Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Taking A Spending Sabbatical

By Sharon Burns


"After 30 years, I need a break to refresh myself and find new creativity," she shared. I was surprised to hear so early on a Saturday morning that the hostess of my favorite quilting show had lost her creativity.  

Less than three hours later, a longtime friend who teaches at a university told me she is spending the fall semester in Massachusetts. According to her, "There are so many new techniques for assessing consumer behavior and I am way behind."

Both of my friends, one of whom I've never met, are taking a sabbatical -- a break from the normal pattern of life to learn something new, to re-set themselves. Might it be time for a spending sabbatical?

All of us spend money to meet our living needs and have done so for as long as we can remember. We probably have fallen into the same patterns of buying, using and discarding goods and services. Our spending patterns may not even be ours; we may be adopting the habits of family, friends and colleagues without even thinking.

A spending sabbatical offers just the ticket to rethink our needs, wants and spending patterns. It involves cleansing the pocketbook and resetting the checking account. Our sabbatical may last a month or a year. Here are some sabbatical program suggestions; feel free to choose one or tailor a selection for your life.

Cold turkey and complete. Set a date. Stop spending. Spend only for items you absolutely need - food, car gasoline, electricity, toilet paper. Use what you have on hand to meet your needs and fulfill any wants.

Buy only what you will use and consume within the next seven days. Don't spend money in advance. This is the ultimate faith test - that the price will be right when you "need" the item. In many cases, you will have long forgotten the need before the seven-day clock expires.

Buy used. Except for consumables, like food and car gas, do not buy anything new. Need a car? Plenty of used ones to go around. Clothes, furniture, home appliances? Consignment stores, auction houses, thrift and retail stores.

Avoid any spending (except for absolute needs - see above) over $5. It's easy to nickel and dime ourselves to death, but a limit may get us thinking. Thinking about what we're doing is a critical step in resetting our monitors.

Say a “Hail Mary” or “Our Father” (slowly and reverently) for every dollar spent. I figure it would take me a good half morning of prayer to equal my utility bills. Consider during your prayer time, how your consumption patterns build the temple of God. Are they consistent with Catholic teaching regarding stewardship of the environment? Respectful of the human dignity of others?


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Jesus took sabbaticals. He went into the desert to pray and fast. He often withdrew from the crowds. This refreshed him, reconnected him with God, his father.  

Like Jesus' and my friends' time away, a spending sabbatical not only allow us to reduce spending but more importantly, reset our consumption monitors. Buy only what you need or use, and always in a manner respectful of our environment and our faith.