How to Survive on a Reduced Income
OBED is the father of two. For ten years he worked for a five-star hotel in a large African city and had little problem meeting the needs of his household. Periodically, he could squeeze in a good family vacation at game preserves in his country. All of this came to an end when he lost his job because of reduced clientele at the hotel.
In a career that spanned more than 22 years, Stephen rose through the ranks to become an executive in a large bank. Among the many benefits that came with his job were a big house, a car, house servants, and prestigious schools for his children. When the bank began a restructuring process, he found himself out of work. “My family and I were devastated,” says Stephen. “I was gripped by feelings of despair, bitterness, and apprehension.”
These are by no means isolated cases. The ongoing global economic slump has seen millions who had stable incomes lose their jobs. Many who have managed to find a job have had to accept low pay while contending with skyrocketing prices. Developed or not, no nation on earth is immune to the ravages of a recession.
Need for Practical Wisdom
Faced with decreased or lost income, we can easily be overwhelmed by negative thoughts. Granted, a person cannot totally avoid some measure of apprehension. However, a wise man once said: “Have you shown yourself discouraged in the day of distress? Your power will be scanty.” (Proverbs 24:10) Rather than panicking in the face of economic downturns, we need to do as God’s Word urges us: “Treasure up practical wisdom.”—Proverbs 2:7.
Though the Bible is not a financial guidebook, its practical counsel on handling such matters has proved helpful to millions worldwide. Let us examine some basic principles that the Bible offers.
Count the cost. Consider Jesus’ words found at Luke 14:28: “Who of you that wants to build a tower does not first sit down and calculate the expense, to see if he has enough to complete it?” Applying that principle would mean making a budget and sticking to it. But as Obed acknowledges, this can be challenging. “Before losing my job,” he says, “we were used to pushing cartloads of mostly nonessential goods out of the supermarket. We never had a budget because money seemed to be there for whatever we fancied.” Advance planning will ensure that the reduced funds available are spent on essential family needs.
Adjust your lifestyle. To accept a lower standard of living is undoubtedly a challenge, but it is necessary. A Bible proverb states: “A shrewd man sees trouble coming and lies low.” (Proverbs 22:3, The New English Bible) “To save money, my family had to move to our own house, smaller and with an unfinished interior,” says Stephen. “The children had to transfer to less expensive schools that still provided quality education.”
Open communication within the family is essential if adapting to a new lifestyle is to succeed. Austin, who worked for a financial institution for nine years before losing his job, says: “My wife and I sat down and itemized the things we really needed. We had to cut down on costly food items, expensive vacations, and unnecessary purchases of new clothes. I am glad that my family cooperated throughout these adjustments.” Of course, young children may not fully comprehend why such adjustments are necessary, but as parents, you can help them to understand.
Be open to new types of work. If you have grown accustomed to a white-collar job, doing physical work may appear daunting. “It was psychologically difficult for me to accept menial jobs, having been used to managerial positions in a large firm,” says Austin. This is hardly surprising in view of what the Bible says at Proverbs 29:25: “Trembling at men is what lays a snare.” Filling your mind with what others may think will hardly put bread on the table. What can help you overcome such negative thinking?
Humility is a key. After losing his job in the hotel industry, Obed was invited to join a former workmate who owns a vehicle repair shop. This job involved walking long distances on dusty streets to procure auto paints and accessories. Obed says: “All the odds seemed to be stacked very high against me. Humility helped me adjust to a job that pays less than a quarter of my former salary but is adequate for my family’s needs.” Could you benefit from a similar outlook?
Be content. One dictionary defines a contented person as one who is “reasonably happy and satisfied with the way things are.” Such a description may seem unrealistic to someone who is financially strapped. However, consider the words of the apostle Paul, a missionary who knew what it meant to be in want: “I have learned, in whatever circumstances I am, to be self-sufficient. I know indeed how to be low on provisions, I know indeed how to have an abundance.”—Philippians 4:11, 12.
Our lot could perhaps be better, but in these changing times, it could also be much worse. We can truly benefit if we take to heart Paul’s inspired counsel: “To be sure, it is a means of great gain, this godly devotion along with self-sufficiency. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.” Without encouraging laziness, Paul was showing how to put physical needs in their proper place.—1 Timothy 6:6, 8.
Source of True Happiness
True happiness does not come from amassing everything that we might want or from living a life of ease and affluence. It was Jesus himself who said: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” Yes, happiness and satisfaction come from expending what we have to help others and to be a source of encouragement to them.—Acts 20:35.
Our Creator, Jehovah God, is very much aware of all our needs. Through his Word, the Bible, he has provided practical counsel that has helped many to improve their life and relieve unnecessary anxiety. Of course, the result will not be a sudden or dramatic improvement in a person’s financial situation. But Jesus did assure those who keep on “seeking first the kingdom and [God’s] righteousness” that all their daily necessities will be given them.—Matthew 6:33.