Today I welcome Allison Lee to True and Faithful. I met Allison when Rachel participated in the Distinguished Young Women program (formerly Junior Miss). The story is told of how Allison, past president of Florida’s Junior Miss, was trying to re-establish the scholarship program in Central Florida and sold one of her favorite pieces of furniture to raise the seed money.
Allison blogs at Presentmindedly about living life on purpose and shares today about her No Spend Year.
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I like challenges, particularly ones I feel confident I can reach. I also value living life on purpose—or, as I like to put it, “presentmindedly.” So in May of 2013, I set myself a challenge that I believed to be both attainable and purposeful: to forego buying items for myself for one year.
A fast, if you will, from spending on self.
I’d read blog posts written by others who had embarked on this journey before I started on it, and I took to heart their points about how to set parameters for my spending fast. I concluded I would not spend on clothes, shoes, jewelry, accessories, purses, hair doo-dads or haircuts for twelve months.
I began cutting my own hair during that year, so the not-spending on haircuts turned out to be simple. I discovered a haircutting tutorial on Pinterest that I still use.
I chose to allow myself to buy make-up and purchased $6 of mineral-based eye shadow during the year. Is make-up a luxury? Yes. But as I’ve gotten older, I see how wearing make-up helps me feel dressed up and ready to go out—whether to our homeschool co-op or to a restaurant.
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Everything else in terms of “personal” spending was off limits. Including underwear. When I discussed this with my husband, he told me I didn’t need to try this experiment, because I rarely spent money on myself.
In a sense, he was right. I love putting together outfits for free, from clothing swaps, hand-me-downs, and gifts, and when I purchase for myself, I typically buy from thrift stores or consignment shops. I think my husband wanted to alleviate any sense of guilt I might feel (which I don’t) over buying things for myself.
But in a broader sense, I spend money on myself every day. I eat food, most of which is healthy and some is organically grown. I drive our family van, which costs money to fuel and to maintain. I use electricity—and really enjoy it, especially when our air conditioner runs practically non-stop in the summer heat. Daily, my lifestyle requires financial resources that a billion people in the world or more have never possessed. Lord, help me if I get smug over rarely spending money on myself.
Therein lay a significant reason for accepting this challenge—to spend less on self so that I could spend more on others.
To be mindful about spending so that I value the resources being spent—and the potential that those resources possess to accomplish more than filling my closet. Even if eBay sends me emails with the subject line, “you can never have too many clothes.” And something I understood more as the year progressed– to allow myself to experience need.
I discovered in this year that allowing oneself to experience need, without rushing to fill it, provides a sacred place to experience Jesus. He meets us in our needs.
I started the no-spend year with 6 pairs of shoes; before the year was out, I needed to get a new pair to replace the casual-yet-dressy ones I wore with almost everything. I couldn’t exactly wear tennis shoes with skirts or dressy pants to church, nor could I wear black boots in the middle of spring with a pair of shorts to the grocery store.
I knew the Lord knew my need, and I knew I could ask Him to meet this need. So I prayed He would bring me some shoes for free, and He did.
Not many days passed before my husband brought home a pair of slightly worn Etienne Aigner loafers IN MY SIZE from the give-away table at his office. I wore them until a little tear became a big hole that left my feet wet if there were puddles on the ground.
Then I asked the Lord for more shoes. My husband brought home two pairs from our ministry’s annual “exchange” [think “free yard sale”]. Now I have another pair of casual-yet-dressy shoes that I wear with almost everything.
Delightful surprises these were, sweet expressions of my Father’s care and provision, and tremendous goads to my gratitude.
As the year came to a close, a friend asked if I had a date to hit the malls. I did not. I still seek to spend mindfully and intentionally. I find so much more joy in spending on behalf of the poor (Isaiah 58:10) than on myself. A new shirt feels new for a short time. But remembering how I helped orphans in Moldova? That will always make me smile.
Allison Wilson Lee lives in Orlando with her husband Mike, where she home schools her sons, ferments vegetables, serves with Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ), and routinely stays up too late at night. She enjoys writing, reading, biking, and being a one-car family.