Gaining by Losing
About the Guest
Of course your children want a lot. But what do they really need? Jill Savage, a mother of five, encourages parents not to sacrifice the emotional stability, relational depth and time that their children need most for those things that will give them the least satisfaction in the long run--more "stuff" and activities. Jill asks parents to count the cost before accepting that new promotion or responsibility.
Of course your children want a lot.
Gaining by Losing
Bob: When married couples have conflict, oftentimes it’s about children or sex or money. Jill Savage says she and her husband had a lot of conflict around money, but when you peeled it back, it wasn’t really about money:
Jill: It wasn’t having money or not having money, it was the lack of a plan. We didn’t even realize that. You know what I needed to know? It was that my husband and I had a plan and that we agreed on that plan and that we were together on that plan.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, September 19th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Is money ever an issue around your house? Maybe money isn’t the real issue. We’re going to talk about that today.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know what my first thought was when Mary Ann came to me years ago and said, “We’re expecting. We’re going to have a baby”? Do you know what my first thought was?
Dennis: Well, knowing you as I know you, Bob, probably your first thought was, “Rats! We’re going to have to divide the pizza now between three!”
Bob: It wasn’t exactly that, but you’re on the right course. We knew that when we started having children, Mary Ann would want to stay home and be with the kids. That was what I had hoped that she would be able to do, and that’s what she wanted to do. The problem was that she was working as a nurse. She was a Registered Nurse. I was working in radio.
Dennis: Who was making more?
Bob: You can answer that just right off the top! So I was starting to think, “OK, so we’re going to go from two mouths to three, and from two checks to one. Whoa! How do we do this?”
I remember, as a husband, thinking, “I don’t know if that adds up.” It really was a step of faith on our part to say, “OK, we’ll do this and figure out how to make it work along the way.”
Dennis: You know, when Barbara and I ended up with six, I don’t remember having a conscious thought of. . .
Bob: Ended up with six?
Dennis: Yes, we ended up with six.
I was just thinking of jumping from one, where you started out with what you were talking about, and now we just kind of started adding them. There wasn’t ever really a moment where Barbara and I sat down and said, “You know, these are costly little critters here.”
Bob: Right, yes.
Dennis: “What are we doing?”
Bob: That’s right!
Dennis: And it wasn’t until years later it was like, “Whoa! This is amazing. This is a point of faith.”
Bob: “Costly little blessings” is how you should . . .
Dennis: Thank you, thank you – “costly little blessings”
We have someone with us on the broadcast today who, I think, came to grips with the same issue in her own way. Jill Savage joins us on FamilyLife Today. Jill’s been on the broadcast years ago; in fact, about a decade ago, as I recall.
Anyway, Jill, welcome back to the broadcast.
Jill: Thank you! It’s good to be here.
Dennis: Jill is the founder and CEO of Hearts at Home. She has written a number of books including the classic Professionalizing Motherhood. She is the mom of five children. She and Mark live in Illinois, and she has written a book called Living With Less So Your Family Has More.
Was it with the announcement of the pregnancy with your first child that this theme hit you that you needed to live with less so your family had more, or was it like Barbara and me and it hit you a little bit later on?
Jill: It definitely hit us a little bit later on. It really did.
We actually fell into the living with less life. It wasn’t that we initially made the choice to be at home. Initially, I couldn’t find a job. I began doing daycare in my home, and as I took care of other people’s children, it led us to make a decision that I would be at home at least until the kids were in school. That was what we kind of initially said. So we kind of began living with less by circumstance, not by choice.
Bob: Yes. In fact, most people in this culture, I think, make that decision by circumstance rather than by choice because we’re so conditioned that if you have the choice, what you go for is the paycheck. Right?
Jill: Right. We don’t stop and think about the “mores” that we can experience or the decisions we can make that actually might not provide for our family materially, but provide for our family emotionally and relationally. That was where we finally ended up, but we didn’t start our journey there.
Bob: What were the circumstances in your life and in your marriage that led you down the “less” path?
Jill: Well, initially, when I couldn’t find a job teaching music, which is what my degree is in, we said, “Well, OK, what are we going to do?” My husband was in full-time seminary. We needed some way to make money. We said, “Gosh,” and we had two little ones at the time, “I’ll do daycare in my home.”
We lived in married student housing and made a logical decision to do daycare. As I took care of other people’s kids, I just began to think, “Wow! Look what I would be missing.”
Jill: I really remember having a conversation with my husband one evening after we were about eighteen months into this thing, and saying, “I don’t know that I can go back to work.” I really struggled with leaving my kids at that point in time.
So I kind of discovered it by accident. We both said, “OK, this is great. Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to make a decision that we will have one income until the kids are in school.” It was a great plan except for the fact that we kept having kids.
Dennis: Yes, but here’s the thing: some couples today are making decisions before they have children that prevent them from even having the freedom to be able to make that decision that you made. They’re in debt up to their ears!
Bob: With student loans, most people are starting off in that direction.
Jill: That is one of the things we do address in the book Living With Less So Your Family Has More. Honestly, we started out there. We were really barely making it by the skin of our teeth because we had debt. Looking back on that – in fact, that’s one of the things we hope to do as we talk about this subject, is to help couples who are early enough in the process to have that freedom to make that decision some day when they have kids of their own.
Dennis: Well, I haven’t read this passage on FamilyLife Today in some time. I used to quote this a lot, Bob, and I’m not sure why I haven’t quoted it recently, but it’s Ephesians 5:15: “Look carefully, then, how you walk; not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil.”
You know, what the Scriptures admonish us to do is really look out beyond the immediacy of our own personal wants and desires of today and realize that we’re making value decisions that are determining our future.
Bob: But the culture is sending such a . . .
Dennis: Oh! It’s bombarding us!
Bob: It’s huge, and it almost feels irresistible when you walk in to Best Buy and see that wall of flat-panel TVs and you think about the 19” that you’ve still got at home . . .
Bob: You just say, “I can’t live in this culture – I can’t be a citizen of America – unless I’ve got that with internet access and wireless, you know? It’s just the expectations there.
Jill: Yes, and you know what we really (my husband and I) have finally called that what it is: it is peer pressure. That’s what you’re talking about. You walk into Best Buy, or you walk into your neighbor’s house, or you look out the window at your neighbor’s brand new car, and that’s peer pressure when you feel like you need to drive a certain car, live in a certain neighborhood, and wear certain clothes. That’s peer pressure!
If we don’t call it what it is and if we don’t deal with it in that way and understand it and remove the control it has on our life, then we will get sucked into that and we’ll end up in a place, honestly, that we didn’t even want to be.
Dennis: You’re talking about peer pressure. There are also just the desires of our heart. We want what we want when we want it.
Jill: Yes we do!
Dennis: This verse has been bouncing around in my brain recently and part of the reason is I’ve got a car – actually, two cars – with a quarter of a million miles on them.
Bob: Each one?
Dennis: No, no.
Bob: That’s combined?
Dennis: Combined. They’re not fossils but they’re not new, OK, and there are problems with that. I think of this passage from Ecclesiastes and, by the way, Ecclesiastes is a great book for today.
The preacher said, ‘So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me and whatever my eyes desired, I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil.” [Ecclesiastes 2:9-10]
You know, MasterCard and Visa, that’s the reward for your toil!
Bob: They ought to put that verse on the back of the card, don’t you think?!
Dennis: Oh, yeah . . .
Count on that happening!
But our eyes, you know – some of it is peer pressure, some of it’s the advertising of the culture, constantly telling us that what we have is not enough and we need to have more. We live in the most affluent age that has ever existed since the beginning of time.
Jill: Yes, we do.
Dennis: It’s tough on young couples when they’re starting out. They need to realize the decisions they’re making today can determine the freedom they enjoy after they have children.
Bob: But here’s what they are oftentimes thinking, Jill (and I want you to speak to this): they’re thinking, “If we don’t have ‘x, y, and z’ – if this isn’t there – then my happiness will diminish. I will have less enjoyment from life. I just can’t imagine living without these things being a part of my life.”
Jill: Right! You’re exactly right. What we don’t realize is that those things don’t really provide us the happiness that we think they will. I do believe, as parents, when we look at providing for our family, we look at providing things, opportunities. We look at those kind of things as providing, and, of course, financially providing.
But there is so much more to providing for our family! We need to provide emotional stability. We need to provide a marriage that’s intact. We need to provide relational depth. Those are the things that really matter. When you get to the end, it’s not “how many toys do I have,” but it’s “what kind of relationships do I have.”
But when we are looking in the moment – when we are near-sighted instead of far-sighted – we don’t realize that we’re easily making those mistakes.
Dennis: One of the things I would encourage a young couple to do who are, perhaps, on the beginning side of the curve here (and maybe they’ve already had a child or two, so they’re just venturing into what we’re talking about here) is that when there is an offer of a pay raise and a promotion, instead of just assuming that the answer is, “Of course!;” instead, push back and surround yourself with some wise, godly counselors, hopefully from your church or from relationships around you that are a bit older, and ask them the question, “Should I take this?”
Ask them to help you to count the cost of what that decision is going to mean . . . .
Dennis: Because you mentioned relationships. If you’re in a great family church where you are being fed, you’re growing; it’s not that there can’t be another great church in another city somewhere, but it’s not like it’s a “plug and play” deal, where you unplug form this great church and these great relationships and you automatically plug into another community. It takes three to five years to begin to get settled and establish those relationships.
Bob: There’s a cost to that. Yes.
Jill: There is.
Dennis: Oh yeah.
Jill: Yes. We really have to think bigger than what we do! We often just think about it from a financial perspective. We think, “Oh, this is going to be great!,” but we don’t think about all of the other ripples that it will affect.
I think part of learning to live with less is not always moving from two incomes to one income. We know a family in our community – and where we live, State Farm Insurance is a huge employer. In different levels of that company, you have the opportunity to move. You have opportunities to move up the scale. We know one family, where there choice to live with less is for him to get off the moving scale.
Now, that limits how much he can move up in the company. It limits his earning power. But they’ve counted the cost and looked at it and said, “The money’s not the most important thing. Stability for our family is important. Me being able to be home for dinner every night is important.”
That’s what living with less looks like. It’s not always what we immediately think of.
Bob: You know, oftentimes for men, the issue of what you bring home and how much you make is really tied to your sense of worth as a husband and a father. This is what you’re supposed to do; this validates that you are a provider.
Oftentimes, for wives and moms, the money that is brought home, in the bank, available . . .
Bob: . . . boy, their well-being around the issue of security is really attached to, “Do we have the money right here and I know where it’s going to come from” and all of that. So, those two motivations oftentimes drive us in the direction of more.
I’m just curious with you: when circumstances led you in a different direction, was that security issue for you a big deal?
Jill: Oh yeah! (laughing)
Definitely! I think it’s Dave Ramsey who says that women have this little “security gland,” you know? . . .
. . . that men don’t seem to have, and it is directly correlated with finances. What I actually realized it was, for me, was not that I needed to know that there was money in the bank. You know what I needed to know? It was that my husband and I had a plan, and that we agreed on that plan, and that we were together on that plan.
Whether there was money in the bank or there wasn’t money in the bank, I can’t believe the difference in the security that I felt just having us unified in the direction that we were going.
Dennis: You’re talking about a man ultimately providing the kind of leadership that creates the comfort for the wife to say, “He’s got it!”
Dennis: “He’s being responsible.”
Dennis: “He’s not stepping down; he’s stepping up.”
Dennis: I just finished a book called Stepping Up and, in the book, what I’m talking about with men is calling them to step up and provide this kind of leadership of their wives. It doesn’t mean that they solve the problem. It doesn’t mean that they somehow wave a magic wand over the situation and, “Poof! There’s a solution.”
It does mean that they say, “Sweetheart. I hear you. I know what you need. Here’s what we’re going to do,” or “Let’s talk about what we’re going to do,” . . .
Dennis: . . . “Let’s come to an agreement of what our plan is.”
Dennis: In this culture, where men are unemployed today – I talked to a man the other day who had been unemployed for a year and a half. For a man who has been unemployed for a year and a half, it is not good for his esteem as a man to just be floating. He needs to get a job somewhere, anywhere, doing something.
If he doesn’t, his wife is going to – well, she’s going to find that security gland that you were speaking of. . . .
Dennis: . . . and she’s going to try to take over at some point, with her husband.
Bob: Are you saying deliver pizzas if that’s what you can do?
Dennis: Absolutely! Flip a burger! I mean, I don’t want to sound demeaning to men at this point, but if my family needed me to go to work in a fast food restaurant in order to provide, I hope I could choke down whatever the humiliation was of whatever position I used to have and do that to say, “I will take charge. I will step up. I’m going to be the man!”
I just think the man who stays out of work for long is not healthy. It’s not good for his marriage. It’s not good for him. It’s not good for his family, either.
Jill: You just said a minute ago, though, providing her the leadership. I think there you’re talking about the whole provision thing. See, I think we limit providing to money. We just routinely think that. In that particular case, in our relationship, I needed Mark to provide that leadership. You’re exactly right.
It wasn’t that he had to have all the answers. It’s that we would come to them together oftentimes. It was like, “I don’t know how to solve this problem.” You know, he didn’t have to fix it. He didn’t have to have all the answers, but to actually value us; unified, setting vision for our family.
Jill: “What is our vision for debt? No debt, little debt – what is it? What are we going to do about it? What does this look like?” And that was providing for our family when he did that. It’s not always just about money.
Dennis: Well, if your family is going to live with less so it can ultimately have more, it’s going to mean that a husband and a wife are singing off the same song sheet. They have to be together if they’re going to downsize the schedule, downsize the funding, and downsize commitments. It also means, I think, that a couple needs to be in agreement with where they’re headed, what their core values are, what they’re about, and where they refuse to fail.
Bob: Well, here’s the question – and I can’t leave today without asking this – are we saying here that if you can live with less, you ought to, or are we saying that’s a decision that families need to come to on their own? Because there are folks who are saying, “Well, you know, we’re doing OK.”
Dennis: We’re doing OK!
Bob: “We could live with less.” Are you saying we should if we can?
Dennis: I think the question that Jill is raising here is a healthy question for every family to consider.
Dennis: Because I think the nature of the consumption lifestyle we’re surrounded by in America is to live with more.
Dennis: We’re constantly being fed that steady diet of “more is better” – more money, more . . .
Dennis: Yes – on and on and on. Even the Christian community can fall into this, so I think regardless of whether you’re struggling over this issue or not, it’s just good to push back from the table a bit – much like a diet – and say, “How are we doing here? Are we winning or are we losing?”
Jill: I agree. You know what? We did a workshop by the same title, “Living with Less So Your Family has More,” at one of our Hearts at Home conferences. There was a woman who found herself in there and then thought, “Why did I sign up for this?”
Her husband was a high-paid lawyer in Los Angeles; very well-to-do. “Why am I even here?” She thought about going out and finding another workshop, but then she just felt like she was supposed to stay. By the end of the workshop, she said, “I figured out why I’m here. If we learn to live with less, we can give more.”
Jill: It was eye-opening that she had not thought about that before.
Bob: Dennis, you didn’t finish the rest of Ecclesiastes 2 when you were there, when Solomon is saying, “Everything I saw that I wanted, I bought for myself.” Doesn’t he conclude that passage by saying in the end, it was empty?
Dennis: Yes, he said, “Then I considered all that my hands had done, and the toil I had expended in doing it; and behold, all was vanity and striving after the wind. There was nothing to be gained under the sun.”
Bob: Wow! So the pursuit of consumerism and everything you want - and maybe you can afford to buy two flat panels and even one for the pool house . . .
If you think that’s where you’re going to find contentment and life and joy, you can take the testimony of Solomon who says, “It’s not there. I tried it and it is vanity.” I think that’s a part of how we’ve got to readjust our thinking in a culture that’s telling us that more stuff will bring us satisfaction and joy and meaning and purpose in life.
Jill, you’ve done us a service in the book that you’ve written, Living With Less So Your Family Has More. You’re helping us pull back and think, “What does really matter? What are we anchoring our family to? Is it the pursuit of stuff, or is there something more significant and more important that we ought to be focusing on and being tethered to?”
I want to encourage listeners; we’ve got copies of Jill Savage’s book, Living With Less So Your Family Has More. You can go to our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. It’s FamilyLifeToday.com; that’s the website, FamilyLifeToday.com. Or call toll-free; 1-800-FLTODAY is the number. 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-F as in “family,” L as in “life,” and then the word “today.”
We can let you know how you can get a copy of Jill Savage’s book, Living With Less So Your Family Has More.
By the way, I want to say a word of thanks to those of you who, as you have made adjustments to your family budget, have been able to find a way to support the ministry of FamilyLife. Some of you do it each month as a “Legacy Partner.” Some of you make a donation from time to time as you are able to do that. Whichever it is you do, we appreciate your support. It means a lot to us.
We’re listener supported and it’s those funds that make it possible to cover the production and syndication costs associated with FamilyLife Today. This month, if you can help with a donation, we’d like to send you a copy of Dennis Rainey’s new book Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood. There’s been a lot of interest in this book, especially with the new movie Courageous coming out next week.
In fact, I know there are some guys getting together to go through this book after they go see the movie in a men’s small group setting. You may want to consider doing something like that as well. If you’re interested in a copy of Dennis’s book, Stepping Up, you can request it when you make a donation this month. Simply type the word “STEP” into the key code box on the online donation form when you make your donation online, or call 1-800-FLTODAY. You can make your donation over the phone and just ask for Dennis’s book Stepping Up. We’re happy to send it to you.
We appreciate your partnership with us here in the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
Now, tomorrow we’re going to talk more about how families can reorder their priorities, get their finances in order, and help their children understand how to prioritize money and finances as well. We’ll talk about that tomorrow; hope you can join us!
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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