A word on Thrift…

Go to the ant, sluggard; consider her ways and be wise; who having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provides her food in the summer and gathers her food in the harvest. (Proverbs 6:6-8)

Financial tip of the day:

It’s good to remember that ants don’t just plan for their provision, but they are also not wasteful or irresponsible with their resources.

If you’re really needing to economize to get your financial house in order, then you need to start making better decisions on how you spend money. Yes, God can take you to a place of abundance, but if you’re not there just yet, spending as if you were is not acting it’s faith, it’s being irresponsible, and you’re probably delaying your own blessing because you can’t even be trusted with what you’ve already got.

When I was about to go to college, I didn’t have much money for a new wardrobe. Just a few weeks before I left for Princeton, the son of one of my father’s friends died just after having bought a LOT of new clothes. He was about my height and build, and his father wanted to be rid of the clothes, so I got a couple thousand dollars worth of clothes for free. There was another time that the owner of a high-end gentleman’s store had some suits which had been tailored and put on layaway but never picked up, and as a result, I was given a very expensive italian suit that fit like it was tailored for me. However, provision hasn’t always come that way. Yes, God CAN and DOES provide, but sometimes your valley experience is also about teaching you to be responsible and resourceful. It’s not just a matter of trusting God to provide, or to provide MORE. Sometimes it’s a matter of trusting that God HAS PROVIDED in what is presently available.

Brown-bag your lunch, avoid eating out, and NEVER buy ANYTHING on impulse. When you really do need to spend money, do some research first to see how you might get a better value. For example, as an artist, I could easily spend a lot of money on art supplies. Instead, I buy supplies in bulk toward the end of the year when stores are unloading inventory at steep discounts. 2 years ago, I scored a pile of sketchbooks for $4 each. I’m just finishing the 2nd one. 3 years ago, I found a deal on my favorite type of pencil. Still haven’t needed to buy more, and probably won’t buy another pencil for at least another 2 years. I’ve got at least another year until I need to buy the paper I do my finished work on. As a result, in 2012, I spent a total of perhaps $50 on odds and ends needed for the ‘studio.’ For 2013, I’ve spent nothing so far, and it’s unlikely that I’ll need to buy anything, unless I take on a project for a client, in which case they’re paying for it, not me.

A lot of times, that financial valley experience is an opportunity to change our thinking about what we really need, and whether what we want is really necessary, useful, or conducive to a better stewardship of our own little corner of God’s kingdom. The world system tells us that we ‘need’ the most fashionable items, and that we just have to buy them from sources that cause us to spend far more than we should, and when an emergency occurs, or a need arises, we either come up short or are unable to help. Often, when this happens, we’re quick to absolve ourselves of any fault in the matter, because we just don’t ‘have it,’ when in some cases we would have been able to handle the emergency or meet someone’s need if we’d simply been more responsible in how we’d handled our resources.

Need to buy clothes, but are barely getting by? Swallow your pride and go to a discount store, a wholesale outlet, or a thrift store like Value Village. When I lived in New Jersey, I bought clothes at the outlet mall in Secaucus, and paid less than $20 for a pair of jeans that would have cost me $90 had I gone to the Newport Center Mall just 20 minutes away. In the case of thrift stores, pick one near an affluent area and you’ll find new and almost-new clothes at very low prices. I know a man who buys high-end suits at Value Village for $30. I scored a suit there for $15 once that would have cost me $600 had I gone to the mall to find it. No one who sees me in it will know that some short banker wore it two or three times before I did. You may not have to shop this way forever, but while you’re in the financial valley, a small sacrifice like this will help you to save money to move forward in your financial plan.

Learn to use everything you already have effectively and efficiently. Remember those sketchbooks? I like to go back and draw in whatever blank space I can find on previously used pages. After all, I use them for practice, so it doesn’t matter if every page is crowded with drawings, or if the sketches overlap, etc. Some would think this to be tad extreme, but it has meant that during the last few years, which have been lean financially, I have been able to practice enough that I’m now starting to get people asking me to illustrate books for them, and I was able to bless a young artist with some supplies despite the fact that I’m not quite walking in abundance at the moment.

It’s not about being a miser, but rather about better stewardship. As your thrift creates freedom to pay off debt, or make investments in your future, you will move toward abundance while positioning yourself for more responsibility in God’s Kingdom.