In September of last year, I heard Lara Casey speak at The Influence Conference in Indianapolis. You can learn more about Lara's challenge here as well as Nancy Ray's challenge. I was intrigued, even told a friend that I think sometimes I shop to buy approval of others. But then I quickly put this idea on a back burner. I didn't really want to give up shopping. Was I crazy?
When speaking to friends about the idea of a contentment challenge, it felt like a confession. I shop. A lot. I shop with emotions, late at night and in abundance. My shopping is usually an outlet at the end of a rough day or worse, out of boredom. Deep analysis isn't needed to evaluate the situation nor do I think that I am alone in this habit of spending. As December rolled around, with the encouragement of my friend Lena, I began talking to friends and family about this challenge. My goal was to understand finances better, have open and sound communications with Mark about money, and most importantly, turn to scripture instead of spending in times of weakness.
Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. -- 1 Timothy 6:6-10
I nearly finished writing this post during my blogging hiatus in January. But things changed. The absence of shopping (and browsing) gave room for growth and change, and my world got flipped a bit. God isn't just teaching me how to be a better steward of my finances. God is teaching me about my heart. He is showing me areas of weakness, tendencies towards anger. I was prepared to control what I was going to be learning this year and in six short weeks have been reminded that I am not in control.
As the challenge continues throughout the year, I will be sharing what I am learning, what God is teaching me and how this is working practically. For now, here are some details, written out mostly for accountability...and so I don't try to wiggle my way out of this.
The Guidelines (modified from Nancy’s and Lara's):
- Prepare your heart, organize your closet, and make any necessary purchases that you might need during these months or plan for them. This turned into me restocking my underwear drawer (much needed post-pregnancy!) and getting rid of a lot of clothes, a process that began last summer. It was important for me to see what I had in my closet, and know that I had options that fit and worked well for me. I tried on most of my clothes and if it wasn't right on the first try, I put it in a pile to consign. Getting rid of clothes has been a huge step towards buying less.
- Make a list of what you will purchase. I did this in conversation with Mark, we will still buy the blurb books of our year, I will continue to do the Costco shopping, but stick to the perimeter of the store and my list, other household needs or business needs will be purchased in unison. This sin't about me checking in or getting approval from Mark, but having conversations about want vs. need, an important skill for me to learn. I won't be buying clothes for the boys -- I have stock piles to last us years (see notes on shopping above!) but as needs come up, this will be another conversation with Mark. Food, items for basic living and experiences are permissible and will still be primarily purchased by me.
- Unsubscribe from monthly programs. I love mail almost as much as shopping, so I spent December unsubscribing from monthly box clubs.
- Focus on minimizing and simplifying. I want to use this time to assess what we have and continually look to how we might be able to sell or give stuff away. Nancy stresses the importance of actively pursuing something -- since my challenge is for the whole year, I will dive more into what these areas are in my monthly goals.
- Finally, I love what Lara has to say here: "Gifts are okay! Remember the heart of this. It’s not about rules. If someone gives you a new dress or piece of decor during that time, receive it graciously. If you need to buy someone else a gift, by all means, do so. The point is to learn more of ourselves and the Lord. Necessities are okay! If you lose your glasses, buy a new pair. Just don’t start justifying new purchases for items that you already have. (“I really NEED this bathing suit, even though there are 8 in my closet already.”) Actively pursue something good that helps to replace your tendency to buy stuff as a source of comfort. Something that points you back to what matters most."