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Being Content With Less

with Jill Savage | September 20, 2011

Contentment can be fleeting, especially in a culture where products are outdated almost as soon as they're released. Hearts at Home founder Jill Savage tells how cutting back can often be the best thing for your family. Jill shares how she's done that with her own family of seven, and talks about the surprising benefits of living on less.

Contentment can be fleeting, especially in a culture where products are outdated almost as soon as they're released. Hearts at Home founder Jill Savage tells how cutting back can often be the best thing for your family. Jill shares how she's done that with her own family of seven, and talks about the surprising benefits of living on less.

Being Content With Less

With Jill Savage
|
September 20, 2011
| Download Transcript PDF

Jill:  Every kid is different.  Child number one, no problem wearing second hand clothes.  No problem with that.  Child number two?  He had a completely different idea of what he wanted to wear.  So you know what?  When he turned sixteen he got a job at that particular clothing store.

Dennis:  Imagine that!

Jill:  The interesting thing is he is now in a season of living with less and he’s okay buying $20 jeans instead of $60 jeans now that he’s paying for it himself.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today® for Tuesday, September 20th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.  We’re going to talk today about things we can do with our children to make them more money smart. 

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us.  You know, back last year I had some friends who gave me a very nice gift.

Dennis:  They did.  I know!

Bob:  They…

Dennis:  I was witness to that!

Bob:  You were there and I was very humbled and appreciative when these friends got me an iPad. 

Jill:  That is a nice gift.

Bob:  Isn’t that a nice gift?  I really liked it.  I could use it.  It was a nice tool.  I was glad to have it.

Dennis:  I know exactly where you’re going, too.

Bob:  …until…

Dennis:  Until the iPad 2 came out! 

(laughter)

Bob:  The announcement about the iPad2.  Then all of a sudden…

Dennis:  What a cheesy gift!

Bob:  This lousy old iPad can barely do anything, you know! 

(laughter) 

We live in a culture today where contentment is pretty fleeting.

Dennis:  Oh man.  It is elusive and we have a guest with us who can speak to this directly because she has written a book called Living with Less So Your Family Has More.  Jill Savage joins us again on FamilyLife Today.  Jill, welcome back.


Jill:  Thank you.

Dennis:  Jill is the founder and CEO of Hearts at Home.  She is the mom of five children, married to her husband Mark, who is a former pastor. 

Your daughter had to make a decision early on around living with less so her family would have more.  Tell us about that.


Jill: Well, actually the decision ended up being made for her.  The company that she was working for, she was well paid.  She had an hour commute and she loved her job.  But, because of the economy, they downsized and she lost her job.  So she found something closer to home that was three miles from home, versus a one hour commute.  It was not full time.  It was part time so less money. 

In fact, it was like the third week of the job, her new job, and she said their biggest fear was living without that income.  But I talked to her one afternoon and she said, “Mom, my laundry is done for the first time!  All of my laundry is done.  I’ve had lunch with two friends.  I am amazed at how much more I have gained with this new job!” 

Now she wasn’t talking about money she was talking about what she had gained emotionally.  She had experienced far less stress. And she had experienced exactly what we talk about, the “more” that you can gain when you choose to live with less.  She was experiencing those “mores.”

Bob:  And you hear a story like that and you go, “Okay, well, is she experiencing any stress now with how we are going to pay the bills?”  Because it’s one thing to say, “Okay, we’ve got to cut back on eating out.”  It’s another thing to say, “The electric bill is due this month and we don’t have money in the checking account for the electric bill.”  You’ve lived there, right?

Jill:  Absolutely.  Definitely.  They had to make some major changes.  When you choose to live with less or when you find yourself living with less by circumstance, which in the economy that we have been experiencing, unfortunately a lot of people have found themselves.  But you do have to make some decisions. 

It meant no Starbucks trips like what they both, she and her husband love, Starbucks.  It meant cutting back on eating out.  It meant making some different decisions so that they still could pay that electric bill.

Dennis:  You work with a lot of young moms because of your work with Hearts at Home and training young moms to make right choices.  Are you finding that young families today are willing to make a courageous choice to not only step down and live with less but then not pull out the plastic, the credit card, or take out the loan, and still continue their lifestyle.  I’m just seeing some of the young couples that I’ve observed they want the concept of living with less…

Jill:  Without the sacrifice.

Dennis:  Bingo!

Jill:  Yes, I would agree.  And that’s why we felt like this message is so important to get out.  That’s why we’ve been speaking on it.  That’s why we wrote on the concept because you have to understand that, in order to live with less, it is a countercultural decision and it requires sacrifice on your part. 

It requires us to learn delayed gratification.  That we have to oftentimes let go of the things that we really want to have in order to honestly experience the kind of relationships we long to have. 

Bob:  Okay.  So the mom who’s listening who goes, “Listen, I can live simply.  I’m okay with that and I don’t have a whole lot of strong desires and I’m fine with cutting out the Starbucks.  But I’ve got kids and I want good things for my kids.  I do not want to be sending my kids to school in second hand stuff.  I don’t want to be sending them off and saying ‘You can’t go here because we can’t afford it.’  I want my kids to experience what other kids get to experience.”

Jill:  I think a certain level of that is healthy.  We certainly want that.  I think at the same time we can also grow up entitled kids.  If they don’t learn to work for themselves then we’re really doing them a disservice.  I think it’s also okay for us to tell our kids “no.”  Right now our son is almost fifteen.  He does not have a cell phone.  Now he has informed us that he is the only ninth grader in his school who does not have a cell phone.

Dennis:  Probably the only ninth grader on the planet. 

(laughter)

Jill:  He’s probably darn close, honestly!  This may not be a time where he’s exaggerating too much.  I mean, it is hard to stand firm. 

In our family, our kids get cell phones when they start driving and that’s gotten harder and harder as cell phones have gotten younger and younger, culturally.  Very difficult. 

But that is a “no” that I don’t think is going to hurt him at all.  We have explained to him why.  It is very much a financial decision for us.  It also is a parenting decision and, yes there are times that it is hard, but I don’t think that’s going to hurt him at all to do without.

Dennis:  No, and here’s where moms, if they’re not careful, can really drive their husbands and really cause a sense of shame and feeling like “I’m just not winning as a provider for my family.”  When they’re not willing to no longer buy the Gap clothing for kids, no longer having their kids in the private school.  Instead they have to put their kids in a public school. 

The husband who is hearing all this feels the pressure of his wife and the mother of these children, who has to have her children in these certain status circles of tennis lessons, piano lessons.  On and on it goes.  I mean the cultural pressure, and we’ve talked about it, is enormous here. 

But it’s a wise young woman, a wise mom, who steps back and says, “Am I living my life out through my kids, trying to get my value and my identity by virtue of what they wear, where they go, what they do, the talents they have?  Or am I a team player with my husband?”  You know, children are incredibly flexible. 

Jill:  Yes, they are.

Dennis:  They don’t have to have all the bells and whistles.  They’re far more flexible, I think, and so I think they’re more willing to settle for less than we are as the parents.

Jill:  They’ll put up a good fight, though.  They’ll put up a good fight.

Dennis:  Well, especially the teenagers.


Jill:  Oh yes, they will!  They will!  I remember, and every kid is different.  Child number one, no problem wearing second hand clothes.  No problem with that.  Child number two?  He had a completely different idea of what he wanted to wear.  So you know what?  When he turned sixteen he got a job at that particular clothing store.

Dennis:  Imagine that!

Jill:  that he enjoyed buying from of which was not in our budget!  I don’t know that he ever brought much home from that job other than, you know, he would just exchange his paycheck for clothing. 

(laughter)

But he learned, he learned, if you want that… 

Now the interesting thing is he is now in a season of living with less in his life.  It’s interesting.  He has a different style and a different sense of fashion and he’s okay buying $20 jeans instead of $60 jeans now that he’s paying for it himself.

Dennis:  You know, you’re raising an important issue here.  It’s not merely the choice we’re making and how they impact us.  It’s how they impact our kids and what we’re training them to expect as they move into adulthood.

Bob:  What values they’re going to embrace.

Dennis:  Exactly!  Back to this entitlement culture.  I’m going to tell you something.  This is a real deal because you sensed it after the recession.  There is a new normal.  There is a new normal and you’d better be training your children to live in the new normal, rather than expecting to be able to be where you were when you were twenty-five, twenty-eight, thirty.

Jill:  I think the new normal is healthier.  I think the new normal, from a parenting perspective, I think we were on the road to even more entitlement than before we experienced the recession.  I really don’t think it’s a bad thing for us to back off and to teach our kids about frugality, about sacrifice, about learning to work hard for the things that you want.  About it being okay to delay some of the things you want until you save the money to have it. In fact, that is one of those parenting lessons that we kind of learned the hard way.

Initially, with our kids, when our older kids were teenagers, if they wanted something but it was going to take them two or three months, we’d loan them some money.  We realized, “You know what, this isn’t good” because they think that’s what you do when you want something.  With every kid you get a little wiser. 

So, by the time we got to number three, we stopped that.  It didn’t matter is they were going to have it in a week.  We stopped it and we said, “No.  When you have the cash in your hand, you can go make that purchase but we will not front it to you because, you know what?   In adult life, nobody fronts you money.  Or, if they do, it’s going to cost you a pretty penny.”

Bob:  I’ve told this story, I think, before on FamilyLife Today.  There was a season in our life, Jill, where we were in the living with less, not by own choosing.  We had moved twice.  We owned real estate in two towns and were paying rent in a third.  So, every bit of available cash was gone.  During that season, there would be things that would come up that, for years, we had just, “yeah, we ought to go get one of those.”  And we’d just go do it.  Well, now we couldn’t. 

We had this piece of paper that we kept in a drawer by the stove.  It was our “when we have money again, here’s what we’re going to get next.”  We just started writing these things down and here was the interesting thing. 

This went on for about six or eight months that we were in this situation.  We would write things down on the list.  Mary Ann would say something to me about, “You know, we really need this” and I’d go “write it down.”  Every so often we’d get the list out and I’d say, “Okay, if we had the money today, what would be number one.”  And she’d say, “Definitely, this right here would be number one.” 

Then two weeks later I’d say, “Get out the list and I’d say ‘if we had the money today, what would be number one?” and she’s say, “probably this and it was something else.” 

I’d go, “What about what was number one last time?”  She’d go, “You know, we don’t really need that” and the light switch went on for me. 

I thought, how many things do we buy because we can and we want that two weeks later, we go, “I really didn’t need that.  It didn’t really do what I thought it was going to do.”  And, all of a sudden, I thought, you really need to…

In fact, you’ve got a little formula that you encourage people to go through when they’re confronted with one of these “we need to go do that, we need to go buy this, I need to get it”…  Right?

Jill:  Right.  It is a PLAN and that is to Prepare, to Listen, to Adjust, and then to Navigate.  What we talk about there is to prepare our thinking, to be thinking ahead, about purchases that we need to make, to discuss them. 

Then to listen to each other because often times we have different perspectives.  My husband and I have completely different perspectives about cable television.  I could live completely without it.

Dennis:  Really?

Jill:  Completely.

Dennis:  Never happen in our marriage!

Bob:  But what about the games?  The games don’t come on regular TV.

Jill:  I know.  I’ve heard it all.  And then the “A” is adjust.  So we adjust in what we need to do.  Sometimes that means I have to adjust a little bit more.  Sometimes he has to adjust.  But we adjust to the reality of what we can afford. 

And then we navigate it.  We begin to navigate what that looks like.  I think that that makes such a difference, when we can walk through those four steps to help us make wise money decisions.

Bob:  For us, it was simply the discipline of not responding to the impulse.  That was huge because we’d lived in one of those situations where, it’s not like we were wealthy and could buy everything we wanted, but most of the time if we saw something we wanted or needed, we’d go, “I can probably afford that” and we’d do it.  Now, when we couldn’t and we had to wait, we began to see that just buying what you want when you can isn’t always a good idea.

Dennis:  What you’re talking about there is contentment.  It’s difficult to grab contentment and to grasp it and to hold on tight to it.  In fact, one of the passages of scripture that, to me, is a bit of a paradox and it’s found in 1 Timothy, chapter 6.  Just listen to what this says.  It says, “Now, there is great gain in godliness with contentment.”  Now, think about that for a moment.  It could have just said there is great gain in being like God.

Bob:  In godliness, sure.

Dennis:  In godliness.  But it says there is great gain when godliness is accompanied by being content.  Now what’s the scripture after there?  What’s God trying to say to us? 

Well, our hearts are constantly prone to wander, constantly prone to create idols that receive our affection, our attention.  We think about them all the time.  We want it.

Jill: We want what we want when we want it.

Dennis: We want to consume it.  I think what God is trying to wean us from is from our eyes, what we see, and the lust of our hearts, what we want.  He’s trying to say, “You know what?”  The title of this book Living with Less so Your Family Has More is a great exhortation for any twenty-first century family today because, in this nation, we all have too much.  I’m convinced we have way too much.

Bob:  I think of what the apostle Paul says in Philippians, chapter 4, where he says, “I’ve been in circumstances where I have had plenty and I’ve been in circumstances where I have had want.  I’ve been hungry and I’ve been well-fed.”  And he says, “I have learned the secret of that contentment” and that’s where he says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” 

We see that Philippians 4:13 verse on T-shirts and think it’s about an athletic achievement or it’s about victory in certain areas.  It’s really tied to the idea of “I can be content, no matter what” because Christ is the source of my contentment, not stuff.


Jill:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  As we were just talking about this and kind of going through steps, one of the things that Mark and I have found to be so helpful in our living with less journey is asking ourselves the question “Do we really need this?” 

We were faced with this.  We’ve been through a more recent living with less journey where we made some live decisions that resulted in quite a, took quite a hit in our income.  Two weeks after we made that decision we lost the transmission in our main vehicle, our mini-van.  You know, every family needs a mini-van.  The transmission went out in our mini-van.

Bob:  And those aren’t nineteen ninety-five down at the local auto parts store, those transmissions.

Dennis:  No


Jill:  No, not at all.  So, at first, immediately Mark says, “Oh, we’ve got to go get a car.  We’ve got to figure something out.”  Well, we had just taken a seventy-five percent decrease in our income.  So we had some emergency fund over here but we didn’t want to use that up because we were probably going to need that for some living experiences while we were making this transition. 

I remember the day that we sat out on our front porch sorting this out and I remember saying, “I think we could do it with one car.”  He said, “There’s no way!”  I said, “I think we could do it with one car.” 

And we went back and forth, you know, looking at the pros and the cons of that and, honestly, there really wasn’t a decision to be made.  We did not have the money to replace this vehicle.

Bob:  You were going to have to do it with one car!

Jill:  We were!  But it took us a while to get there and finally we determined, “I think we have to do that.”  We did one car for nine months.  Now that’s with two teenagers at home still and two very active people.  We did it with one vehicle.  And you know what?  It was interesting. 

We actually took a road trip. By the way, the only other vehicle we had was my husband’s truck that was a partial extended cab.  Not the kind that has four doors but the kind that you just squeeze in the back and it’s not real comfortable.

Bob:  There’s no leg room back that.

Dennis:  Right.

Jill:  And the back is sitting straight up.  So it wasn’t comfortable.  And we had to make a trip.  We had to make a six hour trip one day with that vehicle and our two teenagers sat in the back.  No DVD player for them to have their little headphones on.

Bob:  Right.

Jill:  You know what?  We had the most incredible conversation with our two teenage boys because they were a captive audience.  They were right behind us.  We totally enjoyed that.  Even in that living with less moment we experienced a “more” that was honestly a surprise.  That’s what we really found.  That was a circumstance we found ourselves in.  Yes, would we have liked to have a more comfortable vehicle?  But we didn’t.  Yet there were still some benefits to that.

Dennis:  I want to be back and finish the passage I quoted earlier from 1 Timothy 6, verse 6.  Just listen to what it admonishes us to do.  “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment for we brought nothing into the world and we cannot take anything out of the world.  But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils.  It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pangs.” 

Everybody listening to me right now can find someone who’s richer than they are.  It’s just a matter of perspective, okay.  You can find somebody who’s got more money than you and you can go over to their house and you can hang out for a while and you can begin to think, “Boy, I’d love one of those.  And, man, wouldn’t it be fun to have a closet like that?”  And then you become consumed thinking about how can we achieve it, get it, possess it. 

What I’m seeing is many of the people who are rich that I know are trying to move toward simplicity.  They are trying to unplug the complexity that riches have brought them and move towards simplicity so that their lives are less cluttered and they don’t have the distractions that come with having abundance.

Bob:  I’ve just been sitting here thinking, “Okay, who’s going to pick up Mark and Jill’s book and say, “boy, we need to read this?”  Well, it’s probably going to be those people who are, because of circumstances, living with less.

Dennis:  Maybe not!

Bob:  But it may be a whole other audience of people who are saying, “You know, the complexity of life like you’re describing it.  I’m ready to simplify and to take some steps to move us in that direction.” 

We’ve got copies of the book Living With Less So Your Family Has More in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.  Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about how to get a copy of the book.

Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com or call toll free at 1-800-FLToday, 800, “F” as in Family, “L” as in life, and then the word Today.  Ask about Mark and Jill Savage’s book Living With Less So Your Family Has More and our team will make arrangements to get a copy of the book sent to you.

I just want to add here, too, we are grateful for those of you who, in the midst of putting your family finances together, have included some money for giving to ministries like FamilyLife Today.  We are listener supported. 

The production and syndication costs associated with this program are born by listeners who, like you, will, from time to time, make a donation to help support the ministry.  Or, I know some of you are Legacy partners and you make a donation each month and we do appreciate your financial support of this ministry.

If you are able to make a donation to support FamilyLife Today this month, we’d like to send you, as a thank you gift, Dennis Rainey’s new book.  It’s called Stepping Up, a Call to Courageous Manhood. 

I have a friend of mine who had just finished reading the book.  He was telling me recently about how powerful a book it is.  In fact, he’s hoping we can get some men together at our church and go through the book together.  I suggested to him that we ought to wait until the movie Courageous comes out next week.  Go see the film and then use that as a springboard to getting together and going through the Stepping Up book. 

If you’re interested in a copy of the book Stepping Up, when you make a donation to FamilyLife this month, simply request it.  If you donate online, type the word “STEP” in the key code box on the online donation form.  Or call 1-800-FLToday.  When you make your donation over the phone you can simply request the book Stepping Up and we’ll send it out to you.

We do appreciate your partnership with us in this ministry.

Tomorrow we’re going to talk more with Jill Savage about some of the difficult choices families sometimes have to make to get their financial house in order and how you do that.  I hope you can be with us for that.

I want to thank our engineers today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine.  We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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