Poor is in the attitude



wanting less

This is from the archives,originally published June 2012 but this is almost exactly what we talked about in Sunday school yesterday, so I thought I would repost.

“Poor” is a matter of attitude, not bank account.

I know this series is about conquering debt on a low-income, but to do that requires a frugal lifestyle (or that you win the lottery, of course), and a frugal lifestyle usually requires that we change our way of thinking.

I read an article recently that saddened me.  It was about “impoverished” parenting and the author was lamenting the fact that her children weren’t able to eat much junk food because they were too poor.  They also couldn’t afford to buy organic products, or name brand clothes.  She went on and on about how “poor” they were because they could only do this and this, but weren’t able to do that.  By the end of the article, she had achieved her goal and I felt sorry for her children.

I don’t feel sorry for them that they are deprived.  They aren’t.

There are countless people in this world who are starving.  No this isn’t a “there are people worse off than you” lecture, the point is that many of them are more content than we are!  Will you process that for a minute?  When I went to Haiti on a mission trip in 2003, I witnessed some of the deepest levels of poverty I have ever seen—people living in run-down straw shacks with dirt floors.  Babies with their bellies pooched out from malnutrition, and kids with orange hair because their starving bodies were trying desperately to save any nutrition possible.  Even in their deep need, the people I met were far happier and more content than the spoiled American society that we live in.

The children from that blog post are only deprived because their mother is teaching them that they are deprived.  They are being taught to allow money to control their happiness and to live in a constant state of perceived want.  Once that mindset starts, there can be no fulfillment, no matter how much money you have, no matter how many nice things you have, there will always be something out of reach that leaves you wanting, until you change your attitude.

We’re on a limited budget, and I’ve had people shake their heads at how we’re depriving our boys of ____ (insert junk food, eating out, fancy toys, expensive vacations, etc.).  We have a roof over our heads and God always provides our needs (and most reasonable wants!).  We have a $200/month grocery budget, which rarely includes junk food.  (that’s a good thing.  We don’t need junk food!)  My boys always wear used clothing and it’s rarely name brand (again, a good thing.  I don’t want them to learn that the label on their clothing determines their value).  My youngest wears almost entirely hand-me-downs, except for a couple of new outfits throughout the year that he gets for his birthday or Christmas.  They have less toys than other children we know and the ones they have aren’t fancy.

But, let me make something very clear.  We are not poor and my children are not deprived.  I will not teach them that.

They use their imaginations.  They enjoy simple things.  They don’t require the newest fancy toys to have fun or be happy.  We choose this for them, for a variety of reasons.

As Christians, we’ve all heard this verse quoted, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”  Do you know what Paul said just before those inspiring words?

“I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.  I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.  Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  (Phil 4:11-13)

Paul had learned the lesson that contentedness, happiness, fulfillment and joy are not found in things.  He had learned to be content despite his circumstances.  Why are we teaching our children the opposite?

It is our job as parents to teach our children how to be content, transcendent of circumstances and material possessions.

We are making the choice to teach our children this valuable life lesson.  Through simple living, we are teaching them to be content with what we have.  No, they don’t have name brand clothes, a lot of junk food, or fancy toys.  They don’t “get to” eat out a lot or go on expensive vacations.  But they are happy and enjoy the simple things in life.  They are content.

And most of all, they are loved despite a lack of whatever material possessions our society tells us they need.


  1. says

    It is so much in your attitude and how you look at what makes a “good” life. So many things we think we need really are not necessary for true joy. That I would be content “whether having little or all I want” like Paul! (On a side note, it really pains me to see how little some people have and then sometimes I wonder what I can do!)

    • Crystal says

      Jenn, it pains me as well! One of the things that really motivated me to stop eating out. After my fast of eating out for Lent, hubby and I went to Logan’s Roadhouse a couple weeks later, and our bill was around $35 after tip. We sponsor a local Haiti mission (that I went on my mission trip with) and a world vision child, and both of those payments are less than $35/month. It really made me sad to think that for the cost of that one meal we could have supported a family in Haiti or somewhere through world vision for an entire month!

  2. Kristin Sparkman says

    Thank you so much. You said exactly what I feel. My kids like yours don’t have “everything” but they play with each other and use their imaginations. I feel sad for the kids who come to play and don’t understand how to play without a toy. My kids are happy and well adjusted and content. Thank you again.

    • Crystal says

      Thanks, Kristin! I, too, feel sad for the children who visit us and can’t have fun without a lot of toys. THanks for your encouragement.

  3. says

    great message! i need to remember that more often – some days i am guilty of wishing that we had “more” and “better”. truth is, we have plenty and it is good enough.

  4. says

    I totally agree! We are on a limited budget and our children wear hand-me downs from other family members- but I grew up that way too- so I know that having more things does not=happiness or contentment. I thank God that my husband and I had parents that taught us through words and action to not place the focus of our desire on material possessions but in Christ and the eternal- and now we can pass on that secret to contentment and true joy to our children. I went on a missions trip to Jamaica and I can definitely attest to witnessing contentment with far less than we have here as well. When we have a “loose hold” on material things it seems to also encourage us to give generously of all things (remembering it is God who has blessed us). Great article- thank you for sharing!

    • Crystal says

      Rachel, I love how you said that…we do need to have a “loose hold” on this earth, and remember that “our citizenship is in Heaven.” Blessings to you, my friend and thank you for your encouragement!

  5. says

    This is the best article I have read on this subject. I’ll be bookmarking it to use in counseling and know it will be an valuable tool. Lack of money isn’t often the issue–greed and dissatisfaction is. Thank you for using your talents and knowledge to teach others.

  6. says

    I found you from the linkup at Life in Bloom. GREAT post, I agree wholeheartedly with every word! It easy sometimes to compare ourselves with those around us and start to feel self-pity, but we have SO much, and after all, God promised us food and clothing…anything more than that is his wonderful blessing and provision!

  7. says

    Very well written post on a touchy topic. My family is also living off one income and working to stay out of debt. People think we are crazy, but it is worth it to us!

    Thank you for sharing!
    Mary Beth

  8. says

    This was such a beautiful post! Our society places worth on all of the wrong things. That is for sure. It saddens me the lessons that children are getting taught today. One of the blessings of homeschooling is that our children are removed from much of the “pressures” in society to wear certain clothes or buy the latest in gadgets. It was wonderful finding your blog via Thankful Thursday! Many blessings, Lisa

    • Crystal says

      Lisa, I completely agree and it’s one of the reasons we’re homeschooling our boys as well :) Thanks for the encouragement!

  9. says

    I agree 100% with Dave Ramsey’s saying: Poor is a state of mind. Broke is a temporary situation.
    This is a fabulously written article and no one could have said it better.
    My husband has a post coming out tomorrow that’s very similar, so when I read this title linked up at Weekend Whatever, I had to come read it. :-)

  10. says

    Well said! I too have been on a mission trip and the children there who have nothing are happier than those who have so much, including my own! Thanks for the reminder that WE may be the ones teaching our children they are deprived.

  11. says

    Very true, great post!

    I like the quote that says:

    “If you want to feel rich you must count all the gifts you have that money can’t buy. “

  12. says

    Great post! We recently celebrated my daughter’s 1st birthday and all of the gifts we bought her were from the thrift store or garage sales. We get a kick out of seeing how much we save by buying used. :)

    • Crystal says

      Yep, most of our children’s stuff comes from thrift stores or yard sales, but they don’t mind a bit :)

  13. says

    Amen, amen! We live in a tiny duplex (650 square feet for 5 people) but until just recently my daughter thought our house was big. We have learned that the size of our house, the newness of our vehicles, the price of our clothes, NONE of it can control our happiness!

    On a side note, my 2-year-old was really sad recently when I had to buy him a pair of shorts (at the thrift store.) He loves getting hand-me-downs and knowing that one of his friends wore the same clothes he is. :)

    Thanks so much for linking up at Thrifty Thursday!

    • Crystal says

      Awe, that is so sweet :) Wish we could bottle up the innocence of children and keep it forever. Love to hear stories like this.

  14. says

    Great perspective! Like your trip to Haiti, my trip to Zambia helped open my eyes. It’s unforgettable, isn’t it? My husband and I both deeply want to instill the same perspective in our kids, although we also have to be careful to keep our own spending habits in check.

    • Crystal says

      It is unforgettable. And you’re right we have to keep our own spending habits in check in order to teach those values to our children. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts :)

  15. Theresa says

    Wow, talk about timing! I have been feeling sorry for myself since Wednesday. On Wednesday, we saw my SIL who actually really did win $1.75 million in the lottery just before Christmas. She came to my sons baseball game. Most kids on the team have double income families while we survive on one and a 1/3. I have had a real pity party these past 2 days.

    Thanks for the reminder that we are richly blessed. I live in a free and rich country(Canada) and we are healthy. My husband does make a very good income(and I have a good less than part time job). It is amazing how discontent we get when we compare ourselves to others. Sadly, even in the church I see so much discontentment and striving for things of the world.

    • Crystal says

      Wow, Theresa…that’s crazy. I can’t say that I’ve never had a little pity party, but I’m so glad that God gently reminds me of my blessings and what really matters in life :) And, I agree, even within the church there is so much discontentment, and I would say it is caused by striving for things of the world…it’s only God’s plan that will fully lead us to contentment and fulfillment in our lives, but Satan is always there to whisper lies that we “need” this or that instead.

  16. says

    I can’t even begin to tell you what an encouragement this is to me and my family. Thank you for posting to Titus 2 Tuesday on Cornerstone Confessions. Hope to see you again this week!


    • Crystal says

      I’m so glad I could encourage you, Kathy! I love your blog and link-up, so I’m sure I’ll be back this week :)

  17. says

    As Dave Ramsey says, there is a big difference between being poor and being broke.

    I, too, am constantly amazed at folks who think nothing of living under the tremendous weight of huge debt, yet think we are “abusing” our children by not giving them lots of junk food or signing them up for every expensive sports and school program available.

    Well written. I pray your post reached parents hearts and encourages them to live differently!

    • Crystal says

      Kim, thank you so much for your kind words! And, I hadn’t heard that quote before but it’s so true. I, too, hope to encourage people to live differently, just because I wish everyone could experience the freedom of being content outside of money matters.

  18. A.Roddy says

    There are good debts and bad debts. Debt-free is something to strive for but isn’t a requirement to be Christian. I never took Christianity to mean getting rid of life’s little pleasure’s. And while I agree with teaching kids the value of money, I see nothing wrong with treating yourself or family if the budget allows. No family is better than the other because they don’t see Disney or don’t buy Johnny or Susie a new computer. That sounds as haughty as bragging about buying fancy things. I don’t begrudge those who can have a few nicer things than me. Oh and poor is right here in America.

    • Crystal says

      A. Roddy, thank you for sharing your thoughts. This post was never meant to judge or condemn anyone with nice things, but instead to encourage those who, like me, cannot afford the nicer things.

  19. says

    Excellent post! Being “poor” is a state of mind. We have chosen to live a bit more frugal than some around us but we are happy in that decision. And we are so very blessed! Thank you for the encouragement and for sharing at WJIM.

  20. says

    I love this. I see nothing wrong with reminding ourselves how spoiled we all are in america. even the poorest person in america is better off then the average person in haiti, an earthquake survivor who has been living in a tent the past 2 and half years and just got hit by isaac. maybe we don't take a trip to disney every year, but you can bet my son never doubts for a second how loved he is. oh and being frugal doesn't mean you cant wear name brands. I just got my husband an outfit of express jeans, sweater, and italian leather shoes all for 5 bucks at a garage sale. it would have been over $300 at the mall. although I'm atheist, if your religion inspires you to help others than that's great. I'm of the belief that nothing we do matters so all that matters is what we do.

  21. says

    This is so true and I think this is the thing that will make getting out of debt happen when it clicks inside for both of us. I just found my next set of memory verses, thanks :) “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:11-13)

  22. Mindy says

    Hi there. I just stumbled upon your Debt Free series on Pinterest. I wanted to say thank you for your article. You are absolutely correct! My husband and I both grew up with much less than our children and yet, because of our parents attitudes, we never felt poor or lacking! How, then, could our children possibly feel that way with all the ways God has blessed us and them? A great reminder on how to watch our words and attitudes!

  23. says

    Crystal great post and such a good reminder. We have so much and can do with so much less. We forget the extra burden it puts on us to take care of all of our stuff. It is sad how many people don’t take the time to cook at home and learn to make healthy meals that are within any budget. It takes work and our culture has become so much about convenience. Thank you for sharing this post.

  24. says

    Love this! My dad was often out of work when I was growing up and as a result, we were so poor that sometimes my mom didn’t know where our next meal was coming from. But I NEVER felt poor or deprived! I had two parents who loved each other and me, 4 siblings to fight and play with, clothes to wear (from thrift shops and hand-me-downs) and a roof over our head (even if it did leak sometimes) I feel that my childhood was rich beyond compare and it taught me to appreciate the non-material things in life more than the material.

  25. Beth Cranford says

    I needed this today Crystal,
    Just yesterday I was sort of (OK not sort of) feeling sorry for myself because I was feeling "poor". I was returning some clothes to the store because truthfully, I didn't really have the budget when I bought them, and they didn't fit that well anyway. But walking through that store and seeing all of the beautiful things I "couldn't have" got me down.

    But the reality is that I'm a stay-at-home mom. The things I have are so much more beautiful than a new pair of shoes or a great dress. I am not poor. I am a beautifully blessed mom, choosing to live on a one-income budget.

    Now, about your ability to feed your family on $200.00 per month! We need to talk.

    • Lynise Parisien says

      That is so true, Beth! Having an opportunity to be with your kids and homeschool is way better than any piece of clothing would make you feel. I don't shop very often but I completely understand going into the stores and seeing all the new clothes. Our desires surface and hopefully our self-control kicks in! I miss seeing you and hope you and the family are doing well!!!

    • Crystal says

      Beth, I’m hoping to be able to share more about our grocery budget later. I’m actually working on an eBook project right now :)

      Also, you’re so right that the benefits of being a SAHM outweigh the sacrifices, I’m with ya on that one :)

  26. tina says

    So glad I found this post through “We Are That Family”. I strongly agree with you. Real poverty is a concept that most of us will never have to face.

  27. says

    I have to agree that your children are NOT deprived because they aren’t eating junk food, don’t have the fancy newest toy, or whatever else people want to say.

    It is a blessing to have extra and to share what you do have. I don’t see anything wrong in teaching children to live on a budget and how to be smart with money so they don’t end up with thousands of dollars of debt they could have avoided.

    After buying my nephew toys, he enjoys playing with a water bottle half full. Granted he’s only two but you can make anything fun with children. Imagination is great and so much more useful when they have to go to school.

    I don’t see anything wrong with no junk food. I grew up with my parents on a tight budget and we didn’t get junk food often. As an adult I don’t crave junk food as much as other people I know. I credit my parents to their tight budget and smart thinking of not having junk food on our shopping list.

    We did the same thing, money in envelops, a strict shopping list, and careful planning. We even tithed and were always blessed with extra money somewhere else down the line.

    Thank you for posting this, it is humbling to see others who truly are in need versus those who have plenty but don’t see it.

    • Crystal Brothers says

      Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences! I love hearing from others like you, who are like-minded in this :)

  28. says

    I totally agree with you and what you said about teaching our children how to be content regardless of our circumstances or material possessions! Thank you for the great reminder today!

  29. says

    Yes, yes, and yes! We are choosing to live a very frugal life right now, living in a tiny one-bedroom apartment (with one kid and another on the way!) and sometimes I feel bad that my daughter doesn’t have all the “stuff” that so many of her friends have, but then I remember the “stuff” that she does have: love, caring parents who discipline her and teach her the truth of the gospel from an early age, family time, imagination, etc. etc. that are so much more important than that other “stuff.”

  30. says

    Dear Crystal, Greetings! I am happy to have stumbled upon your blog. Correction –I did not stumble, it was divine appointment. My children are grown; but I was a single parent for more than twenty years. Fortunately, God blessed me with a creative disposition. I was always able to make something out of little and come out looking like we had lots. Our God is –Jehovah Jireh! My creativity took on a life of its own; I never had time to feel poor – only grateful, blessed, and at times incredibly tired. Thanks for sharing; there is lasting value in what you offer and I truly appreciate it. Much love, many blessings and God’s grace to you and yours.

    • Crystal Brothers says

      I love this! Yes, all it takes is a bit of creativity and a disposition to appreciate the blessings the Lord has given us.

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