Our last blog looked at the first part of "The Frugal Catholic Depression Era Slogan"– Make it do. Do without: Use it up: and Wear it out followed as part of that slogan; and we will examine each part in this series to learn how we can employ that total motto to our money-making advantage. During the Great Depression, people worldwide learned smart budgeting by following those four catchphrases; and with a bit of insight and self-discipline on our part, we too can learn to DO WITHOUT and watch our greenbacks grow.
In High School, I was just an average C grade gal, but during my Junior year, I found a book that taught me how to study, and it changed my marks and goals. The book's title escapes me, but it held five key concepts to better studying and learning --Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review. With those same initials, we can be very systematic in learning to DO WITHOUT. So for this article, we will examine doing without by using "SURVEY, QUESTION, RELEASE, REARRANGE, and BE RICHER" because as Warren Buffet states, “If you buy things you don’t need, you will soon sell things you do need.” And just as I improved my grades, you, too, can apply SQRRR to get through the rough times and help build your savings.
To define “SURVEY,” the dictionary states, “To take a general or comprehensive view of.” One could also say, “To get a feel for what you really own, have, and need.” When I surveyed my reading/studying assignments in high school, I would go through all of the pages to get a general count and notice what questions had to be answered. I’d look at how difficult the reading was, the black print, and the paragraphing. Just an overview: That was all.
The same principle applies to surveying your possessions. Walk through your bedroom, kitchen, pantry, and any area where items flow in and out. Now make a mental or paper note of what you are lacking. Likewise, see what an abundance you do have and consider this SQRRR assignment as an excellent Catholic journey in living without. And finally, as you survey your possessions, give thanks to many who live with nearly nothing.
In my SQRRR study pattern, the “Q” stood for “QUESTION, “and to question was simply that. “Why is this assignment so long?” “What is that picture in there for?” “Gee, that fellow is handsome. Wonder where he's from?” Responses like that. Here are a few questions you might ask yourself:
Your Closet–Why is my closet so stuffed? Do I really need all those shoes? Which ones don’t I wear? Gee, my husband's underwear seems full of holes. Wonder if I should buy him some more from Costco?
Your Food Locker–Now switch to the pantry, and ask yourself similar thoughts. How old are those spices? Ugg! Time to let that five-year-expired-dried parsley go! Wonder if I could use those sardines in some crockpot casserole? Now which cookbook would have a sardine casserole in it? Wonder if my husband would eat it? Doubt it.
Your Collections–We all have them be they the dusty bucket of yellow softballs in the garage corner, or the cow, rabbit, and bluebird of happiness collection scattered around the house, or nesting in a glass-front cabinet. The same questions remain. Must I keep these? Do these things please me? Could they better benefit someone else? Could I let them go?
“RELEASE” is the third step towards doing without. Yes, by letting some of your possessions go (after you have questioned their usage), you become keenly aware of what remains– all of the other scarlet stuffs.
Start by doing a forced release. Pick a garment and a can of food, and give them to charity. By doing so, your needs and wants become more clarified. Personally, I’ve found that releasing helps me strengthen the things that remain as Revelation 3:2 states (NRSVCE), “Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God.”
“REARRANGE” is very important when learning to do without. You need to twist new combinations together, which produces a feeling of owning more! For example, when I look in my closet with half of my clothes released, I have more clothing choices. That's because I am rearranging them differently. Not only are all clothes stored in the closet in their color groups, but also I’m using what's left with a better imagination. And I've asked my husband for his help. Michael sometimes puts together scarves, shoes, tops, and bottoms that give me fresh ideas. So I’ve definitely acquired an increase in my wardrobe without spending a penny by simply rearranging.
With your household goods and furniture, try putting them in new places. Just make sure to point out to your family that you’ve “rearranged” so they don’t sit down where no chair presently exists. By releasing then rearranging, you will feel empowered to DO WITHOUT.
How can I “BE RICHER” if I'm giving goods away? That is a fine question. As a writer, however, I've learned from interviewing frugal millionaires that “being richer” has nothing to do with what you spend; it’s all about what you save by living UNDER your means, not above them. Yes, Saint Paul, likewise, had the right formula when he said in Philippians 4:11-13, “Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any circumstances, I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty, and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. “
So give part two--DO WITHOUT--of our Depression-era saying, a try. It's astounding what doing without will do for your faith because you give God a chance to show His provisions.
Martha Wild King, M. Ed., Author
The Frugal Catholic: Learn to live on less to give and save more.