Excessive spending and growing debt prompted President Obama to ask Americans to live within their means, and last month as he signed a bill that makes it tougher for credit-card issuers to raise fees and interest rates.

Many have seen this as a call to cut back on wants and focus on needs in an effort to resolve financial problems. Today bankruptcies, house foreclosures and job losses have hit historic highs nationwide.

Tent cities are springing up in every state, occupied by folks just like the family next door. Through no fault of their own, they have lost their jobs and then their homes. In some cases, crushing debt leads to tragedy. I am reminded of the news story about a dad in Middletown, Md., who had about $460,000 in mortgage and credit-card debt. In April, he killed his family, then committed suicide. In one of several suicide notes, he made reference to his financial difficulties and depression.

Overspending and borrowing huge sums has made consumers slaves of interest payments. Eliminating debt is a bitter pill but good medicine. The charging of high interest rates, known as “usury” in the Abrahamic faiths, is prohibited in Islam.

Muslims have never been allowed to benefit from or to pay interest. God says in the Quran:

“The usury that is practiced to increase some people’s wealth does not gain anything at God. But if people give to charity, seeking God’s pleasure, these are the ones who receive their reward many fold.” Ar-Rum 30:39

Money comes without instructions, so prioritizing our spending is worth some daily reflection. In the current recession, living within our means has become more important than ever. But it doesn’t have to mean giving up things that make life pleasant and fulfilling.

My parents’ generation worked hard and prospered while enjoying a lifestyle focused on saving and living simply. They used to tell me, “a simple life is a good life; but only if you can enjoy it.” I understand the relevance of those words more today.

Being more frugal allows people to opt out of a high-stress lifestyle and leads ultimately to contentment, depth of experience and even joy. Frugality doesn’t mean poverty; it means enjoying what’s really important in life while getting a good value for the things you need. (More)


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