What does it even mean to “live below your means”? Spend less money than you make? Sure. That makes sense in a superficial kind of level. When I think about living below my means, my first thought isn’t, “I spent $500 less than I made this year – nailed it!” For whatever reason, this philosophy resonates with me on a much deeper level.
A wise person once said, “Do not live life trying to fool yourself into thinking wealth is measured in material objects” I mean, wow. Mic drop. This world, our culture, everything we are submerged in daily has conditioned us into thinking that material objects = wealth. False. I believe that living below your means is something we are called to do as fiscally responsible human beings. It’s a part of life and learning to have gratitude for all the material and nonmaterial things we have been blessed with.
When I was 16 I discovered a unicorn… in the form of a car. It wasn’t just a car; it was an Audi R8. Just thinking about it still makes me salivate (not joking; it’s pretty pathetic). This was my dream car and I told myself that one day I would make enough money to buy an Audi R8. When I was 20, I moved to Baltimore and was working at Starbucks and wouldn’t you know that every single day I had to drive past an Audi dealership to and from work. Every day, for 6 months I saw that Audi. MY Audi, in the dealership. Elevated in the center of the showroom, enveloped in a glistening glass box, shining in all its silver and black glory. I dreamt of the day I would walk into that dealership and take it home as my own. Then one day, this obsession turned into a more realistic thought – when I own this $200,000 car, where will I park it? Obviously I will park it in the two-car garage of my fantasy 3,000 square foot, single-family home (duh) but, what about when I need to go to the store. I can’t just park my unicorn in the middle of a Target parking lot! Are there Targets that have valet? Wait, I don’t want some punk, high-school kid valeting my R8. On man, this is going to be harder than I thought. Saving 200k to buy the car is the easy part; figuring out where to park it is the real challenge.
Guys – I literally spent precious time and serious brainpower thinking about this. How freaking insane is that? When I finally realized that I would never find a place to park my imaginary Audi R8 and floated back down to reality, I asked myself, “What kind of socially irresponsible person owns a car that costs more than the average America makes in 4 YEARS?” I truly thought that I would be hot stuff when I was driving that little sports car around. Thankfully I came to the realization that humility is so much more attractive than money.
If I ever become a billionaire, I wouldn’t own a car that costs that much money. Not because I don’t want that car but, because it’s not socially responsible. Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA, drove a 1993 Volvo and always flew coach. Mark Zuckerberg has a net worth of $48.8 billion, drives an Acura and had a backyard wedding. Living below your means is to be humble, responsible, and aware that you are more fortunate than most.
I started to think about all the people I could help and all the good I could do with the hypothetical $200,000 I had lying around to buy an Audi R8. I started to imagine how different this world might look if we all thought a little more consciously and were a little less gluttonously.
So, what does this concept look like in reality? Obviously, I don’t have $200k to help feed a third world country, but I do have pretty serious Target problem. The kind of problem where you go in for mascara and toilet paper and leave $200 later with a new wardrobe, every OPI nail color of the season (even though I just got my nails done professionally), 6 Papyrus birthday cards (even though its no one’s birthday), and 4 new books (even though I have a shelf of newly purchased and unread books at home) and I forgot to grab the toilet paper and will now resort to using Kleenex for the next couple of days. This simple phrase “living below your means” helped me to stop fixating on worldly desires and to focus on God’s desire for me to bless others because I have been immensely blessed. Rather than spending that extra $100 on “stuff” from Target, use that money to make “blessing bags” for the homeless or donate to a charity you feel passionately about. Maybe you want to save up to go on a mission trip with your church or sponsor an impoverished child in a third world country. Choose to live below your means, not for personal gain but for Kingdom gain.
“For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” – 1 John 2:16-17
How will you choose to live below your means?