My husband and I took a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University course several years ago. During that course, we decided to live the “Dave Ramsey” lifestyle: “live like no one else today so you can live like no one else tomorrow.” (Read: don’t buy stuff on credit so you can enjoy it today; instead, save up for what you want and buy it when you can afford to pay cash for it, so you can invest money into your retirement). We haven’t always been great at it, but we do our best. When we fail to live this way, we pray about it, work hard to get things back in check, and start again.
In 2016, I felt like God was tugging at my heart about simplifying and not spending on myself for clothes, shoes, handbags, or jewelry. I have to be honest — I’m not a big shopper to begin with. So I truthfully felt a little like, “why are you picking on ME, God”? I have never been your typical “shopper”. I HATE trying on clothes, and I truly DETEST navigating stores and sifting through clothes to get a good deal. Nevertheless, I would find myself spending hours on my lunch break (in order to kill time while I worked in another city) looking through TJ Maxx or Marshall’s. I felt like I needed to look cute and trendy, because that’s what most other people did. So, I would scan the store, find a bunch of stuff that I maybe just KIND OF liked, and then either put it ALL back (which was clearly a big waste of time equating to major frustration for me), or I would buy it all so I didn’t have to choose (this time, big waste of money). All of this, only to find that I didn’t wear half of the stuff I bought because once I got it home and put it on, I suddenly didn’t like how it fit or how it felt.
Now, I would either have to return things (did I mention I HATE returning merchandise? — another huge waste of time, but if I bought everything it was 100% necessary), OR I would forget to return items and end up paying for things that would go into a yard sale months later. Such a silly cycle.
I started reading up on minimalism and capsule wardrobes. I read Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” (this is for REAL hard-core minimalism). I’m not into the “magic” of anything, and I don’t feel like items bring you joy. But, her book did help me to identify some things about myself. I found that I personally tend to gravitate toward wearing the same types of outfits anyway (no matter how many options I have in my closet). For example: I hate ironing clothes, so even if I bought something super cute — if it had to be ironed, I would revert to wearing something else. Same thing with uncomfortable clothes/shoes. They could be so unbelievably cute, but when the time came to put them on, I would go back to my old faithful comfortable shoes and leave the cute ones in the closet. My favorite look to wear is simple, classic, and not too fussy or frilly. It took me a while to figure out what my personal style is because the trends change so often. I would buy things that were trendy, only to wear them a couple of times before growing bored with them. That’s the thing about trends — they get old FAST. Once I figured that out, it only made sense to start working toward paring down my wardrobe and definitely cutting down on shopping.
This was a pattern that I started to notice. I realized how much time and money I was wasting shopping:
-in stores I hate…
-for clothes I didn’t want to try on…
-that I’d probably never wear…
-and forget to return…
-to later have to have a yard sale and get rid of them…
-for a fraction of what I paid.
I felt convicted that if I stopped shopping for myself for a while, I could actually use that money to help others in some way. I started feeling very sad about the fact that our country has some of the richest people in the world (myself included), yet there are homeless and starving people on the streets. Perhaps if those of us with jobs and money would cut down on spoiling ourselves, we could start to make a dent in helping others. NOTE: This is NOT meant to be a guilt trip for anyone. Some people do not feel convicted about this and if you are one of those people that is perfectly fine! Maybe your convictions are different. Maybe you make so much money that you can give to the needy AND spoil yourself as well. That’s wonderful!!! You do what YOU feel is right. All I am saying is that I was feeling convicted and that’s what I had to address. God convicts each of us in different ways, so there is no judgment attached to this at all. I just want to share how God has worked in my life.
Once I realized this was an area that God was asking me to give to Him, I had so much clarity and resolve to really let Him work on me. I felt that He told me not to buy anything for six months. At all. Nothing. Honestly, I wasn’t a shopaholic to begin with. Remember how I hate to try things on? That definitely worked in my favor. But, of course, once you make a commitment to the Lord, the devil will do whatever he can to throw you off track. So, something would inevitably come up as a reason why I “needed” to shop. We would have family pictures. Or a special event to attend. Or a wedding. Or a funeral. Or a vacation. Something would inevitably pop up that would make me wish I hadn’t committed to myself (and God) not to buy anything. But, what I began to realize is that when we hand an area of our life over to God, He will give us the power to overcome temptation. He will empower us to become resourceful and to resist the need to be like everyone else. So I didn’t buy one single thing, and we still had family pictures, special events, weddings, funerals, and vacations. Who cares if others have a new outfit for every occasion? Who cares if I wear the same shoes with almost every outfit? It’s likely that no one would ever notice. And if they do — so what? Why should I care what they think? If they think it’s a problem, it’s a problem for them – not me.
This world will tell you that you have to be like everyone else. But God’s Word tells us we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). We are unique. Does God want 7 billion clones walking the earth? Of course not! So why do I have to look like, dress like, and act like others? The answer is — I don’t! I don’t have to look like the world. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Is it His will for us to keep up with the Jones’s? No, it isn’t. If we are so focused on our outward appearance, it is extremely difficult to be focused on our inner heart and soul transformation. “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them?” (Ecclesiastes 5:10-11, NIV, emphasis added). “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24, NIV, emphasis added). I am not saying that people who like to shop are serving money. We just need to know that if we are too hyper-focused on our exterior, it’s not what God wants for us. He has better for us.
After six months of not buying a single clothing item (including shoes, handbags, or jewelry) for myself, I felt like a new person. I felt like God was challenging me to another six months. I didn’t feel sad; I actually felt excited. He had changed so many things in my heart that I couldn’t wait to see what else He was going to do. I went an entire YEAR without buying a single item for myself to wear. I got creative with the items I already owned. My friend’s mom actually gave me some tops during this time (shout-out to Debbie!), so God did bless me with some “new-to-me” items to wear. I honestly didn’t need them; I had plenty to wear. But it just goes to show that He does honor us when we make choices to honor Him. I actually haven’t bought much since 2016. Just a few items that I genuinely needed for work and a couple more things for fun. But I honestly didn’t feel any happier when I did buy, so now I am back to very minimal purchases (if any at all). As clothes and shoes wear out, I will replace them, but I don’t remember the last time I bought something new. And it feels just fine. In fact, it feels like freedom.
Did I mention that RIGHT BEFORE He challenged me not to buy anything new, I had JUST cleaned out and had a yard sale and gotten rid of a lot of stuff? So, my closet was cleaned out and organized, and had just enough in it so that so could see everything I owned and use it accordingly. I got creative with mixing and matching my “capsule” wardrobe. There were days when it was more challenging than others (100% transparency), but honestly it was not as difficult as I thought it would be — because God was helping me. No matter how many clothes we have, we women tend to “hate” everything we own when we are getting ready to go somewhere, so why pay a bunch of money for the same exact feeling?
Prior to this conviction, I ask had been trying out Stitch Fix for a few months and it was kind of fun to receive the box of new items that were picked just for me each month. It took out the hassle of going to the store to look for things. But I had to try those on and pay for the items or return them within three days. So for me, it became a hassle with a deadline. The clothes were cute, but I had a hard time letting go of the stuff once it was in my home. It already felt like it was “mine”. However, it was not always a wise idea financially to buy everything that I wanted.
One thing our culture struggles with deeply is delayed gratification. We want it ALL, and we want it NOW. There is no longer a strong foundation of working for something until we can afford it, and this mentality gets a lot of people into BIG financial trouble. I was taught this as a child — to save up until I could afford it. Unfortunately, the world can interject its principles if we aren’t careful. I think the challenge from God was not about money as much as it was about delayed gratification. He was testing my self-control, but He was helping me throughout the test.
I challenge you today, to identify one area of our life where you struggle with delayed gratification or self-control. If it is shopping, then I want to give you encouragement that it is VERY possible to go six months (or even a year) without buying anything new. We often tell ourselves that “we deserve it” and “we worked hard for it” to justify buying things. However, what if we shift our perspective to how Jesus has instructed us to live? “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25, NIV, emphasis added)
Lastly, what if our focus became something or someone OTHER than OURSELVES? In this world of “me first”, what an impact we can have if we are putting others first. I chose to re-focus the time I was spending in stores and online toward other, much more worthy causes. I won’t go into that, because this post is NOT about tooting my own horn. It is merely a boost of encouragement to those who may be feeling like they should scale back on spending or “over-doing it” in a certain area. If that is you, just know that you have someone in your corner! God will help you. If you have tips for self-control that you would like to share, please comment below. We would love to hear from you. Let’s create a culture of community and encouragement for one another.