Why we sometimes spend.

Restoration, Refinement, and Renewal were the themes for the retreat I was privileged to attend this weekend in Leavenworth with a group of very real, very fun women from Mill Creek 4Square Church.

When a retreat is associated with a church or corporate setting, its often synonymous with the idea that you’ll come back refreshed. Whenever I hear “to retreat,” my mind immediately envisions an army retreating from battle. The retreat could be forced or strategic, and its usually for protection until they can come up with a game plan to get out with life and limbs in tact. I blame this on years of repeatedly watching Lord of the Rings (which I still think has hands down the best battle scenes ever). As people, we’re very similar to elven and hobbit filled armies…when its time to retreat, we draw back, go somewhere, and seclude ourselves for protection until there is a game plan and its time to come out. 

This retreat was full for me. Of knowledge, conversations, time in my head, and time in my journal. The theme of the weekend was to restore, to refine, and to renew. Unfortunately, I don’t think this process is always pleasant. There is a tree called the Pitch Pine Tree that, soon after a fire, sprouts needles from its trunk. The tree holds onto it’s cones, which, in extreme heat, open. The fire then allows the trees to reseed themselves. So, it seems as though we cannot grow until someone sets us on fire. Bummer.

Thats actually not true, though this idea of painful refinement (I really do pay attention in Thursday morning Bible study!) is that it hurts, you walk through it with God, and hopefully there’s growth and newness when its done. The hardest part of this is that we’re not actually Pitch Pine Trees. We don’t automatically reseed after an agricultural season. It could take a much longer.

What in the world does this have to do with spending you might be wondering? No Spend November is actually one of the first, tangible steps in what might be a process of painful refinement for me. I realize, and have been realizing as I’ve been very mindful of money these past four days, that I don’t necessarily always use it as currency. In fact, in can be used as a very real distraction. Purchasing items & having money can often be a smokescreen that serves as a diversion. I want to put all of that away and focus on whats actually going on. Thats my heart.

I’ll be very real with you right now, and my only hope is that I’ve been too wordy up until this point and you have stopped reading. I spent this weekend. Ug, I said it. Tony and I laughed about it when I confessed to him after I got home, but we also know that its simply an affirmation for why we are choosing to do No Spend November.

The retreat was a lot for me. A lot to process. When we’re faced with our junk, its so much easier to get a gingerbread latte and retreat…but not in a good way. Maybe hide is more accurate. When faced with things I didn’t want to think about, it’s easier to go to Starbucks, wander around the bookstore, and buy yourself a scarf, earrings, and a really cute headband. Please hear what I mean when I say that there is nothing inherently wrong with that. At all. Unfortunately, when your comfort and peace is found in a distraction, I don’t think thats a great thing.

So, although the things I bought were pretty darn cute, I think I did it because everything I was thinking about was a little too much for me and instead of sitting down and praying it through, I shopped it through. The same could be said for anyone who finds security in things that aren’t God; friends, tv, food, sports, eggnog…and the list could go on.

Fortunately for me, and for No Spend November, there is a lot of grace to be found in slip ups. They can serve as a motivator, and a hope that there is always a next time. And whoa there! Look how much character I’m building as I imperfectly execute these moves. It could take longer than a season to get this down. As we’ve established, I am unfortunately not a tree. Imperfection, persistence, and hope are good things. Things that I’ll need as I navigate through our thrifty little month.

No Spend November (or, How to Stop Living High Off the Hog)

Just sing this to the tune of Alice Cooper’s “Schools Out for Summer,” and lets get this party started!

What is a No Spend Month:
Its horrifically self explanatory, but I’ll still go ahead and explain. In a nutshell, its a month (of your choosing, though I chose November because I like alliteration), where you drastically cut your spending by choosing to pay only for essentials and non-negotiables. Essentials include mortgage, rent, food, and non-negotiables might include paying to get your finger sewn back on after a tricky kitchen incident.
Why some people do No Spend Months:
1. Some people want to find out if they can get what they want for less. Deciding you will not spend above a certain amount forces you to get creative with what you can spend.
2. Curb mindless spending.
3. Get things done at home that previously, you haven’t had the chance to because you’re out there wildly throwing around the green (which isn’t us).

Why we’re doing No Spend November (in addition to the reasons given above)

1. To create more mindful discipline concerning our budget. We know where every dollar goes (for the most part) but its been a lot of swipe and spend lately, with little thought as to where its coming from or  if it could be better spent elsewhere.

2. Learning well to delay gratification. If its cute, buy it. If we’re hungry, grab it. While we have a ‘budget’, we’ve exceeded it at times.

3. To get a chance to stop, reflect, and express some gratitude for everything we’ve been given. We have a lot of wants, but not needs. We’re really, really blessed. God’s taken care of us, and I think November is a great month to be content with what we have.

What it means for us:

1. No unnecessary spending. Whats unnecessary? Dining out, entertainment, lattes (no!!!), trips to, and subsequent purchases at Target.

What I hope we’ll gain from this month:

My hope is that this month will help us learn to better decipher between our needs and our wants. I would like to get a little more creative with our activities, and use more of what we have around the house before rushing off to buy something. I want to eat through the gross things at the back of our freezer. No wait, they’re not gross, just…not as exciting as other things. I want to be content with what we have, and start moving at a slower pace.

There are countless things to be gained from a no spend month, if for nothing else than to simply stop and evaluate the value of a dollar, and see if its going where it should be going. I plan to share our adventures, ideas, highlights, and trials with you throughout this month. Which is 30 days long. I just checked. 30 cheap, adventurous, simple, and non Target filled days.


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