Are you making a living or making a life?
April 20, 2020
My name is Kyle Osborne and I have been working with families and individuals in my local communities for over 14 years. From South Dakota to Council Bluffs, I have had the privilege of coaching, praying for and teaching people in the space of life, faith and finance. I have seen people go from homelessness to holding down a good job and then buying their first car. I have seen people frustrated with their marriage and their family situation to an environment of flourishing and joyfully welcoming each day. There is no magic pill or process but simply a few principles that I believe have led to their success.
The reason I start out with this introduction is to invite you into something bigger than money, finance and even yourself. Are you making a living or are you making a life? I want to offer up some principles that offer the latter.
- Begin with the end in mind
- Know what you are FOR and what you are NOT FOR
- Know your income and expenses
- Give yourself grace
- Recommit to the plan every 30 days
- Enjoy the process and celebrate along the way
Begin with the end in mind
If you have ever gone on a road trip and you don’t have the destination before you leave, you will take a wrong turn and it will become frustrating very quickly. Fights will break out, the blame game will start and then the eerie silence of anger will set in. In order to prevent this, the driver and navigator have to agree on the destination and the path forward prior to the beginning of the trip. The driver in this illustration are the people spending the money and the navigator is the financial plan in place. If the driver doesn’t follow the navigator you will get ‘lost’ or overspend your income. If the driver begins with the end in mind this will prevent overspending and create a healthier trip. Knowing where you are going will also give you clarity on what you will say yes to and what you will say no to. I recommend committing to 2-3 specific goals.
Back in 2008 when my wife and I were walking through the “process” of where we wanted to go, we agreed on 3 family goals. I call these the “FOR and NOT FOR goals.”
Know what you are FOR and what you are NOT FOR
Every good plan begins with clarity and ends with execution. If you are on your financial journey and don’t know what you are FOR you will inevitably say yes to things you will regret later on. This is where the FOR and NOT FOR goals come in. In 2010, in the midst of my wife and I struggling to make ends meet, with an income of $29,000, two children and over $100,000 in student loan debt, we could not see the end of the tunnel. We were buried, nearsighted and overwhelmed. I remember it very clearly, we were bleeding financially and needed to make some big changes. I’m not going to lie, it was emotional exhausting, frustrating and pretty painful but at the end of the hard financial talks we emerged with a plan (think William Wallis in Braveheart).
We decided we were going to be FOR three things financially: (1) saving money (2) getting out of debt (3) commit to the same spending plan. We started small, had clarity and began executing. We were FOR saving, FOR paying off debt and FOR being of the same financial mind. We were NOT FOR spending, NOT FOR going into more debt and NOT FOR fighting about/bending our spending plan. We were on our way. Get started by knowing what you are FOR and what you are NOT FOR!
Know your income and expenses
78% percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Why is that you might ask? Well because the average American spends $7,429.24 more than they make each year! That means that the average American overspends each day by $20.34. If you don’t know what you are spending you will never make it financially. You have fallen into the trap of saying yes to things you should be saying no to. You don’t know what you’re FOR and what you’re NOT FOR. If you know what your income is then you can say yes to what fits into your income and no to what doesn’t fit. Money management or budgeting isn’t a list of no’s and fuddy duddy old school math. It’s a process of saying yes to the things that matter in your life and the guarding against the overspending path that will leave you in ruins. If you know your income and expenses it can be a really fun process to see what you can buy with what you have. See it as a puzzle to solve or a game to complete or a work with great reward. You will thank your future self when you’re not working until you're 80 years old.
Give yourself grace
Now, you might have read principles 1-3 and thought to yourself, you have to be perfect to complete these! This guy has no idea what he’s talking about! My life is way too hard and there is no way I can do the right thing all the time with my money. I fail and over spend and there is no hope for me! I’m hopeless! I agree… we are all hopeless on our own. This is where grace comes in. Grace is the unmerited favor of another. By extending yourself grace, you are recognizing that you won’t have it all together 100% of the time. Grace allows for forgiveness and the turning from one life to another. It’s not about being perfect or all put together. It’s about being accepted and empowered to live a life that is fulfilling and worthwhile. Grace allows for the financial screw ups and gives space for a life worth truly living. Give yourself grace.
Recommit to the plan every 30 days
The average American is exposed to nearly 5,000 ads per day. We are marketed to, distracted and take off-ramps on our financial journeys. We are in many ways directionless when it comes to our finances even after we sit down and create a plan. The reason we don’t stick to the “plan” is because it’s not compelling! We have a “plan” but we are not truly committed. We love spending money!
If we set a goal to go to Disney in three years and we never remind ourselves of our plan to save $20 a month, take 20% of our tax refund and buy tickets early, look for coupons, etc. three years later, we will not be ready for our trip. We will have forgotten. The same is true for everything. If we do not revisit what is primary in our financial habits we will become numb to our plans and will eventually lose all sense of direction. Remember, a great plan begins with clarity and ends with execution. Let the neighbors buy overprices cars, clothes and jewelry while you stay the course. You will reap what you sow.
Enjoy the process and celebrate along the way
Any endeavor worth taking will require sacrifice and a series of hard choices. Climbing Mt. Everest, training for an iron man, fighting cancer, spending less than you make and loving instead of hating all, come with a series of choices. Should I do this or that? Will I need this or that? Don’t forget that the process is just as important as the destination. You are becoming who you are as you live this life, and will become who you are when you arrive at the end of each endeavor. My wife and I celebrate after each student loan we pay off. We celebrate birthdays, pay raises and our children losing their first tooth. Life is a journey and as you build in moments of celebration you will see that both the journey and the destination are beautiful pieces of this thing we call life. Take time to enjoy the small wins in your days and weeks. Cultivate a lifestyle of celebration and you will overcome those tough and discouraging days.
It is my hope that you experience all that this life has to offer. Winston Churchill wrote, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Money and finance is not only about income and expenses, budgeting and choices, spending, saving or giving. It’s more than the paycheck and more than paying the bills, it’s about life, your life. It’s about truly living! May God bless you and all of your life’s endeavors.