“Creativity blossoms when it faces limits. A sonnet is fourteen lines, a haiku just three. When water is allowed to sprinkle it loses pressure, but when it is channeled through a hose the flow is more powerful.” – Wendy Mogul (found via this post on Simple Kids)
“We’re given the stewardship over our lives. The word thrift was [in its earliest meaning] the right apportionment of energy toward all of life. It wasn’t parsimonious and it wasn’t frugal and it wasn’t cheap. Thrift is a rich word.” -Sarah Ban Breathnach, qtd. in Zac Bissonnette’s How to be Richer, Smarter, and Better-Looking Than Your Parents
This blog is about using up what you have, recycling, and making art without relying on a craft supply store. Being creative, not just being crafty. My financial foundation has a lot to do with my evolution as an artist, and here is how:
As a kid I always enjoyed creative activities, thanks in large part to my mom and her early childhood education skills, and her vast collection of glitter and googly eyes. And thanks in bigger part to God and his unique plan for who I would be. But also, at least a little bit, thanks to money.
I’ve never had a lot of extra money (but always enough). So in high school when I discovered scrapbooking and fell in love (a passionate relationship which I recently broke off), I used materials I found at home instead of buying everything from a scrapbooking store–the nearest of which was about an hour’s drive from my house, and I didn’t have a car. I cut out letters by hand with scissors instead of buying stickers or punch-outs. I wrapped green scrap fabric around a wire and twisted it to make a vine embellishment. Limited resources forced me to get creative, and my artwork was better for it. It didn’t look like something anyone else would have made. It was mine. When in college I looked back and realized the benefit of limiting my consumption of products in favor of creative thinking, I found freedom.
Now, years later, I manage a home on one teacher/coach income, paying cash as we go for my husband’s graduate school classes, and when it comes to finances I feel so incredibly FREE. I’m grateful to God for teaching me to be creative and how to make sacrifices. I’m learning each month that financial limitations can be a great gift, spurring me on to new learning (like how to make things from scratch, how to make old things beautiful, how to start a small business, how to learn almost anything…hint: USE YOUR LIBRARY!!!!)
Creativity becomes my lifestyle as my budget becomes my lifestyle.
Our family actually doesn’t have a budget. At least not in the traditional sense. We don’t allot specific percentages of our income for each spending category. I’ve found that when I give myself an allowance in a specific category, it’s easier to spend more than I would have spent if I didn’t have that dollar amount in my head. And what’s more, when I do this, I find that I don’t use my creativity as much.
Instead of making allowances for each category, we have mostly internalized our budget. We’ve made it a habit to only spend a certain amount of money on certain items – even if we have extra money we could have spent. (You could also say we’re penny-pinching misers, but that would just be your opinion, and I would try to publicly discredit you.) We know how much we tend to spend each month on each category (groceries, entertainment, auto maintenance…) and we set goals and practice self-control to meet them. We’ve found it’s often more thrilling to meet these goals than it is to spend that extra $100. Not every time, but often.
We do keep a detailed record of our spending, and no stick of gum purchased goes unrecorded. We enjoy this record-keeping because my husband and I do it together, we like to keep tabs on our habits to see what our lifestyle looks like in black and white, and we like to challenge ourselves to meet our goals, even when unexpected expenses arise–meaning we might decide to delay a purchase in order to meet an end-of-month goal.
I know, that sounds a lot like a budget. And “budget” is what I usually call it. But here’s the difference: with a zero-based budget (income minus what is alloted to categories equals zero) we were saving only the amount that we had originally allotted to savings, and nothing more. With our goals, any money unspent is automatically saved, in addition to the amount we put aside each month, without us even realizing it existed. And the bigger difference: we are setting limits for ourselves, not making allowances for ourselves. “How much can we save?” versus “How much can we spend?”
It sounds like a small thing: limits versus allowances. But the difference is in our habits. We’re definitely not the king and queen of thriftiness, and a lot of smart people probably think we’re doing something really stupid (indeed we will not be millionaires anytime soon). Building an empire is not our goal. Good stewardship and creative living are our goals. We’ve internalized those monthly numbers and made a lifestyle choice to find creative alternatives to over-spending. This non-budget approach doesn’t work for everyone, and it doesn’t work if you haven’t internalized good spending habits.
But for us, as a result of our internalized budget, with a net worth that is probably very small (I couldn’t even guess what our net worth is, if that tells you anything), I honestly feel rich.