I’m usually not mindful, as I pull out the scissors and get on my Sunday paper game-face, that what I’m doing might impact generations to come. I suspect I’m not alone. To be “thinking of the future” for many of us means considering if we have enough toilet paper to get through the month. Sad, but true.
But we do want to leave a legacy, right? For our children, grandchildren, for those in our sphere of influence who watch the way we live. Don’t we all want to leave the world a better place than we found it? If you’re anything like me you emphatically answer yes!, but considering that your to-do list is as long as your leg, the box next to “leave a legacy” might just have to remain unchecked today.
Laundry? Check. Bills paid? Check. Make the world a better place? Hmm … we’ll tackle that one later.
So how can we tackle this seemingly insurmountable task? Here are some suggestions for turning what may simply be a coupon hobby into an honorable lifestyle of frugality, contentment, and generosity. What better legacy to leave to the world.
:: Write it out
First things first. What legacy do you want to leave? What values do you wish to instill in your children and inspire in your world. We’re all influenced by each other, in one way or another. How do you want to influence those in your sphere? Write it out.
Secondly, honestly evaluate whether your current habits reflect those values. In short, how are you doing? Oftentimes what we want our legacy to be isn’t actually what it is. For example, we may desire that our legacy is helping the poor. But if we spend 1% of our budget on giving and 10% of our budget on new shoes, something is amiss. The numbers never lie. Our values are most clearly revealed by what we spend our money on. Period.
Thirdly, change your spending habits to reflect your desired values and legacy. Legacies aren’t merely preached, they’re lived.
:: Think big picture … and small
We’re always in danger of tunnel vision. Life is so full, and often the details of the here and now can dominate the whole of our thoughts and attention. Just as we discussed with generosity, we must choose to habitually expose ourselves to the needs of the world and contemplate what tiny difference we can make. It may seem so small. But just $50/month can sponsor a child in a developing country, providing food, clothing, healthcare and schooling.
Like the man throwing starfish into the ocean, we all have the capability of changing the world for one.
:: More is caught than taught
Remember that what you practice is of infinitely more value than what you may verbally tell your children. I still remember that any time my brother or I accidentally spilled something or broke a glass or stained the carpet, my mother would shrug her shoulders, cheerfully toss us a rag and say, “People are more important than things.”
That little lesson is one of the most deeply ingrained truths of my soul. I am so thankful my mom lived out what she taught: Stuff comes and goes. People are what matter. As a child we always shopped at thrift stores, always gave to our church, always welcomed people into our home, always grew our own food in the garden, always took care of our belongings. I don’t remember ever being told to do those things, but the lessons were caught and continue to be practiced today. What is being caught in your home?
:: A million little things make up your life
Our life is simply the sum total of a million little choices. We are born with our personality. We get no choice on the shape of our nose or what kind of ankles we’re dealt (I’m still a little bitter about that last one).
But our character is comprised of what we choose to be. And how we respond to the big things of life is determined by how we respond to the million little things we encounter each and every day. Are we rude to the cashier who flubs our perfectly planned coupon transaction? Do we shoo away our children because we’re busy loading e-coupons? Are we irate when that hot deal item is not in stock? Are we joyful and polite to the girl at the counter, even when she can’t make the register override that dreaded beep? How we treat people matters more than the percent we saved.
Remember the words of my mother: People are more important than things.
We do well to remember that our actions always have a ripple effect. We all leave a legacy, no matter what. Our aim, then, is to leave a legacy of contentment, wisdom, generosity. A legacy of love and kindness.
How will you, Frugal Living NW reader, make a choice today that will make this beautiful legacy come to pass? You can leave the world a better place, one starfish coupon at a time.
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