Fasting from unnecessary spending

February 26th, 2016

One of the Lenten practices I try to assume every year, no matter what other commitments I have made, is to fast from all unnecessary spending. Like so many others, I am not immune from the influenza strain known as affluenza

Hoarders, on the A&E network, is not a show I choose to watch regularly, but I can’t seem to tear my eyes away from the screen if I stumble upon it while channel surfing. I am both repulsed and fascinated by how some live who have slipped into the dark underbelly of where our consumer-driven passions can carry us. I would never live like that, I protest to myself, while mentally cataloging the mounds of baseball memorabilia (one of my main life passions in addition to Jesus) collecting dust in my basement and the plethora of leather jackets I no longer wear that crowd my closet space.

Yet daily I continue to peruse persuasive email offers for new coats from my favorite department store. Even my Mac’s web browser knows my tastes perfectly and helpfully displays just about every tasteful temptation I struggle to resist in the sidebar. I am a huge fan of every i-gadget that has ever been invented. Although I have never stood outside an Apple store for 48 hours in a line that stretches for blocks to purchase the newest release of the iPhone, I can understand why many people do. I am not immune by any means to the siren call of consumerism. I suspect I’m not the only one who confuses “wants” with needs on a regular basis.

Sometimes our “wants” are expansive and expensive, like an extravagantly oversized home or a luxuriously equipped SUV. In many cases however, our purchases may be as inexpensive as a fun, new ringtone. But, over time, they all add up.

A quick Google search will easily reveals lists of the top ways Americans waste money. Here are some that frequently appear on those lists.

Wasted energy

One source estimated that we collectively throw away $443 billion on avoidable energy costs. So unplugging energy vampires when not in use, turning off lights once in a while, and setting our thermostats at more reasonable ranges can add up.

Daily coffee trips

One survey indicated that American workers who regularly buy coffee out each week spend on average $1,092 annually. That’s $21 a week, or approximately four-to-five fancy coffee drinks.

Premium cable packages

If I think I can actually justify the exorbitant costs of premium packages against the quantity of my television viewing time, I am simply watching too much TV — end of discussion.

Unused gym memberships

When gyms set sales targets for their membership fees, they do so based on the expectation that only 18 percent of gym members will show up consistently to work out. That’s in part why it’s so much easier to find workout machines available in mid-February than in mid-January. The other 82 percent of gym members are no longer showing up.

ATM fees

When we use out-of-network ATM machines to withdraw cash, we typically pay between $3 to $4 per use. Planning ahead could eliminate this.

Unhealthy habits

Americans spend $117 billion on fast food each year, and $2.8 billion on Halloween candy, just to name a few of our bad-health habits. Other costly culprits include alcohol, tobacco and soda (or pop, as it’s known in my part of the country).

Unused gift cards

Approximately $2 billion worth of gift cards go unredeemed each year.

Credit-card interest

Collectively, Americans owe over $800 billion in credit-card debt. With credit-card interest rates averaging between 13 to 15 percent, and many are higher, you don’t actually have to do the math to know that the interest charges are astronomical.

Fighting affluenza each Lent reminds me of whose money I am spending. How easily we forget that God is the source and supplier of every dollar, talent, and piece of property that comes into our hands. This Lenten season, let’s remember we are the only bank account God has to change the world. Let’s restore God’s rightful ownership.

Mike Slaughter is the almost four-decade chief dreamer and lead pastor of Ginghamsburg Church and the spiritual entrepreneur of ministry marketplace innovations. Mike’s call to "afflict the comfortable" challenges Christians to wrestle with God and their God-destinies. This blog is based on his newest book, The Christian Wallet: Spending, Giving, and Living with a Conscience . 

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