Monday, October 20, 2008

Manage Your Small Economy...

There's a lot of angst right now in our nation about the overall shape of our nation's economy. Other countries are watching what happens in the U.S., as well.

The building block of any healthy economy is the home. As we've already discussed, our English word "economy" comes from the Greek term, oikonomíā, which roughly translates to the management or rule of a household. (Oikonomíā also the root word for ecology.) Though the home is an economic unit in its own right, it's often interconnected with a small business or farm. These, also, are building blocks of a sound economy.

The home is where taxes are paid, where salaries are used or saved or invested, and, often, where income is generated. It's where the next generation of workers, inventors, entrepreneurs, and consumers learn their values. If a family can achieve some measure of economic health -- not luxury, but stability -- and are able to share with those less fortunate, they have become one healthy functioning economic unit that contributes to the country's overall welfare.

It does the keeper at home little good to fret about things on a global or national scale that are beyond her control. If she can find a constructive avenue for helping -- as she very well might -- that is one thing. But, it is unhealthy for a woman to become anxious about things she cannot control and to take on a burden she cannot carry by herself. Instead, it is better to focus on what one can do, rather than to bemoan what one can't do. In many cases, that comes down to managing one's household budget well.

We've already looked at some spiritual aspects of managing a home economy. Chief among these is faith in the Lord's provision. In practical terms, however, what can one woman do? Here are a few suggestions:

1) Familiarize yourself with the whole counsel of God concerning money. You'd be surprised how much the Bible has to say about this important topic.
2) Read books and blogs that help you develop a frugal, prudent, and generous mindset. You may or may not be naturally gifted at managing your household's resources. In either case, there is always room for growth. There are many resources to help you, so take advantage of them. Don't expect instant perfection of yourself. Look at doing the best you can with what you have as a happy adventure. Make a game of it.
3) With your husband, set financial priorities for your household. Pray together about how you use your money. Being united in this area will do much to foster an atmosphere of harmony in your family.
4) The U.S. and Western Europe have enjoyed a standard of living that may not be indefinately sustainable. In order to correct the troubles in our consumer-driven society, we all might have to re-think our priorities. Things we may have considered to be necessities may become luxuries. Whether this happens or not, one great secret to a peaceful household is to happily do the best you can with what you have. Learn to be content whether in plenty or in want, as Paul says. Teach your children to be content, as well. In your conversation, talk about your blessings more than the things you might have to do without. Teach your children that their value is not defined by what they wear or the things they own. Teach them how to enjoy things without worshipping them.
5) Dare to give sacrifically at times, and teach your children to do so, too. Think of Marmee and the girls in Little Women giving up their Christmas breakfast for a starving family. They complained in the short term, but they learned valuable lessons of character in the long term. Winston Churchill said, "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."
6) As a family, learn how to maintain the things you have: cars, shoes, appliances, clothing, faucets, heating, air conditioning, etc. It's important to know what needs to be done when so that someone in the family can either do it or hire it out to be done, if necessary. I tend to let my husband think about cars and applicances and such, but it wouldn't hurt me to familiarize myself with the process in case I ever find myself needing to oversee that part of our life someday.
7) Make a weekly menu and a grocery list. Keep at least a mental inventory of what you have in the way of foods, cleaning supplies, etc. Plan a way to use leftovers. Keep things organized and in place. Organization goes a long way toward eliminating excess spending.
8) Use what you have before spending more. I have extra cosmetics and extra cleaning products. I am on a mission to use them up before bringing in any more. The only exception might be allowing myself to buy a green or hypoallergenic cleaning product. Otherwise, it's use it all up before I spend more!
9) Keep a little stock of extra goods. When an item is on sale, consider picking up an extra one. If need be, you can live out of this extra stock for a time. If you don't have much storage space, be creative in finding healthy ways to keep your goods. Along with this, think in terms of having emergency supplies for inclement weather, etc.
10) Use an old-fashioned change jar. You'd be surprised what you can save simply by tossing extra change into a bucket. Cook from scratch. Find out if it's cheaper for you to grow some of your own food. You can even grow tomatoes and other vegetables on the balcony of a city apartment!



Julieann said...

Elizabeth, this is such a very helpful list. Thank you for sharing it with all of us.


Elizabeth said...

Hi Julieann:

I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Buffy said...

Great list, thanks for sharing.