My little girl loves buying new things. It doesn’t matter if it is cheap or expensive, large or small. As long as it is something new, she wants it.
She’ll beg me for a trinket at the check-out. She will act as if this is the most important toy of her life. As soon as we get it home, she throws it in the toybox and never looks at it again. I have literally given things away that she never opened.
Who hasn’t felt that twinge of jealousy when you see someone with a brand new (car, dress, pair of shoes . . . fill in the blank) that makes us look at our old faithful, worn-out item and become discontent? That feeling is what the Bible calls “coveting,” and it often gets us into big trouble (Exodus 20:17). Perhaps this is why the average American household is $137,000 in debt even when the average household income is around $59,000.
Because we have been called to be good stewards with the resources God has given us (Luke 12:42-44), it’s wise to suppress the urge to spend. Splurging too often not only puts you in jeopardy of debt, it also cuts down on the amount that you are able to give to others.
As Dave Ramsey, author of the Total Money Makeover, says, “Giving liberates the soul of the giver. You never walk away feeling badly. Whether through a tithe, charitable contribution, or gift to a friend in need, give away at least some of your money. Not only does it generate good feelings, but it generates contentment.” Controlling spending is what gives us the ability to enjoy this kind of freedom.
So how do we deal with those powerful urges to shop, especially when it seems like it’s the only relief from the daily grind or the only reward for a houseful of screaming children? Here are some ideas to help satisfy those desires without compromising the bank account.
Fashion is an ever-changing monster. Just when you catch up with the latest fashions, they change again. But if you look carefully, most fashion changes are subtle and often take little more than a different style of layering or accessorizing.
Look in magazines and catalogs (often sent free through the mail) to get new ideas on how to rematch clothing you already own. I have found that versatile clothing, such as white button-up shirts and sweaters and jackets can be worn in a variety of ways. In the same way, look for new ideas on how to wear jewelry, scarves, and shoes that can change your look.
This way, even though you’re not buying anything, you can still feel the excitement of having new outfits to wear for a new season.
Repairing worn items
A friend of mine had finally paid off her car, but started feeling jealous when several close acquaintances started driving new cars. Realizing that her dissatisfaction could nag her back into debt, she wisely decided to make a few small repairs and cosmetic changes to make her car appear more “new.” Within a couple of months she replaced a torn gearshift sleeve and a broken window handle. Then she had the inside and outside professionally detailed.
When my friend was finished she had something she could be proud of, almost like a new car. By spending a couple hundred dollars, she was able to stay out of debt and make an investment that kept her from spending several thousand more.
What items around your house have you been looking to replace because of a worn or tired look? Can it be painted? Fixed? Used for some other purpose? Before spending too much to replace an item, first check to see if there is some way to refurbish it.
I often look around my house and just feel tired of the way it looks. Most people feel this way from time to time, some more often than others. I once had a roommate who liked to redecorate the house every three months with each new season.
The problem is that redecorating can be expensive, especially if you already tend to shop too much. There are some tricks to change the look of a house that don’t cost much. You just have to be willing to use a little elbow grease.
Rearrange furniture and decorations. Take a fresh look at your house and think creatively about rearrangements. Ask a friend over to look at it with you to get varied opinions.
Pull out stored items. If you’re like me, you have a lot of decorations, books, and knick-knacks stored in boxes. Pull them out and see if there is anything that you would like to decorate with. This is another time when catalogs come in handy. Look through the pages for new ideas on how to use the things you already have.
Repaint the rooms. Sometimes a new layer of paint is all a room needs for a brand-new look. This takes some work, but the cost is very low, and the emotional payoff is high.
Replace artwork. Look for posters or cheap prints that can be framed if you must have something new.
You might try paintings or drawings of your own. If artwork intimidates you, focus on photos. Take out old photos and replace them all with new ones. Or take out some of your favorite photos and have them blown up to a larger size.
Shop at garage sales, flea markets, and consignment shops. As the old saying goes, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” When you just need to scratch that itch for something new, garage sales, flea markets, and consignment shops are a fun way to go treasure hunting.
Shopping to save
If you’re shopping just to satisfy the urge to spend, set a small budget that you can blow— and bring cash only. Leave the debit and credit cards at home.
If you’re shopping to save, only go out when you know what you’re looking for. I love to shop at garage sales, often tricking myself into thinking I’m saving money. But after spending $40 on things I would not otherwise have given a second look—including several unread books and a broken chair—my husband said, “I don’t think you really want to save money; you just want to get more stuff for the same amount.”
It’s true that “finding a deal” is worth it. But spending too much money on useless stuff at garage sales is just as wrong if it were spent on new things at the mall.
Also, when shopping at flea markets and consignment shops, know the price range of the products you are looking for. Many of these shops consider anything used an “antique” and charge inflated prices. So research any large items you are seeking. Also, never buy anything on a whim because most consignment shops and flea markets have a “no return” policy.
It’s worth it
These ideas will never truly fulfill that desire for something new, but controlling the urge to splurge is both monetarily and spiritually advantageous. Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).
As you put these small actions into practice, you’ll exercise better control over your spending habits and become less dependent on the momentary satisfaction of new things. As a result, you’ll be a better steward of the resources God has given you and perhaps even see Him work through you financially in ways you’ve never experienced before.
- Real Simple magazine, October 2005 edition, “How Do I Begin?” by Elizabeth Kricfalusi. p. 53.
Copyright © 2018 Sabrina McDonald.