Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Ruth Soukup’s book Living Well, Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life (Zondervan, 2014).
You don’t have to spend more money or time to get more out of life. In fact, the good life isn’t about the state of your bank account or calendar; it’s about the state of your soul.
The best things in life really are free, and spending less money on what you do have to buy can enrich your life in priceless ways. Pursuing the activities that matter most doesn’t have to overbook your schedule; you can enjoy them without stress.
Here’s how you can live well while spending less:
Define the good life accurately. Even though American culture tells you that the good life is about what you have, God says that it’s really about who you are. If you’re often consumed by a longing for something more (such as wealth, possession, power, or status), you won’t be able to enjoy the peace that’s a part of the real good life. Don’t define the value of your life by what you have (or what you wish you had); instead, define it by who you are as a person. Ask the Holy Spirit to change your desires so you’ll want what God offers you – a life that’s rich in faith, creativity, and relationships – more than anything lesser that the world offers you.
Choose to be content. You have the power to decide to be content, no matter what circumstances you face right now. Resist the cultural messages you encounter that say you still don’t have whatever it is you need to be fulfilled. Pray for the wisdom you need to identify what truly matters most in life in light of eternity, and then base your priorities on those values. Stop comparing what you have now to what other people have. Avoid whatever fuels discontented feelings in you (such as by unsubscribing from catalogs and staying away from your local mall). Thank God often for the blessings he gives you; then you’ll notice more of them, and contentment will grow in your life.
Find your sweet spot. That’s the place where your passions and abilities intersect. Think about what you love to do most of all, as well as what you’re best at doing. Once you’ve identified those, ask God to guide you to specific opportunities to serve others from your sweet spot. Make the most of where you are right now, learning, growing, and developing toward your full potential. Expect to make mistakes, and after you do, learn from them. Keep in mind that you can do all things through Jesus Christ, who strengthens you. Rely on Him to empower you every day.
Write down your goals. The process of writing down specific goals that will help you accomplish God’s purposes for your life makes those goals more concrete, which makes it more likely that you’ll act on them. State your objectives clearly, set specific due dates by which you plan to complete your goals, break down large goals into smaller ones, monitor and measure your progress, find a person or group to hold you accountable, and celebrate each success along the way.
Manage your time wisely. Everyone gets the same 24 hours in a day to use. Start each day by giving your time to God, asking the Holy Spirit to show you what matters most, and then focusing your time first on what’s important so you’re not consumed by what seems urgent yet is actually distracting. Eliminate time-wasting activities and establish habits that will help you go through your necessary daily routines as efficiently as possible.
Decrease your stuff to increase your joy. Clearing clutter out of your home will reduce your family’s stress level, which will help you experience more joy in your lives. Go through every area of your home to evaluate the stuff that’s there. As you sort through things, ask yourself: “Do we currently use it, wear it, or play with it?” “If it’s clothing, does it still fit?” “Is it in good working condition?” “Does it enrich our lives in some way?” “Does it have sentimental value?” and “Could someone else use it more?” Get items out of your house as soon as you’ve determined that they need to go. Put them in your car immediately and donate or sell them as soon as possible. Going forward, stop buying any new stuff unless you absolutely need something.
Realize that you need to spend less money than you think you do. Pray for the self-control you need to stop overspending and resist impulse purchases. Do your best to honor God by wisely using the money that he has entrusted to you.
Learn to live within your means. Since saving is ultimately a state of mind, ask the Holy Spirit to give you peace with what you have right now and take away your desire to chase after more. Establish, and stick to, a realistic budget. Save money on necessary expenses like utility bills however you can. Save three to six months’ worth of income in an emergency fund, and save for college and retirement costs as well.
Cut down your grocery bill. You can save the most on groceries by simply shopping the sales when they occur at stores in your area. Keep track of the best prices for items you normally buy, and stockpile those items whenever they go on sale. Buy less meat, since meat is expensive, and buy produce in season or frozen. Use coupons if you like, but only during sales for items you’d planned to buy anyway.
Organize and clean your home to create a better environment for your family. You all can enjoy your home and be most productive there when it’s clean and free of clutter. So establish a regular housework system for every area of your home in which each family member pitches in somehow to work together.
Pursue the best things in life – those that are free. Instead of trying to purchase joy, create it for free by incorporating friendship, hospitality, and creativity into your relationships with family and friends.
Share your blessings with others. The more you move away from selfish greed and toward generous giving, the more fulfilled you’ll become, because God’s love will be working through your life. Identify specific areas of your life where you could stand to be more generous with your time, talents, and money. Ask God to help you grow more generous in those areas by giving to others in specific ways.
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