Lately we have needed to take a close look at the Squirrel family finances, to see where things could possibly be managed a bit differently. For awhile we were so comfortable knowing approximately how many acorns we needed in any given period, and what they would cost, that we had stopped keeping careful count. But the cost of acorns has gone up, and they are as hard as ever to find, and hard as well to keep track of. Sitting down together with pencil and paper (and the online stuff here), we realized that we were eating through our store of them a little too fast and that we needed to get a handle on that. Quickly.
So we are back to tracking even small expenses each week, in the same sense as a dieter regards a piece of chocolate cake--not as absolutely forbidden food, but as a choice to make that may or may not be worth what it costs in calories. Mama Squirrel has also been reading money-related books (from the library, of course), and when she was there last week she noticed Rich Dad, Poor Dad on the shelf and brought it home for Mr. Fixit, since he had mentioned wanting to read it.
Mr. Fixit read some parts of RDPD to Mama Squirrel and The Apprentice, and we were not greatly impressed, especially when he seemed to be dissing employees who stick with jobs they don't love, saying that people keep working for pay out of fear. (Actually it's because we like to keep on having food in the fridge.) Well, that's definitely a different viewpoint from the I-use-double-coupons-mom-type frugal books making up the rest of the library pile.
However, on thinking it over, Mama Squirrel agrees with one, and pretty much only one, general point in Rich Dad, Poor Dad: that the difference between feeling trapped by having/not having/wanting/worrying about money (what he calls "poor") and feeling free (what he calls "rich") is something that could be labelled an attitude of abundance. It's something like the "glass half full" attitude. For Christians it's tied in to knowing that our Father owns the cattle on the thousand hills, to understanding a little bit of what Jesus meant by "consider the lilies," and what the feeding of the five thousand meant.
It's difficult to pin down an exact definition, and I don't think Rich Dad Poor Dad offered much more than that hint. But then I started thinking about what I was going to post about anyway: things like the menu plan I just made up from recipes in the $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook (from the library) and from what we've stored in the Treehouse freezer, and how I just discovered that there was one recipe I really wanted to make, Pizza Wraps, that needed one ingredient we didn't have, pepperoni, and how I looked in the meat drawer and found that Mr. Fixit had bought a whole stick of it.
But it goes even beyond that. It's an understanding that joy is not letting yourself be squeezed by whether you have 200 or 100 or 50 acorns left in the jar for the rest of the week. The upside-down way (or, in Rich Dad's terms, the rich way) to look at it is not how little is left, but how amazing it is to have that much left to use. The challenge and the blessing is to end up with even a little left over at the end that can be used as an extra thank-you to God for his abundance.
So the quiz question is: does that mean it's not worthwhile or not Christian to read a book about saving money? Does that mean we're not thinking abundantly? Should we just keep eating the acorns and trust that God will never let us get right to the bottom of the jar? (I had the most interesting experience like that with an almost-gone jar of peanut butter--I kept thinking it was empty enough to throw out, but there always seemed to be a little left in the bottom. I don't know if it was a mirage or a miracle; all I know is that there was enough.)
Budgeting, in this sense, is an exercise in trust, and an opportunity to celebrate God's gifts. How was it that we managed to get through so many days without "our shoes wearing out" and so on (Deuteronomy 29:5)? How amazing is it that we found whatever it was we needed on sale that day?
There is a season for simply walking in trust, but there is also a season for keeping careful accounts, as an act of faithfulness in small things, in our small carefulnesses as well as marvelling at God's faithfulness in return.
This post is linked from the Festival of Frugality at Frugal for Life.