WORDS BY KAYLEE SANDVIL
I didn’t get my first job until I was a freshman in college. Before then, my parents encouraged me to put my efforts into academics and athletics, so “managing” my spending meant asking them for money. The catch is that I grew up in Small Town, USA where Walmart was 20 minutes down the interstate and the closest “shopping city” was two hours away.
In college I would always be scraping the bottom of my savings barrel, and I soon learned why. The city’s atmosphere was affluent, I had my first real job, and Target was five minutes away from my dorm. Enough said, right? Not only did I have precious little experience in how to spend money well, but I didn’t have a way to manage myself without my parents. I didn’t have any shopping guardrails. Since no accountability meant no money in the bank, I resolved to take inventory of my spending habits and pursue change. These are the principles I learned in that season of my life and still employ today as a means of spending wisely.
As Christians, we can often create a divide between the sacred and the secular, thinking that God does not want to be deeply involved in the details of our day. Being a good steward of our resources means even our grocery shopping is an opportunity for worship! The number one money-saving tool I have is prayer. This discipline came from John Wesley’s 22 Questions, one of which is, “Do I pray about the money I spend?”* As I walk and shop, I am constantly asking God for discernment and self-control. Whether I’m making meat selections at the local deli, sizing online orders, or Christmas shopping for my family, he truly gives me guidance, confidence, and peace in my purchases.
*I would highly recommend this resource, but be warned–it is super convicting!
Wait two weeks.
I was convinced that a pair of Birkenstocks would significantly increase my quality of life. I went into the store for those shoes and was determined to walk out with them–even if it meant I walked out $125 poorer. When I sent my dad a picture of the shoes, he called back to say he didn’t like the style and wondered if I would like them after buying them. He challenged me to put them back on the shelf and, if I truly could not live without them, to come back in two weeks. Not only did I forget about those shoes within two days, but I have never owned a pair of Birkenstocks. Take my (Dad’s) advice: put it down and wait two weeks.
Call Dad (or Mom).
As illustrated above, sometimes we need the wisdom and perspective of older generations to help us say “no.” Be encouraged that if the person on the phone lovingly challenges you, he or she is not looking to withhold good from you. Parents and mentors can offer real-time insight on major and minor buys based on experience and perspective you may not have. This is a win-win for all involved, as it potentially saves you money while enabling you to honor your father and mother.
Walk out of the store without buying anything.
No shame, guilt, or regret can stick to you when you walk out of a store confidently empty-handed. The kiosk that doesn’t have the snack you wanted, the store that doesn’t carry the product you were looking for, the restaurant that stopped serving breakfast when you are craving pancakes–whatever the situation is, it is okay to give a polite “no, thank you.” There will always be a nagging voice telling you to buy something. This is not the voice of reason but of consumerism and cultural conditioning. It is okay to walk out of this store without buying anything.
Do you want it because you want it or because it’s $_____?
Picture five-year-old me standing in a beach shop in Maine when my grandmother asked me this question. In my hands, I held a netted bag of sea shells and a $5 bill. My grandma and I were in a standoff; she knew I could find similar shells on the beach for free, and I knew I wanted to make my very own purchase. I gained my first taste at buyer's remorse and an important lesson in saying “no” to the pressure of buying just to buy.
Other little tricks and tips:
- Start chewing a piece of gum as you walk into a store you often spend too much time in. If you are there to peruse, exit the store when the gum runs out of flavor.
- Turn off your radio for 1-3 minutes on your way to the store. This sobers you up, so to speak, from mindlessness and absent thinking. If you are humming away to a feel-good tune, you may spend more in that happy-go-lucky mindset. If the song has melancholy lyrics, you may shop out of hopelessness. Silence also clears a space for prayer.
- Stick. To. The. List. Simple, classic, obvious. Why do we run over this rule and forfeit our grocery store success?
- Walk around with it. If you find something to buy that you are unsure about, walk around the store to think through the purchase. Ask yourself, “Is this a need or a want? Would I actually use it? Am I content with the price?”
- Bring a friend. Obviously this offers accountability, but this is also about relationships. If you don’t have time to catch up with a girlfriend, try synchronizing your shopping days and chat as you stroll through the aisles. Bonus points if she likes to coupon!
At the end of the day, stewardship requires intentionality. This pursuit will take prayer, counsel, and a renewing of our minds–all things that bring peace to our bank accounts and glory to God. Let’s be people who ask God to bring order out of chaos and lead us in our financial decisions.