When a University of Michigan survey asked people what they believed would improve their quality of life the answer given most often was, “More money.”
In their book The Day America Told the Truth, James Patterson and Peter Kim asked, “If you could change one thing about your life what would it be?” The number one response at 64 percent was, “Greater wealth.”
A University of Southern California study found that greater wealth didn’t translate into greater happiness for many of the 1,500 people surveyed annually over three decades. USC economist Richard Easterlin said, “Many people are under the illusion that the more money we make, the happier we’ll be,” but, according to the study, that isn’t true.
We know from other well-respected studies that fewer Americans are “very happy” today than in the 1950s despite having far more money, bigger homes and more stuff. In 1950 there were 3,000 shopping malls in this country, by 2000 there were 45,025. We have more money, we have more stuff but clearly, greater affluence has not translated to greater happiness.
Are flimsy contrivances keeping you stuck in a big-debt, small-savings situation? It’s easy to find excuses that let you off the hook but it’s only a temporary reprieve. One excuse just leads to another and another and eventually to a way of life. Perhaps it’s time to explode your excuses.
Excuse: I don’t have time to learn to manage my money.
The truth is we all have time to do what matters most to us. It makes no sense for you to work as hard as you do only to end up with no solid assets to show for it.
Excuse: I can’t stick with a budget.
Perhaps you’ve been trying to cram yourself into a budget that doesn’t fit. Here’s the way to create a plan that will fit you perfectly: For the next 30 days, keep a written record of every dime you spend. At the end of a month categorize your spending including a total for each. Now multiply each by 12 to see what you will spend in a year if you keep this up. No one will have to point out the problems once you have the truth right there in black and white. You’ll see immediately where you need to make adjustments. Now look for ways to reduce every area of spending by a little bit. Continue tracking your spending, adjusting where necessary to get it below your income. It takes time to get a spending plan just right, so be patient and don’t give up.
I wouldn’t call it a radical new idea, although a recent issue of a popular women’s magazine did say that living below your means (LBYM), is the hot new trend.
It is a simple concept—spend less than you earn. Still, LBYM is seen by many as a life sentence, not the lifesaver that it is. It can take a crisis like unemployment or a sudden illness to reveal to some people just how far in over their heads they really are. That’s when a lifesaver can look mighty good.
LBYM means living the best life you can on what you earn. It means learning how to manage your income so well that you can live your life for half the price.
A household is just like a business. You earn revenue and you have expenses. If you spend more than you bring in you will eventually take on debt. A business that continually takes on debt will eventually fail. Same in a household.
In a business you make spending decisions based on the effect they will have on the business; you decide how to reinvest your profits to improve your net worth. It is a healthy company that ends the year not just breaking even, but with money in the bank. Same at home. This is LBYM.
MAKE A COMMITMENT. It’s a good time to make some decisions about the future, it being the New Year and all. A commitment to LBYM should not be taken lightly. It’s a big deal, particularly if you, like most people these days, have come to see credit as a required extension of your income.
Topping the financial resolutions for 2015, according to a recent Fidelity survey: saving more (55 percent), paying off debt (20 percent) and spending less (17 percent). Is there anything in that list that you’ve been thinking about for yourself in the coming New Year? Great, I have a formula you can start following right away—like today!
RECORD YOUR SPENDING. Sounds like a silly instruction, especially if you feel overwhelmed and under deposited. Nonetheless, if you will begin keeping a written record of every expenditure I can promise you a couple of things: 1. You’ll hesitate before making silly, impulsive purchases. 2. You’ll start taking back control once you see where all of your money goes.
GIVE BACK. I know. You’re broke. You have mountains of debt and some idiot is suggesting you give money away. That’s right and you can call me an idiot.
Giving is a mysterious, miraculous activity that when practiced will transform your life. I can’t explain it. I just know that with an attitude of thankfulness for what you do have. if you will give away a portion of your income, you will invite God’s supernatural involvement in your finances. Giving is the antidote for that wretched trend toward excess and self-indulgence.
It was the worst day of my life. Not one of the worst days. Not a day where not one thing seems to go right. Worse than that.
Worse than any day I’d ever experienced before that day, worse than any day since. And I would say that like most people, I’ve had some real doozies.
I was in crisis, the kind that took my breath away and made me believe I had no hope. My world crashed.
We were four months behind on our mortgage. All of the credit accounts were maxed to the hilt, and beyond. We had bills on top of bills, collections up the wazoo. We had no money and worse, no jobs. Not one between us. Nothing coming in. I hate to tell you even how much credit-card debt I’d run up and the size of our mortgage and automobile leases. It was really, really bad.
This was not a crisis that developed overnight. It started gradually, of course.
Not many people start out in financial trouble. Neither did I. It happened quite innocently, really.
Over the years, one thing led to another, and the whole thing began to speed up. I always told myself everything would work out. Somehow it would.
It seems like I’ve unpacked and hung this decor, these lights and holiday baubles a thousand times.
I’m glad the people in my family don’t enjoy the process because I love taking this annual trip through years of memories alone. Besides, I know how everything should be. It must be the same as last year and the year before and the year before that. Any other way just wouldn’t be right. If I tried to pull a fast one, I’d hear about it.
There is not one thing in all of these boxes that doesn’t symbolize an event, a season of life or a small boy’s best work.
As each ornament finds its place on the tree, I relive the years through the memories of past holiday seasons. There’s something about chubby faces framed by Mason jar lids and macaroni angels that bring tears to wash my soul.
I am immersed in the wonder that I’ve been given another year to know my boys and husband. I recall the seasons through which we’ve traveled. Clearly now, I see how things did work together. Those situations we questioned did happen for a reason, trials did bring triumphs and little boys did become good men.
The act of regifting—passing on as new, a gift someone else gave you—is controversial but only because of those who do a noticeably bad job of it. After all, if every act of regifting were carried out flawlessly no one would have the occasion to find it distasteful because no one would know. And that brings me to the Rules of Regifting:
Rule 1. Never admit to regifting. If your friends know you’re a regifter, you’ll find yourself in the unpleasant situation of explaining why regifting is different from not caring. Worse, they will be suspicious of the gifts you give them. It’s best to keep regifting completely to yourself.
Rule 2. Designate a location. Keep regifts in a convenient, albeit secret, place in a special box or cupboard with extra wrapping paper and ribbon. Some people shop for gifts in department stores. Never underestimate the utility of a gift stash that allows you to shop at home.
If you are committed to teaching your kids how the world operates, teach them about money.
You can use financial principles to teach everything from math problems to social issues. That’s because money is about values, relationships, choices and self-worth.
And while teaching your kids important values to guide their lives is of the utmost importance, when all is said and done those values are more likely to be caught than taught.
You have to live what you teach.
If there is one thing that will ruin your kids’ lives, it’s greed. Teach them while they’re young how to pull the plug on greed, and you will have prepared them in a very important way to not only survive, but to also thrive in the real world.
Lesson for Kids: When you give, you defeat your enemy greed
The feeling of desire, of wanting everything you can think of is called greed. Greed is not a good thing. In fact, it’s like a very bad disease. It starts small and if allowed to grow it will take over your life. Greed will make you a very miserable person. Greed causes temper tantrums and makes people self-centered and arrogant. And it is very sneaky.