When I first did Exodus 90 in 2018, one brother in our fraternity casually mentioned he purchased a new Traeger that week’s field report. The rest of us immediately reminded him of an oft-neglected Exodus 90 discipline: No Unnecessary Purchases. His group-imposed penance? Smoking a brisket for our Easter Celebration.
Sure, cold showers, no snacks, and avoiding TV might sound – and be – tough, but both a unique challenge and a unique freedom await Exodus Men who take “No Unnecessary Purchases” seriously.
My wife, Amanda, and I started WalletWin in 2017 to provide Catholic formation in personal finance. We’ve helped thousands of families pay off debt, gain financial traction, and find the financial freedom to say yes to God’s call on their lives. It’s a pleasure to share with my Exodus brothers my 7 Tips for Avoiding Non-Essential Spending.
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”
This phrase comes from Amanda’s grandmother, who was voted “South Omaha Homemaker of the Year” in 1962, and it’s one we’ve taken to heart in our family. Take a stand against consumerism’s demand to “Replace it!” Use up the X before you get a new one. No need to replace perfectly good pants until you wear them out. Sole of your shoe flopping off? Get some ShoeGoo and make it do. And while it’s contrary to our modern ears, sometimes, the best thing to do is embrace a small bit of material poverty and do without.
Budgeting is not a financial juice cleanse. It is the practice of making a plan for your spending before you spend it. Budgeting invites you to consider purchases before they happen, and gives you time and space to consider if something is truly necessary. If you can’t make a case for it during your budget session, you don’t need to buy it.
Enroll in YouTube University
I know we pledge to “Avoid Unnecessary Smartphone Use,” and computer use that is not “work, paying bills, education, etc.” Applying a few newly-aquired skills around the house can save a multitude of unnecessary purchases. If going to YouTube to learn a skill, be 100% intentional with your time: know what you’re going to look up and stick to it. Set a timer. Make a concerted effort to avoid getting sucked in by algorithmic recommendations. Better yet, ask your handy neighbor or a brother in your fraternity to help you fix the sink. The main point here is this: most jobs around the house you can probably do yourself with a little help or training. Find someone to help you. If you can’t find them in-person, you’ll probably find them on YouTube. And any tools you need for said projects? Borrow them if at all possible.
Reduce Scrolling – Online and Off
This goes hand-in-hand with avoiding unnecessary smartphone and computer use, and cut down material covetousness at the source. Too often I see a new gadget or tool online and suddenly discover a strong desire to acquire one for myself. Remaining faithful to other Exodus disciplines helps here, but Avoiding offline “scrolling” is also needed. Don’t look at the Costco or Sam’s ad when it comes in the mail. Avoid clearance isles. Skip reading promotional emails when clearing out your inbox.
Take It Seriously
You might be tempted to take “No Unnecessary Purchases” lightly or have a liberal understanding of what’s “necessary.” I encourage you, Brother, to dig in on this discipline. Do you need to buy it? Will not making this purchase have a terribly negative impact on your life? Or might you just be inconvenienced? The Church teaches us in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that goods of consumption should be used “with moderation, reserving the better part for guests, for the sick and the poor.” (CCC 2405) What if we really tried to live that out this Exodus? That we make ourselves make due with the acceptable so that we can “reserve the better part” for guests, the sick, and the poor. How might that revolutionize our hearts?
Know Your Why
Saying “no” to anything is made easier when saying “yes” to something bigger. Why are you avoiding unnecessary purchases? Why are you taking part in Exodus 90? What are you looking for? For whom are you offering up this mortification? Knowing you’re saying no to yourself to grow in holiness and be a better husband and father, keeping in mind that you’re offering up your sufferings as a prayer for your father’s cancer diagnosis, submitting yourself to the disciplines of Exodus 90 to better understand, appreciate, and take part in the glories of Easter, make it easier to pass on buying a Trager. (Looking at you, Blake!)
Turn to Jesus, Not Buying Stuff
We’ve been brought up to turn to consumption to feel better. It’s not called “retail therapy” for no reason! Online buying apps and in-store experiences are designed to hijack our God-given reward system and flood our brain with neurotransmitters. It feels good to consume. To buy something at the store perk us up. To hit the drive through when we’re stress and busy. To put on a show and veg out on the couch to relax. To buy a round to celebrate. Our concupiscence pulls us towards consumption to address our feelings and numb us in comfort. But you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness. And our Lord is waiting for us in the tabernacle to pick us up when you are down, to help us understand and handle our stress, to help us relax, to make us better men. Our hearts will not rest until they rest in him, and no amount of retail therapy can change that.
Let’s view purchases with the Holy Indifference found in St. Ignatius First Principle and Foundation:
God created human beings to praise, reverence, and serve God, and by doing this, to save their souls.
God created all other things on the face of the earth to help fulfill this purpose.
From this it follows that we are to use the things of this world only to the extent that they help us to this end, and we ought to rid ourselves of the things of this world to the extent that they get in the way of this end.
For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things as much as we are able, so that we do not necessarily want health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, a long rather than a short life, and so in all the rest, so that we ultimately desire and choose only what is most conducive for us to the end for which God created us.
If we do all we can to view created things with holy indifference, we might surprise ourselves both with how much we find to be meaningless to our salvation and how indifferent towards them our hearts have become.
I wish you a good Exodus, Brother. For your freedom and for the Glory of God.
Jonathan Teixeira, along with his wife, Amanda, founded WalletWin, providing Catholic financial formation for families and young adults. Together they host The Catholic Money Show podcast, authored the book How to Attack Debt, Build Savings, and Change the World Through Generosity: A Catholic Guide to Managing Your Money, speak at events across the country, created The Catholic Money Course, WalletWin Kids, the Catholic Family Emergency Binder, and the BIG Catholic Calendar and Planner. Before starting WalletWin in 2017, Jonathan was a missionary with FOCUS for 9 years in a variety of local and national roles. He loves crosswords, reading, sour gummies, board games, camping, and spending time with his three daughters. He lives in the Archdiocese of Omaha, where he is an Instituted Acolyte. His first Exodus 90 was in 2018, and he attended the first Freedom Summit in 2023. You can contact him at WalletWin.com.
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