We just got rid of our TV.

I’m not sure it will completely stop us from spending time watching shows, but it will make it considerably less convenient to do so, which, I hope, points us in the right direction.

Let me explain how we got here. It started long before children; we learned how to spend. Not money, but time. We spent it lavishly. We threw expensive parties for ourselves in the form of binge-watching Netflix, playing computer and board games, cooking extravagantly, amusing ourselves and cavorting with anyone else who was “fun.”

We didn’t pinch our proverbial pennies. We spent and spent and spent. Sometimes it was on worthwhile things: family reunions, community service, church, family trips, purposeful date nights where we worked to learn each other and prayer. But more often than not, we were interested in enjoying ourselves. We didn’t count the cost of our time.

Then came children, three in a row to start. We were happy, but it was soon obvious that things weren’t adding up. We kept trying to spend, but found there was not enough in our pockets. We borrowed, I’m sorry to say, from these precious little people we had been blessed with.

We tried to keep up the lifestyle of lavish spending we had known for years, but gradually, as more children came, we found we had to tighten our belts and admit that we had been living beyond our means. We had to start budgeting our time.

I won’t lie — it was painful. A lot. Our marriage has seen the greatest strain from this single element of overspending time. It eroded our trust in each other and made us anxiously fear that we would not be provided for. These issues, we soon realized, reflected a poorly prioritized spiritual investment of time. They forced us to face our selfishness and make a choice: spend time on fun things, or spend time on worthwhile things.

They aren’t mutually exclusive, necessarily. But with time, unlike money, the return on investment is always clear if you’re paying attention. When my babies were very small, I thought I could get away with spending the same amount of time watching “Bones” or “Downton Abbey” every day as I had before I was a mother. But my mind stewed in content I absorbed instead of the wee ounces of progress the little ones made in their development — moments which I should have been mentally and emotionally present to enjoy.

So, suddenly we found ourselves in debt. Time debt. With money, as guru Dave Ramsey says, you have to put first things first: a roof over your head, electricity, water, and food. With time, I’ve found the same concept holds: sleep, family, work, and — in our case — faith.

We are finally in a season of remembering who we are, reflecting on who we want to become, and contemplating how to best run our family. Planning for retirement, so to speak.

In the Seven Habits books, we learn that those who succeed are those who “begin with the end in mind.” This applies not only to days or projects or financial investments, but to our lifetime.

It is a great reminder that time is a precious commodity. How we invest it directly correlates to the dividends we can expect once we’ve run out of it.

The TV was only the beginning. Soon a family altar (called a home enthronement) will replace the entertainment center as the focal point and heart of our home, and we will make a specific spending plan for our time — family time, individual time, relationship time, school time and work time. I’m so excited!

It’s Week One of this new phase of life, and already I feel the weight of debt lifting off my shoulders.

Adrienne Tratz is a full-time Catholic homeschooling mom to four vivacious daughters.

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