By: Matt Gordon
Spend dollars, not dimes.
My in-laws had this sunroom for many of my wife’s formative years. Maybe you call it a four-season room? But you know the rooms of which I speak: they tend to jut out from the house into the backyard. If there are woods behind your house and they are looking toward your home, these sunrooms must seem to them to be 3D encroachments threatening to merge the domestic with the wild; the indoor with the outdoor; the enclosed with the free. And this, I think, is why I am drawn to these rooms—they feel free and adventurous, while being safe and cozy. My wife likes them because they’d celebrate Christmas in theirs.
And now we are grown-ups and we can buy what we want, dang it. So we have our sights set on the sun, but since that is apparently really bad for your eyes, we’ve focused instead on a sunroom.
Added to this frivolous impulse is next-level sentimentality. My wife’s beloved mother passed away last year, and, as these things go, we have come to love and to reflect on things about her we took for granted in life. One thing she really loved was her family gathering together, and since a lot of this occurred in her sunroom, she was particularly fond of that room.
So our selfishness meets genuine sentiment, much the way we desire our home to reach toward the woods. Fate then joined this party by way of the company who built my in-law’s sunroom twenty-five years ago agreeing to come out and give us a bid even though we are an hour out of their normal business range. It is a sign! It is a call! It is clear and good—if God is for us (and our sunroom) who can be against us!
Oh what righteous fools our wants, coupled with flawed logic, can make us.
We got a bid for a room.
And with the amount of that bid we could build another house altogether. It was absurd. It was gross. It was a profound injustice!
I was incredulous at the proposed cost, and I groused over this later that day, in my car, while eating fast food. This fast food cost $6. It was overpriced, unnecessary, and was doing nothing to aid in our quest of the sun.
It is also where my rule comes in: Spend dollars, not dimes.
Most of the things I’ve purchased or donations I’ve made in my life have been forgettable. A lot of this is because I’ve contented myself with cheap cheeseburgers and even cheaper causes. I’ll give $10 to just about anything, and, with this mentality, I give $10 to just about everything. It is extreme to say it means nothing, but it is pretty close to that. But to give $100 or (gasp) $500 to something—now that gives me pause. What about a cool grand? Makes me nervous just thinking about it. And those nerves make me, you know, think about it. I have to really believe in the cause, value it, cherish it, long for it, pray about it and for it. That is how I want to give, but I can’t do that if I’m spread thin (and fat) for cheeseburgers’ sake.
Like time, I have limited amounts of financial and relational capital. (Physical capital too, if you really look the thing in the eye.) For me, I’d rather create meaningful spaces in my home to gather than fill the spaces I have with cheap trinkets. I’d rather consume with moderation in order to enjoy the big feast all the more.
I see this all over the place in my life. When I invest deeply—in things, in people, in causes—those things stick. I remember them; they are cherished and chockful of meaning. In the age of instant gratification and discount dopamine offered at every turn, I want to wait and save and steward.
I’ll probably never get that sunroom, but not getting the sun doesn’t mean I have to settle instead for a sun lamp. If I’m patient, if I’m wise, I’ll find the light. In my day-to-day choices, I’d rather get the most bang for bucks (both literally and symbolically), and that means having the most bucks (and sense) available for said bang.
In generosity, in consumerism, in experience, in study and spirituality, in investment in my fellow human . . .
Spend dollars, not dimes.
(Quick Virus Application (QVA-19): Okay, we’re in this historical moment—hoax, end times, whatever your take, this is a profound moment. I want to invest, in these strange times, well and wisely. I feel overwhelmed at times, wanting to do everything all at once—reach out to everyone, pray for everyone, give money to local businesses, hang out well with my family, read good books, work late nights, watch the best shows . . . in my attempt to spend in every direction, I’ll invest in nothing. And, I’ll burn out. In these days, I want to walk in what was prepared in advanced for me—walk. Not sprint through what is likely to be a marathon, but walk. I don’t want to binge-eat hurriedly between gasps, but breathe in this fearsome moment and live well and courageously throughout.)
This post is part of a series about creating and testing rules to live by. Click here to head to the first post and see the list of “rules.”