To Spend Or Not To Spend...

I was given $20 this week. My first thought was, "Yeah! There's a sale at my favorite clothing store this weekend, so I can put this toward something I've been looking at!"

My second thought was, "Don't I have a closet full of clothes? Haven't I been concerned about finances lately?"

So that $20 is safely tucked away for another day. Maybe it will even have attracted some friends by then and they can all get spent together.

How do you decide when you'll spend money and when you'll save money? Are you thrifty in the face of financial opportunities or do you spend it as you get it? Do you have confidence in God's provision or do you feel like you need to prepare yourself for the financial times ahead?

As we've scrutinized our own finances to look for the ways the Lord would have us prosper, here are a few of the realizations we've come to.

* If you've already got one, don't get another one. I am the most guilty of this...I love scrapbooking supplies, cupcake cookbooks and journals. (You notice that they're all made of paper.) Even though I have many, many items in each of these categories, my eye (and my pocketbook) are drawn to new ones. By limiting myself and using up what I have before I add to my collections, I can save money and grow my imagination.

* Re-purpose what you already have. When I redecorated the house for summer, I was all set to buy a whole new set of accessories. Then I started pricing home decor and realized that would be impossible. I still want the house to be welcoming and inviting, so I started digging through what I already owned. I found a treasure trove of things I had forgotten I'd even owned - because I had tucked them out of the way. Out of sight, out of mind. If we'd all do a sweep of the closets, basement and attic, I'm sure we could all find things usable again.

* Think thrifty. If you do have to buy something new, don't immediately run to the regular stores. I always check the local thrift stores, the dollar store and the clearance sections when I'm making larger or special purchases. For expensive items, there are always times to haggle on price or use a buying service to find the best prices. If you know your budget, you'll always be aware of what your spending limits are.

* Ask yourself if you can live without it for a month. I am terrible about unplanned purchases. I may have a list, but if something catches my eye it will probably go into my cart. Recently I started a new line of thinking: I will put off this spur-of-the-moment purchase for a month, giving me time to save the money necessary for it. If I still want it four weeks later, and it's still available, I have enough saved to buy it and it's no longer an impulse buy. If I don't want it anymore, it's not available or there's something even better out now, I have the financial ability to get it. What looks good today may not be so important down the road, saving you from overspending and being disappointed.

* Question your priorities. There are many things in life that would be nice to own. There are several purchases that have to wait until we're further down the road financially. There have also been times when we bought things we wish we hadn't, because that money would be really useful right now. Is a bag full of your latest purchases worth more to you than getting out of debt? Is having fancy meals on the table every night more important than paying off your bills or paying your tithe check? We all have decisions to make about when and where we'll spend our money, but God's priorities come first. Listen to His desires for your time and money and trust that you'll always be satisfied with your spending practices.

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