So you read last week’s post and stuck around for more? Three cheers for you!! Honestly, the first two strategies are super-important but not all that exciting. They’re kind of like brushing your teeth. Necessary and effective? Yes. Exciting? Not so much.
Thankfully, once you make some progress with Strategies #1 and #2 – learning more about finances and minimizing your financial temptations – you can save even more by using the final two strategies to reach your family’s goals.
The 4 C’s: Strategies for Living on Less
Strategy #3 – Be Counter Cultural
I just finished reading Leaping Lemmings! to my kids today. In the story, all the lemmings act alike except for one. [Spoiler Alert] In the end, the oddball lemming saves all the others from certain destruction by becoming their leader, steering them away from the edge of a cliff and towards his pizza restaurant (my kind of rodent!), and encouraging them to think for themselves.
As the lemming story illustrates, just because something is popular or commonplace doesn’t mean it’s right or wise. As the traditional question goes, “If everybody else jumps off a bridge, does that mean you should, too?”
The latest statistics from the Federal Reserve show that consumer debt continues to increase at alarming rates. If debilitating debt and enslavement to our lenders is the cultural norm then I’d say being financially counter-cultural is a good aim to have.
Looking back, there are some big-ticket items I wish I’d have looked into more at the time rather than just making decisions based on the notion that “that’s what people do.”
My wedding, for example, was well planned and beautiful. I wouldn’t say it was extravagant but I realize now we could’ve saved thousands of dollars just by questioning or changing some of the cultural “must-have” aspects of a traditional wedding.
Society tells us we should all be striving for a huge house and expensive cars – that those are the measures of success.
For some, the purchase of a large home IS a worthwhile, intentional goal because it helps them expand the impact of their gifts of hospitality and generosity. One family I know hosts regular meals for neighbors in their spacious home and another couple is able to host children through Safe Families ministry because of all their extra bedrooms.
But for others, the cultural pressure to strive towards bigger homes or more material possessions is a distraction from their true calling. The life goals we have are unique to our own families so the financial decisions to help us reach our goals should be customized, too.
Culture tells us things like car payments, credit card balances and crushing school loan debt are inevitable. But they don’t have to be! (Don’t worry, even if you have those types of debts, you can take steps to get rid of them once and for all!)
Although the expensive decisions like cars, homes, weddings and vacations obviously make a big financial impact, there are a lot of little choices we make every day that can add up over time. If we take some time to think through even the smallest financial choices, we can make sure our spending stays in line with our own goals instead of just going with the flow or keeping up with the neighbors.
This may mean doing noticeably counter-cultural things.
For example, mine has always been the house in the neighborhood with an antenna instead of a satellite dish. We’ve never owned satellite TV or cable. It used to be a bigger deal – not being able to join in the discussion about what was on MTV the day before – sooo not cool. But honestly, with so many entertainment alternatives out there these days, this isn’t even a cool-kid-group deal-breaker anymore.
I know the adult peer pressure can be just as bad as Jr. High at times. But just because everyone else at the moms’ group brings snacks from the fancy grocery store doesn’t mean you have to. And your kids won’t die if they don’t have name-brand shoes. Remember, these small cost-saving decisions are helping you achieve your bigger goals.
Would you rather have fleeting attention because someone noticed you shopped at an expensive store or have the long-term fulfillment that comes with achieving your family’s biggest aspirations?
Whether they’re considered cool or not, don’t be ashamed of the counter-cultural, money-saving ideas your family uses! Wear that Plato’s Closet sweater with pride! Accept the hand-me-downs from your sister’s kids gratefully! Keep your Aldi cart quarter at the ready! Join your local Freecycle group!
Let culture do what it will. You just focus on YOUR next steps to reach YOUR family’s goals!
Click here to check out Part 4 of the Money-Saving Strategies series!
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