Contentment Challenge

I mentioned in my 2014 goals that I’m going on a spending fast for three months — today I’m going to share a little more on why and what it’s going to entail.

Actually, as a sidenote, if you look at my monthly goals, this year is starting off pretty LAME-O. I started a Paleo diet on Monday and am announcing today to fast from shopping for three months. What in the world am I thinking? On bad days, what will comfort me when I can’t eat bread or shop in Target?! I guess we’ll find out. But both cleanses are much-needed, and like I’ve said before — it’s good to take advantage of January. Everyone else is watching their wallet and their waists, so I’m in good company.

On to the spending fast….

Well, you see, for the past four months I have been on a spending spree. Buying things for the house, decorations, clothes, gadgets, you name it. I spent all summer pinching pennies for our house down payment, and as soon as we bought the house I was like a kid in a candy store. If I wanted it, I found a way to buy it.

Now, before you send the Debt Police on me — yes, there is a Debt Police and his name is Dave — I haven’t gone over budget or gone into credit card debt for these expenses. But on the other hand I have been creating that budget and making more room in the discretionary expense category than probably should be.

Here’s the truth: I love buying new things. It makes me happy. I love all the things that we bought. I love walking the aisle of Target and grabbing a cute picture frame on my way to pick up groceries. I love walking into Anthropologie and dreaming of how I can incorporate all of their kitchen stuff into my house. I love trying things on in J.Crew and envisioning where I can wear it next. I love walking the large aisle of Home Depot looking for ways to improve our home.

Part of me justifies my spending these past months:
– I need new clothes for work!
– Our house is so empty!
– I still don’t spend nearly as much as some people do!
– I have spent years getting out of debt, paying for our wedding, and saving for a house… isn’t it time to enjoy our money now?!
– We are still giving away money, isn’t it okay to get ourselves a little something? 

All of those excuses are justified, and I honestly don’t think there’s anything wrong with spending money on yourself. Please don’t hear me say that. I’m just feeling a little unsettled about it all. It’s not a money thing, but my heart. And lately my heart has become greedy and ungrateful. Not so pretty.

So I’m deciding to go on a spending fast to get back to what’s important – relationships and giving and being content with the things I have now, not constantly being consumed with what I don’t have. I want to be content in any and every situation.

I follow Nancy Ray and Lara Casey’s blogs, and they recently went on a Contentment Challenge last year, taking a fast from shopping for a few months, which has inspired this whole project.

contentment challenge

I’m going preface the rules with words from Lara Casey (she said it best):

This is not about rules.  It’s about doing what God has been urging me to do.  If He puts it on my heart to buy something for a good reason, I will do just that. Like Jesus healing people on the Sabbath, this is not about following guidelines just for the sake of guidelines.  God is bigger than rules.  It’s about fasting from something that I feel is keeping me from a deeper relationship and understanding of God’s heart.

My Guidelines (modified from Nancy’s and Lara’s just slightly):

  • Prepare your heart and organize your closet. During the week of Christmas and New Years I went through my closet and got rid of old clothes and accessories I never wear or use. This is only one of five closets I want to tackle in the next few months. If I don’t wear it, use it, or find it beautiful, it’s getting donated. (Also part of my goal to simplify and make my home meaningful and purposeful).
  • Make any necessary purchases that you might need during these months or plan for them. I have a list of things I will allow during the challenge. These include gray or khaki pants for work (I have a $50 giftcard to Gap I’m hoping will cover this) and new tennis shoes (I still haven’t replaced mine since running the marathon — ack!). Also, I am planning to put up a gallery wall behind my TV in the next month or so, but will only use frames I have at home or shop at thrift stores instead of buying them new.
  • I am fasting from buying new clothes, household items, craft supplies, accessories and general stuff. If I want to read a new book, I will borrow it from a friend or the library. The biggest tempting place will be Target, especially with their new Cartwheel App. Yes it saves so much money (download it if you shop there often!), but I also buy more things I don’t need just because I don’t want to miss out on a good deal. Food, gifts, items for basic living and experiences are not a part of this fast for me. For example, if I am making a craft with my friends (an experience) or crocheting something for a baby shower (gift), then buying craft supplies are fine. But buying crafts just to buy them or because I’m bored is off-limits. (Michael’s is another trap for me.:) You can also recycle metals or items containing metal that you don’t need anymore. In fact, you can even get paid for most metals at Austick as they offer the best scrap copper price per kg.
  • Focusing on giving during this time. I’d like to give something away every day. Whether something physical, a prayer or encouragement. Just something that is given to someone else. (Carrie from the Caroline G shop has a lot of ideas on little ways to encourage others. I highly recommend following her Instagram account!)
  • I am hoping to do this until April 8th. My goal isn’t to be legalistic, but to cultivate a heart of contentment and satisfaction. I may decide to end it sooner or extend it longer, but my goal is not to buy anything frivolous until our anniversary.
  • Choose something to read during this time. I read Seven over the holidays and am in the middle of reading Radical. I plan to read Whispers of Hope, 1000 Gifts and the Bible. (If you have any other book recommendations, please let me know!)
  • Gifts are okay! I have lots of birthdays and baby showers in the next few months, so I am absolutely still buying gifts. And if someone gives me something, I will receive it graciously.
  • Necessities are okay! If I break my glasses, I will buy a new pair. Just don’t start justifying new purchases for items that you already have. Ex: “I really NEED this bathing suit, even though there are 8 in my closet already.”
  • Actively pursue something good that helps to replace your tendency to buy stuff as a source of comfort. Let’s go ahead and nix food from that list. ;) Something that points you back to what matters most. For me it may be prayer, running, painting, gardening, taking walks, making memories, or finding an organization to get involved with.

Philippians 4:12

Immediately after setting this goal, a whole host of doubts and questions pop in my head:
– But what about all of the great sales after Christmas?
– How will I rebuild my wardrobe when I am not buying any clothes?
– What about decorating my house? There are still so many things I need to furnish and decorate this place!

Then I tried to think of the people who had some of the things I wanted – beautiful clothes or a gorgeous house or the newest, nicest gadgets – and asked myself, “Do I like them for their stuff or for them?” Absolutely, without hesitation, 100% for them, not their things. So why do I want to be the kind of person with so many things? Why are we so consumed with stuff?

A while ago J and I made a list of really big money dreams we have for our future. All were focused on becoming financially secure enough to give generously and live to the fullest. None of these things included having the perfectly decorated house or stylish clothing. They are financial goals that would put us in a stable position, but all so we can live a simple life that gives generously and loves great.

My goal for this challenge is that my spending afterwards will be more thoughtful and less impulsive, that I will choose quality over quantity, and that I can bless others through my saved time and money.

So that’s what I’ll be up to for the next few months. :) We will see how it goes! I plan to touch base every couple of weeks to give update on the challenge, what’s been difficult and what I am learning.

Do you want to join me on this journey? No pressure at all. But if so, use the #contentmentchallenge hashtag to join Nancy and others.

  • I’m a longtime reader and admirer of your blog. So much of what you write about resonates with me and the goals my husband and I have for our life. This post in particular made me so happy! You’ve articulated what I want to accomplish this year: contentment. For me, a big part of contentment is being aware of all the blessings I already have. So, one of my goals is to not be wasteful with the gifts around me – with my time, my money, or the talents God has given me. (My sister and I have even pledged to send each other photos of the food we throw away each week to hold ourselves accountable!). I wish you luck on your goals, and will be reading your updates (and will be working on mine as well)!

  • I really, really need to do something like this! I have been *better* at not spending money lately (mainly because I was without my credit card for two weeks while a new one came in the mail, and I get points for purchases so I wanted to save my purchases for my credit card when it came) but my weakness is Michaels, Hobby Lobby or any crafty things, really. And Target. I went there JUST for orange juice the other night, and came out with a cat mug too. Did I need it? No. But it was cheap, so I figured it was worth it.

    That’s another huge problem… JUST because something is on sale IT DOESN’T MEAN I NEED IT! But it does….. somehow, in my mind it does. Maybe I’ll try out a month-long spending fast in February since it’s a shorter month ;)

    As for Project Life, SO FAR I’m loving it. I got my photos for the week printed in one-hour at Walmart, picked them up and then it took about an hour to put together the page layout. I’m keeping mine very simple, using stamps I already have (rather than stickers that you can only use once) and I got all of my kits either for Christmas or on sale/using coupons. The kits (if you can decide on just one) are supposed to be enough for an entire album so the bulk of the cost will all come at once and make it seem expensive BUT you get a years worth of stuff. I’ve only done one week so far though, so I’ll have to let you know how it pans out doing it each week. It’s NOT a lot of time but with work/school/freelancing that I’m doing, I’m starting to worry there’s too much on my plate. Hopefully I can keep up with PL though, I know it’ll be super worth it at the end of the year! And for years to come :)

  • Thank you so much for your comment, it meant a lot. I love that challenge to be mindful of the things you waste! I am so guilty of throwing away things that can be recycled or eaten! I may have to start that with my sisters. ;) Thanks again for your kind words, and I am glad to have you on this journey!

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