Eight months ago today I began a 12 month personal spending fast. I outline the goals and the “rules” in this post.
I gave an update on what I was learning three months into the fast here, but I haven’t updated since. So on this eight month marker, a check in.
First up, confession time. I said I would buy new no new clothes. I broke down in September. I bought a new pair of shoes (I had shopped for used shoes but couldn’t find any my size that worked, and my old ones looked….old), and I bought two new pairs of pants. My justification (probably flimsy, I admit) was that I’m on video almost every week and teach in other places and my current jeans were really fading. I couldn’t find unfaded used jeans (sure I should have looked harder). So I bought three items. That set me up well for a new season of preaching and teaching, but it did break my rules.
I wondered whether a broken rule meant I should break the fast, but quickly dismissed that. I didn’t want to trade in the rest of the learnings or experience. So I’m back on it. Just because you’re on a diet and you eat dessert one night doesn’t mean you have to have ice cream for breakfast the next day. So I’m back on my fast again, trying to figure out what God wants to teach me.
So what am I learning?
1. As much as I hate entitlement in others, I see it in myself. A few months ago I was at a used goods store and found two shirts I really liked (I allowed myself used clothes, just no new). Then I noticed the line to the checkouts snaked halfway around the store. I stood at the back of the line for about 3 minutes. It wasn’t moving. I got really frustrated. I dropped the clothes on the rack and walked out muttering something about a stupid spending fast under my breath and pointing out to myself that had I been at any other new clothing store I would have been out in a minute. On the ride home, I realized most of the people in that store were there because they couldn’t afford new (sure, there were hipster vintage people there too), and then I felt awful. I still feel awful. Any amount of affluence breeds arrogance and entitlement. I see that in me.
2. An idol is a subtle thing. I was hoping there would be some ‘radical’ change, story or moment to report. So far – not really. But I think that’s because idols are subtle. They fly under the radar because if you detected them easily you could get rid of them easily. Money so pervades our culture that it’s almost impossible to spot how much it impacts what I think and how I act. A fish really has a hard time sensing the toxins in the water. So I hope in these next few months I see more clearly how money can be a better servant and less of a master. It’s just so subtle it’s hard to see. I’m praying about that.
3 . Not spending on the small stuff makes it easier not to spend on the big stuff. The church I lead is in a capital campaign, and we made our commitment a few weeks ago (I outlined how we reached our decision in this post). It was a big stretch for us personally, and it meant not getting a new (to us) vehicle for at least two more years. Our current family vehicle is six years old and has over 360,000 km on it (about 225,000 miles). I’m a bit of a car guy, but being on this fast made it easier than normal to defer getting a replacement vehicle until after Bold. I hope the vehicle holds out. Pretty sure it will. And I’m actually great with that. Kind of surprises me.
4. My electronic greed is dissipating (for now). I am a tech guy. But I haven’t personally done any upgrading in eight months. I realize that sounds dumb (eight months, give me a break), but there have been a bunch of new phones, new tablets and so much more released in eight months. Even the iMac I’m writing this on which I bought late in 2011 now has a slimmer, sleeker counterpart. My desire to upgrade is so low I’m shocked. I did get a new computer at Connexus this year, so maybe that’s filling my void.
5. My gratitude is higher. A friend bought me a shirt. I’m so grateful for it. More grateful that I would normally be, and I would normally be grateful.
6. I’m easy to buy for at Christmas again. I actually have a Christmas list this year. I am fully dependent on my family for anything on that wish list. But if it doesn’t come, I’ll still be grateful. I used to be hard to buy for at Christmas because I’d just go out and get what I want (I know that sounds bad, but it’s a little bit true). Now I’m super easy to buy for at Christmas. I’m even asking for socks and gloves.
So that’s my eight month update. Any comments? What am I missing in this journey?