Frugality or Fear

I read a fascinating article today on about how there is a huge shift in the spending patterns of Americans due to the weakness of the economy. More and more Americans are budgeting (yea!), they are clipping coupons, watching their spending and buying more economical cars. Experts are saying this is the biggest shift in buying trends since the 1970’s and the Depression after WWI.

I found the whole article fascinating because I just started clipping coupons and bargain hunting for my groceries. I have been doing it for about six months now and I have cut my monthly grocery budget by about 25%. It requires some time, but I have actually been doing it with some friends and we have had a lot of fun doing it together.

The MSN article made me laugh because it sounds like about 60% of Americans are doing the same thing. I love that people are being smarter with their money and spending it more purposefully. People just aren’t buying unless they are getting a deal, and that is affecting the entire face of the marketplace. There is so much that is wise about being purposeful in your spending. However, one of the things that is bothering me the most in the trend that I see around me is the reason that people are being frugal. There is a huge difference between purpose and fear.

What motivates you to save money, to spend money? What motivates your decisions? What I find concerning is that so many people are making their financial decisions based solely on fear. The horrible thing about fear is that no amount of savings can satisfy fear. No amount of safety nets, or budgeting, or investments can satisfy fear. Fear consumes, it eats away, and it constantly steals your joy. Fear is also a horrible guide for your financial decisions. It will cause you to hoard when you should give, to spend what you should save, and sometime even to save when you should spend. Did you know that many times decisions based on fear and what is actually God’s heart for you are complete opposites? That is because fear is the opposite of love, and it never comes from God.

I John 4:18 says that “Perfect love casts out all fear.” We have made that into a trite saying that we tell our kids when they are scared of the dark, but what that verse really means is that if you know God’s heart for you, if you know who He is and the depth of His perfect love for you there will be no place in your heart for fear. You won’t fear the future, because He has you. You won’t fear the economy, because He is your provision. And you won’t fear your finances, because if you know God you will trust Him that He will supply your needs and give you the grace to face your finances.

So, yes be wise with your money. Save, budget, pay off debt, coupon, but do it because there is life and purpose in it and not because of fear. Just remember, sometimes the best question to ask yourself isn’t what to do with your money, but why are you doing it?