Last week was the first Sunday of Lent, so Matt introduced our Lenten theme and asked people to take an overall look at their lives (before we got to the specific challenges of coming weeks) just to be aware of how we spend our money, time, and energy, taking stock of any excess we noticed.
My initial thought was the excessive laziness of my evenings. After the kids are in bed, I typically spend a couple hours on the couch or at my kitchen desk, watching TV, reading blogs and Facebook, drinking wine and munching on non-nutritive snacks. It feels pretty slothful, given that I "should" be doing laundry, dishes, working some more, etc. But, I got over that pretty quickly. Yes, I should cut back on the empty calories, but overall, this is my relaxation time that I relish after a day of working and kid-wrangling. So while it isn't an absolute necessity, I don't consider my "me time/couple time" excessive, exactly. Though if I think about people who don't have enough to eat to nourish themselves at all, the fact that we rich folk can basically eat recreationally is quite excessive.
I also thought of things like our energy usage. Leaving lights on accidentally, loading the dishwasher with things that could easily be cleaned by hand, taking two cars to church just so the kids and I don't have to go early or stay late for Matt, etc. are all issues to be examined.
It was when I did our monthly budget assessment this week that the excesses became more apparent. (I have tried Quicken as New Year's resolutions a couple years, but always abandoned it by April. Now, I just keep a simple Excel file to calculate and monitor our spending each month.) It's always amazing to see how much little things add up. Lattes while I work at Starbucks, fast food lunches while Matt's out doing pastoral visits and other errands, the random Groupon or other thing I buy online . . . they add up. I take for granted that we can buy such incidentals without breaking the bank, but if we were just a little more conscientious, how much money could be saved?
I feel like I'm a pretty frugal person. I look for bargains and won't spend much on any one thing, but so many of those little purchases are unnecessary, the impact could be big at the end of a year (or even the end of a liturgical season!)
So that's my first Lenten discipline added. I'm going to try to resist unnecessary purchases and be more aware of the $4 here and $8 there that could make a real difference for someone else.
|Valentine dress for Claire, bought at consignment store. She's got a bunch of hand-me-downs, but I so often buy new stuff for her just because it's cute and a "good deal."|
This coming week's focus is "Taking Stock of Our Pantry." Our church has a very active food pantry ministry, and the challenge will be to live on the items we give out in our food pantry boxes and becoming more aware of the choices and luxuries we enjoy in our food shopping. I've been wanting to try a challenge like that for months anyway, so I'm looking forward to this!