John D. Rockefeller was once asked by a reporter how much money is enough. His famous answer was, “Just a little bit more.”
Really folks, that’s what America’s first billionaire said: “Just a little bit more.” What do you suppose his answer would have been if he had been asked, “How much less is enough?”
Do you know what your answer would be to that question? And if you discovered you already have more than enough to meet your needs, would you save it, spend it, or give it away?
Here are some questions that will give you a rough glimpse of your financial status, which you’ll probably need to answer that question. (A spreadsheet showing your actual expenses for a year on a monthly basis will give you a comprehensive view.)
- What is your after-tax income?
- What are your monthly expenses: housing, utilities, transportation, insurance, medical and dental bills, food, clothes, entertainment, donations, etc.?
- How much do you save each month?
- How much do you give away each month?
- What would you love to do that you don’t feel you can afford?
While all those questions are important, it is the last one that is the carrot on the end of your stick, the thing you want to do that can become your goal. There is an old saying that if you don’t know where you are going, you’ll never get there. That applies to money, too. If you don’t have a goal, you don’t have the incentive to live on less.
A number of years ago I discovered the importance of having goals. Dave and I worked on two big ones at the same time.
We had talked for a long time about wanting to go to Australia and New Zealand for a special vacation, and we also wanted to give a larger share of our income away, but we didn’t know how we could afford to do either one of those things. Then one day, I said, “Let’s set a date for when we want to take that vacation and start planning for it, and at the same time I’ll analyze our financial situation, looking for a way to accomplish both of those things.”
So we began to plan – reading books, checking maps, and determining what we wanted to do when we went Down Under, as well as deciding how much we wanted to increase our giving. My home office looked like a tornado had blown through it because I had three years of checkbooks and credit card records spread out everywhere while I went through them month by month and listed every expenditure on a big spreadsheet. With each entry I asked myself, “Can we cut expenses here and, if so, how can we do that?”
Nothing but our attitudes changed quickly, but eventually everything else related to our finances did, too. Budgeting on an annual basis and spreading many of our routine expenses like insurances more evenly throughout the year gave us a level of control over expenditures that we had never had before.
I don’t know whether John D. Rockefeller would have said he needed a little bit more to accomplish those goals or not, but for us spending less was enough to take that long-awaited trip and still give more of our income away.
by Judy Osgood