of us…it’s just junk sitting on a shelf.)
When it comes to gifts…christmas, birthday, etc. keep it minimal…there is no reason to go over the top.
If you choose to spend money…spend it on making a memory or having an experience with those you love. I have found that is about the best way for me to spend money. I’ve put out a lot over the years to go on vacations and take family with us and those are precious memories for me and worth every penny.
Take pictures…enjoy life…don’t have anxiety about money, but don’t spend frivolously.
Seriously…when you go to places like Walmart, have a list and stick to the list.
When you are thinking about a large purchase, take your time, save up for it and then get it, often you’ll find while waiting it isn’t an important purchase anyway.
And be careful about online purchases…it’s far too easy to click and keep clicking and end up purchasing too much…even if it is a ‘great deal’!
Use cash whenever possible…it helps you to realize that yes you are actually spending money.
In the last few years you have seen me living a very different life…very different from most any other adult you know. It’s a very simple life. I have incredible freedom. My life is not a daily grind. It revolves around exercise, being outside, taking care of my family and our home, being involved at church, and interacting with neighbors. It doesn’t revolve around house projects hardly ever. It doesn’t involve shopping trips. And I try to make sure we don’t even eat out too much…I could do better in this area for sure. The main thing is…my life is free. My time is spent the way I want it to be.
I still work hard. I teach music lessons and make soap. I keep a house, cook and clean. I take good care of myself. I wife and parent. But it is deeply fulfilling work.
Just yesterday I was talking with Dane about money and the regrets I have from the past.
Your dad and I started out in debt up to our eyeballs the moment we got out of college. Not a good plan and something I knew I would never want for you two. We got a credit card in our first year of marriage and although we used it for fairly small purchases….it still snowballed and accumulated more than it ever should’ve. Various other things came along…sometimes I’ve tried to help people or rescue them when probably I shouldn’t have. I try to let that stuff go and assume I followed what I felt God wanted me to do at the time. And stuff…just far too much of it purchased over the years. While I’ve never had drugs or alcohol…I can say that shopping and eating out too much has definitely been a problem for me in certain seasons of my life.
As I talked to Dane yesterday I can see that God has redeemed it all…even the stupid mistakes I’ve made…but I can also see that I could’ve made life better for myself and my family easily if I had just been wiser.
That’s why I write to you.
You are on the start line. You have every opportunity to make good choices. There are many areas of life to think about, finances are just one, for sure…but they are a big one. Don’t buy stuff. Simply put, if you need something…put it on a list…wait and see if it really is a need or not. Don’t just go shop and randomly look around…it’s too easy to buy stuff you don’t need. And if you try something on, never buy it unless it looks so amazing on you it is something that makes you feel amazing. Don’t buy anything that is just so so…you won’t like it when you get home. Better to have less and have what you really love than a bunch of so so.
Don’t make big purchases without much counsel and saving. Cars…houses…electronics…etc. I have made this mistake far too often in my life. And the waste is depressing for me to think about. Don’t do it.
Better a small place to live with very few possessions than a large placed filled with a bunch of junk. Instead…make the outdoors your home. Go places…make memories…fill your mind, not your closet and cupboards. Be free.
The way America is headed…you have no guarantees about your future. Many of the people I know and love may never be able to retire…they may have to work the rest of their lives, often in jobs that are not all that fulfilling. The only way around this is for you to start where you are, saving…learning to live on a tight budget and thinking about your future.
Yes…be generous. Yes…live with an open hand to helping others. But don’t buy in to the idea that to be happy you need to have it all. You don’t.
I’ve lived both ways. I can tell you with confidence which way is better. My only regret is that I wish I had lived this way all along.
Love your momma who just wants the best for you.