Keeping mission vision alive and growing A quarterly publication of Mission Data International

Living on less to give more

by M-DAT executive director

Ask an eighty year old about victory gardens and ration coupons and you will hear some interesting stories. These programs were instituted during World War I and II to limit consumption and free up materials needed for the war effort. Average citizens sacrificed to achieve victory.

A few years ago I took a mission course, that introduced me to something called the “wartime lifestyle.” It takes the concept mentioned above and applies it to the Great Commission. Jesus left the Church the task of taking the Gospel to all people. How can we limit our consumption to free up resources for the completion of the task?

First, you must find out where your money is currently going. You can not adjust your diet unless you know what you are eating. Track spending for a month, then make a plan. It is sobering to realize that over the next 20 years the average American household will have one million dollars pass through their hands. You need a plan in place to tell that money where to go. No plan, expect waste. College students and singles often think they are exempt from needing a plan. This is simply not true. They are often times the ones that are the most susceptible to waste. Getting a plan in place and sticking to it takes a lot of courage and discipline. But if you are serious about living on less to give more, you have got to do it. I recommend attending a Financial Peace Seminar or the Financial Peace University to help.

Once you know what you are consuming, look for obvious waste. For instance, paying for a subscription to a magazine you no longer read. If you do not use it, stop paying for it!

Next, divide your spending into two categories: wants and basic needs. This can be hard to do. Over time wants start to feel like needs. True needs are food, shelter, clothing, transportation and utilities. Be wary of things that technically fall in the needs category that are actually wants. Chocolate chip cookies are food, but you will not die if you fail to eat one in the next 30 days.

Now, it is time to take a good hard look at the wants category and determine what you are willing to do without or cut back on. I recommend starting by making two or three changes to your spending and lifestyle. In contrast to the forced rationing during times of war, this is entirely voluntary. As Paul instructed the Corinthians, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

If you take up this challenge wholeheartedly, allow me to offer a few words of caution. Make sure you and your spouse are in agreement with what you will give up or cut back on. If you are not, it will take the joy out of the giving for both of you. Also, keep the long view perspective. You may be able to live on Ramen noodles for a month, but probably not a year. Look to make lifestyle and consumption changes that you can sustain. Finally, do not get so miserly in your spending that you neglect the offering of hospitality and relationships with family and friends suffer.

The following is a list of ideas (some of them pretty radical) for you to consider implementing to free up more money to give to the Lord:

  1. Eat out less often (take lunch to work).
  2. Reduce junk food consumption.
  3. Downsize your house.
  4. Downsize your “toys.”
  5. Downsize your closet and accessories.
  6. Limit your hobbies or find ones that cost less to enjoy.
  7. Go to fewer movies, sporting events, or plays.
  8. Stop renting movies. Get them at your library for free instead!
  9. Get a more fuel efficient car.
  10. Buy used or on sale.
  11. Make do with one car.
  12. Do without or limit your number of pets.
  13. Do without the latest name brand or fad.
  14. Switch to a smaller cell phone, cable TV, or internet plan.
  15. Do without TV all together!
  16. Limit your kids to one extracurricular activity per semester.
  17. Rent or borrow rarely used items.
  18. Turn your heat down. Throw an extra blanket on the bed and put on
    a sweater.

What are your ideas for living on less to give more? We want to know. Please add them in a comment to this post!

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