the simple minded suburbanite


A Moral Document
October 19, 2009, 1:41 am
Filed under: budget, culture, parenting, volntary simplicity | Tags: ,

Today I took another step in my spiritual journey; I attended a new Unitarian Universalist church…on the day they were campaigning for annual pledges.  Just my luck.  It was still an amazing service, speaking of how the church members were historic partners with the famed Ebeneezer Baptist Church, playing awe-inspiring music, moving some congregants to quiet tears.  And me, though I had chalked up a not-to-short drive to a wash, still found a thread of intellectual and spiritual challenge in the  service provided.

After many came forth and spoke of the percentage of their donations to the church and why they felt it so important, the reverend (?) spoke and quoted a speech she heard many years back that stuck with her. 

“Your personal budget is your moral document.”

My moral document.  Hmm.  I thought about this.  She was basically saying that where we spend our money reflects what we value in our lives.  I wondered if this was true and, if so, where do my values lie?

Where does my money go?  It’s a question that many of us ask rhetorically often in our lives.  After bills are paid, taxes deducted, the neccessities purchased.  It seems, I think, to most of us that we should have more left over for…what, other stuff.

When my husband and I were saving money to buy our first home, we weren’t hitting our anticipated monthly savings so, we decided to save each and every reciept from every single purchase we made over the course of three months.  We were astounded at where our money went.  As a svelt couple in our mid and late twenties, most of our money went toward food!  I was a new wife and loved to cook and delighted at stopping at the local gourmet grocery on my way home from work purchasing specialty items for 4 course meals paired with complimentary wines.  My new husband loved being greeted with the savory smells of dinner on the stove and a glass of red.  We were playing house and jeopordizing it all at once.  Quickly, we started stashing the full amount of our planned savings away at the first of the month and spending what was left, usually enough for a nice green salad and spaghetti and sometimes an inexpensive Australian Shiraz.  But we got our house!  And I don’t ever remember feeling hungry.

So, these were our values then…a home in which to raise our family, a monthly mortgage that would allow me to stay home with our children as they came to raise them, savings that wouldn’t leave us house poor or strapped in the future.

And now?  I think.  Retirement account.  A decent savings.  A fair college fund.  Well placed items that make our house a home.  The occasional vacation to visit family.  I like buy a few new fashions in the fall and again in the spring to bridge my wardrobe.  But “moral document?”  What does our budget say about us as people?

I donate to my childrens’ school fundraisers.  I value education.  I spend a small amount on courses to keep up my professional licensure.  I value learning.  I spend a shitload at the bookstore.  I value knowledge and literature.

But I also value all human beings.  I believe we should all respect and help one another.  I value one’s own evolving spirituality.  And nature.  And art. And women who are empowered to do better for themselves and their children and, thus, our culture.  I believe in travel, as much as you can muster, to feed your soul and widen your outlook of the world.  I believe anyone can recreate themselves into the person they want to be.

Does my budget reflect this?

I think about the book, First Things First by Stephen Covey.  He promotes setting personal goals and living by them, not living in hopes of obtaining your personal goals.  He says to put the big rocks in first and fill the remaining spaces in the bucket with the small rocks; this technique allowing to get more rocks in there.  The important things first.  Then, the not so important things. And it’s the same with money, isn’t it?  And isn’t that what some of what Voluntary Simplicity is about?  Living simply in some repects so that you can lead a life of meaning and personal importance?

So, if I sign up for that grant writing certification now? If I then put away in a seperate savings account money for a family trip abroad?  If I go ahead and pull the women I know together to support a woman from Women for Women International?  I might have to take my kids for a walk and picnic down by the river instead of for a movie and popcorn and Sour Patch Kids and Cherry Coke Iceys.  We might break out our water colors or do a leaf rubbing, with a real leaf, not a template from Learning Express.  We might create art, and spirituality, and be able to take a trip of a lifetime to a country my kids and I have only dreamed about.  And when I’m gone, when my things and files and personal notes are gone through, if someone sees my bank statements, they might see how I gave charitably and lived fully.  I don’t think they would look at it and say, Wow!  She must have been really hungry!

And like they said at the UU church today, “the candle’s flame does not diminish because another was lit from it.”

So, I think about the banks I bought for my boys a couple of Christmas’s ago, (yes, at Learning Express!) the kind with three silos:  one for spending, one for saving, and one for charity.  I think of the allowance I pay them in the summer and how one dollar goes into charity and two into savings and two into spending but am I really connecting the dots for them?  Sure, they get that it will take them two weeks to buy a Bakugan.  They get that if they spend that money on a bubble gums binge, it will take three, maybe four weeks to get that Bakugan.  But the savings, for what?  The charity, for what?  Can I help them make a personal connection to that money? Based on their values.  Based on their morals.  One may save for college books.  One may save to start his own business.  One a home.  One may decide to hand his charity money to the man he saw begging at the stoplight on the offramp to Uncle’s house.  One, a shoebox full of fun things for a needy eight-year-old’s Christmas.  One, a musical instrument for a floundering school music program.

But maybe, as I learn to listen to my inner voice, the things that tug at my heart, I can teach them to do the same.  I can teach them, too, to listen to their moral callings and put them into action, in every way.  Including their nickels, their dimes, their pennies.  I can teach them to be full.

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