Thursday, January 8, 2015

Seven Things I Learned from Living With Less

My family has never been particularly wealthy. When I was born, Mom quit her job at a local radio station to become a full-time stay at home mom. Since then, my family has relied on my dad’s income alone to make ends meet. It has not always been easy. We have had to say “no” to many of the conveniences that this culture takes for granted. However, I believe that living with less has taught my siblings and me some valuable lessons that those with money may miss.

1. Appreciate our Blessings

Because we lived with less, we appreciate blessings a great deal. Even a stick of gum was a cause for great celebration! Unlike many families, my parents could not afford to take us out to eat once a week. We usually went to a restaurant about four times a year. This was a grand event! Because of how rarely we did it, we truly appreciated the blessing of eating out. It was a rare and treasured treat.

2. Saying “No” to Wants

Let’s face it, the entirety of our culture focuses on “I want.” Every day we are bombarded with an estimated 500 advertisements; all begging for our time, attention, and money. Many times Mom and Dad have had the uncomfortable job of saying “no” to our pleading requests for stuff. From an early age, I learned to know the difference between a want and a need. This ability has served me well now that I have my own money to spend or save.

3. The Power of Prayer

Frequently, one of our wants became a reoccurring request. We would be encouraged to “pray it in.” In my family, this is not just another way of saying no. We truly believe that God may grant us our wants if we ask Him and wait patiently. Many an item in our home was prayed in. Our prayers have been granted in many ways, from an unexpected gift to a “curbside find.” God played and plays a prominent role in our desires.

4. Making Do

Often, we would not have the assets to upgrade our electronics to the latest models. I learned how to make do and jury-rig outdated equipment to do what I needed it to do. Even today, I work with old-fashioned electronics and John (my brother) and I are known as the handymen who can get almost any electronic gadget to work.

5. Delayed Gratification

This is a very important point! Today, our generation has no concept of waiting and saving for something. Paying cash was one of the things that were emphasized in our household. If you couldn’t pay cash for it, you didn’t get it. I learned this lesson the hard way as a young boy. There was a Death Star toy at a garage sale I wanted. Sadly, I had squandered my cash at other sales and was unable to pay for it. Mom, out of the kindness of her heart, offered me a loan. She also explained to me the concept of “interest.” I took the loan, at an astronomical interest rate. By the time I got done paying back the five dollars or so I owed Mom plus interest, I was fed up with loans. I never wanted to borrow again and that was the point. I was taught to wait and save for what I wanted, even if I didn’t know what that was yet. Several years later I would buy a used camcorder and later a used laptop. I paid cash for both items.

6. Appreciation for the Little Things

Small blessings surround us! Frequently, we are too saturated in our toys to recognize them. Even though many of the things Mom and Dad did for us may seem insignificant, they were special to us. A trip to the library, a new book, or a cassette tape deck was a momentous occasion! I remember many of my gifts growing up, not because they were expensive, but because my parents sacrificed to get me something nice. It’s those little things that I think about and appreciate to this day.  

7. Value Family and Friends

There is nothing better than a good friend. I have had the privilege of having a few close friends and an incredible family. I may not have had a lot of toys or money, but I had friends. Friendship cannot be bought; it must be earned. One of my closest friends is Wes. He and I used to send cassette tapes back and forth to each other frequently. We didn’t have the money to buy each other CDs of the science fiction soundtracks we both enjoyed so we would prop or mono take decks next to the TV speaker and record the themes off the VHS tapes. These tapes were not expensive. In fact, many were free! But the time and love put into each tape shone through. I have many of our tapes to this day and treasure them. When I turned 18 this year, Wes threw a surprise party for me. His gift: a cassette tape lovingly recorded. This new tape was probably my favorite birthday present from this year. It’s a joy to listen to because it symbolizes the enduring nature of our friendship.

Money cannot buy happiness. Money cannot buy friends. Money cannot buy a happy or blessed home. However, living with less money can teach valuable lessons. Because of our lack of funds growing up, I learned to handle money in ways which many won’t learn until they reach adulthood. Some would say I was deprived as a child But I disagree. I see my raising as a great blessing and I am very thankful for the lessons I learned.


  1. Wonderful post! I love the story about your mother offering you a loan for the Death Star toy. I loved your paragraph on friendship. I was delighted and touched to read of your love for the birthday present I made you. Anyone that says you were a deprived child is hugely mistaken. Your family is more creative and resourceful than it is wealthy, and I see that as having made your family a special one.

  2. So proud of you, James. really nice reflections. (Glad we haven't done too much damage.) Of course, I grew up the very same way. As the Bible says, being content with what you have is a wonderful gift from God.


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