Poverty – More Fun the Second Time Around?

“So my counsel is:  Don’t worry about things—food, drink, clothes.  For you already have life and a body—and they are far more important than what to eat and wear.  Look at the birds!  They don’t worry about what to eat—they don’t need to sow or reap or store up food—for your heavenly Father feeds them.  And you are far more valuable to him than they are.  Will all your worries add a single moment to your life?”  Matthew 6: 25 

I grew up, not exactly poor, but aware of having just enough.  Or in my childish mind, not quite enough.  My parents were frugal people who’d survived The Depression living on family farms in rural Missouri.  My father worked hard, my mother raised the children and they saved their money and recycled everything.  My father saved up newspapers and bound them for recycling forty years before it became a trend.  We never threw food out.  Leftovers were a dinner table staple at our house.   “Waste not want not” was our motto.  A luxury was dinner in a restaurant or maybe a trip to Dairy Queen.   Some of our Christmas gifts were usually things like socks, underwear and pajamas.

 although my mother believed thirty years ago that I was marrying my husband for his money, what she didn’t realize at the time was that he didn’t have any money.  In fact, he went into even more debt to date me, taking cash advances off his credit cards until he maxed them out.  She would never understand that part of my husband’s appeal is that he never gave me a gift if it was a necessity.  He gave me what I wanted.  To this day, if I want a small appliance or a household item, I won’t get it for my birthday or Christmas.  Those are not gifts, they’re necessities and as such are part of the household budget. They’re not special.  A gift from him is jewelry or perfume or a watch I don’t need but like.  Something that isn’t necessary.

 Thirty years ago I clipped coupons because even though both my husband and I worked, we were broke.  I dreaded the Zales bill arriving in the mail each month because I struggled to pay off his inexpensive wedding ring.  We swam in credit card debt back then and had to borrow the down payment to buy our first home.

 By the time our first child was born, we were still working and struggling, living paycheck to paycheck and somehow managing to make ends meet, thanks to our credit cards.  I can still remember the year our car insurance bill and our real estate taxes were due at the same time.  We had to do creative financing to pay them both.

 But life got financially easier to the point where I didn’t have to work any more.  We weren’t drowning in debt.  We built our dream home, drove nice cars, spoiled our kids who are now grown and on their own.  We thought we had it made…until the bottom dropped out of the economy.  We watched our investments dwindle and banks fail and now we are looking at living a severely reduced lifestyle as we head into retirement age.

I’ve started clipping coupons again although I haven’t shopped with coupons for years.  I always thought they were more trouble than they were worth, but now I look for bargains.  Wal-Mart is my new favorite store.  I don’t need much, I’ve realized, nor do I want for anything.  In that regard, I know I’m luckier than many.  We lost a lot, but we didn’t lose everything.  At least not yet.

 I try to think positive.  In fact it’s hard for me not to.  I don’t want to look back on this reversal of fortunes someday and laugh.  I want to laugh now.  So for the moment anyway, this is my new motto:  “Poverty.  More Fun the Second Time Around.”

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