Becoming Almost Amish: Finances

Today we continue my Becoming Almost Amish series, where we look at 10 Amish principles to live by and I share how I have applied or plan to apply them in my own life to work towards a more simple, sustainable lifestyle. Each of these principles and strategies were inspired by Nancy Sleeth’s book Almost Amish.

Amish Principles to Live By—guidelines for a simpler, slower, more sustainable life:

  1. Homes are simple, uncluttered, and clean; the outside reflects the inside.
  2. Technology serves as a tool and does not rule as a master.becoming-almost-amish-finances

Amish Principle #3: Saving more and spending less brings financial peace.

It’s probably no surprise that the third Amish principle involves finances. It’s a natural progression—less stuff, less technology, less bills! Amish monetary policy can be summed up with three statements: little things matter; buy what you need, not what you want; and waste not, want not.

Before we hop into the strategies for today’s topic, I wanted to share a timely example from my own life. When talking about home, I mentioned one of the strategies was to buy quality items that would last. We got a set of ceramic knives as a wedding gift that quickly became my favorite. A few weeks ago I was not thinking and I tried to cut a piece of frozen ginger with one of these knives. I was distraught when a huge chunk of the knife broke off, rendering it unusable. Thankfully the company has a lifetime warranty, and even though I was unsure if they would cover a so-called “operator error,” yesterday we received a brand new knife in the mail, for no charge! This was my first experience with such a beautiful policy, and I could not be more thrilled to get back in the kitchen and use Kyocera knives for the rest of my life. (not a paid endorsement, just a very happy customer!) I thought that was the perfect example of 1. Investing in Quality Items, and 2. Managing your finances well. If my husband hadn’t told me about the lifetime warranty I would’ve gone out and bought a cheap set of knives to replace this one.

But back to the finances…

They say that money is the thing that married couples fight about the most. I was pretty lucky to find someone who shares similar views of finances as me, but that doesn’t mean it was completely smooth sailing figuring out how to combine our bank accounts and all the decisions and habits that come with many years of financial independence.

Don’t Buy (or keep) Things You Don’t Need

I mentioned in part 1 my stepdad’s rule: If something comes in, something must go out. That’s a pretty great way to make sure you’re not just buying things for the fun of it. I also mentioned earlier this year that my husband has been encouraging me to sell unwanted things before they lose their value. All of those electronics that I buy and then don’t use or upgrade can be turned for a profit, if you act quickly enough. (Bonus: it also equates to less clutter lying around the house)

One area that sticks out to me under this category is in housing. I was shocked at the size of a mortgage we were pre approved for—we could have bought a much larger home than we did, but thankfully we knew we didn’t want to end up “house poor” so we chose to take out a much smaller loan (and I’m glad we did, because it enabled me to make the decision to stop working instead of feeling like I was stuck because of our financial situation). I’ve also realized lately that there is no point in saving furniture or decorations for a “someday” home. We had a few items that didn’t fit well in our house, and even though I really liked them, I didn’t want to deal with storing them for who knows how many years…probably only to discover there would be no place for them at our next house, either! I would much rather see someone else be able to use them now…and most of those things can be sold on Craigslist for a little bit of extra income. 

We’re already thinking ahead to the sorts of gifts we will give our children in following with this minimalist lifestyle. We like the idea of giving: something they need, something they’ll read, something they want and something they’ll wear…OR even better, giving experiences such as movie tickets, season passes, etc. We’ve seen too many kids be overwhelmed by the amount of gifts they receive, and end up appreciating none of them.

Stay out of debt

Thankfully my husband and I both came out of college with no student loans, business degrees, and a pretty good handle on finances. I joked when we got married that I didn’t have much to bring to the marriage, but I did have a phenomenal credit score. We made it a point to establish an emergency account while I was still working and not incur any debt (other than our mortgage). It’s amazing how much freedom comes from living within your means. All of the physical things that people think will bring them joy are quite suffocating when you are trying to pay them off.

Save (a lot) more

Before I got pregnant, we rarely ate out—partially because of my restricted diet, and partially because I knew what we would pay for one meal out could buy groceries for several days, so this was one area where we saved money. Our goal to sell unused items to buy “extras” outside of the budget has worked really well, especially when buying things for the baby.  Which leads me to another point—a majority of the things I buy are second hand. Not just because I like to save money, but because I enjoy the treasure hunt, and I think it’s better for the environment. When it came to baby things I decided that I would rather help a local family out by purchasing the used stroller they were no longer using than spend 3 times as much on a new one from a superstore. We’ve also received MANY generous gifts and hand-me-downs, which we are very thankful for!

Some other areas we’ve used to lower expenses and thus save more include buying a fuel efficient car, switching to a health share instead of insurance, having date night at the local discount theatre (or taking in the many free events around town), and using the library instead of buying books.

Give Generously

I think one of the best parts about simplifying your finances is the ability to give generously. We have several friends who work in full time ministry and we love being able to support them financially, especially since we both worked in ministry for a short time ourselves. We were also able to start a scholarship in memory of my mom last year, which was really exciting and a great way to not only help local students but make sure her legacy lives on.

Make Investments that Reflect your Values

At first I thought this didn’t apply to me, because I am not an active “investor” when it comes to the traditional methods of investing. But then I realized that every purchasing decision we make is an investment. I once heard someone say that their father approached every purchase questioning if it would further the kingdom of God. I’m not sure I could justify a lot of the things I spend money on (or maybe I would get too good at those justifications), but it is an interesting mindset to have.

Finances can be a very sensitive subject, and we definitely don’t have it all figured out, but I would say that overall we have found a place of financial peace. Speaking of Financial Peace, here are a few of my favorite financial resources:

Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (we haven’t taken this class ourselves, but know many that have, and my sister and brother-in-law even teach a class locally because it played such an important role in their life)

The Mint App for budget tracking– I seriously don’t know what I would do without this app. It keeps track of all of our purchases and account balances and lets me know how we’re doing on each budget category throughout the month.

What’s been your biggest hurdle (or help!) in achieving financial peace?

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