Thursday, June 17, 2010

Life for Less: Where's your treasure?

{Where your treasure is...there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21}  

I read a lot personal finance press: one, because it's a job requirement & two, because I'm actually kind of into it. I found two articles this week that really resonated with our personal finance philosophy & got me thinking about how & if our values are reflected in our finances.

Does your checkbook reflect what is most important to you?
The inflation threat is real (this article is about lifestyle inflation)

I think it's a noble challenge to consider what your values are and then assess whether your personal financial situation reflects those values. What we say we value is validated by our actions. Here's some food for thought...

What is most important to you? 
It's not my job to pass judgment on your values or your spending (that's your business), but you need to be honest with yourself. Where do your dollars flow? Are you foregoing retirement savings so that you can have the latest & greatest iWhatever? Are you living off of credit cards, but spending like you have a load of cash in the bank? Do I think you're morally depraved just because you have cable or like to eat out? Not at all!! Nor am I suggesting that it's selfish to enjoy the fruits of your labor... I'm just challenging you to think about where there may be excesses, what you truly 'need,' & if you really spend according to your values.
Do you value truthfulness? 
I think we would all say "of course!" Really? Here's an example -- do you report & pay taxes on all of your income? Just because your employer doesn't withhold, doesn't mean you don't have a tax obligation (that means the cash from your nannying, yard work and tutoring jobs is taxable & you should be reporting it). If we're honest with ourselves, we may find that we are quick to excuse or ignore our own personal un-truths.
Do you value generosity?
This is an interesting question especially in the context of a Christian community, where we are called to give and care for the oppressed. Even if you don't make your personal finance decisions based on your faith, you may say you're charitable or philanthropic, but do you actually live like that? Do you cry out about the injustices of the world, but then fail to step up to the plate in order to do something about them? I've heard folks say, "we'll give when we start making more money." Really? If you aren't faithful when you have a little...will you be faithful when you have a lot?

Bringing it home...
Matt & I made the decision to live simply in order that we might live out our values financially. That means over the course of our marriage we've foregone frivolous spending and redefined 'necessities' so that we can meet our financial goals. Do we always do a perfect job? No. Do we expect everyone else to share our financial values? Certainly not. Is our life less fulfilling even though we rarely go shopping or eat out, line dry our clothes, have hand-me-down furniture & a TV that's not high-def, only pay for basic cable, drive used cars, read library books, eat leftovers, rent a modest (but cute) apartment, pack our lunches, don't belong to an expensive gym and have cell phone plans that don't include texting? Not at all! If anything, these 'sacrifices' have allowed us to do amazing things like pay for all of Matt's schooling over the past 2 years without dipping into our savings once, continue to give, save for retirement, travel to some beautiful places (often in our tent!), and splurge every once in awhile for something that's important to us (like our new camera). I know there will be a day when we buy ourselves a new couch, upgrade our  TV, and move into a home of our own, but until then, we are content living simply....

How about you? Are you satisfied that your finances align with your values? Or is it time for some self reflection?

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