Blog A Year of No Spending by Stephanie Allard The calling started somewhere between wanting to keep Christmas sacred and desiring to grow our family in an ever shrinking house. We wanted to move and improve, but everything centered around the title youth minister can make that hard to achieve. Budgeting is already quite familiar, but student loans, thriving offspring, the more than occasional “let’s meet for coffee”, on top of regular living costs make dreaming just that. But the call was much more than trying to pay for things we already had. It was about learning to appreciate what we already had in a new way. Taking greater care to fix instead of repurchase, put away, keep nice, and give to others are just a few of the things the Lord was asking of my husband and me. It is a big undertaking; it requires diligence, planning, sacrifice, and teamwork. What will be born of it? The hopes are high, but the expectations are simple: learning to live modern self-sacrifice. We hope for it to be an excellent teaching opportunity for our kids, good evangelization to our friends and a way to stretch our trust in the Lord. So what are the rules? What you make them, I suppose. Ours are a bit strict, but allow for real life, because we want it to be a life change not an unachievable goal. So for us we are living off one paycheck, meals must be made at home (unless we have left over money in the grocery and gas budget). New clothes for the kids or us are by need only, and even then, they must be purchased at a discount or the thrift store. No new anything unless it’s an absolute need. In the first three months, we work on purging excess and a proper budget. The first question we ask is, does this item bring me joy? If not, it goes. The next question is who can I bless with this? We are no longer keeping the “I use it occasionally” items or the “I want to fit into again’s.” We are clearing the closets and boxes and making sure it can go to help someone else. The budget has taken adjusting but consists of everyday needs, meals, gas and hopefully the occasional inexpensive date (a necessity for a healthy marriage). Not eating out has probably been the biggest challenge at this point, there are days I am just done and want a cheeseburger made by the hands of someone else. But the opportunity to learn how to effectively meal plan and eat heathy is greatly outweighing that temporary annoyance. My kids want to help make dinner and love home cooking, so the affirmation is built in. It makes me feel like a more successful mom too, when I can come home from a big day and still make my family a meal. So I may spend my time in the afternoon making sure the chicken is defrosted, sewing my son’s shoes, and doing extra dishes, but already I feel more thankful for what I have, more conscientious of what I buy, and more like the mom I remember having.