Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Jill Savage and Mark Savage's book, Living with Less So Your Family Has More: Redefining Your Priorities to Put Your Family First, (Guideposts, 2010).
Our culture constantly says that you need more in your life: a bigger house, a newer car, better clothes, more activities. But none of that reflects what God says is most important: healthy relationships. Pursuing what truly matters requires living with less - not more - so you'll be free to grow closer to God and other people.
Here's how you can live with less of what our culture says you should want so you can live with more of what God says is important:
Pray. Ask God to give both you and your spouse a unified vision for how God would like your family's lifestyle to be. Open your minds to new, countercultural ways of thinking.
Define "less." You can focus on intentionally downsizing three parts of your life: money (choosing to earn and spend less money to free up more of your time), stress (refusing to give into the pressure to achieve what our culture deems success while aiming simply to be faithful to God), and activities (creating healthy boundaries to prevent your schedule from becoming overloaded with too much to do).
Define "more." List the specific benefits your family can gain if you all choose to live with less. Those benefits can include: more availability, more peace, more patience, more kindness, more joy, better health, more organization, more energy and intentionality for parenting and also for focusing on marriage, more attentiveness, more time, and more margin to allow for spontaneously interacting with your family members.
Check your speed. Ask yourself some key questions to determine whether or not the pace of your life is too fast right now. How often does your family eat dinner together? How much time do you spend with God in prayer, actively playing with your children, going on dates with your spouse, exercising, investing in friendships, pursuing hobbies, and doing volunteer work? Slow down enough to enjoy what matters most in life - relationships.
Live by convictions rather than responding to pressures. Seek God's guidance every day about the decisions you face, and ask Him to empower you to make the right choices instead of giving into cultural pressures to choose something that doesn't reflect God's values. Read the Bible often, listen to the Holy Spirit speaking to you, participate in a church community where you and others can encourage each other to live in counterculture ways, and invite God to convict you of sin in your life so you can confess it, repent from it, and receive God's forgiveness and strength to grow.
Find contentment. Overcome envy, jealousy, or covetousness by confessing these sinful attitudes to God and asking Him to forgive you and help you be content in whatever circumstances you encounter. When you're tempted by a desire for something you don't have, ask God to remind you of what you already do have, and thank Him for that.
Make constructive sacrifices, but avoid destructive ones. Making certain types of sacrifices can benefit your family by freeing up more time for them. These include: comfort, sleep, hobbies, entertainment or recreational activities, and career pursuits. However, be sure not to ever sacrifice your relationship with God, your marriage, or your identity, because doing so would harm your family.
Pursue simplicity. Realize that living simply isn't about deprivation; instead, it's about determining what's truly important and discarding the rest from your life. Pursue inward simplicity by examining your heart often and keeping it fully focused on God. Pursue outward simplicity by expressing your values through your lifestyle decisions, such as: buying items for their usefulness rather than for their status, rejecting anything that's addictive to you, making a habit of giving things away, refusing to believe that you need the newest and the best, learning to enjoy things without owning them, developing a deeper appreciation for creation, resisting "buy now, pay later" schemes, speaking plainly and honestly, rejecting anything that oppresses others, and turning away from anything that distracts you from seeking God's kingdom first in life.
Live frugally. Ask God to help you appreciate all you currently have. Make time to research your potential purchases before buying. Organize discount coupons and other information that can help you save money on goods and services. Swap services with other people, exchanging something you can do for them for something they can do for you so that none of you has to spend money. Ask yourself whether or not you really need something you're considering buying, and whether or not there is any other option. Manage your existing stuff well so you know what you have and where it is. Evaluate what you consider necessities to see if some might really be luxuries. Generate new ideas for family fun rather than just accepting the culture's idea that you have to engage in expensive activities to have fun.
Trust God. Instead of worrying about being able to live within your financial means, pray about each of your specific concerns and trust God to help you. Expect God to provide everything you need, sometimes in surprising ways.
Find support in community. Find other like-minded families at church, in your neighborhood, online, or elsewhere and encourage each other to live with less.
Set a budget and stick to it. Create a family spending plan, discuss money issues with your spouse weekly, and help each other establish and maintain wise spending habits. Work together to find strategies to keep your family's spending under control for groceries, clothing, housing, transportation, holidays (like Christmas gifts), vacations, and your kids' college educations. Reevaluate your budget at least once a year so it can change as your life changes.
Save and invest. Save money for large purchases (such as replacing a car), irregular expenses (such as home repairs), and emergencies (such as medical bills from an accidental injury). Make sure your family has health insurance, property insurance, life insurance, and disability insurance. Invest in places such as mutual funds and money-market funds.
Make money doing what you love. Don't waste your time doing jobs that aren't right for you. Instead of settling for work you don't enjoy or do well, ask God to help you find the right kind of work - and to do it in ways that won't pull you away from your family too much. Consider starting a home business to give yourself a flexible work schedule.
June 9, 2010
Adapted from Living with Less So Your Family Has More: Redefining Your Priorities to Put Your Family First, copyright 2010 by Jill Savage and Mark Savage. Published by Guideposts, New York, New York, www.guideposts.com.
Jill and Mark Savage have five children and are passionate about helping families. Jill is the founder and CEO of Hearts at Home, an organization that encourages, educates, and equips mothers. She is also the author of five books, including Professionalizing Motherhood. Mark has served as a pastor for more than 20 years. They are now traveling, speaking, and writing together to bring hope to parents all over the world.