on living within my means

Posted: February 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

I picked up $42.74 worth of dry-cleaning today, and paid cash.  It was a huge relief, finally having these items out of the plastic shopping bags where they had spent months in the bottom of my closet.  Great finally having them accessible to wear for work again.  There is still enough cash left in my envelope marked “dry cleaning,”  I’m guessing, to pay for the sewing repairs that are being done on some other dress clothes that had also spent months in plastic bags, waiting for attention. 

The reason I was able to afford this luxury, for the first time since I moved back from Chicago in 2011?  The help of a friend who happens to have once been a financial planner.   Last November I finally got desperate enough to seek help with my money management skills, after a long, long run of overdrafts between every paycheck.  After pushing past the resistance in me that insisted my friend would lose every last bit of respect for me, if he saw the condition of my financial affairs…I chose to trust the friendship, trust him, and ask anyway. 

What I’ve been learning is to live within my means.  I hadn’t been doing that.  I had been assuming on payday and the weekend after that I had “plenty of money” and had been just spending it as I may…and then each post-paycheck Monday or Tuesday, I’d hit the wall of my consequences for that decision.  Now, I don’t touch my money until it has been processed.  I have my bills set up to automatically be paid twice a month, according to a carefully made schedule.  I have bank accounts for ongoing, somewhat predictable expenses like car repairs, bike repairs, medical bills, magazine subscriptions, etc.  I have envelopes where I keep cash for regular weekly expenses like groceries, gas, clothes, and, yes, dry cleaning. 

Because I choose to take care of processing first, I have enough money in my “clothing” envelope to buy new running shoes, when I find a good sale.  I have enough money to dry clean clothes I haven’t been able to wear in many, many months.  Life can be navigated, because I have a plan and I’m living within my means.

All of life is like that, really…not just the financial part.  One of the biggest parts of learning to love my body has been learning to live within the means of my caloric needs and my energy needs (a.k.a. eating right and exercising.)  One of the ways I’m managing a schedule that is packed impossibly full is living within the means of my time constraints.  Anything I do, including relaxing, goes on the schedule and gets a well-thought out amount of time, including figuring for travel time to and from, etc.  If I didn’t stick to it, there would be NOT A PRAYER that I could keep up with all that I am committed to doing. 

I really dislike the book of Proverbs (I am not proud of this – clearly, where I disagree with God, it’s ME that’s wrong, and not HIM)…if I didn’t, I’m sure I could give you some scriptures from there extolling the virtues of living within one’s means. 

The strangest thing to me about this business of living within my means is this:  it makes me feel RICHER, not poorer.  See, that is the OPPOSITE of what I would have expected, back before I was doing it.  Was part of why I resisted learning to live within my means.  I didn’t want to deprive myself.  Didn’t want to discipline myself.

There is freedom in discipline, I find…and I am enriched in the occasional deprivation for the sake of that discipline.

Life is funny.  So little of it makes sense in the ways that I first expect it to.

Sure am glad for how merciful He is with me, as I figure this stuff out. 

  1. laurie says:

    Thank you for sharing. I struggle with this area. Your vulnerability to share, so others can sigh with relief that they are not the biggest ninny in the world, (and at my age!!) – well – thankful, and thank you.

    • karen says:

      You’re welcome, Laurie. I’ve really come to the conclusion that my experiences and insights given from God are the biggest wealth of the sort that can be given away in my possession. I’m doing my level best to give aggressively. There is hope!

  2. Stacy says:

    Karen, I’m so happy for you!! And if you can do it, i can do it!! YAY!!!

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