Review: Simple Living in Light of Eternity Seminar
Last week we attended a conference with a seminar on simple living in the areas of personal finance, time management, and parenting (as related to the first two). The teacher, author and pastor Dennis McCallum, fleshed out a well-researched rationale for adopting a simple life, which matches our own philosophy of flexibility. He also included helpful lists of “possibilities” and practical ideas. Enjoy a summary of each below.
The Harrowing Alternative to Simple Living
The session defined simple living as freeing yourself from unnecessary pursuits and expenses in order to have more resources for what you consider important. For us this includes having time and money for ministry, family, and charity. But whatever your “why” is, you can have more of it by making financial and time commitments flow from your priorities, rather than the other way around.
A life ruled by debt and over-scheduling is apparently the new American norm:
- Average hours working per household rising. The average workweek is closer to 50 hours per week compared to 40 in 1970. Plus with 50% more 2-income households compared to 40 years ago, the total working hours per household has significantly increased.
- Frantic pursuit of kids’ achievement. One measurable indicator is the increase in sports-related injury, including overuse injury. Sports are now more competitive, year-round, or kids play many sports at once. Vicarious living and hope of scholarships because of parents’ debt are cited as reasons.
- Out of control spending. According to federal research, the average credit card debt per adult is $15,706; mortgage: $156,333; student loans: $32,953.
- Time scarcity increasing. The Economist’s article “In Search of Lost Time” (Dec 20, 2014) exposed “time scarcity” as a predominant problem of the rich. Harvard Business School survey found 94% of professionals worked at least 50 hrs a week, and almost half worked over 65.
- Sad rich people. An overwhelming amount of research documents the phenomenon of increased rates of depression, anxiety, loneliness, at-risk children, and other unwelcome outcomes amongst the middle-class and affluent in our nation. Apparently the pursuit of happiness through consumerism is working. Find more details in our post Increase Your Usefulness, Not Your Lifestyle.
The Surprising Benefits of Simple Living
“Simple living” doesn’t mean you sleep on the floor, dine mainly on peanut butter, and only wear gray crew-neck tees. As McCallum pointed out, “Simple living is fun, healthy, good for kids, makes people happier, and makes possible the awesome vision of New Testament-style church.” In addition to having more time and money for the pursuits you value, studies are finding kids from simpler families fare much better in college and the career world than their helicoptered counterparts . Over-scheduled, over-pressured kids don’t gain the opportunities to make decisions and think for themselves. Meanwhile, simple living provides a great model for kids on multiple levels. We can show them that humans are made for love relationships, not for frenzied achievement and materialism. We can teach our kids how to live well as they observe our practices and priorities.
A less complicated lifestyle can mean anxiety and more contentment, which is after all The Secret to True Financial Freedom. The simple liver can become a generous giver, and Proverbs 19:17 says “If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD–and he will repay you!” I imagine God gives good interest rates.
Sound good? Before we get super-practical, why not think outside the mold with these big-picture possibilities:
- Take jobs that pay less and require fewer hours, so we will have more time to invest in relationships. Get a reasonable career that provides adequate income. Don’t borrow for degrees that won’t lead to a career.
- Start young: don’t let yourself foolishly drift into this trap when it’s hard to change.
- Couples live on only one income while children are young, even if it means moving to a smaller house and driving well-used cars. (I know this is not possible for everyone. That’s why these are “possibilities.”)
- Stop saying we’re barely making it when in fact we live at one of the highest levels of income in the world. Recognize when we’re succumbing to greed.
- Stop stressing success for our kids. Instead urge them to grow spiritually. Save money for kids’ college instead of pressuring them to win scholarships.
- Admit we are not short on time, but in fact have the same number of hours in our week as everyone else in the world (and likely have more time-saving conveniences).
- Avoid buying a house at the upper limit for which you qualify.
- If financial control is slipping away, get credit counseling. Don’t wait till you’re on the verge of bankruptcy.
And finally, some best practices (with links to our posts on these topics):
- Give sacrificially.
- Save up an emergency fund.
- Learn to save up and then buy.
- Don’t buy new cars.
- Buy clothes at the thrift store.
- Go camping. Camping is closely correlated with well-adjusted families who still spend time together as adults. Look forward to an upcoming post on why & how to save money by camping.
- Develop sales resistance.
- Learn to evaluate need from want.
- Repair broken things.
- Buy groceries and learn to cook. Stop going out all the time, or buying pre-made dinners.
- Discuss and celebrate money saved. Try our Live Like Grandma Challenge for a month.
- Watch and imitate successful models.
- Identify greed and confess it, rather than justifying it.
- Free yourself from time-draining habits. E.g. Your house doesn’t have to be so clean it looks like no one lives in it!
So there’s simple living made simple! I definitely recommend checking out this seminary for more details. The audio, Powerpoint, and additional resources will soon be available for free here. All research sources are included in these materials. Many of the bullet points were taken directly from “Simple Living in Light of Eternity” by Dennis McCallum, 2015.
What do you think about the trends of helicopter parenting and time scarcity? Do you have other ideas for simplifying life?