For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Financial discipline has always been a little bit of a problem with me. Not that I’m delinquent on any bills–I have never missed one in my life, whether it be rent, mortgage, car, utility, Internet, credit card, insurance–but I don’t really save.
I also ran into some tough times of joblessness, and took time during one bout of joblessness to go back to school. And how does one fund this, even with a wonderful wife who works very hard?
Why, by selling personal possessions, using savings, and going into debt.
What kind of debt? Credit card debt.
Now, this credit card saved me a few times, and as I said I have never missed a payment. It’s just been difficult to pay off the whole thing, even though I (a) use it for staples like things my son needs, gas, food, clothes, (b) use it for situational things that come up (birthday or other gifts for family, medical bills, car repair), and (c) pay more than the minimum due every single month.
But I am yet to get it down to zero.
Just as a way of background, in my previous job-search blog, lost unfortunately to the sands of time, I wrote about this issue a little over a year ago when I had just started this current job. I had saved some of my posts in Word format, so they aren’t totally lost in the ashes of an inadvertently deleted WordPress blog:
Regarding food, let’s just say that it’s been a little tough, given my penchant for the stuff, but it’ll be good seeing as how I really would like to lose a stubborn 20 or so pounds I put on since I last shed a whole bunch of weight. I figure $150 should keep me going for a month, provided that I don’t eat out too much, buy coffee outside of the house, lay off of the alcohol and the cigars, and generally spend frugally
* * *
All told, I’m doing alright so far. Food-wise, I’ve been portioning everything out and meal-planning well in advance. Here’s what I did: I bought a three-pack of pork chops, a four pack of chicken breast, two cucumbers, six tomatoes, a bag of onions, a little garlic, three bags of frozen vegetables, a rotisserie chicken, salt, pepper, lemon pepper, four cans of tuna fish, four boxes of soup, a dozen eggs, a bag of apples, a half-gallon of milk, a half-gallon of orange juice, a box of cereal, and a huge can of coffee. Most, if not all, of this was store brand, and good Lord is the price difference shocking! And guess what? There is barely a perceptible difference in taste. I swear I saved over thirty bucks just by buying generics.
So I hard-boiled the eggs to have for breakfast, ate half of the rotisserie chicken that day, the other half the next, grilled three pork chops with onions and steamed the broccoli which, so far, has lasted me two days and will suffice again for dinner tomorrow. I’ve also been portioning out my salad because, come on! Greek boy’s gotta have his salad. And then an apple serves as desert. A little Spartan, yes, but I have family from there and I need to be as frugal as possible. I’m trying really hard to turn over a new leaf now that I have a job that pays MORE than I could have gotten right out of undergrad, pay down my debts, and save. The idea isn’t to just save a nickel, it’s to make a buck while saving a nickel!
As you can see, this has been a concern of mine for a while.
But one year on, and I can tell you what has been killing me: Gas and tolls, and rent.
The gas and tolls are due to my odd work schedule–going on for over a year–where I am splitting time between the office and home, 400 miles away. The rent is due to this situation, which was supposed to be temporary, being disrupted by family circumstances and the fact that real estate is so much more expensive in the D.C. metro area than in central Massachusetts.
So this goes back to savings, or the lack thereof: It’s rather difficult to save for a down payment when most free money goes to rent and to paying off a credit card bill accumulated during a long period of joblessness.
What does this have to do with Jesus’ teaching to his disciples that one puts his treasure where his heart is (i.e., your money where your mouth is)?
First, to be fair to Jesus, in context He is talking about spiritual matters:
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
But second, I have to wonder: Am I being selfish? Is my treasure all being directed towards me and not the family? Honestly–and I’m ashamed to say this–I feel like I have barely contributed financially to my son’s needs, or my family’s needs such as savings, just scrambling to take care of my own bills while my wife handles the rest. We’re lucky that she has a good job, and that I finally have had one for the past year, but I have spent the last, let’s see, seven (!) years trying to get to zero, let alone get ahead.
Seven years is how long it’s been since I graduated from law school. In case you are wondering, my situation was actually pretty bitchin’ before I went to law school, the lesson, as always, being DON’T GO TO LAW SCHOOL.
My treasure is definitely not going where my heart is, unless, of course, I’m a selfish bastard and it is, in that my treasure is going to myself.
But this isn’t how I feel.
Honestly, I’m with Jesus. I’d much rather worry about spiritual things and my moral growth so that when I die I can be judged worthy to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
And yet, a part of that absolutely includes dealing properly with matters down here, including matters of family and money.
As you can see, for a guy that like to try and dispense life advice and discuss what’s worked for me over the Internet . . . I’m kind of a wreck right now.
I’ve been at this new gig for a little over a year and it’s working out great–I just got a promotion, in fact–and I know it will take some time to move forward, but treading water for seven years is wearying and it makes me seriously consider my entire adult life thus far.
As I wrote recently, don’t waste your twenties like I did:
I wasted my 20s, and have been spending my 30s playing catch-up instead of advancing. If there’s one thing I could go back and do again in life, it’s my 20s. Now, the late 20s were a little bit better, but for the most part my 20s were an extension of my teenage years. This is bad, especially for men. I would say that there is no bigger danger to masculinity in traditional notions of manhood, which are the building blocks of society, then perpetual adolescence. Useless stuff, like sports, video games, pop culture, chasing girls, and other forms of consumption designed to keep us childish and docile. I should’ve had a producer mindset. I should’ve been starting a business.
I appreciate your indulgence, and if I can offer any new insights at the moment, it would be this:
Put your treasure where your heart is. What you spend your money on absolutely reveals things about your character. It’s the classic axiom of “actions speaking louder than words” in action. If you are into you, so be it. Just don’t get offended when people say this. If you weren’t into you, you’d be spending your money on other things or other people. Especially if you have a family. This isn’t to say that there is no time in life for fun or personal spending, but that certain obligations need to be taken care of first.
No great revelation, I know. But that’s the funny thing about universal truths, Scriptural or otherwise: human beings, broken things that we are, forget the obvious and what works and being reminded of the obvious from time to time seems like the most revelatory thing in the world.
And check out my Instagram here.