How many places do you use your credit card? Jen Hatmaker looked at her family’s bills from a recent month and saw that they had used their credit card in 66 different locations, not counting repeat purchases.
Here on vacation in Virginia today, I was in the car watching strip malls go by out my window. Chick-Fil-A… Michaels… a grocery store… Starbucks… CVS… a cute plant nursery having a sale on all their plants… a thrift store… Barnes & Noble… Target… one after another these glitzy names appeared on signs, lulling me in to browse, eat, enjoy, and spend.
Suddenly using my credit card in 66 different places in a month didn’t seem that hard to do!
For the month of cutting down spending, Jen decided that her family would only shop in 7 different stores (including gas, groceries, online bills, and for any medical emergencies.) This chapter was a lot of fun to read, especially as her friends got creative with bringing her food or taking her out for meals. In lieu of Starbucks and Chipotle, Jen also began to invite people into her own home for coffee dates, meetings over lunch, and family get-togethers. She said she loved the impact on her friendships and her humility as she opened her home and let her friends see her mess, her real life, and shared what she had with them.
I loved this chapter for two reasons. The first was that it inspired me to just say no to spending, a habit that Elliott and I have tried to cultivate together. He’s better at this than me… surprise! I do enjoy shopping; I love to find a good deal; I love new, pretty things. I have also found that reading magazines like Martha Stewart Living with home decorating suggestions or perusing blogs like Cup of Jo with beautifully curated gift lists only make it harder to say “no” sometimes.
But still, in real life, both Elliott and I do try to spend only after careful consideration. I repair the holes in his socks before he buys new ones, our children wear almost entirely thrift and second-hand, and my designer jeans are hand-me-downs from my sister-in-law’s roommate. (Wow, lots of hyphens in that sentence.) Also, outside of routine purchases, we try to discuss any spending together before we lay down our cash.
The other reason I loved this chapter is because it made me grateful that I live overseas. Life is simpler in semi-rural Sicily, far away from the cornucopia of retail in the States. There just aren’t as many places to spend your money.
For example: eating out. It’s harder to do in Sicily than in Virginia. In our little town in Sicily, there are no fast food joints (unless you count pastries and gelato, which we sometimes do). Very few places offer take-out. Coffee is rarely served “to go”; Italians drink their espressos standing up at the coffee bar. In our town, only one kind of ethnic food is available. (Italian, in case you couldn’t guess.) I find that shopping in another language and with different brands is a deterrent to my spending as well.
Contrast this to visiting the States, where I couldn’t wait to buy and eat Pizza Hut, Chick-Fil-A, Take It Away, and sushi!
Jen found that people offered these reasons when they wanted to spend their money:
- It’s no big deal.
- I can afford this.
- I’ve worked hard for my money, so I can spend it how I want.
- I want this, back off.
- I deserve this.
- Other people spend way more.
- I still have money in the bank.
- What’s the big deal?
Do any of these reasons sound familiar to you as you admire at a pair of shoes on sale or consider treating yourself to a milkshake? (Note: I did both these things in the past few days! And gave in to both of them, too! I’m a work in progress here.)
As I look back over my life, I am amazed by how much money has come and gone through my fingers. From my weekly allowance as a child to my nurse’s salary to our shared income now, a lot of money has been given to me and spent by me.
Where has that money gone? So much of it has been frittered away rather than thoughtfully stewarded and budgeted towards real needs… both of my own and of others. After reading this chapter of the book, I am more motivated to keep a careful account of our money, to say “no” to unnecessary or vain spending, to budget for things of quality and beauty that will last, to reevaluate our giving and tithing, and to:
Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,
yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
What about you? Does your family make a habit of saying “no” to spending, or would you like to make this a habit in your life? Do you live overseas? Does this make spending less money easier or harder for you?