Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Thirty Days of Wise Money Choices -- Day V

There are plenty of ways to get ahead. The first is so basic I'm almost embarrassed to say it: spend less than you earn. ~Paul Clitheroe

1) Remember that the home/farm/small family business/estate was the first arena of economy in history. The Greek word oikonomos from which we get the English word "economy" meant a household steward or a manager of the home. It also meant someone who is a guardian of the home and who makes the allotments of goods necessary to run the home. It is used of men and women in the Bible. It is the word used in Titus 2 to say that older women need to teach younger women how to be good managers or keepers of their homes.

This is what the Free Dictionary has to say about the history of the word economy and its relation to oikonomos:
Word History: Managing an economy has at least an etymological justification. The word economy can be traced back to the Greek word oikonomos, "one who manages a household," derived from oikos, "house," and nemein, "to manage." From oikonomos was derived oikonomi, which had not only the sense "management of a household or family" but also senses such as "thrift," "direction," "administration," "arrangement," and "public revenue of a state." The first recorded sense of our word economy, found in a work possibly composed in 1440, is "the management of economic affairs," in this case, of a monastery. Economy is later recorded in other senses shared by oikonomi in Greek, including "thrift" and "administration." What is probably our most frequently used current sense, "the economic system of a country or an area," seems not to have developed until the 19th or 20th century. (Bold emphasis mine)
If you manage or help to manage the finances in your household, you are a home economist. That doesn't mean that those of us who are managers of our homes have to have degrees in economics. It does mean, however, that we do well to take the use of our money, time, family health, and other resources seriously. Because societies are made up of smaller units, such as the home, what goes on in our homes affects the larger society. It has been said in many senses that, "As goes the home, so goes the country

2) Women have always been a vital part of the small household/farm/family business economy. In many cases, this economic role in the household or the estate gave women greater power than they had through other arenas, in which their contributions might not have been recognized. It's important that we, as women, do not devalue the importance of a woman managing her home and family well. When we do so, we send a message that we, as women, don't care about this important part of women's history. It also sends a message that we, as women, don't think much of the role women can play in today's society by managing their household economies well. No, this doesn't have to be the only role that a woman fulfills. We do have more opportunities available to us today, as do men who are no longer bound to follow their fathers' occupations and station in life. Yet, if a woman doesn't fulfill this important role in life, who will?

Of course, a wife will work in tandem with her husband to manage her household, and she may also be training children to handle money and other resources wisely. Even so, her personal contributions to the household economy are important.

3) A good rule of thumb to remember is the Biblical statement that, "And the borrower becomes the lender's slave." This idea is not found in the Bible alone. Many people have noted this. Here are just a few examples of sayings related to the pain of debt. Some are meant to be tongue in cheek, but all have the bite of truth about them:

“When you get in debt you become a slave.”-Andrew Jackson

He looks the whole world in the face for he owes not any man. ~Henry Wadsworth

The only man who sticks closer to you in adversity than a friend is a creditor. ~Author Unknown

Who goeth a borrowing Goeth a sorrowing. ~Thomas Tusser

When a man is...in debt, someone else has the advantage. ~Bill Balance

Wouldst thou shut up the avenues of ill, Pay every debt as if God wrote the bill.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Before borrowing money from a friend, decide which you need most. ~American Proverb

Debt is the worst poverty. ~Thomas Fuller

It is the debtor that is ruined by hard times.” -Rutherford B. Hayes

Lying rides upon debt’s back.”-Benjamin Franklin

Buy what thou hast no Need of and ere long thou shalt sell thy Necessaries.”
-Benjamin Franklin

“This would be a much better world if more married couples were as deeply in love as they are in debt.” -Earl Wilson

Nations and individuals have been brought down by debt. Our nation's debt is now over $14 trillion dollars, according to some sources. We have a hard time wrapping our minds around the concept of one trillion, much less 14 trillion. One way to think of this is that a trillion seconds is 31,688 years. If we paid off our national debt at the rate of one dollar per second, it would take us over 14 times 31,688 years to pay it off. Where were you 31,688 years ago? Where will you be in 31, 688 years? It's staggering to think of, isn't it?

As citizens, most of us don't have much power to do anything about our national debt, other than to pray, pay our taxes even though that won't be enough to cure our problem, vote well, and express our opinions in a calm way and through civil means.

We can, however, do something about our personal little units of economy. We can do our best to live debt free. We can be wise in our consumption, rather than to be spend-thrift. We can give generously to others who are in need. We can support local businesses or local farms with our trade, if we are convinced this is a good idea. We can help our nation build tangible and intangible sources of capital by always conducting any trade we do with integrity, by coming up with new and enterprising ideas, by raising children who will be productive and moral citizens, by valuing spiritual wealth over physical wealth, and by living according to sound money principles. Since a nation's greatest resources are its people, raising happy and productive children in the home is a major source of supporting a nation's future happiness. As we mentioned, as the home goes, so goes the nation.

4) Along with this, we can remember that individuals who build capital inject needed financial opportunities and funds for investment into the larger economy, helping it to be healthier. This was especially true in agrarian societies and pre-capitalist societies and works in capitalist societies as well. It's harder to grow an economy that is heavily socialist or communist. These more closed systems are more dependent on the the re-cycling and re-distributing of the same amount of capital that the economy started with.

However, in whatever type of economy we should live, there is often a way to make a difference. Since the home is a small economy unto itself, a woman at home can nurture economic growth by the methods listed in number 3.

Bottom line, though, we cannot always control what type of larger economy we find ourselves in. Families have survived during horrible economic times and under despotic regimes and during times of war and famine. Audrey Hepburn's family, for example, survived by making flour out of ground tulip bulbs in German occupied Holland. My great-grandmother raised a family for several years with both Confederate and Union troops plundering the countryside around her and with her husband away at war.

Of course, we'd rather live during easier times, but, we need not spend our time worrying over our economic freedom, any wealth that we have, and what might happen to us. Instead, we should resolve to always do our best to manage our homes as best we can in whatever circumstances life presents. Again, it's helpful to remember that the only true and lasting wealth is treasure in heaven. We need not fear what is happening on a larger scale if we do the best we can to be good stewards (oikonomos) of what we do have in hand.


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