All of you who are thirsty, come to the water! Whoever has no money, come, buy food and eat! Without money, at no cost, buy wine and milk! Why spend money for what isn’t food, and your earnings for what doesn’t satisfy? Listen carefully to me and eat what is good; enjoy the richest of feasts. – Isaiah 55:1-2 (CEB)
This is Money week for 7. Given personal events over the last few days, I have not thought about this at all. Our charge is to spend money in only 7 places. I realized Sunday night, as we were heading out for something to eat, that this week may be a failure before it even begins.
I don’t spend money in a lot of places. First of all, I don’t like to shop. If I’m traveling, I do like to check out cute stores, but generally God has healed me of this appetite. This was something I prayed for when I first recommitted to my faith. I have largely “down-sized” from the more expensive stores and products where I used to shop. I cut my boys’ hair and only get mine cut every 12 weeks. A decade ago I stopped going out for lunch (which was the expected norm where I worked). Knowing Target is a black-hole, we’ve switched to “Subscribe and Save” from Amazon for regularly used household items (vitamins, razor blades, toilet paper, etc.). I shop at Target maybe a dozen times a year now. We don’t tithe, but we’re working towards it. It takes time to unwind from the trappings of an upper-middle class lifestyle.
This week my focus will be on mindfulness. In each area, this has been one of the greatest gifts of 7. Money week begins.
As the plate is passed in worship, I pass it along without adding anything. We give electronically. As a CPA, I understand cash flow, and electronic giving helps the church plan better. As a disciple, I did struggle with not writing out that check each month. But then I thought about first fruits: we save automatically out of our paycheck each month. Why not also make church one of the first payments each month? I used to always write our check the first Sunday of the month because it was communion Sunday. I feel like I am still participating in the same way.
I think the challenge can be the additional giving. It’s easy to not think about the plate because we give electronically. However, each Sunday we are called to respond to the Word proclaimed. With God, we don’t ever just “give at the office.” For the sake of my heart, it is probably important to mindful of the plate passing and whether I am called to additional giving in that moment in response to the Word. We also give monthly to other Christian organizations. The automated saving we do is out of sight, out of mind. My offering should not be that way. If it is, then there isn’t really any generosity or sacrifice involved.
As I mentioned above, we had a light dinner out on Sunday night. I struggled with whether I should but the kibosh on this or not. Honestly, I decided “no” because I didn’t have the emotional energy to keep us home or cook something. Awareness: I spend money when I’m tired.
Today was fairly benign. The only money I spent was on my spiritual director, whom I meet with once a month. It may be rationalization, but I don’t see this as an expenditure. Rather, it is an important part of maintaining my spiritual growth, humility, sanity, honesty.
Technically, I also spent money at yoga. I buy an annual pass, so while I didn’t actually hand over any cash, I did consume something. My spiritual director is more important, if I had to make a choice, but yoga has a lot of benefits for me as well. Yoga isn’t spiritual for me, but it has made me more mindful of my body and the practice of doing things that are difficult and uncomfortable has improved me as a person and as a pastor.
Today’s expenditures were limited to a prescription for my allergies and two cosmetic items (buy one, get one 50% off and they were both on my list). I could have put the cosmetics off until next week, but they were on sale this week – and I had enough points to almost cover the cosmetics. I decided making an extra trip and not getting them on sale outweighed Money week. Dave, on the other hand, made some more expensive purchases for my vertical garden (and some the day before). During construction, we found we needed a couple more 2×4’s and I still hadn’t bought the boxes. I had planned to make these purchases the week before, so they don’t count, right?
Probably a fail today. I’m training for two half marathons in May and needed to get out for a long run. The weather has been terrible and my running partner hasn’t been available, so it’s been four days. Dave knows I’ve been struggling to get out, so he suggested I run to the bagel store and meet him and my parents there for breakfast. I did bring my own butter – partially to save money ($1 for butter on a bagel?!), but also because they use half a stick of butter. Awareness: I justify going out if (1) I run / bike there and (2) we have company.
After breakfast, we stopped at the store for a last-minute item my Dad needed for his trip. I bought two candles. Justification: I have burned through my stock and these were on sale…and I love candles. This was clearly an unnecessary purchase (ever) and one I totally could have waited on. I also bought some yarn today. I have four (yes, four) prayer shawls going right now and I needed a couple skeins of yarn to finish them. I guess it’s a fail for buying yarn, but a win for only purchasing the five skeins that were on my list. I was tempted to pick something else up (because it’s cute, because it’s on sale), so walking out of the craft store with exactly what I needed helps me feel a little better about the candles. But then I remembered:
I pay someone to clean my house.
I started this last year when I began to work because it was too much. The person who cleans our house is self-employed (and employs one other person). I still need to do maintenance cleaning in the in-between week, but having the house generally clean has been amazing. It has also decreased the stress on me vs. the family on weekends since we have different ideas of “clean.”
When I was no longer working, I decided not to stop having the house cleaned. My rationale for not stopping was that I would be working again and didn’t want to find someone else. My rationale for not having her reduce the number of times she comes was because this is her livelihood. Already an extravagance, it became more so when I wasn’t working – and completely over the top with Dave not working. Honestly, I’m embarrassed when she’s here and neither one of us has a job. (Update: Dave received an offer last week and should be back at work soon – thank you God!)
This is the biggest expenditure of my week and the one I struggle with the most. I don’t know if part of it is being a woman and feeling like I should be able to do it myself, or if it’s the understanding that this is a total luxury when there are people don’t have a house to live in. I make myself more comfortable with it because we are supporting a local individual financially; however, she would probably find another house if she wasn’t doing ours. I don’t like to let people know that someone cleans my house. It embarrasses me that I splurge on this luxury – especially as a pastor. Could I tithe if I gave this one up? Ouch. INSTEAD I simply do my best to ignore / hide it so that I can continue to indulge. God is going to have to speak loudly for me to give this one up.
Two trips to the grocery store in two days – but otherwise no spending days! Yesterday was Eldest’s birthday and he texted us from school what he wanted to eat. The choice to eat-in is definitely less expensive than eating out (especially if you’ve ever seen Eldest eat). Tonight I wanted to make risotto for dinner. I make good risotto – and I enjoy cooking it – so this always feels like a special dinner night. If we were to have had these two meals out, it would have been at least five times as expensive. Instead, we can stay in our comfy clothes and have a leisurely meal.
So what did I learn this week? Honestly, I didn’t put myself into Money week 100%. I did accomplish my secondary goal of increasing my awareness, but a week really isn’t a long enough for this. It’s pretty easy to put things off one week. It was easy not to buy any books – which is where I attempt zero self-control – because nothing came up this week (and a friend just gave me a dozen of them last week). I spent until Wednesday this week continuing to purge my house of items for our church rummage sale.
The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some have wandered away from the faith and have impaled themselves with a lot of pain because they made money their goal. – 1 Timothy 6:10 (CEB)
I’ve justified many of the ways I use my money using this verse. I tell myself that it’s OK to have money if I don’t love it. But I think it’s difficult to discern where this line is. Overall, I feel like I need to recalibrate after 7. I don’t see clothes the same way (and by the way, I am wearing the same clothes for the third day) and this spending will be forever changed – I hope. The unwinding of our suburban lifestyle needs to continue, and so I pray for wisdom and grace as I try to make permanent changes in my relationship with money.