dollar signThis past week I spent $335 on bills from prior commitments. (I didn’t think it was fair to make merchants wait for payment because of my Lenten resolution.)
$145  Professional services to self-publish my out-of-print book (Money in the Kingdom of God) on Amazon
$125  Rx renewal for 3 months
$  65  Pig Town Fling registration

I spent $14.51 on discretionary items since they were time sensitive.
$11.65 a scale for son visiting from Singapore
$  2.86 postage to mail forgotten ear muffs to granddaughter

I also donated $20 to men on the street asking for money per the decision I made last week.

What I thought of buying but didn’t was the more instructive part of my money management this week. Some were:
FRIVOLOUS (Am I just making this into a game?)

  • Days 365+90 mouseAvoiding parking fees. I waited in the airport cell phone lot rather than pay for parking.
  • Borrowing a computer mouse. My computer mouse died so I borrowed one from a neighbor rather than buy a new one. (I promised I’d return it when Lent was over. It did, however, get me thinking about how caring for property so it will last is connected to not spending money unnecessarily. Also, even with the best of care, things break. If I were living close to the margin, I might buy cheaper things to begin with. They would break sooner. I might not have a neighbor with an extra mouse, etc. I’m privileged to have the money to buy quality and neighbors who are well enough off to have extras. )

THOUGHT PROVOKING as I experienced what it felt like to go without something I would normally buy like:

  • Days 365+90 shoes gloveShoes. My everyday, all purpose black shoes started to get a hole in the sole. I could still wear them but this was the week the temperature dipped below 0, a record snow fall, and then daylong rains. I could have justified buying new shoes but I figured I would continue to wear them until my socks got wet.
  • Gloves. I lost one of my favorite everyday gloves. Remarkably, I found a similar pair on the sidewalk as the snow was melting. They weren’t in great shape but I decided to wash them and make them do until the end of Lent. I realized that I had some backup older gloves around the house too. I thought of the men on the street asking for donations. They didn’t have any gloves and it was really cold.
  • Laundry detergent. With an extra person staying at our home for several weeks, I forgot to replenish my laundry detergent and today I’m doing laundry. I might not be able to finish it. Is laundry detergent food? I buy it in the grocery store, so it must be. If it’s food, my self-made rule would allow me to buy it. But. alas, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) aka “Food Stamps,” does not cover laundry detergent, toilet paper, tooth paste, soap, diapers, tampons, deodorant, shampoo, cleaning supplies, etc. I thought of cheating and asking my husband to buy the detergent since he usually does the grocery shopping, but he had already done this week’s shopping and wasn’t willing to go out again for my little game. The bigger issue is that I consider these items necessities not luxuries. We may criticize the poor for poor hygiene but it doesn’t rise to the gospel level of “feeding the hungry.”

What did I learn about solidarity with the poor?
1.  Search for alternatives
Not immediately buying something I wanted (a mouse, parking, shoes, laundry detergent) pushed me to look for other ways to meet my wants.
2. Humility
It was humbling to ask to borrow something that I could just go out and buy. (One son made fun of me for being a nitpicker.)
3. Stewardship
Knowing that I won’t just replace an item (like my glove) if I lose it, prompts me to be more careful about how I take care of my stuff.
4. Medical care is not a luxury.
I didn’t hesitate to pay for the Rx that ran out. If I didn’t have good health insurance, I might have waited.
5. Laundry detergent is not a food.
Laundry detergent is not covered by food stamps. So…am I willing to wear dirty clothes?

The above examples are pretty typical of a normal week but this Lent has been anything but typical.
My mother died a month ago and we had a Memorial Mass for her in my home town last Saturday. This meant travel and lodging not only for myself but also for our children in Singapore and Kenya. It also meant starting to deal with inheriting household items, memorabilia, and money. The family decided to take funeral expenses, including travel and lodging out of the estate. So, although I paid out almost $3,000, technically it wasn’t my money, but part of her estate. In addition to the emotional and spiritual aspects of death, there are a lot of financial things to consider. I’ll start to address these in a post-Lenten post on Inheriting Stuff.