Before we start looking at ways to cut costs in our home and daily living, before we try to figure out some ways to save the dollar bills, we need to assess our heart condition when it comes to possessions and stuff.
"Why do I buy the things I buy?"
Of course, we have the purchases that are necessary to living ~ groceries, hygiene products, diapers, cleaning products, gas for your vehicle, etc., etc.
But what about the purchases that are not necessary? The fun purchases. The purchases we make when we feel like we need a little "pick-me-up?" The purchases we make because a friend has the same thing and we want it now?
As frugal as I have the potential to be, I still live within this body of flesh. And despite my bend toward frugal living, I have, at times in my married life, dealt with discontentment and a desire for more. And I have fulfilled that discontentment many times in the past by buying those things that I just thought I needed to have to make myself feel better or to make my life easier or more fulfilled.
So step number one in living a frugal life is to evaluate our heart condition towards spending.
Are we buying/purchasing/spending to fulfill a void? Because if we are, we are NEVER going to have lasting fulfillment from that purchase.
I have been there. I have done that. I have worn that t-shirt.
God has put that void into the heart of every human being, but He made it to be fulfilled only by Him. Other "things" may temporarily make us feel content, but before we know it we're thinking about the next thing we just have to have. Shopping bag fulfillment is never lasting.
I am absolutely not saying that we should never go out and make fun purchases. I would be a hypocrite if I did say that, because I like to buy books (which I honestly don't need) and I like to pick up new clothes occasionally or new decor for my home.
But if I'm constantly hopping online to shop or making frequent trips to the mall (even if the intention is just to window-shop), I may need to do a heart check.
So, my first challenge to you (and myself) is to look at our hearts. Why do we make unnecessary purchases? How often do we make unnecessary purchases? Are we compulsive shoppers who buy to fulfill a need or to boost our mood?
One thing I find helpful is to ask myself, "Am I still going to feel good about this purchase a month down the road? Am I buying this to make myself feel better? If I waited a couple of days, would this purchase still be really important to me?"
When you get down to the heart of it, spending less is more than clipping coupons or menu-planning. In order to make these other good habits work for us, we need to start by looking at the root of why we buy what we buy.
And as you may have already guessed, sometimes it's necessary to repeat these heart checks every now and then to keep our spending habits on track.
Because here's the naked truth: even if we buy everything at the thrift store, and are, therefore, saving money, if we're making constant trips to that thrift store to purchase unnecessary things, then there just might be a bad spending habit that has rooted itself in our heart.
I say this from experience, not with condemnation towards anyone. I have been guilty of this, and I have been convicted of this. And I'm still learning how to live a life of healthy spending manners.
And I am all for learning new ways to save money or make my dollar stretch, but I've learned that if I don't assess some deeper issues first and work on those, I'm only going to spin around into that vicious cycle of "save for a while, but spend too much again" over and and over again.
Challenge #1 ~ Look into your heart. Think about the purchases you've made recently. Were they necessary purchases? Or did you make a lot of compulsive, mood-elevating purchases? What were the motives behind the purchases?