Tag Archives: Living more with less

Lessons from a spending fast


You probably know what it’s like to spend money fast. It goes out much more quickly than it comes in! But have you ever considered a “spending fast?” Putting your discretionary spending on a diet? Some people do this to save money for a vacation or to get out of debt. Others realize that curbing excessive spending habits can make a significant difference in changing the world for someone else. Like a spiritual fast where one refrains from eating for a period of time, a spending fast can likewise heighten our sensitivity to greater truths.


We decided to go on a discretionary spending fast for a year. We had to redefine the word “need.” We thought we needed newer kitchenware but ours still functioned fine. We wanted newer technology because ours ran slow, but we we didn’t need it. Something broke, but we could fix it.


But it wasn’t just about giving up. There were things (besides saved money) that we gained. We found that cooking together at home brought us closer together. (And generally the meals were healthier.) We found watching a $1 rental DVD on the love seat was more enjoyable than $20 at the movies. We found that going for walks hand in hand beat about any other money spending activity.


Our spending fast was not rigidly set. We splurged with the occasional $1 ice cream or a date night at a restaurant. We used saved money to visit with friends on a vacation. But the spending fast taught us (and continues to teach) important lessons:


1. Buying new stuff doesn’t make us feel better. We think it does, but it’s almost always a temporary and empty illusion. We’re happier when we are the people we were created to be. God called us to be good stewards not consumers.


2. Entitlement is a trap. We say, “I deserve this. I need that.” But often it’s a lie. If we’re honest with ourselves, it comes down to our own desire for “more and better.”  It leads us down the path of ignorance and insensitivity to our real needs and the blessings we already have.


3.  “Thou shall not covet” is a lot easier to keep with a clear conscience when you decide to put the spending beast on a diet. Life is more satisfying when you learn to find joy and contentment in “what is” and not concerned about “what others have.”


4. Self-control (one of the fruits of the Spirit) is not a gift; it’s grown and nurtured. When impulses are repeatedly ignored, they lose their power over us. This is true for other aspects of life beyond spending, like feeling you always have to be right.


5. Spending less grows a thankful heart. There is a certain richness in enjoying a simple meal when you realize it would be considered a feast in many parts of the world. It gives new meaning to the prayer, “Give us today our daily bread” (even if it’s not Ciabatta, Focaccia, or Asiago Cheese).


6.  A thankful heart leads to generosity. We’re called to invest in others. We’re blessed when we “pour ourselves out on behalf of others.” You can buy a family’s food for an entire day with one trip to the specialty coffee shop. A month’s worth of trinkets could pay for a semester of school for a poor child. Living simply provides resources so others can simply live.


7. You find what you’re looking for. If you measure your life by the things you buy you will find the small measure of fulfillment they offer. Measuring your life by how fully you live gives you joy no money could buy.


Maybe you’ll take up the spending fast challenge for a week – or two. Limit it to one type of spending if you want. Remember, it’s not about living with less. It’s about living with more. More contentment. More fulfillment. More meaning. More accountability.


Living more…with less


Many years ago I was inspired by a book called Living More With Less. It was written in 1980 by Doris Janzen Longacre before “living green” was in vogue. Her premise is that we live “more” when we live in ways that honor God’s creation, are mindful of the plight of the poor, and in keeping each other in mind. She asserts we can live more when we live with less. Her book describes practical ways to “live simply so others can simply live.” (You can get a copy here.)


I was thinking about this yesterday when reading about “income inequality” in the USA. I was reflecting on our observations in Bolivia where world poverty reports list 45% of people there living on $2 or less a day. In fact, much of the world lives on less than $1 per day. We read about it in the news – children going without food and medicine, no access to clean water, no hope for sustainable living – and yet such news is quickly shoved aside. After all, we live busy lives and what could we do about such things anyway?


We could live more simply so others could simply live.


We went on an experiment in living more simply, first by choice and later by conscription to a situation. What we found is that there is often more in less. For example, if you enjoy an income of $30,000 and you find a way to live well on $25,000 you have $5,000 more, not less than you had before. If you live on $50,000 and live on $40,000 you have $10,000 more. If you live on $100,000… well you get the picture. People think they can’t afford to tithe or give to others. They think they couldn’t possibly live on any less than what they have. But we can and maybe we should if we are really interested in Jesus’s commands to look after the needs of the poor. We all have more available to share when we live with less.


Living with less doesn’t mean living with nothing or even living less. It means living well with a clean conscience, celebrating what you have that you value most. There’s no inherent value in living a minimalist life-style as a goal in itself. But living with less can help you – and others – live more. Buying less things means having less things to store, less space to store it, less to insure, less to break, and less to worry about. Living with less not only provides more savings, but also more enjoyment of what you have, more awareness of the simple things, more of the beauty around us. Making more money doesn’t always allow us to live more. But living more with less might. Living more with less contributes less to filling the landfill and more to filling our lives with the best God really intended – for us and for others in need.


I know this sounds crazy and maybe impossible. We’re conditioned to follow the pattern of this world in always wanting more. Having more makes us happy – we think – until we tire of what we have and yearn to replace it with something better, something more. Too often more is less and less is more. By renewing our mind, there is a transformational power to live more, even with less…especially with less.


What would living more with less look like for you? Imagine how it would simplify your life and fill it with more satisfaction and meaning.

Here’s to living more – with less!