Basically, it boils down to this: Most of the time, buy what you need, and then only when you have the money for it.
Put so starkly, most of us could agree that this sounds like a grand idea. If only we had the self-control to do it.
As I researched my book, Money Secrets of the Amish: Finding True Abundance in Simplicity, Sharing and Saving, I saw with my own two eyes that the Amish were generally unfazed by the turmoil of the economic crises.
Their money values were “upside down,” put next to ours:
The Amish “UWMD” (Use it up, Wear it Out, Make Do, Do Without), without fail, going to great lengths to mend and repair everything from their buggies to their bonnets, only buying a replacement when an item has been worn down to its last bit of usefulness.
We tend to rush out and buy a gleaming new replacement, at the first sign of wear and tear.
The Amish laser focus on their financial goals, employing a tremendous knack for delayed gratification that prevents them from frittering away their hard-earned money on non-essentials.
We (okay, me) fritter. Madly. Our impulsive culture caves in at the sight of glossy magazines, frappacinos, cute shoes, the latest electronics, and so much more.
My Plain friends think much differently about gift giving occasions, especially Christmas. Their gifts are usually small and need-based, and then their recipients (even their children) only get a gift or two, max.
On the other hand, Englishers (you and me and every non-Amish soul out there) think nothing of blowing a huge wad of cash on tons of gifts, gifts that may be tossed aside or broken quickly, while our little beneficiaries play in the box.
Other differences: The Amish pay their bills on time, save (usually about 20% of their income), shop thrift stores and garage sales, and find a second and a third use for everything. Their children are loved, but not adored and spoiled. Even little Amos and Sadie know the value of hard work and a dollar. They steer clear of debt like the plague.
While our country’s well being buckles under the debt ceiling, the hopelessly old-fashioned Amish look horrified at the mention of credit cards. Wide-eyed with wariness, they repeatedly quoted P.T. Barnum, the circus maven, on his view of debt, written a hundred years ago.
“Debt is like buying a dead horse,” they’d tell me, startled that I would even ask if they used credit.
What they mean by this is that by the time you finish paying for a horse on credit, he might be dead, and how foolish is that? Admittedly, I have paid for dead horses before, or rather, clothes that don’t fit or go out of style.
On a spiritual level, it all comes down to self-control, or lack of it. Just like any other fruit of the spirit, it’s important to work on cultivating self control for many reasons, and spiritual growth is at the top of the list.
Like our country in general, I have a ways to go as I try and follow the model set by the Amish, one of America’s most fascinating and admirable subcultures. It’s a mindset shift, of thinking differently about spending values and habits, and focusing not on what we lost but what we have.
I may not be willing to wear a bonnet on the outside, but hopefully I can become a little more Amish, even if it’s just on the inside.
Lorilee Craker used to be quite dense on the subject of money, so much so she laughed out loud when someone suggested she write a book about Amish money secrets. But since she hopped in that metaphorical buggy, in the summer fo 2009, she’s been learning how to share, save, and make shoefly pie (it’s cheap: six ingredients!). When she’s not scoping out thrift stores and garage sales, Lorilee is usually hanging out in her big old house with her husband, three kids, and four pets (ie: three too many!). She’s the author of 11 books, including the New York Times bestseller “Through the Storm” with Lynne Spears, and “A is for Atticus: Baby Names from Great Books,” featured in People magazine. For the last fifteen years, she’s also moonlighted as an entertainment and features writer for The Grand Rapids Press in glamorous Grand Rapids, MI. Be sure to stop by her website and tell her hi http://lorileecraker.com/