A week or two ago, something happened in our extended family that caused us to pause and ask this question: What would we do if we had nothing?
We live on one income with two cars and a roof over our head. I am able to homeschool and stay home with our children. We help support both of our mothers. We are thankful to the Lord for all of these things.
But, what would we do of things changed? Unexpected expenses? Job change? A lower income? Would we cope?
When one's income changes, hard decisions have to be made. I had a roommate once who never adjusted her spending level downward when her income level changed downward. She began to live deeply in debt, paying the minimum on her credit cards each month. Her experience made a deep impression on me.
So, if in such a position, what would we change? No cable. No internet. What we ate would change. One car, not two. Change the coverage on our car insurance. No extras. Plant wildflowers in the lawn so as not to have to mow more grass and use more gas for the lawnmower. Raise the thermostat in the summer and lower it in winter. We already have prepaid cell phones, but if we hadn't already switched, we would. Use the library for internet access and more for curriculum use than purchasing books for homeschooling. I could work part time. Cheaper coffee. Sticking to our budget.
At what point, would one make such changes? Or should we always be mindful of such things? I remember a good piece of advice I read in a book once. Consider your time and what you can do with your time that will save you the most money. We already do budget, which I think is extremely important. If we don't budget, it would be very difficult to know if our efforts in saving money and spending less were effective or not.
We are expecting my husband's income to drop in a few years. So, should I tighten our belts now or in a few years? I think it would be easier to do what we can now and live wisely and carefully so that we don't have to make drastic adjustments all at once.
In the end, it all comes down to two basic questions. What are our needs? and What are our wants? I'll never forget when my mom asked me when I was in 4th grade if I needed a sweatshirt that I really wanted. She asked me if I needed it. I had to admit that I didn't. This morning my daughter told me that she wanted to get some bath crayons. I explained to her that it wasn't a need. We have plenty of toys and fun things to play with. I realize that I can tell her this, but I hope that someday soon she will be able to think through this question, "Do you need it?" and answer the question truthfully about something she wants. It will be a moment that profoundly changes her life, I hope, as it did mine.