Less is More | 10 Ways to Simplify Your Financial Life
Note: The following article was written by missionary Jeri Ford. In addition to evangelistic ministry, Jeri and her husband, Craig, also work with families to help them understand finances from a Christian perspective. Jeri has some powerful things for us to consider, especially considering the season we are in right now, Christmas. Enjoy Jeri's article! WB
When I was old enough to drive, I got a job at McDonald’s and saved most of my earnings. I wasn’t a big spender and didn’t see the point in buying bigger and better things. Then in college, I married a wonderful, Christian man. He happened to be just as frugal as me. That kept things simple.
Six years ago, we moved to Papua New Guinea (PNG) to be missionaries. We thought we already lived simple lives and that we didn’t own much. Then we were introduced to another world. A world where our middle class lives suddenly screamed, “Upper class!” in the midst of the poor all around us. The definition of simple certainly changed.
It became a new spiritual journey for us – a road we’re still discovering together. We realized that our simple life wasn’t necessarily ‘simple’ by global standards. It was a rude awakening. We began to pray and think about what God was calling us to do with our finances. Through the last few years, we feel like God has been prodding us to simple living and generous giving. Clearly, not everyone is called to a life of simplicity. This ‘simple life’ is subjective and has no definitive rules. Your simple life may look different than ours.
In my husband’s book, Transforming Your Financial Diet, Craig says:
“The person without shoes thinks the person with shoes has too much. The person with shoes thinks the lady with the bike has too much. The lady with the bike thinks the guy who has the clunker has too much. The guy with the clunker thinks the fellow with the 3 year old Accord has too much. The fellow with the three year old Accord thinks the girls with the Lexus has too much. The girl with the Lexus thinks the lady with the private jet has too much.”So, who decides what is simple and what is not?
We chose to decide when enough was enough for us. It was an important decision for us to make. Living more simply became a priority for us. It was a decision that has been a blessing to our family.
4 Blessings of Simpler Living
- You can be less attached to stuff. Before moving to PNG, I admit that I was more attached to my belongings. A little wear and tear and a lot of mildew cured me of that, though I’m still learning to release my grip on some things. We’re in the process of moving now, and getting rid of stuff hasn’t been very stressful. It’s actually been a liberating feeling.
- Owning less is simpler. The more stuff you have, the more time you must spend to clean it, maintain it, repair it, and protect it. In short, stuff adds more responsibility.
- You can give more. When we decided to adopt a more simple lifestyle, we chose to give more to others. Spending less on ourselves meant freeing up more for God’s kingdom work.
- Identifying what is most important. A simple life, to us, means declaring what is most important and spending our time and money focusing on those things. Admittedly, this is probably easier to do in PNG where there is a slower pace of life. But once we move back to North America, we pray that we can maintain this family value by not getting too busy (even with good church stuff!), and by limiting the amount of money we spend and things we own. This should free up our time and finances to help others.
10 Ways to Simplify Your Life
- If you get something new, get rid of something old. We adopted this practice, especially when it comes to birthdays and Christmas. It’s been a fun lesson to teach to our young children. They know that when they get new toys, they choose something old to give away. It reminds us to give and keeps the house less cluttered in the process.
- Decide how many clothes you really need. Is it really necessary to have 5 pairs of pants that are the same color?
- Try out some homemade entertainment. We’ve found ourselves bowling with coconuts, playing baseball with plastic Coke bottles, and baking together. Instead of heading to the mall, stay home and invest some time and creativity to have fun together.
- Determine how much is enough. Honestly, this is not an easy thing to do. We have talked and prayed about how much we really need to live on. I’m not talking about just scraping by, but deciding when enough is enough for your family. We’ve also adopted the graduated tithe.
- Set limits per item. Decide, for example, that you won’t spend more than $30 for a pair of jeans. Once those kinds of decisions are made, it’s simpler when it’s time to shop.
- Get out of debt. Your life will be less stressful and more enjoyable if you’re not burdened by debt.
- Clear clutter with a paper clip. Put a paper clip on items or clothing in your house. Take it off as you use the item. If there are still paper clips sticking around after a month, get rid of the items.
- Don’t spend over $100 without planning. We have a rule in our home: we don’t buy anything over $100 without consulting each other first.
- Increase your giving by ___%. Make it a goal to increase your giving this year.
- Clear something off your calendar and learn to say no. Time is a valuable resource. If you’re just too busy, remember that you have made that choice. Eliminate things from your calendar that are not truly priorities.
If you’d like to learn more about simple living and generous giving, be sure to check out Craig’s book, Transforming Your Financial Diet and The Secret to a Successful Budget.
You can read more from Craig and Jeri on their family blog, Ford Family in Papua New Guinea, and to read good financial advice from a Christian perspective, check out their blog, Money Help for Chrisitans.
Note: We've been friends with Jeri's family for over 20 years. I heartily recommend their work.