I am an interesting mix of selfishness and selflessness. I have alternately been called both a cheapskate and extremely generous. I have been known to go to great lengths to get the lowest price when buying something. I try to never make eye contact when I see a beggar with a jar on the street or a girl scout with cookies outside of Kroger. The majority of my clothes come from the clearance section of Old Navy. As if Old Navy isn’t cheap enough…the CLEARANCE section…yeah…I know! But, I also love paying for someone else’s groceries at the store, supporting someone going on a mission’s trip, or giving away something from our house to someone who can use it more. I try to justify this dichotomy by calling it “being frugal” which enables me to have the finances to be more generous at other times. But, I would simply be lying to myself…I am being selectively selfish plain and simple. I earned MY money and I want to keep as much of it as I can.
I’m not sure exactly why I am selfless only half of the time, but I want it to be all of the time. I feel this is an area God has really been challenging me in. I’m trying to see opportunities to BLESS other people…through my time and money. In the past, I’ve generally looked for ways to donate money, give a gift, or pay for a bill for someone. But, I’ve been challenged to be giving to others in a new way recently…the way I buy things.
Here are some examples of what I mean:
- If I need a new roof for my house, it would seem prudent to get 10 different quotes, then pit them all against each other and get my favorite company to beat whatever the cheapest other price was. This would result in hopefully good work at the cheapest bare bones price I could get. Frugal…right???
- If I need a new car, shop around…find what I want…and get a bunch of different quotes on it. Then, come up with some strategies of demanding an even lower price and act like I’m going to go down the street instead…hoping that they take the bait and give me the price I want.
- If I find a piece of furniture on Craigslist that I want, I usually try to offer them a little less than what they are asking. Because…they usually will take it and then I don’t have to pay as much!
- Or, if I have something I don’t need and could possibly get $200 for it, I will try to sell it in a way that maximizes the profit.
I have felt God challenging me to change my perspective in areas like this. If I can be generous with my spending, I’m not wasting money…I’m getting something at a great price and blessing someone on top of it! So, here’s what I’m trying to do in these scenarios now…
- Get a few roof quotes to determine a good company, then pay them what they ask as long as it is reasonable.
- If I know what car I want, let the salesman tell me the price…giving them a chance to lower it some from the original listed price (as they always do), and pay it without further haggling.
- If someone is selling something on Craigslist that I want…buy it. If it is a super-good deal already, possibly pay them more than they’re asking just to bless them.
- If I have something to sell, go ahead and sell it, but err on the side of asking less than it is worth. This way, it is much easier on me to get rid of it…PLUS…I’m able to bless someone else by giving them a great deal! Or even better…just give it away!!
Sure, sometimes I think…”what if I could have saved another $500 by doing some aggressive car haggling?? The CEO and stockholders at Ford don’t need another $500 from me!” But, that’s the selfish way of justifying it. In reality…sure SOME of that profit will go to corporate higher-ups…but most of it will go to the salesman who is working hard to try and support his family and the support staff around him that helps manage the business of selling cars. These are real people with real families to support. Real people that I have been trying my best to keep from earning a living by trying to get a car at the absolute lowest price possible.
I am a Christian, which means I want to model my life after Jesus Christ. My hope is that people will see me and see the actions of Jesus through what I do. Jesus’s life was about sacrificing himself, giving to others, and loving others. So, how does that look when I spend my efforts trying to selfishly keep more for me? What will cause a non-believer to see my life and want to follow Jesus? Being a stingy and excessively frugal person? Or being a generous and excessively giving one?
Could I have “overspent” on getting a new roof? NO…not if my perspective is that I paid a great price and then generously donated to bless someone above and beyond that. If I can adopt this attitude, then I every time I buy ANYTHING, I’m getting the best deal possible.
Being wasteful vs being generous:
All this being said…there is a big difference between wasteful spending and generous spending. I DO feel we have a duty to be responsible with the money God has given us. Spending more money than necessary is not always being generous…sometimes it is just wasteful. Using utilities (water, electric, gas) that you don’t need is not “blessing the water supply company”…it is wasting a resource. Buying a new set of dishes and throwing away the old ones is a waste. However…buying a new set of dishes and GIVING away the old ones can be generous. I’m not advising boycotting amazon.com and instead trying to find the most expensive store when you need to buy something. And I’m not advising buying things you don’t need just to stimulate the economy. That’s just silly. But, if you’re going to get something, there is a difference between…buying at the lowest price available…and going to significant lengths to get the ABSOLUTE lowest price that borders on the company or person providing that product or service receiving little or nothing in return. Remember…whoever has made that product or is providing that service is a person too. If God has blessed you, don’t be hesitant to bless them in turn.
This is something I feel God challenging me in. My purpose in writing this is not to make anyone feel guilty about the way they are. This is something I STRUGGLE with and merely want to pass along my thoughts.
**Disclaimer** – I used “I” a lot here. This is not a reflection of thinking that I do what I want in terms of spending. Julia and I are both responsible for making financial decisions. I say “I” because I don’t want to lump her in with my selfish struggles. I just wanted to make sure that was clear.
My challenge to you:
Anytime you buy something, try to have the perspective of…you ARE buying it at a great price, and anything you spend above that price is you being generous in blessing someone else. Put less effort and time into seeking a deal and more time into loving and blessing others.