Several days ago, our little toddler sat on the floor of my office playing with a recipe box. The next thing I knew, she had turned the container upside down and dumped the entire contents on the floor. Whether I wanted it or not, I was given the perfect opportunity to do some sifting and sorting. I figured that right then was as good a time as any to evaluate which ones to keep, toss, and try. So, to the table I went with my jumbled pile of cards and papers to categorize them. When I finished, not only was everything organized but I had also rediscovered long forgotten recipes, as well as ones I still wanted to try.
Just as I spent time going through my recipes, we can look at different areas in our lives (such as finances or time) in order to see where we can be more frugal. Sometimes we just need to tip the box over and start again. We may discover that there are new ideas and old habits we need to keep, toss, and try. In fact, we may find that resources have been overlooked. This year, let's try a new recipe for frugal living that involves three primary ingredients: evaluation, collaboration, and activation.
Evaluation is the first ingredient in our recipe. It involves observing how we succeeded and what needs improved. It is vital that we consider both. If we fail to recognize the places we have succeeded in, giving up becomes easy. I don't know about you, but I need to see my efforts making a difference. Recognizing that motivates me to keep focused on my goal of frugal living. At the same time, if we can also understand the problematic issues, then we are better able to create a strategy for overcoming those obstacles that may get in our way.
There are a number of questions we can ask when starting the evaluation process. Where were we extravagant? Where were we frugal? What areas do we need to work on? Below are some examples concerning money and time. These can be used as a framework to draft additional questions specific to your needs. These are all important ingredients to consider when planning our New Year.
Was a budget drafted last year? Was it followed? If not, why? What factors contributed?
Were goals set last year that were met? If any goals weren't reached, why?
What are the current bills to consider when setting new goals and plans?
Was tithing a part of the budget?
Were donations made to any ministries and/or charities? Do you plan to make any donations this year?
Was money set aside for savings? If not, why? If so, how was that accomplished?
How much was spent on items such as clothing, shoes, etc.?
How much was spent on extra things such as dinner out, Starbuck's coffee, etc? Do you have plans to set aside a portion of money for these types of expenditures?
Are there any areas in the budget where you can be more frugal?
How does the way you spend your time reflect your values and priorities?
How did you prioritize your time spent with:
What areas do you feel you would like to devote more time to both individually as well as collectively as a family?
What areas are you spending a lot of time in now? How does this compare to your answer to question #3? What needs to change and/or stay the same in order to achieve your answer to #3?
What amount of time is spent each day at work and/or school for each individual in your family? How about at church (including activities such as youth group, small group Bible studies, praise team practice, etc.)?
Was a general routine followed? Was this helpful?
How many outside activities were you and your family involved in both individually as well as together? How did that affect your family as a whole?
Collaboration In preparing our recipe, we find that collaboration is our next ingredient. As we work through the evaluation process, it's a good idea to collaborate with everyone involved in order to get the entire family on the same page. Discuss schedules and goals together. Talk about ways to be more frugal as a family. Involving each person may increase the chances of success.
Activation The final ingredient for our New Year recipe is activation. Now that we have collaborated with everyone involved, we can collectively draft goals and activate a new plan. Once the plan is in place, some may find it useful to have visual reminders in order to keep focused on the objectives. There are a variety of things that can be done. Make a list of all the goals and post them on the refrigerator. Draw up a chart to mark the progress in reaching each objective. Keep a journal of successes and setbacks.
As we evaluate, collaborate, and activate our new plans, it is important to remember that flexibility is essential. Changes may need to be made along the way. Let's always remember that ultimately, God is in control of all things. We need to be willing to follow His plan at all times. Proverbs 19:21 tells us the following:
Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails. (NIV)