Pay close attention. You’re gonna have homework with this one!

I’ve noticed while watching television lately that all the commercials are touting these newfangled phones, tennis shoes, trips and other items as ‘absolutely must haves’. The way I view it, the only must have about them is I would have to a) have a translator and an instructions coach to even turn the electronics on and b) have a loan officer who really loved me to be able to come up with the money for the tennis shoes. The trips? No loan officer in his right mind loves me that much.

I can’t help but wonder why these items are needed. A pair of tennis shoes I get, but only the ones that cost about $15.00 (which I still consider being robbed without a gun), not the ones that cost well over $100.00. Randy remembers being a young child, just starting school, and being very proud when his Mama would go shopping at Sears and buy him one new pair of Toughskins (two if he was really, really lucky) and one new pair of shoes that would have to be worn for school, church and any other function, as needed. I remember getting hand-me-downs from my sisters, with relatively very few brand new clothes. I did get shoes, but that was only because I couldn’t fit into my sisters’. Yet today’s kids seem to think they can’t start school without a whole closet full of new clothes and shoes. Even those who are required to wear uniforms seem to make up the cost savings by purchasing expensive shoes.

This really makes me wonder what ‘luxury’ means today. The World Book Dictionary defines it as “1) the comfort and beauties of life beyond what is really necessary. 2) the use of the best and most costly food, clothes, houses, furniture, and amusements. 3) a thing that a person enjoys, usually something choice and costly. 4) any form or means of enjoyment or self-gratification.”   Numbers 1-3 seem to be the ones that people today are using, however they actually don’t consider the items they ‘have to have’ as luxuries, but necessities.

A true luxury is much more down to earth than the latest I Pod or cost prohibitive footwear. A roof over one’s head would fit the definition. Good health. Food on the table would also get my vote. Randy is hanging tight to wanting the luxury of a tractor with an air-conditioned cab, but I keep telling him that it is pure luxury to have just a plain old tractor that runs, instead of having to cut the hay with a scythe. I get where he’s coming from, as it gets very hot in the field on an ‘open air’ tractor, but to me it just isn’t a dire necessity.

I also define luxury as my farm. It is a lot of work, but it is also my form of enjoyment. Randy and I do not, however, consider it to be unnecessary. This farm not only feeds our family, but feeds others as well and provides us an income. Trust me. In today’s day and age, a job is not a luxury, but a true necessity. My other ‘luxuries’ seem to be a little more down-to-earth, and most of the population probably wouldn’t understand it. A healthy newborn calf is a luxury.   Having a better than 50% hatching rate with baby chicks is a luxury. Air conditioning in the house in the heat of the summer is a true luxury I prefer not to do without. My mom, my sister, brother, in-laws (and a few out-laws) are luxuries to me. My greatest luxury is the freedom to worship God, with being married to Randy coming in a close second. And yes, as I said yesterday, my freedom in the USA is a top priority luxury – one I hope I never take for granted.

In thinking about society’s new ‘brand’ of luxury, I contemplated our own income, and what it could actually purchase. It took about three items on the list to be in the red and be forced to call that sweet loan officer, just to be able to pay my house note. We keep close tabs on how much money we do/don’t have, and I’ve calculated that it would take less than $60,000.00 to put us completely debt free, with the vast majority of that being the mortgage. We have no car notes. We have no collateral loans. We have no credit cards. Our only other ‘debt’ are what we call our monthly nightmares – utilities, telephones, insurance on the farm, house, vehicles and lives – and any farm expenses we may have, which are paid for in cash. It doesn’t leave a lot left over at the end of the day, but we always manage to squeak by somewhere between the black and the red.

This means that I am limited to my footwear, preferring that $15.00 pair of tennis shoes to the $100.00 pair. It means that we do have cell phones, but Randy got the free one and mine cost $10.00. If it wasn’t for the fact that I frequently travel from home to Shreveport and back again, and a lot of my travel is in the dark with houses spaced two to three miles apart, we probably wouldn’t have those.   We consider ourselves splurging when we eat out twice a month and buy a can of peanuts to snack on once every couple of months and Randy a $1.00 bar of dark chocolate every so often. I would hate to think what our chosen lifestyle would look like to the kids starting school with $350.00 on their backs for just one outfit. They probably wouldn’t believe us, or they would pity us for being so ‘poor’.

Now. Here is your homework. Take a good look at your own lifestyle. What do you consider a necessity and what would you consider a luxury? Just exactly how much money would it take you to get completely out of debt? Now – if you were able to pay all that off tomorrow, what would you now spend your money on? Are you one of those women who just can’t live without buying no less than 10 pairs of shoes a month? Are you a man who feels he will be sorely deprived if he can’t go buy that new rod and reel and all the various lures that ‘need’ to go with it? I’m one of those who struggles to pass up a bookstore. Given the opportunity and the disposable cash, I could spend no less than $300.00 a month in a bookstore, and still lament having to leave a few behind. Instead, I actually have books in my budget – I can get approximately six new books a year, depending on the price. If I go to Barnes and Noble.com or Amazon.com and find the ones I want at deep discounts, then I can afford more. I found my Shaker Gardening books for .99 each, and with shipping, that order of seven books cost me a little less than $10.00. But those were bought with Christmas gift cards, which isn’t included in my budget, so they were a TRUE luxury for me.

Back to you. Take the time to figure out just what your true luxuries are. Is it that new sofa, or is it being able to see a gorgeous sunset? Is it a new massive sized flat screen t.v. or is it being able to grow a tomato plant and share the excess with your neighbor? In my opinion, it’s time for society to go back to what true luxury is, and be grateful for those, rather than whine and pitch a hissy because we can’t have the material things we feel we need to survive. What about you?

I’ll see y’all later. I’m headed out to one of my luxuries – my greenhouse to plant some more seeds. Without a doubt, biting into a juicy red orb in June will be a true luxury. I just hope I can wait that long.