give me enough: how I decide to buy a thing or not, plus a bit about saving

This week I've been sharing the details of our 2015 family project. We're calling it "give me enough" and it's about how we spend, how we save, and how we give.

On Monday I shared why we're doing this.

On Wednesday I shared what our deliberate spending plan is, and what I'm not going to be buying this year.

Thursday there was a bonus post detailing what's on our current household and pantry inventory lists, if you want to make something like this of your own and need a starting point.

Today it's time to talk about saving, but first, I'm going to share the list of 10 questions I will begin to use as a guide to help me know whether to buy a thing or happily walk away from it. (Acknowledgement to Anna at And Then We Saved for some of these question ideas.)

1. Do I need this?  Do I need this to unite myself to Christ? (I think it's safe to say this is probably going to be a no, but it's a good idea to keep our chief purposes in mind during our deliberations.) Do I need this to take care of my self, my marriage, my family, my home and property reasonably well? Do I need it to fulfill my vocation as Oliver's mother and teacher?

2. Do I have something else that will work?  

3. Could I borrow this or share with someone? In other words, do I need to own it?

4. Can I make it? With things I already have on hand or could find secondhand?

5. Can I buy it secondhand?  

(Questions 3-5 water the flowers of patience. I don't like them very much.)

6. Can I minimize how much of it I use or need?

7. How do the materials used, manufacture and transport, and packaging of this item affect the freedom and well-being of other mothers, daughters, fathers and sons, and the rest of God's good creation?

8. Is this going to accompany me through the rest of my life or the rest of its useful life, or am I going to feel the urge to declutter it in two or six or 12 months? What will happen to it when everyone is finished with it? Where will it go? (In whose "back yard" will it end up?)

9. How will the paying for, transporting, finding a place for, ridding myself of the packaging, maintaining, using, moving around, and eventual disposal of this item affect my freedom?

10. If I was supporting a family who couldn't support themselves and needed my help to live, would I consider this item a necessity or reasonable luxury for them too, or would I consider it frivolous? Would I love my neighbor as I love myself?

(Questions 7-10 are kind of painful and make me wonder just how much, exactly, Jesus really meant what he said when he talked about money and freedom and truth and loving my neighbor and serving one master.)

So there are those. Let's just let them settle for a bit, for my sake, and let's talk about this "intentional saving".  

so what about this "intentional savings" business...

One of our reasons for this project is to learn the discipline of saving and delayed gratification. As I mentioned Monday 

Without intention and big goals and dreams, tiny leaks form in our money bucket and our accumulated savings waste away in a drip here and a splash there.

I don't know about you, but I don't want a drippy, splashy money bucket! 

Here's where we are: we have an emergency fund with six months' living expenses saved up. We are good about not touching this unless we need to, which has only happened a couple of times, thanks be to God. When we use part of it, we fill it back up as soon as we can.

For now, we want to dream big for our savings and actually add to it, but not let it drip and splash away in increments...a bit here and there until it's practically gone. The thing is, we still need it for those projects and things we want to do (see Wednesday's post for things we'll spend on this year). So we'll need to balance deliberate use of savings, and intentional adding to it, if that makes sense.

We brainstormed as a family last weekend about what big things we could save for, and here's what we came up with:

  • garage with workshop for Chad (we currently have no garage; he uses the workshop in my granny's pole barn across the road)
  • retirement--Chad doesn't plan to stop working, but it would be nice to have a bit saved by for our slower years
  • tiny house to rent out (or, we have thought about living in the tiny house in the future and renting our current dwelling)
  • fishing pond (this was Oliver's contribution to the list)
  • pay down mortgage 
  • fund for Oliver when he's of age (further education/travel/start a business/build a house)
  • finish out basement with half-bathroom, bedroom, and office
  • travel to Kenya as a family with Compassion to meet our Julius, Esther, and Maurreen. (Gosh I get completely choked up every time I think about seeing and holding them after knowing them and praying for them and feeling their prayers for so long.) Sponsor trips to Africa are expensive; I estimate that all told, it would cost about $18k for the three of us to go with Compassion, which we can do once Oliver turns 10, which is in a year and a half. We hesitate to add this to the list Big Dream list because that's a terrible lot of money and we could sponsor a LOT of kids with it for a long time. But it's still on the list because as Henri Nouwen said, "We become neighbors when we are willing to cross the road for one another."

This year, if/when money beyond our regular income makes its way to us (a tax refund, my free-lance vocal work, Chad's website development, Discover cashback, selling items we no longer need, dimes in the parking lot), we want to turn around and put it in a savings account...not go out to eat (*cough* Chad) or buy a new rug and a stack of books (*cough* Rachel). We have yet to come up with a number that we want to have in the account by the end of the year, but we're working on it.

I was going to write about "giving generously" today, but found that I needed to think on it a bit more before putting my thoughts out there, so look for that on Monday. 

As always, I love to hear your thoughts and I welcome conversation through email, Facebook, Instagram, letters in the mail, and real-life in-person talking over (herbal) tea.  Blessed weekend.