[photo via Alan Cleaver]
In this guest post, Melissa Williamson shares the story of how she and her family remain debt-free using lessons learned from previous generations.
Have you ever wondered how your desire to become debt-free will affect your children? It may be easy to see how remaining in debt can teach less than desirable lessons to our children, but consider instead how watching you work, save, and ultimately become debt-free can impact future generations.
Our family’s story begins way back in the Great Depression. My great-grandparents were living in Illinois. They and their two children were getting along fine until the financial crisis hit. Things began to fall apart when my great-grandfather lost his job with Shell Oil. He was let go with the promise that he could return once they had jobs available again.
Much like the current state of affairs in our country, jobs of any kind were hard to come by. Great-grandpa went out every day looking for a job but couldn’t find anything. One day in anticipation of no success on the job hunt, Great-grandma baked him his favorite thing in the world to welcome him home: three pies.
Great-grandma was visited by the insurance man that afternoon before Great-grandpa arrived home. He was there to collect $0.25 for payment. She didn’t have any money, so she sold him a pie to pay for the insurance. When Great-grandpa found out about this trade, he left the house with the remaining two pies and sold them within 15 minutes. Thus began a two-year baking business run out of their home until Great-grandpa was hired back at Shell Oil.
My great-grandparents were hard working and wise money managers, and they trusted God to provide for them. They taught these principles of trusting God and wise money management to their son, who taught them to my dad, who taught them to me, and I am now passing them on to our children. In fact those were qualities I looked for in my future husband.
Both my husband and I were raised with a debt-free, frugal living mindset. If we didn’t have the money, our parents didn’t buy it. If there was something we needed but couldn’t afford, we saved and prayed for God’s provision. They also taught us to give back a portion to God because He had blessed us. We have followed the principles we were taught and with the exception of our home have remained debt-free from day one of our marriage.
We haven’t always gotten it right, though. There have definitely been impulse buys we regretted later. There are weeks we eat out more than we eat in, knowing full well it’s not in our budget. There have been medical bills that had to be negotiated lower and months when we spent to the penny what came in.
There have also been some very tight times, but no matter the state of our finances we have stayed firm in the belief that every cent we have has been provided by God. We have committed to giving a certain portion back to God before any other budget needs are met because of that belief. We don’t do this because we are obligated by some religious rule, but instead because we recognize our work opportunities come from God. We want to acknowledge that by returning back to Him a portion of what He has given us.
I can’t take credit for living debt-free. It is something we were taught by our parents, who were taught by their parents. We have all we need and even some things we want, but we are by no means rich. We accept that living frugally means we can’t have everything we want and know God will provide everything we need.
I encourage you to dream a dream for your children. Let them in on your financial plans and aspirations to be debt-free. Our children automatically ask, “Is that on sale?” and they love to clip coupons with me. You may be surprised how excited they will be to be included in this deal-finding, coupon-clipping adventure. Best of all, you have no idea how many generations you may impact through your amazing journey!
Melissa Williamson blogs about faith and family at Vintage Womanhood (vintagemotherhood.blogspot.com).
Your turn: If you have children, what lessons about finances do you hope to teach them?