A Cure for Deprivation

When my husband and I returned from our European adventure after having the most amazing month, we never really left the “vacation” mentality. We had pushed ourselves for so long to save what we needed for Europe, and when it was all over and we were back, we found ourselves without a purpose for our money and needing a financial rest from the pressure. But we didn’t just “rest” from extreme saving, we spent. We had been in deprivation mode for so long that, even though it had been our choice so that we could go to Europe, we felt like we could go no further. So, we went out to eat, we bought clothes, we bought books, we had lots of dates, and we also did some serious damage to any savings we had left over. Matt and I finally had to have a serious talk and put on the brakes and get back to budgeting… a little more relaxed budget than before Europe, but once again with a purpose for our money. That renewed purpose was to save to buy our first home.

So many people have lived in the place of extreme deprivation for so long, that if they are given any chance to spend money, that money is gone. Just like we did after Europe, they go into a freefall of spending, but usually there is no savings cushion and all of their freefall spending goes onto credit cards and just adds to their debt. It’s like watching one of the contestants on Survivor eat after having nothing for days. They scarf it down and are inevitably sick later. I always think to myself… pick the food that will last the longest and save some for later!! But something about severe deprivation makes you not care about later. All you care about is right now and this minute and your need. This is why poverty always begets more poverty. You can’t see past right now, so you consume everything that might have aided you in the future. Until you can get a vision for the future, even what you have will be squandered. It is a powerful cycle, but one that can be broken by vision. You hear stories of people living on teacher’s salaries (which is pathetically little in America) who retire as millionaires because they were able to think toward the future and not consume everything that they earned. It is possible to rise from anywhere to amazing heights, that is the American dream after all, but if you are rising from the feeling of deprivation, the first step is to change your view point.

So how do you change your view point? I think you have to quit looking at yourself and what you don’t have and begin to be grateful for what you do have. Part of the feeling of deprivation comes from comparing yourself to other people. Statements like, “I wish I could go get a manicure every week,” or “I wish we could afford to eat out whenever we wanted to,” just incite that feeling of deprivation. When your eyes are continually on what you don’t have, you will never be able to wisely manage what you do have. In fact, you will despise it for it’s smallness and so you will not value what you have and will waste it. You have to begin to value what you have and exactly where you are.

Matt and I only eat out about once a month. We maybe get a latte once a month on a date or something. Yet we don’t feel deprived. Our money is going to such a better place. We don’t feel sorry for ourselves because we can’t eat out more, we instead value our money so much that we don’t want to eat out more. We want it to go to a better purpose for our family than just food. Now food is wonderful and you have to eat, but you don’t have to waste your money on the most expensive foods or on eating out continually just so you don’t feel deprived. It’s NOT about “You can’t eat out because you are poor.” It IS about, “There is a way out of this financial place, but I will never reach it if I am not purposeful with my money, and for me being purposeful means I am going to eat at home tonight and put the $20 I would have spent into savings.” Or maybe just not adding another $20 onto your debt. Every choice you make is not because you can’t, but because you are choosing to do something better with your money.

You have to get free of that poverty mentality of deprivation. Take the power back from just feeding the bottomless pit of your “feelings” of deprivation. You are not deprived. You may be in a difficult place, but even in the most difficult of circumstances there is always opportunities to be a blessing to people around you in giving, to manage what resources you do have, and choose to lift your eyes to the future that God has for you and to begin to move towards that. In fact, nothing will get you out of feeling sorry for yourself like going on a mission trip, or volunteering at a soup kitchen feeding the homeless, or visiting an orphanage. We are blessed, whether we have little or we have much. Like Paul says in Philippians 4:11-13, “For I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content; I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

A heart that is content is an amazing thing. It means you will thrive wherever you find yourself, and you probably won’t be there for long. Do you notice how Paul says wherever he finds himself he is content, but his eyes are also on the vision which was Christ. So today, if this is you, quit looking at what you don’t have, stop spending out of a feeling of deprivation, let your heart be content and learn to manage what you have. You can do “all things through Christ who strengthens you.” Even live on a budget.