Spend Less

By Erin Bird

With Christmas rapidly approaching, let’s jump back into our “Advent Conspiracy” series, conspiring together to make this the most meaningful Christmas ever. And to do so, here is the blog post from the Advent Conspiracy website on the topic of “Spend Less,” one of the four tenets of this “conspiracy.”

Spend less is an ambiguous goal. Spend less than last year? Spend less than my neighbor? The truth is there is no formula. The challenge of this tenet is to be willing to ask more questions and then be open to hearing what God says in return. Some questions you could ask might be…

  • Is this something I want or something I need?
  • Why do I want to buy this?
  • What kind of company am I supporting if I purchase this product?
  • Can I afford to spend this amount?
  • How many presents do we actually need?
  • What did we do with the presents from last year?

You see, spending less requires us to plan. Instead of mindlessly shopping online and ordering more than we know what to do with, we take the time to think about each purchase. We strive to thoughtfully evaluate what we support with our spending, and allow our spending to support products, people, and causes worthy of being supported. By spending a little less on ourselves we are able to more joyfully give to others in need.

It is not enough to say “no” to the way Christmas is celebrated by many; we need to say “yes” to a different way of celebrating.

It’s important to remember that when we choose to spend less on Christmas presents, it doesn’t mean that we love our friends and family any less. In fact, for many of us, we’ve found that the creative, intentional gifts we give showcase our love – and perhaps God’s – more clearly than ever before.

More than just an invitation to say no to overspending, this is an invitation to a new way of celebrating. This year start a new tradition of spending compassionately and responsibly.

Some ideas to help you Spend Less this Christmas:

  • Make a Christmas budget and then stick to it. Don’t compare yourself to others; pray and do what is best for your family.
  • Research companies that are Fair Trade.
  • Pray for the people on your Christmas list before purchasing anything. Make spending a conscious decision that engages your heart.
  • It’s not just about the presents. Notice how much you’re spending on other Christmas activities (going out to eat, new outfits, wrapping paper, decorations, etc.). Find one area where you can cut back this year.
  • Write down five things you’re thankful for. Take inventory of how blessed you already are.
  • Set a spending limit as a family. Let everyone have the same amount to spend on each other. You’ll be surprised at how creative your kids will get!
  • Donate old and unused clothes, toys, and books to a local organization. Notice how much stuff you actually don’t use or need.

By “Spending Less,” you set yourself up to “Give More” which we will talk about next week. ‘Til then, have a great week!

Love All


by Erin Bird

So how’s your Christmas season going thus far? According to the Christmas songs, this should be your favorite time of year.

But is it?

When you are at the office Christmas party, and Randolph has had a little too much to drink and begins to dance with the plant in the corner of the hotel ballroom, you begin to wonder if this really is your favorite time of year.

Or when Aunt Sally launches into another opinionated political tirade right as the family sits down for Christmas dinner, you roll your eyes and wonder why people say this is the most wonderful time of the year.

To be quite honest, it can be quite difficult to love certain people this time of the year. How do you show love to someone you would rather bash on the noggin with the elf on the shelf?

Well, if you don’t want to spend your Christmas in jail for assault, but rather truly Love All, here’s some advice:

1. Pray
It’s seems cliché and overly-Christian-y, but you really should try it. If you know you are headed into a situation where you’d rather deck someone than deck the halls, pray before you walk in. Ask God to help you love like Jesus loved. (Because some of those Pharisees that judged Jesus were mighty irritating, but we don’t see Jesus sticking those dudes on the cross, rather he died for them and their sin.)

Oftentimes when you pray for someone, you end up caring about them. So the starting point to Love All is to pray for those you struggle with.

2. Plan
Make a plan for what you are going to do when Grandpa starts ranting about some fringe theological viewpoint. What would show love to him and help him be emotionally healthy? Is it listening? Is it to calmly walk away? Is it to gently share an opposing view and help him see he isn’t nearly as right as he thinks? Prepare now for what would truly help the other person feel loved without enabling him or her to offend others.

In other words, apply Peter’s advice: “[I]n your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)

3. Give
Last week, we looked at the topic of Give MoreWhat could you give to the “extra-grace-required” person in your life that will communicate the love of God to them without giving them continued permission to be a jerk? It could be a meaningful present, it could be something homemade, it could be your time, or maybe you could give a donation to a cause in their name.

As Proverbs 25:21-22 says: “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”

A Real Life Example
I remember a couple years ago, a friend of mine was complaining about her husband. They weren’t getting along. He was spending his time on things of which she didn’t approve, and he knew she was silently judging him. Even the kids were noticing the tension at home.

Because she knows I am a pastor, she asked me what she should do as a Jesus-follower. After we talked through some of what the Bible says about marriage and her role as a wife, I asked what her husband’s love language was. She said, “Gift giving.” So I suggested she get him a gift to indicate she still loved him and that he is important to her.

She glared at me for a moment, then grunted, “Darn it! You’re right. I don’t like it, but you’re right!”

Well, that very night, she was browsing a clearance rack and found some super-soft pajama pants at an amazingly low price. Immediately she knew her husband would love them. She told me she didn’t want to do anything nice for him, but she sensed God telling her to get them. So she prayed God would change her heart toward her husband as she threw the pajama bottoms into her shopping cart.

Well, guess what… it worked! Her husband LOVED the gift, felt incredibly honored, and then apologized for his behavior and decisions. She was overwhelmed that because:

  1. she had prayed about the situation,
  2. made a plan (reluctantly) to show love,
  3. then gave him something,

it helped to repair the breach they were both feeling in their relationship.

I can’t guarantee if you follow my friend’s actions, you’ll also experience immediate relational connection. But I do know that God calls you to love.

And yes, that includes your crazy Uncle Joe with his wacky conspiracy theories.

Give More

by Erin Bird

In last week’s post, I talked about Spend Less, one of the four tenets of the Advent Conspiracy movement. This week, I want to touch on another tenet: Give More.

At first glance, these two tenets (Spend Less vs. Give More) seem to be contradictory. If you are going to give more, don’t you have to spend more?

hand playing piano

Let me use an illustration from musicto explain. I was a piano major in college, so I used that knowledge to give each of my children piano lessons at home. When each of my kids were learning the difference between playing loud and playing soft, they naturally would want to speed up when the song got louder or slow down when a song got quieter. But it is quite possible to play a song loud and slow (like a national anthem), or quickly and quietly (like a movie soundtrack adding suspense to an intense scene).

Likewise, it is VERY possible for you to Give More while simultaneously Spending Less. For instance, you can give more of your time by making presents this year or by volunteering someplace. You could give someone “coupons” for things like “shovel your drive,” “do your laundry,” “go on a date,” or “wash your car.” All it takes is a little creative thinking. And oftentimes you’ll find presents like these actually mean more to the recipient.

Along with this idea to Give More, I want to challenge you to consider how you can give more financially outside your family. Whether it be to Riverwood’s Impact Gift (which we will collect on Dec 16 for Eight Days of Hope), or a great Christ-centered organization like Compassion or International Justice Mission, giving helps relieve the tension that so often grips our hearts. Giving financially to others frees us up so that our hearts aren’t wrapped up in money but free to enjoy God and truly live life. Giving to others actually gives us joy.

This is why several years ago our family changed how we did our three gifts to each of our kids. Remember last week, I mentioned how we give each of our children three gifts based on the gifts of the Magi to the Christ Child. The “myrrh” gift we give as a “practical” gift.

But it dawned on us. Whenever we need to get our kids something practical, like socks or jeans or winter boots, we just go out and buy it without much thought. Once we realized this, we made a decision with our kids to  give away their myrrh giftsThey get to choose giving something like clean water or food or mosquito nets or something else really practical that those in less fortunate circumstances need. The first year we did this, I remember one of our kids saying, “I’m really glad we’re doing this!”

Giving More to others gives more joy to you. And it frees you up to enjoy Christmas more. So I encourage you to Spend Less so you can Give More. If God can Give More by giving us Jesus, and Jesus can Give More by giving up his life for us, we can follow His example and Give More of our self this Christmas.

Spend Less

by Erin Bird

It’s been one week (most likely) since you enjoyed turkey and football and giving thanks with family and friends. Which means, it’s now the Christmas season! Radio stations are now pumping out Christmas music over the airwaves. Houses are being decorated with colored lights. And loud advertisements on TV and in the newspaper tempt us to purchase gifts for our loved ones.

Well, those advertisements must work. Because Americans spend a LOT of money on Christmas.

Our Addiction to Spending
According to Forbes, last week’s Black Friday saw Americans spend over $6.2 billion – a new record. And Cyber Monday was even crazier, with Americans spending $7.8 billion (of which over $2 billion was purchased via smartphones). Investopedia estimates that Americans will spend around 4.5% more in 2018 than in 2017, meaning we will spend approximately $720 billion for the holidays.

That’s a lot of moola. But what does that equate to for the average consumer? Almost $900. And most of that $900-per-American goes on credit cards, which takes some people months to pay off (making it actually far more than $900!).

But while Americans are making VISA rich, global crises continue. For instance, Advent Conspiracy claims it would only take $10 Billion dollars to provide safe water to everyone on the globe.

So what if we spent a little less on ourselves this Christmas so we could give more to those in need?

The Simple Power of “Spend Less”
As I have for the past three Christmases, I want to once again encourage you to Spend Less. Rather than convey your thoughtfulness to others through the amount you spend, I challenge you to convey your love through creative means such as:

  • handcrafting something rather than buying it
  • writing your loved one a poem or a song
  • giving a gift of food rather than a gift certificate to a restaurant
  • or even giving a homemade “coupon book” full of chores or tasks you will do for them

These types of gifts will be better for your bank account, better for your heart, and quite possibly better for your relationships.

A Real Life Example
I have shared this before, but here is one way my family lives this tenet out: LeAnn and I decided years ago to not give each of our kids 5 or 6 (or more) presents, nor focus on spending an equitable dollar amount on each of them. Instead, we give them only three gifts. Each gift is representative of the gifts the Magi gave the Christ Child in Matthew chapter 2.

  • The “myrrh” gift is something practical,
  • the “incense” gift is something to help them grow spiritually during the next year,
  • and the “gold” gift is the thoughtful, valuable gift – something we know will be meaningful to each of our kids.

We then set a budget for these gifts and stick to it. This helps us to Spend Less each Christmas while making Christmas more meaningful for our kids.

The Purpose of Spending Less
Keep in mind, the tenet of spending less isn’t so we’ll have more to spend on ourselves, rather by spending less, you are freed up to Give More (which is next week’s topic). Until next week’s Notes, though, think about how you can Spend Less this Christmas, while still making this one of the best Christmases you can remember.

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