It college, I was held captive by my bank account. This is not uncommon, I suppose, as novice adults venture into the world of bills and credit. My experience though, was somewhat tame, I think, compared to the average Joe.
I grew up as the oldest of six kids in a small farming community. There were no strip malls, movie theatres, or chain restaurants. We had a local bank, a couple gas stations, and a grocery store. My dad is self-employed and my mom… my mom birthed six kids. Couponing, scrimping, and saving were embedded into my genetic code without my realizing it. We wore hand-me-downs (mine were from the 8o’s), drank Tang and Sunny D because they were cheaper than orange juice, and mowed our own (4-acre) yard. We played imagination, made water guns from spray bottles, and performed self-directed stage shows in our underwear (who needs real costumes?!) A spontaneous Saturday morning breakfast run to Burger King (20 minutes away) was a huge treat.
If we kids had money, it was because we’d saved it from Christmas or a birthday card. As a teenager, if I needed cash, I would babysit or do data entry (scan papers) for Dad.
Once I got to college, I got my first “real” job. I was making around $150 a week at a local daycare center. Living on part-time minimum wage wasn’t easy, but I don’t remember stressing over it either. I guess it was just natural. I did what I could with what I had.
I already knew how to keep tabs on my money. I knew how to look at sale bills to find the cheapest gallon of milk. I knew how to cut coupons, but only use the ones that were for items I was going to buy anyway. I knew how to balance my checkbook. I knew how to prioritize when funds were low. I knew how to save for emergencies. All of this was something I had done before moving away from home.
I suppose I’ve thought of this lately because it gives me comfort. Looking back, 300 bucks every two weeks sounds crazy! How did I ever make it? That amount is teeny compared to what I’ve made at a full-time job. So, now that I don’t have a full time job, I remind myself that I did make it. With nothing more than a part-time, minimum wage paycheck; I made it.
And, what’s more? Those years when money wasn’t a factor in my happiness were some of the freest of my life. It forced me to be creative, to be content with the possessions I have, and to sincerely appreciate the gifts I’m given.
I’m returning to that mindset.
Instead of being bound by my lack of money, I’m more aware of the tool that it actually is. It does not define me or determine what I am capable of. Money’s effect on me is only what I let it be. If we have extra, great! If we’re running low, I get creative.
Money is a tool. You don’t “need” it.
I firmly believe that, while you should be managing your money responsibly, if you use the gifts you been given generously you will still have enough to take care of you needs. That’s the irony. It’s Grand Design. It’s “illogical.”
I’ve thought about how “illogical” my recent career move was. It’s one of the reasons I found it difficult to explain to people why I was doing it. When I said out loud what my intentions were, I knew I sounded ridiculous. It makes sense to me, but from the perspective of other hard-working, bill-paying people, I was nuts to give up a perfectly secure, steady paycheck.
I don’t care about a paycheck.
I’m going to work and earn money. I’m going to be responsible. But I refuse to let my decisions be dictated by a dollar figure. I read a blog recently that resonated with these thoughts…they’ve been swirling around in my mind for a while and I felt affirmed when I read it. The author poses this question: What would you do with your life if you didn’t have to worry about money?
A valid question. Also a scary one.
This question is not one that is posed to a university student. We are coaxed into an idea of a “perfect career” that will bring in the dough. What if I change? What if I grow and learn and become better suited for another job? Why are we rewarded with a gold watch after working with a single company for fifty years? While I whole-heartedly acknowledge the immense value of loyalty and diligence, I wonder if a piece of arm jewelry is worth it. (I understand too, that the watch isn’t the point; it’s merely a memento of appreciation from a company to their employee.) Should our goals be to get a job and then just keep it until we retire?
What I’m saying is, neither our degree nor our paycheck is the point. The point, dear people, is to do work that makes you tick. Find whatever it is that completely meshes with who you are and do it. What unique qualities and passions have I been given? What can I do with them to impact the world? What did God create me to be?
Stop doing what you’re able to do and figure out what you were made to do – then do lots of that. – Bob Goff in Love Does
The trick is to figure myself out. Responsibly covering my bills and then relying on my Provider to take care of the rest is the easy part.
So here goes nothing. I’m attempting to take all of the above and live by it. I’m following the nudges of the Spirit to step out into opportunity and away from “security.”
The question still stands: What would you do if you didn’t have to worry about money?
I’m finding out.
And, let me tell you, so far…
It feels GREAT.