COMMENTARY

“The Good Steward”

12.30.15 Good Steward

by Silas Grant –

A good friend of mine always says to me “I’ve been successful because I am a good steward of my resources”. Like most people, I understand what that means and I try to apply that to my life. But, like most people, I’ve also had challenges operating within the principle of being a good steward in every situation.

Recently, I decided to meet a friend downtown for lunch. I had four (4) modes of transportation to choose from to meet up with him. I could bike, catch an Uber, drive, or catch the train downtown. Biking would mean breaking a bit of a sweat. I didn’t want to arrive being a bit tired or sweaty, so I decided against biking. The Uber ride would be about $18 round trip. Seeing that I wasn’t working on this day and not on a tight schedule or in a rush, spending almost $20 for a trip to lunch didn’t make sense either. Driving would mean spending time trying to find on-street parking or spending money for garage parking. Again, not worth my time or money. So, I walked to the subway station. I am not as fond of the subway as I used to be, therefore I don’t use that method of transportation as much anymore. DC’s metro transit system recently did an overhaul of its fare system. Riders no longer have the option of the paper fare card which expires once your balance dwindles down to zero. All riders, no matter how infrequently they ride, must use the smart trip card. This smart trip fare card is more durable and you can add fare to the card at your convenience.  It’s rechargeable and you can also use it on the bus and subway. I had to buy one of these cards recently and I’ve kept the card in my wallet since that point. To my surprise, when I arrived at the train station and checked my balance, I had $12 on my card. I’d forgotten that I put $20 on the card on a previous trip. So for me, this was essentially a “free” ride. Free in the sense that I didn’t have to spend any “new” money on transportation to go have this lunch.

When I got downtown, I went into a store because I was a bit early for lunch. I was browsing in the store and everything was on clearance. I shop in this store quite often and now that the store is closing for good. The “grand closing” deals were very hard to resist. I picked up a few items and I was happy with the amount of money that I spent. I spent about half of what the amount for those items would have been if the store wasn’t having a “grand closing” sale.

I went to lunch, had a great time with a great friend, and went back home. As I went back home on what I considered a “free” ride on the subway, I couldn’t help but think about my situation with the fare card and the clearance sale. I kept thinking about how great it was to have had the money already on my fare card. I also thought about the deal that I caught at the store. I then remembered that I had two checks that I’d received in the mail for work I’d done months prior. I had the checks in one of my bookbags for several days before cashing them. Unlike other times, I didn’t cash the checks because I didn’t want to rush to use the money. I also thought about earlier that week when I ran an errand for someone that was so important to them that they insisted on paying me $70 to do it. He gave me the money in cash and on this day, I’d had that money in my wallet for four (4) days. Normally, I would have deposited the money into my account or spent at least some of it. To me, these were all examples of storing up resources and then using them when you need them.

We get into a habit of spending as soon as we earn. Christmas season is upon us and we are often pressured into spending. A lot of us only use our most recent paychecks on Christmas shopping. This adds a lot of unnecessary pressure on shoppers. Instead of preparing all year for moments like Christmas, some of us forgo paying bills to ensure that we have gifts for Christmas. We could’ve executed on our plans to shop earlier and be efficient, but somehow we didn’t. I also thought about my mother-in-law who is a great steward. My mother-in-law begins Christmas shopping in February. It’s a bit extreme, but shopping for others is something that she loves to do. Also, I can imagine the amount of pressure she’s escaped from knowing that she can spend a little money from time to time throughout the year to cover everyone on her list. This could even allow her to expand her list to include people who would be pleasantly surprised to receive a gift from her. Just imagine….wouldn’t it be a blessing for more of us to be able to be a blessing to others because we’ve learn to practice being a good steward with our money? Wouldn’t it be great to see our resources stretch further than before to impact more people (including ourselves)?

As we go into the new year, let’s work to practice taking an immediate sacrifice in exchange for a long-term reward. How do we do that? I am not the expert by a long-shot, but here’s my shot at helping:

1) Live your life as if you want to see tomorrow:

We aren’t promised tomorrow, but more than likely, you will see tomorrow. So, be prepared for tomorrow. The life expectancy on average is about 70 years. 365 days per year would put you at 25,550 days on earth. If you lived to be 70 and went to bed every night with the “tomorrow is not promised, so I’m not gonna leave anything here for tomorrow” attitude, you’d be wrong over 25,000 times. Since we all are set to die at some point and we only die once, if you died at 70, your mantra would only be right once out of 25,000 times. That means you’d have an accuracy rate of 0.00004%. It’s much easier to just be prepared for tomorrow. That means leaving something in the cupboard for tomorrow. Eventually, the goal is to leave something in the cupboard for the week and then the month and then the year and beyond. The feeling is cool when you have $12 on a fare card that you didn’t realize you had. But imagine have $12,000 in an account that you forgot about. Now that’s a great feeling! But you get there step by step knowing that what you earn now can be held and held and held more until you truly need it or at a point where spending it isn’t as much of a burden. As I type this I had to scratch my head wondering why I didn’t always practice what I’m typing. But sometimes it takes a $12 fare card to teach you a lesson; go figure!

2) Be prepared for the breaks:

Know that at some point, the cost of making a purchase will drop. Know that you can wait out fads and trends that cause prices to go high and low. Store up resources and buy when the price is as low or as reasonable as you need it to be. What I noticed about the clearance price on my purchase that day was that the amount that I spent is within the range that I should’ve been spending on items in the store all along. And I shouldn’t have been happy that day because I felt as if I caught a deal. And if I stored up my resources more often, catching what I perceived to be a deal would be even better for me financially.

3) Immediate pleasure is normally very short:

Simply put, pleasure is more enjoyable when it’s delayed. It’s nothing like going a long time without something that you enjoy and then having an opportunity to indulge in it. And when we assume that every moment of our lives has to be about pleasure, we embark upon an endless chase of pleasure. That chase ends up not being pleasurable at all. The chase ends with a “so-called” pleasurable experience that has been cheapened by our insatiable desire. So consider prioritizing what brings you pleasure and focus on maximizing your time to prepare for what you only consider to be the most pleasurable experiences based on your prioritization.

In conclusion, I want it to be known that I maintain this blog for the sake of putting good information out to the masses. Hopefully, the information here leads you to better opportunities. But, an opportunity is only seen as an opportunity if you can take advantage of it. Being a good steward of all that you have increases your chances and your opportunities.

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