Living Well, Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life

Living Well, Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life

by Ruth Soukup

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Overview

In Search of the Good Life

Have you ever felt that your life—and budget—is spiraling out of control? Do you sometimes wish you could pull yourself together but wonder exactly how to manage all the scattered pieces of a chaotic life? Is it possible to find balance?

In a word, yes.

Ruth Soukup knows firsthand how stressful an unorganized life and budget can be. Through personal stories, biblical truth, and practical action plans, she will inspire you to make real and lasting changes to your personal goals, home, and finances. With honesty and the wisdom of someone who has been there, Ruth will help you:

* Discover your "sweet spot"—that place where your talents and abilities intersect.

* Take back your time and schedule by making simple shifts in your daily habits.

* Reduce stress in your home and family by clearing out the clutter.

* Stop busting your budget and learn to cut your grocery bill in half.

Who Needs This Book?

Living Well, Spending Less was written to bring hope and encouragement to every woman who currently feels overwhelmed or stressed with a life—and budget—that feels out of control. It speaks to the mom trying to juggle all the demands of a busy life with the pressure to keep up with those around her. It is a practical guide for those of us who often long to pull ourselves together but don't always know how. It is real, honest, packed with practical tips, and speaks to the heart of the matter—how can we live the life we've always wanted?

Want to know if this book is for you?

* Do you ever find yourself comparing your life to those around you?

* Have you ever wished for the courage to follow your dreams?

* Do you ever struggle to stay organized or get things done?

* Have you ever felt loaded down with stuff you don't really need....or even really want?

* Do you ever struggle to keep your finances on track?

* Do you sometimes long for deeper, more authentic relationships in your life?

If the answer to any of these questions is YES, this book provides real and practical solutions from someone who has been there. Ruth doesn't just offer advice, she walks it with you, and shares with brutal honesty her own mistakes, failures, and shortcomings. It is encouraging, motivating, and life-changing.

What Others Are Saying:

"An incredible book that will teach you how to spend smart without compromising a great life. Ruth's stories and practical advice will make you want to be a better mother, wife, sister, and friend." —RACHEL CRUZE, coauthor with Dave Ramsey of Smart Money Smart Kids

"Ruth knows firsthand how mamas like us live crazy busy lives, and she steps in as a friend to help us manage and love every minute of it. She offers her best tips for gaining control over the chaos with wisdom-based insights on all things thrifty and family. I'll be reading it again and again!" —RENEE SWOPE, bestselling author of A Confident Heart

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310337676
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 12/30/2014
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 513,927
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Ruth Soukup is dedicated to helping people break through fear and create a life they love. Through her top-ranked Do It Scared® podcast and her popular blog, Living Well Spending Less, she provides easy-to-follow guidance for following your dreams and reaching your goals. She is also the founder of the Living Well Planner® and Elite Blog Academy®, as well as the author of five bestselling books. Her practical advice has been featured all over, including in Women’s Day, Entrepreneur, Family Circle and Fox News. She lives in Florida with her husband Chuck and two daughters, Maggie and Annie.

Read an Excerpt

Living Well, Spending Less

12 Secrets of the Good Life


By Ruth Soukup

ZONDERVAN

Copyright © 2014 Ruth Soukup
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-310-33767-6



CHAPTER 1

SECRET #1


The Good Life Is Not What We Think It Is


Not life, but good life, is to be chiefly valued. Socrates, quoted by Plato in Crito


"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasure in heaven ... For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Matthew 6:19–21


To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

Ralph Waldo Emerson


There I sat, a little girl tucked away in my secret hiding place—a hidden crawl space nestled behind the closet of one of the many but rarely used guest rooms in our sprawling 1930s colonial. No one bothered me there, and in that hideaway I spent countless hours in my own world of make-believe, losing myself in the elaborate game I'd made up of creating my dream house.

It was a meticulous, time-consuming process. I'd start by picking out the biggest, most ostentatious mansion for sale in the real estate section of my father's latest copy of Architectural Digest—the one with the formal English garden in front and the cliff overlooking the ocean in back, available for the bargain price of only $17 million. I'd then take a sheet of graph paper snatched from my dad's desk drawer and carefully sketch out my dream version of what I thought the floor plan should look like.

I was always careful to include such "basic" necessities as an indoor pool, a basketball court, and a game room. My perfect house always included at least ten bedrooms, with a fireplace, sitting room, and cavernous spa-like bathroom in each. There were at least two gourmet kitchens (you never know when you might need an extra), a dining room that seated forty, a university-sized library filled with books from floor to ceiling, and every other far-fetched amenity my eleven-year-old imagination—inspired mostly by the Barbie Dreamhouse and too much time spent watching Life-styles of the Rich and Famous—could conjure up.

When the floor plan was finally complete—and it always took hours to get the blueprint just right—I'd decorate. I'd pull out the thick stack of department store catalogs I had pilfered from the recycle pile and spend countless more hours methodically picking out furniture, linens, and accessories for every single room, right down to the china dishes in the cabinets, the fluffy towels in the bathroom, and the classy shoes in the closet.

As I'd shop the catalogs, I'd picture my adorable, well-dressed children and my kind, handsome, and wildly successful husband. I'd envision our enchanted, problem-free existence, the happy times we'd spend enjoying our luxurious home.

However, when I had finally exhausted every catalog and filled every imaginary room with as much expensive "stuff" as I could possibly find, I was never left with a feeling of accomplishment, despite all the time and effort I had exerted. On the contrary, the letdown was intense. I filled and filled and filled, but it always left me empty. And so I would start over with a new house and a new floor plan, ensuring countless more hours of wanting and dreaming and filling, knowing that this time—finally—I would get it right.

In my dream house, life was perfect. In my dream house, I was happy.

Or so I thought.

What I didn't know then was that even at that tender age I was developing a dangerous habit. I had already begun equating possessions with happiness. I had already started believing that a Good Life was dependent on what I had. At eleven years old I was convinced that if I could just get the right stuff, my life would be complete. Full. Happy. Satisfied.

This destructive pattern would set the tone for much of my adult life and nearly destroy my marriage. Of course, I didn't learn just how destructive that way of thinking truly was until much, much later.


The Grown-Up Dream House

After so many years of merely dreaming about it, I was more than ready for the chance to be all grown-up, and to remodel and decorate my real dream house, albeit on a slightly smaller scale.

Finally the day came, though admittedly not under the happiest of circumstances. In 2004, our home was severely damaged by Hurricane Charley. Afterward, my husband, Chuck, and I decided to make some major renovations beyond just the necessary repairs from the hurricane damage. Chuck—the financial rock of our family—insisted on paying cash. After using insurance money to fix the broken roof and windows, we began saving to remodel the inside.

While I (not so) patiently waited, I collected ideas. Once again, I'd spend hours drooling over magazines and catalogs, tearing out pictures of all the things I liked, all the things I knew I wouldn't be able to live without, all the things I knew would make me happy.

Just like I planned as a little girl, in my grown-up dream house life would be perfect.

After what seemed like forever, the big moment finally arrived, and our much-anticipated remodeling project began. There were fresh coats of paint and new walls, a library of my very own, custom cabinetry with pullout shelves, granite countertops, new hardwood and real stone floors, gorgeous new curtains and rugs and furniture and accessories. But then, before we knew it, the projects were done and the money we had set aside was completely gone.

Except I couldn't stop.

Just like in my childhood game, the letdown was almost more than I could bear. We had spent all this time and money and energy creating the perfect house that I'd always dreamed of, and yet still my life was far from perfect. I still felt unfulfilled. Unsatisfied. Discontent. I still craved more.

And so? I kept shopping. Bored and restless, I'd head to Target or Pottery Barn or Williams-Sonoma searching for something else to fill the void. Over and over I'd fall in love with one trinket or another: the perfect bright-colored throw pillow, shiny picture frame, or earthy coffee mug, or yet another time-saving, semi-automatic floor mop.

The truth is that I had always shopped a bit too much, but this was different. My heart would begin to pound and I'd feel a rush of adrenaline as I placed it in my cart, knowing—just knowing—that this was it! This was the item that would change my life, make me ecstatic and bring bliss, perfection, and contentment. This would finally leave me satisfied.

The rush was replaced with dread and regret as I'd walk through the front door, arms once again filled with shopping bags,and see the look—a mixture of anger, disappointment, and even a little fear—on Chuck's face. "Just stop! "he would scream. "It's enough! We don't need it. You can't do this anymore!"

I couldn't bring myself to admit he might be right, even though deep down I knew I had a problem. I couldn't find a way to make him understand that what I wanted more than anything was to be full. So instead I crammed our house full of things. Not surprisingly, the battles got uglier and angrier, until one day we both finally decided we'd had enough. Something had to give.


More Is Never Enough

This idea that more stuff will make us happy was not unique to my situation. On the contrary, this message is constantly reinforced at every turn in our consumer-driven society. There is an underlying whisper in every television commercial, every billboard, every magazine spread that taunts us, tempts us, and sucks us in:

If your house looks like this, you'll be satisfied.
If you drive this car, you'll be successful.
If you use this makeup, you'll be beautiful.
If you wear these clothes, you'll be enviable.
If you use this tablet, you'll be organized.
If you eat this food, you'll be skinny.
If your child has this toy, he'll be content.
This will be the thing that changes your life.
This will be the thing that fills you up.


We see the ads, read the magazines and blogs, and even spend hours poring over stunningly perfect images on Pin-terest. We see the glamorous, extravagant lives of celebrities and reality stars glorified and immortalized in weekly magazines and on television.

We listen to the whispers as we watch everyone around us filling their lives with more things, prettier things, better things than what we currently have. We want bigger houses, better cars, newer phones, more accessories and clothing and shoes and toys and gadgets and whatever else we decide will usher in the Good Life.

But it never ever does. The whispers are a lie. Lean in, friends, because I have something to tell you: The Good Life is not what we think it is.

You see, stuff in and of itself is not evil. We all need a place to live, clothes to wear, and food to eat. I think it is okay—even natural—to want our home and clothing to look nice, reflecting our personalities and sense of style. Money and possessions on their own are not necessarily harmful or destructive. However, the pursuit of them can be.

Over and over,the Bible warns against this phenomenon:

"Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions." LUKE 12:15


Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." HEBREWS 13:5


"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." LUKE 16:13


I used to think these verses applied only to those who were actually wealthy. In my mind, I was off the hook. Too bad for those rich people, I thought to myself. They are out of luck. It didn't occur to me that the Bible wasn't warning them; it was warning me. Because while I may not have been rich, I wanted to live like I was. I wanted the best of everything, and even if I couldn't afford the best of everything, I certainly wished I could.

In 1 Timothy 6:9–10 (ESV), Paul writes, "Those who desire to get rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs" (emphasis mine).

It is not the wealth—or the stuff—that kills us; it is the wanting, the longing, the absolutely insatiable desire for wealth, possessions, power, and status that eventually take over our hearts and minds, leaving room for little else. Whether or not we can afford it is totally irrelevant. What matters is the desire of our heart. Regardless of the never-quite-enough message society wants to give us, a life consumed by always wanting more is not the Good Life.


In Search of the Good Life

Desperate times call for desperate measures. After our remodel, as my spending spiraled totally out of control, my husband and I were literally on the brink of divorce. Exhausted by all the fighting and truly willing to do anything to save my marriage, I agreed to try something new. We established separate bank accounts and a strict budget, and I agreed to what was essentially an allowance from my husband. I would get a set amount of money each month to be used for groceries, clothing, and household items, and when it was gone, it was gone. I had no choice but to stop spending.

That is, I had no choice but to stop spending as much.

Panicked by the thought of giving up what had become an unstoppable need to buy things, I quickly realized I could make my budget stretch much further by saving on food. I learned how to use coupons and was able to cut my monthly grocery bill from $1,000 a month to about $200, leaving me an extra $800 to spend each month on all the stuff, on all the pretty things I still thought I needed.

I then began looking for ways to stretch my budget dollars even further, combing the clearance racks for killer deals and taking advantage of Amazon lightning deals several times a day.

I channeled my newfound passion for using coupons, saving money, and finding great deals into a blog I called Living Well Spending Less. My original tagline for the blog was "The adventure of finding style and luxury on a budget," and the first line of my introduction read, "I like nice things. My husband hates the price tag."

My goal was simply to stretch my budget so I could buy all the things I wanted. There was no higher noble purpose. On the contrary, to me it was just simple math: the less I spent on food, the more I could spend on shoes (and on everything else). There was still so much I wanted, so many pretty things out there just waiting for me to take them home. I began shopping for more bargains and became an expert at finding incredible deals on groceries, clothing, and other household goods, but I was still shopping, still buying, still trying to fill that void.

From a financial standpoint, being forced to stick to a strict allowance made a huge difference for our family bud- get. At the very least, I was no longer sinking us with my spending. But I was still drowning us in things we didn't need.

Eventually, though, as I continued to write about saving money and sought to be a better homemaker, all this stuff I was bringing in started to feel oppressive. Despite the deep discounts, the great "deals, "I was drowning in things I didn't need, or even want. And yet I wasn't quite sure how to stop wanting it either.

I began to crave and to seek a different sort of life for myself and for my family, one that wasn't defined by what we had but by who we are. I began a new quest for the Good Life.


Not Just about the Money

The insatiable desire for more is a disease that permeates every fiber of our being. Overconsumption and unchecked indulgence in anything—whether it is food, alcohol, drugs, or possessions—will eventually destroy us. Overspending and a desire to have more are addictions like any others, but ones that must be tempered in order for us to survive. We must learn to control our love of money, or it will control us.

Developing the discipline to control your spending, to consume less, to stick to a budget, and to save for the future is a habit that can't help but spill over into every other aspect of your life. Likewise, you can't live a truly productive, con- tented, and joy-filled life while your finances are in complete disarray. A Good Life and financial stability go hand in hand.

It doesn't matter if we are just barely squeaking by or we have more than we know what to do with, though most of us fall somewhere between those two extremes. Discovering the Good Life is not just about learning to spend less, but about actually changing the desires of our heart, shifting our priorities from wanting and hoping for the best of everything in this world to deeply longing to store up a different kind of treasure.

Remember those words of Paul: "But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many sense-less and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Living Well, Spending Less by Ruth Soukup. Copyright © 2014 Ruth Soukup. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction 13

Part 1 Living Well

Secret #1 The Good Life Is Not What We Think It Is 19

A life well lived is not so much about what we have hut about who we are

Secret #2 Contentment Is a Choice 35

Longing for what we don't have keeps us from the Good Life

Secret #3 We All Have a Sweet Spot 53

Finding that place where our passion and ability intersect

Secret #4 Written Goals Can Change Your Life 69

A clear long-term vision and written goals allow us to reach our full potential

Secret #5 We All Get the Same Twenty-Four Hours 91

The Good Life starts with personal discipline and good time management

Secret #6 Less Stuff Equals More Joy 109

Lower your family's stress level by clearing out the clutter

Part 2 Spending Less

Secret #7 We Need to Spend Less Than We Think We Do 127

Why stewardship matters

Secret #8 Saving Is a State of Mind 143

Learning to live within our means affects every single thing we do

Secret #9 How to Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half 161

The simple changes that can save hundreds at the checkout line

Secret #10 A Clean House Is a Happy House 179

The best reasons for keeping a tidy house, and how to get it that way

Secret #11 The Best Things in Life Are Free 201

The things we want most in life are things we can't buy

Secret #12 We Get More When We Give 217

The Good Life needs to be shared

Notes 235

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Ruth’s book inspires, motivates, and comforts at the same time. Her book is about far more than saving money; it’s about learning how to be content and satisfied, regardless of your financial situation. It made me wish Ruth lived down the street so I could meet her for coffee and a chat. -- Stephanie Nelson, , founder of CouponMom.com

In this book, you will be inspired by Ruth’s authenticity and honesty as she shares her own journey from constantly spending time and money chasing after more to discovering she already has all the makings of a rich and full life right where she’s at. If you struggle to simplify your life and wish you could savor the here and now, this book is a must-read. -- Crystal Paine, , founder of MoneySavingMom.com and New York Times bestselling author of Say Goodbye to Survival Mode

Ruth Soukup knows firsthand how mamas like us live crazy busy lives, and she steps in as a friend to help us manage and love every minute of it. In Living Well, Spending Less, Ruth offers her best tips for gaining control over the chaos with wisdom-based insights on all things thrifty and family. I’ll be reading it again and again and recommending it to friends who long to live and love the good life that God has for them! -- Renee Swope, , bestselling author of A Confident Heart (book and devotional) and Proverbs 31 Ministries’ radio coho

Living Well, Spending Less is an inspiring book full of step-by-step instructions and spiritual wisdom. I love how Ruth is transparent about her mistakes as she leads us to reevaluate our priorities. This book is a great biblical guide to living well and finding joy! -- Courtney Joseph, , author of Women Living Well and WomenLivingWell.org

It doesn’t take more than a trip to Target or a glance at People magazine for me to come face-to-face with my own insatiable desire for more. More beauty. More designer clothes. More gadgets. More happy. But, as Ruth Soukup discloses through her signature honest and down-to-earth style, “more” will never make you and me “full.” But here’s the good news: The life you crave is far closer than you can imagine. Ruth will show you how to get there. -- Michele Cushatt, , speaker and author of Undone.

Living Well, Spending Less is relatable and helpful without being condemning. Ruth takes a complicated, emotionally laden issue like spending and makes it seem possible to come to terms with what’s keeping us stuck both in our finances and in our lives. -- Edie Wadsworth, , author of Coming Home and blogger at Lifeingrace

Ruth Soukup has learned contentment does not come with a Pottery Barn label. Every woman who struggles with wanting more should read this book before she discovers a stack of receipts and a trail of regrets. It’s never too late, as Ruth so engagingly and shares, to discover that the Good Life---God’s best---is free. -- Glynnis Whitwer, , author and executive director of communications at Proverbs 31 Ministries

I couldn’t stop reading Living Well, Spending Less. I tried to---only because I had other things I needed to do---but I couldn’t. Rarely is there a book so adept at weaving personal story with practical tips. I found myself craving this good life that Ruth writes of---a life that is possible for anyone who reads this book. -- Emily T. Wierenga, , author of the bestselling memoir Atlas Girl

Living Well, Spending Less is about more than planning a better budget or maintaining an organized home; it offers tips for easing stress and improving time management. Here, Ruth gifts us with a simple yet powerful blueprint for realizing true, deep contentment with all of the good things that this life has to offer. -- Kasey Knight Trenum, , blogger at time2saveworkshops.com

Living Well, Spending Less is an incredible book that will teach you how to spend smart without compromising a great life. Ruth’s stories and practical advice will make you want to be a better mother, wife, sister, and friend. Trust me, you’ll be happy you read this book. -- Rachel Cruze, , coauthor with Dave Ramsey of Smart Money Smart Kids

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