I read an article the other day on CBSNews.com about children who were living out of their cars, or out of motels, because their families lost their homes and jobs. It tore my heart apart. In a county in Florida, some children were interviewed and asked how many of them went to bed hungry in the past week or so... I think 73% of them raised their hands (I can't find the article now so I can't quote exact figures or link the article... but the thoughts invoked by the article have stayed with me).Children should not have to go hungry. I have a LOT of opinions about different things. Many people may disagree with me, and they have the right to. Hopefully respectfully. For example, it is easy for me to make judgment about the obesity epidemic in our society, and how we eat processed, chemical laden food, and fast food because we are a gluttonous society and are losing the skills usually passed from one generation to the next, in learning to cook from scratch. I DO agree that parents who feed their children MSG, aspartame, and a host of other chemicals are setting them up for chronic illness, mental and emotional issues, and obesity/diabetes. So when I see the types of foods that are usually handed out at food shelves, or the type of food that is cheap enough for "poor" folks to purchase, I shake my head. I am generalizing here. Because I see this as a societal issue, and one that doesn't just touch the lower income families. But, it is less prevalent in higher income families who are more educated and can afford organic or healthier food choices. This is a fact, unfortunately, not just my opinion.I am also one to avoid going to the doctor's unless it is something that I am very worried about. (i.e. gallbladder attack?), but not for a cold that won't seem to go away. I am anti-medication/drugs, and don't want to be prescribed antibiotics unless it is an emergency. It disturbs me to hear others head to the doctor because their child has had the sniffles for 2 days. And then they get antibiotics for a virus (I do have to say there are some cases where a viral infection triggers a bacterial infection, but that is NOT the norm). Why not eat HEALTHY food, take natural immune-boosting supplements, take colloidal silver (which attacks both viruses AND bacteria, AND other pathogens). Or a natural supplement like oil of oregano that is especially good against viruses. That is what I do, since all the stress in my life has been causing me to get a few colds a year vs. the one I used to get. Stress, on the other hand, is not something I am good at talking about dealing with effectively, because obviously I don't know how!! (relaxation, meditation, doing less, well, those just don't seem to exist in my world!! Someday maybe?)Now, back to the article I originally mentioned. And back to my opinions. This is hindsight, of course, these people can't go back and change things now, but hopefully we all can learn. I just want to talk about some things that have me thinking, and occasionally get me angry (which is my own issue... for example, those banks that triggered the housing burst, well, I was responsible but I am paying for it... my properties are below water now! I never was late on any payments, and I never over-borrowed, why do I have to suffer as a result of others actions? I know, unrealistic, but sometimes those thoughts find their way into my mind).Most of us (and quite a few of those who helped get us into this economic mess we are in) are living beyond our means. What does that REALLY mean? It means, if you do not have enough money to have health insurance, car insurance, life insurance, etc, and don't have enough money to put any away for your retirement and your savings (even if it is a measly $50 a month), then you are driving a car that is too expensive, or you are living in a place that is too expensive. You are going out to eat too often, and buying needless items. I am honest here. Why is insurance so important? Because then if disaster or trauma strikes you, you and your family will be covered. Why are savings so important? so you will be ok if you lose your job. If you are living in a $1,500 apartment, well, I know for a fact in my area there is a nice 2-bedroom apartment that includes all utilities except electric, for only $825! Because I OWN it and rent it out for that amount. I rarely have a hard time finding renters. Well, that is an extra $650 (the difference in rent) right there to put towards savings, retirement, getting out of debt, insurance. Oh, well, it isn't fancy enough for you? That isn't the right attitude to have. It is that kind of attitude that helped get us in this mess. We WANT and WANT and WANT. Let's bare down and get back to the basics. Food. Clothing. Shelter. Once you have those, and pay all your bills, including insurance and savings (think of it as paying yourself), then you can spend on whatever you want, a new video game, a $100 pair of jeans (ack!), shoes, or whatever it is your greedy heart desires. Yes, I am being a bit mean here. But I am being REALISTIC. The 7 deadly sins include sloth, greed, envy, lust... think about it. I already mentioned not saving your money, but it bears mentioning again. Even if it is $50 a month, PAY YOURSELF! This is crucial. You need a safety net. An emergency fund. Times WILL be hard once in a while, but it will be easier to be happy and find joy during those hard times if you have that safety net. Granted, we all should have started this years ago, and are now paying the consequences of not having done it... so, START NOW. Forget the past, you can only change today and tomorrow. Which brings me to my next recommendation, which is to HAVE GOALS!! Do you want to be debt-free, living within your means with savings and retirement funds? It won't happen overnight, but imagine yourself with all those things. I bet you feel peace. Peace knowing you don't have creditors knocking on your door, or bills stuffed inside the mailbox. You don't have to worry about looking people in the eye, or especially looking at yourself in the mirror. The peace in your life will be worth millions. Priceless. All you have to do is start now. Start small. Find one bill to pay off, and move to the next. And so on. Start putting $10 away at a time, and increase it as you are able. Practice living with less, being less greedy and materialistic. Soon, your whole life will change, and I bet you will be able to find happiness much easier! And, if we hit another terrible recession, it won't hurt as bad because you will be prepared. THAT is what I want people to learn. To be prepared, so it doesn't hurt as bad. And then, materialism will slowly dwindle. Granted, retailers will have to find other things to entice us to spend our money on. But my bet is that they won't be lacking consumers willing to depart from their money... just don't be one of them! We boycotted the materialistic Christmas this year. We went to a Third World country and stayed in inexpensive hotels and resorts, away from all the greed that we have back here in the U.S. We saved all our frequent flier miles for 2 years, and got discounts on the hotels where we stayed. Sure, we had a much needed vacation, but thankfully we planned it well and it didn't cost us much at all. We didn't give each other presents. I read the Christmas story. It was beautiful. I don't like Easter for the materialism it is starting to represent, either. WHY do people other than Christians celebrate Easter? It makes no sense to me. Or Christmas, for that matter. I know why. GREED and MATERIALISM! PRESENTS!!I just want to sing songs of praise and glory that Jesus was resurrected! That is all! It is a very special day for me, Easter Sunday, because it reminds me that although I am a sinner, I can accept Christ, and because he died for me, I can be forgiven of my sins! What a wonderful message! And we have to desecrate that special message with our materialism. Lastly, when we do start living within our means, and saving our money, we will not be chained down. We won't feel like we have shackles dragging behind us, weighing us down, like a heavy burden on our shoulders. And, that gives us more time to help others out that are less fortunate! Wouldn't that be grand!? I have this burning desire inside to want to lighten another's burdens, to help them out when needed, and to commit random acts of selflessness, anonymously. Where am I in this whole process? Well, first, we are not living beyond our means. We are actually living below our means. Times have been tough for us, too, because our rental properties have caused a LOT of money drainage, so my goal this upcoming year is to try and replenish my depleted savings. My truck had probably about $4,000 worth of various work done on it in the past year. I had 3 surgeries and had to pay $2500 of my deductible (which I have to say is an extremely fair deal, I am not complaining about that at all). And, I still need to pay off one credit card that I put my schooling on. My goal is to have that paid off this year, by December! So I am in the middle of this process. It does take a while, and sometimes there are setbacks. But if you start now, soon you, too, can be living within your means. And hopefully someone will listen so that 12 years down the road if we have another bad recession, they won't be homeless and their kids won't have to go to bed hungry. I wish I could feed all those children, and give them homes, and give their parents jobs, and make it so they don't have to worry about the instability in their lives, and that they can just focus on being kids. I wish and I wish. (I want to mention that I seemed to be pushing insurance companies pretty hard... insurance is super important, but I have to say I am not affiliated with any insurance company. I get my health, AD&D, LTD and STD insurance through work, and my other insurance through USAA, which I absolutely love (homeowners, auto, life, etc). I have my meager retirement fund through both work, and also USAA... I am still young so I have a ways to go, but I do contribute a small amount each paycheck! When I can afford more, I will do so. But even a small amount gets me into the habit of saving) TRY IT!!Good luck!