This is a guest post from Andrea Hartman. Andrea and her husband Tim are in graduate school at Virginia Tech University. They have one daughter, Piper. Andrea can be reached by email: email@example.com
Money wasn’t much of a concern in our household until seven months ago when we started paying for housing. Before this we lived and helped out with an aging great aunt. She was a resourceful and talented woman. At one point in our time there she cut the elastic out of her deceased husband’s underwear and sewed it into hers. When I asked her why she didn’t simply buy new underwear. She told me that I was, “not in the habit of mending things.” Since renting an apartment and having a baby on two grad student salaries, I have gained new respect and understanding for “mending things.” Though I’ll admit, I have not yet started patching underwear
When we were getting ready to move into our apartment we planned out a budget and attempted to stick to it. However, we failed at keeping track of what we spent, so we never knew how much money we had left and had a hard time evaluating potential purchases. Finally, we decided we simply should not buy anything for ourselves that we don’t legitimately need.
This has forced me to think through even small things before I buy them. I use a few questions to determine if I really need something.
1. Did I think of this item on my own or because I saw it at the store or in an ad? If I only want something because I just saw an ad, and it never crossed my mind before, I probably don’t need it.
2. Will this allow me to serve God or others better ? This is hard to stick with. The sacrifice can be a reminder of how blessed I am compared to others who can’t afford things they actually do need. This also cuts down on things we buy and end up not even using. Even deciding to wait for a month or so before buying has prevented whimsical purchases and provided great gift ideas for me to get my husband on his birthday!
3. Do I NEED this to do my job well? If I do decide I need the item, then I ask the following three question to figure out if I can get the same function for less money than buying it new.
Is there anything in my house that will work as a substitute or that I can make this item out of? My neighbor, a self-taught seamstress, has been instrumental in teaching me to use a sewing machine. I’m currently working on making a shopping cart cover for my daughter. I had scrap fabric, so this item falls in the free category
Can I borrow it from someone? This is a great question to ask if I will only need the item for a limited time.
Can I buy it used? It does not save money to go window shopping at the thrift store. However, if you have a particular thing you are looking for, it’s a great place to start. In December we found my husband a whole professorial wardrobe for his teaching role this semester. It fit him well and cost a fraction of what it would have new.
Maybe money is not a concern for you right now. Even so, I hope you can use some of these ideas to help you better evaluate what to buy. The extra you will have you can give and share with others.
God is still teaching me how to let go of my desire for comfort. Being like my great aunt and “mending things” has been a great start. God has been working on me and I hope He is working on you as well!
Question: Do you have any ideas to help someone follow a budget? Or ideas on how to evaluate what to buy?
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