I’ve often had a hard time buying gifts for the holidays.
It’s never a problem when the time comes to give; the highlight of my season is usually watching people’s reactions to what I’ve chosen for them, or more often what my wife has chosen. In that moment, if the recipient loves the gift, it’s worth every penny.
But it doesn’t always seem that way during the buying. I can’t help but count up the cost as we shop, looking at the stuff in the basket and wondering how long it will take to pay it all off, or how many extra hours I’ll have to work, or what we won’t be able to do because of it. It makes me grumpy, stressed, and tired, and that irritates my family.
This year, though, hasn’t been as bad for two reasons: one, we have a budget, and we’ve stuck pretty close to it; and two, I’ve learned to think in terms of abundance rather than scarcity.
Those two points seem contradictory, or they did to me for a long time. How can we embrace abundance and set budgets at the same time? One implies that our resources are limitless, that we don’t have to worry, and the other defines exactly how limited they are.
As it turns out, the combination is about embracing reality. The budget tells us what we can afford right now, this year, this season. In a way, it’s freeing. Establishing a budget lets us say, our priorities are taken care of. Up to this number, our bills are paid and we don’t have to struggle. If we go beyond this number, it will be stressful. It gives us a clear box into which all our purchases have to fit. And as Dave Ramsey often says, when we set budgets and stick to them, we often feel like we’ve gotten a raise in our income.
That makes it much easier to embrace abundance. See, abundance isn’t about ignoring our limits–it’s about acknowledging them, living within them, and at the same time working to extend them and expecting success. It’s about giving ourselves permission to expect things to get better, instead of living in constant fear that this dollar might be the last one. Instead of the world being full of rats all nibbling away at the same pie, abundance means acknowledging the world is full of bakers; sure, we all have to eat, but we’re making more delicious pies all the time.
It takes courage to do that. It’s going against our culture, which tells us to be normal is to spend and go into debt and spend some more without any idea where we’ll get the money to pay it all back, and at the same time tells us it’s a dog-eat-dog world where anybody we don’t know is out to take whatever they can from us. Normal is broke and stressed and suspicious, and really, who wants to be normal when it means living like that?