Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls Podcast:
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As I start wrapping up my new book about Catholic minimalism, I have been seeing more and more articles pop up about the idea of owning less and being more intentional with our time and our money. You don’t need convincing about this. Most of us know we’re spending too much time on silly things and too much money on stuff we don’t need.
The tricky part is is knowing where to draw the line and what this all has to do with Christ.
I had a comment on Facebook lately that said, “So you just need Jesus to help get organized?”
When I read this, I laughed and thought, “Wow, it’d be nice if it were that simple!”
My friend was right to call out the absurdity of the simple idea that just by being Christians, we will somehow be given this magical power of budgeting and organizing. Instead, what loving Christ gives us access to is a special pair of Jesus glasses. These glasses are always with us and we have the choice to put them on or not.
We can put on our Jesus glasses and see the rude person at the grocery store as a beautiful soul that is worth of our love and kindness.
We can put on our Jesus glasses and stand in awe of a tiny flower growing in our yard as part of the amazing world God has created for us.
We can put on our Jesus glasses and suddenly see that all the things we thought we “needed” to buy at Costco won’t really bring us peace.
We can put on our Jesus glasses and realize that the mess in our garage preventing us from parking our cars in there is robbing us of our peace… the peace that Christ wants us to have.
The list goes on and on. Here’s the secret… the more we get to know Christ, the sharper the glasses become… the more we see the world as He sees the world.
When I am going through the store, or surfing Craigslist, or browsing Amazon, here are five questions I ask myself before purchasing something:
Will this bring glory to God?
This is a silly question to ask especially when I’m looking at something utilitarian like butter or a toilet bowl cleaner. But the truth is, taking care of my family and being a good steward of my home does bring glory to God. Most things pass this test, even a new pair of shoes I don’t really need. I could probably justify why having navy blue flats could be used to bring glory to God.
Things that don’t pass this test would be a trashy magazine, drugs, a skimpy outfit… anything that directly causes me to sin or might cause someone around me to sin.
Is it in my budget?
This question knocks a lot of things off the list. It’s the womp-womp question. A lot of things I see are fabulous, a great deal, and would be greatly enjoyed by me or my family but if it’s not in my budget, then it will hurt our financial situation overall. And we have big plans in life and we can’t work on them if we’re constantly spending our money on spontaneous purchases that rob us from having financial freedom in the future.
Obviously you need a budget to ask this question. If you don’t have one, that’s your homework this month!
How long will this item last?
Some items are meant to be consumed and don’t last long like food or renting a movie on Amazon Prime. A lot of items, however, we think are going to last much longer than they do. This is especially true of clothing, toys, and household items like furniture or decorations.
Be honest with yourself. If you’re buying a cheap kid’s outfit at Fred Meyer, do you really expect it to last through three of your children? How many clothes have you thrown away in the last year because of stains, tears, or something being out of style?
This is where it gets tricky. Often times I can’t afford a nicer, sturdier brand but at the same time, I don’t feel like I have the time to sift through consignment stores and garage sales to get deals on those good brands. I often find that I spend more time dealing with or rebuying cheap things than if I had saved up money to buy nicer things or spent the time digging through Craigslist for what I want.
Can I buy it later?
This has been my favorite question lately. I am finding that if I can be strong and say no right there on the spot, giving myself permission to buy it in the future, I often don’t want to buy it later. There’s something about standing in the store that makes us feel rushed. Even if we doubt we should purchase something, we think we’ll save time by getting it now. We’ll save ourselves a trip to the store later.
This is silly because we probably frequent this store often. We have a false sense of urgency or scarcity in that moment. Once we are removed from the temptation, it’s likely we won’t feel the strong need to purchase that thing.
When I’m online shopping, I utilize wish lists. I’ll put something on a wish list and leave it there for a few days or a few weeks. Some things really stick with me. They keep popping up in my mind and I do really want to buy them but a lot of things seem unnecessary later and I take them off my wish list.
How am I going to feel about buying this in two years?
Perhaps because I’m nearing the end of my pregnancy, I’ve gotten really nostalgic lately looking at old pictures and remembering the birth of my other three kids. We also have three birthdays coming up in July and so I’m giving present ideas to grandparents. What struck me as so amazing is that I hardly remember what we’ve given the kids in the last few years for their birthdays.
Some of the things I remember were exciting for a few days, then hardly used, and then quickly donated. Why did we buy these things in the first place? Some things we have gotten great use out of or provided a wonderful and unique experience for the kids! Not everything needs to be a solid wooden toy that lasts forever.
As I look back at most of my purchases, especially early on in my marriage, I made a lot of wasteful decisions in the name of boredom, wanting to impress others, soothing my boredom or thinking that somehow stuff would bring love or happiness.
Try to picture yourself two years from now. Are you proud of this purchase or was it a flash in the pan that you wish you had the self-control to avoid?
This is not a comprehensive list of all the questions that run through my head when I’m buying something but I think this is a hard hitting list that will help you to knock yourself out of a buying daze and seriously question whether this is a grounded decision.
One last note! We tend to co-sign our friends buying things they don’t need because it feels exciting and maybe we want to feel better about our own impulse spending.
“Oh that’s so cute!”
“I would buy it!”
“I couldn’t help myself, do it!”
“You only live once!”
“You deserve it!”
Stop doing this. Stop putting your friends in financial danger because it sounds good. Your friend may not have the money to buy this. Your friend might have been strong enough to say no if you hadn’t egged her on. We need to stop encouraging reckless and unchecked spending.
Even when we go shopping together, which can be a fun activity with a girlfriend, we don’t have to spend money on unplanned items. You’re much better off browsing and then spending $3 on some tea to enjoy your friend’s company.
Remember, always put your Jesus glasses on first and try to view this stuff and the world around you from Christ’s eyes. It’s amazing how quickly we can cut through the fluff of our society.
Our job is to care for souls. How are you caring for the souls in your life?