Last week, my husband and I started attending a financial course at our church. Every now and again it’s time to get a handle on things like finances, and we’re hoping this will be the catalyst for us to stop thinking about making changes and actually implement some.
Is it okay to say it feels impossible?
We’re not in dire straits, or anything – but even making small changes to begin to restructure the way we handle money seems out of reach.
The idea that my giving up weekly Starbucks will knock out debt is laughable – that $20/month will not make a difference! It feels like a big sacrifice for no discernible gains. I’m not just giving up tea – I’m giving up the comforting tradition of meeting a girlfriend outside of our homes, where we’re not distracted by clutter or kids or to-do lists. I’m giving up a perfect tea latte made by someone other than me who knows how to make it just the way I like it. I’m giving up the permission to warm a seat in a welcoming place for hours at a time because conversation is engaging. That $20/month goes far.
So why would I give it up if it’s not going to make a dent in our financial debt?
Honestly, I wouldn’t. I haven’t. We’ve been talking about making changes for years, but we haven’t done it, mostly because we didn’t believe it would make a difference.
$20 won’t change our financial realtiy.
But I’m coming at this challenge with a few insights I’ve learned from my journey back to health, and here’s one of them:
Little things make big changes.
The first step towards physical health, for me, was leaving the house.
You know how many calories it burns to walk out your door? That’s right, zero.
My heart rate didn’t go up, I didn’t break a sweat (or if I did, it wasn’t from exertion), I wasn’t gaining muscle or losing weight or doing anything that made any difference at all. I just walked out the door.
That little thing turned into walking to the end of the street and back. Again, no calories burned. I couldn’t even have an extra carrot stick to reward me for my effort.
Walking to the end of the street turned into a walk around the block… and then to daily walks… and then to learning to jog… and then last week I ran my first 10km.
It started with a commitment to leave my house every day. And no, that little thing had no direct physical affect on my health – but it was the first step towards a ton of little things that added up to getting physically fit for the first time in years.
So while my head is telling me “that $20 Starbucks fund won’t make a dent in your financial health,” my experience is telling me something else: little things make huge differences.
I don’t know what that one little thing will accomplish. Maybe it’ll get my creative juices flowing and I’ll figure out a way to recreate my “Starbucks” experience for a lot less than $20/month. Maybe that will inspire a whole host of other good ideas that will end up saving us way more money. Maybe that $20 will be the catalyst to finding an extra $500 from being disciplined and inventive.
Or maybe I’ll be so motivated to find a way to keep that $20 in our budget that I’ll find dozens of other ways to pinch pennies and save a buck so that I can put aside $20 without compromising our goals.
I have no idea where that little thing will lead, but for this month, you won’t find me at Starbucks. I’m doing this with faith that it will lead to financial health and freedom… one little thing at a time.
The Bible tells us not to despise little things. It’s a verse set in the story of Israel, returning from exile in Babylon, full of eagerness and hopefulness and belief in God’s promises of restoration of their Promised Land. But as they begin to rebuild the temple, they get discouraged. It’s so little. It’s nothing like the old temple. Even the people feel small – no longer a nation to be feared, but a ragtag group of returning refugees completely dependent on the goodwill of a foreign government. The zeal for a new life is replaced with fear of political bullies, grief at what was lost and losing hope that there was even a future for them at all. The rebuilding job was so huge – everything was in ruins. The work came to a standstill as discouragement set in.
And in this place of history, God spoke these words:
Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin. (Zechariah 4:10)
I think they are words for us too, as we look around at the ruins of our lives. Faced with broken dreams, exhaustion and losing the will to even try, we give up and settle for a less-than life. Into those ruins, God speaks: Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.
Give yourself grace. Go gently. Don’t try to re-create the everything all at once. Just begin. With one little thing.
One Little Thing Challenge:
Whenever you get overwhelmed, pause – are you trying to do too much? Go back to that one little thing you were called to today, whether it’s leaving your house or brewing your own coffee or calling one friend… the little things matter, and the little things count. Be kind to yourself. And do one little thing.