As I had mentioned before, we started The Seven Experiment in a small group after we finished up Financial Peace. So I was pretty sure this whole “spending fast” would be easy, since we had already curbed a lot of our spending habits in FPU. Hahahaha. I’m absolutely sure that God giggled at that thought.
Many of the issues of consumption that we will talk about today we have discussed in other chapters. We’ve set the stage to understand that the US as a whole consumes an inordinate amount of stuff, and thus SPENDS an inordinate amount as well.
“The real issues is not consumption itself but its patterns and effects. Inequalities in consumption are stark. Globally, the 20% of the world’s people in the highest-income countries account for 86% of total private consumption expenditures- the poorest 20% a minuscule 1.3%.”
“If hundreds and thousands and then millions of us challenged the paradigm, saying no for every two times we say yes, acknowledging the power of our consumer dollar- to either battle inequality or reinforce it- then our generation could turn the ship around.”
What is your biggest excuse for spending? For that new purse, or that shirt on sale?
I mean really, it’s not a big deal right? You have the money, you worked hard for it, you want it- you deserve it. Or how about “other people spend way more.”
That’s where we fell. Here we had work out this budget, telling each dollar where to go. We were giving generously beyond tithing, saving reasonably, and spending as necessary, right? We were pretty comfortable.
But as I began to look at the sheer amount of money were were actually spending- even on necessities, I couldn’t stomach it.
Yes, that monthly grocery allotment fit easily in our budget, but did it NEED to be that high? Could I reduce it more? Free up more money? Yes we could afford to eat out twice a week, but did we need to do that? Or could that money be used elsewhere?
There is a lot that we can AFFORD. But that doesn’t mean that’s where our money should go. So where should it go? We are back to the question of saving vs giving. What does the bible call us to DO with these financial resources we are gifted with?
Check out Luke 12:13-21. Jesus is discussing an inheritance with two brothers, who both have rightful claims. But he rebukes them for the focus on storing and saving. He talks to them about the heart of the matter, their attitudes on “rightful entitlement.”
Yes, we worked for this money, we earned it, but it ISN’T ours. Saving within reason is acceptable, but apparently there is a limit to what we can store for our future ease and merriment. Jen shares that she found some clues that Jesus shared that help you evaluate your own attitude towards savings:
Greed, Relational distress, Abundance, Excessive wealth, Upsizing, Hoarding, Selfishness, Spiritual Poverty, Striving toward ease and merriment.
If saving falls under these categories, then it might be time to evaluate our ultimate goals as stewards of His wealth.
Now let’s look back at giving. Specifically at tithing.
For YEARS I pretty much thought that a tithe was basically the extent of my required Christian giving. I mean I tithe and the church distributes it as necessary. Perhaps I give a bit here and there as needed, but as long as I tithe that 10% (net or gross? my accountant mother loves that question, haha!), then I’m good.
Go on and read Luke 11:37-45.
“I’m starting to wonder if Jesus actually meant that. Was He serious about sanctification through extreme generosity? Is He really advocating giving our goods to those without? I don’t know if He knows this, but this would mean completely retooling the way we live and spend. News flash, Jesus: Almost zero people I know live like this. I feel safer with the prosperity group think than with Jesus’ ridiculous plan. The justification of the Christian community is happy to oblige me.”
I don’t know about you, but this whole santification thing, this whole becoming a deeper, more committed, always growing follower of Christ; it’s pretty much my life goal. I mean right?
And GENEROUS GIVING, that’s a way to get there?
Well of course, it makes sense. Of course generous, sacrificial, radical giving is sanctifying. How did I miss this before? How did we, the church, miss this?
“What if we are actually called to a radical life? What is Jesus knew our Christian culture would design a lovely life template complete with all the privileges and exemptions we want, but even with that widespread approval, He still expected radical simplicity, radical generosity, radical obedience from those with ears to hear, eyes to see?”
Jen says there are two easy shifts to reducing our spending: non-consumption- simply just NOT buying as much, and redirecting the money saved into other needs.
Non-consumption is easy, and so, so hard. It’s so hard to say NO, I may be eligible for cheap phone upgrade but I don’t NEED it. That whole saying, “Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without!” Yeah ok. I can get on board with that.
It doesn’t mean that you can’t ever buy something just.because.you.want.it. But it does mean that every one of those choices to buy “wants” and not “needs” should be weighed carefully, and the opportunity cost considered.
And now the whole redirecting our savings- so if we aren’t spending as much, then what do we do with all this extra money- and believe me, start telling yourself no as often as you say yes and you will find heaps of money hanging around. Even if you THINK you live paycheck to paycheck, chances are if you really looked close, there is a lot of discretionary spending going on there.
Jen challenges us to live on 75% of our income, or even 50% and then give the rest away. OH MY.
Ok, seriously, that would be radical. But just think of what you could DO!!
“While it is easy to become paralyzed by the world’s suffering and inequalities created by corruption and greed, we actually hold immense power for change, simply by virtue of our wealth and economic independent. Because we decide where our dollars go. Never has so much wealth been so concentrated; our prosperity is unprecedented. If enough of us decided to share, we would unleash a torrent of justice to sweep away disparity, poverty, and hopelessness.”
For her fast, Jen and her family only spent in 7 places for the whole MONTH. The Sunset Valley Farmer’s Market, HEB gas station (flex fuel), Online bill pay, Kid’s school, Limited Travel Fund, Emergency Medical, and Target. She noted that she didn’t use the emergency medical fund at all, only used a bit while traveling for speaking arrangements, and only went to Target once the whole month, and for under $50.
She also included a “giving clause” that meant that any charitable giving continued as normal.
Since our fast was just a week, we opted to not spend at all for the whole week. Which honestly, is kinda cheating. It meant I made sure to make a grocery run the day before the week started and we just didn’t eat out that week.
Yeah, it was kinda lame. We have a few we would like to do again someday, for a whole month, and this is one of them. I think it would hurt more that way, which is kinda the point.
But it did make a difference in our spending habits long term.
Like I mentioned before, our grocery budget was well within our means and fit our zero based budget, but after paying closer attention, it was still out of control. Over the span of two months we cut it down by 37%. Our eating out budget we cut by half! And our discretionary “pocket money” as we call it went down by nearly 40%. The majority of those budget cuts went into charitable giving, although some did go into savings. (As next month we officially moved onto baby step #5, yipee! although we label it personal development funding as we don’t consider college necessary for most people- that’s a whole other post though!)
Ultimately, I would love to get to a point where live on 75% of our income, or less, and that’s something we are praying over.
Although the spending fast wasn’t a huge eye opener for us, it was a strong confirmation of where God had been moving us, and that the tensions He was creating in us had reasons and goals.
What does your banking statement say about your heart priorities? What do you want it to say?