On Navigating Fall Shopping...

[via pinterest]
This past week, I spent some time at the Mall of America with family.  I'm always amazed at the endless options for things to buy (and my endless desire to have it all).  All of the stores were adorned with their new fall displays, and it got me thinking again about approaching shopping in a way that glorifies God.

Looking at your closet coming into a new season can be a frustrating experience.  I know firsthand, because it seems like at every turn, my closet no longer has all of the "it" items to make the most fashionable combinations.  This feeling can lead to some dangerous things:

1 - Idolatry.  Worshiping fashion and needing to have what is in style to be okay, and really feeling bad about your identity until you get what you think you need.  Guess what folks, this is a never ending battle.  There isn't a next perfect blouse or boots out there that will FINALLY be the piece that completes your wardrobe.  If you are thinking, "I just need this ONE more thing and THEN I'll be happy with my wardrobe" you are in the danger zone.

2 - Poor Stewardship.  When you go to the store thinking, "I don't have enough cool clothes...I need some new ones" with no plan, strategy, or care in the world for budget... you might be in the danger zone for bad stewardship.  God has given us resources to use wisely for our needs, and sometimes he blesses us with enough for our wants too.  When this is the case, we need to pursue a heart of thankfulness.  A general feeling of just "wanting more" leads to mindless shopping and spending God's money frivolously.

I have experienced both of these struggles when it comes to shopping for clothes, and by God's grace I'm continually battling the temptations our culture offers.

Here are some practical tips that have helped me navigate fall shopping to the glory of God:

Pray before you shop.
No joke.  Try it.  Suddenly that ga-zillionth pair of skinny jeans might seem less like a need and more like a luxury.  (admittedly, I forgot to do this before our trip to Mall of America, and was reminded later that this is always a good way to proactively protect and prepare my heart!)

Have a budget.
My husband and I agreed to an annual clothing budget for my shopping a couple of years ago.  I love it because I didn't realize that having boundaries on my spending could actually be FREEING.  When I decide to pull the trigger on a new pair of boots, I think long and hard about using the resources I have allocated for that specific item.  It protects me from lots of frivolous shopping, and challenges me to spend thoughtfully.  It also allows me to not wonder if I'm going overboard, because I am spending in a way that respects my husband.

Create a long-term plan for staples.
One thing that has helped me monitor my shopping habits is to create a seasonal, annual, or bi-annual plan for major purchases such as boots, jeans, and winter coats.  I try to buy quality items, and then I have a time frame in my head for how long I need to make them last.  This spreads out larger purchases over several years, and helps me from feeling the "need" to get those big ticket items too frequently.

Shop in the off-season.
Want to know a secret about boot shopping?  A great time to buy them is in July.  Why?  Because they are fresh off the presses for the fall and you can generally snag them at a great discount (there isn't exactly a run on boots in the summer).  Added bonus:  You get to enjoy them for the entire season because you have them ready to go in the closet on the first crisp day.  Don't feel bad about looking for cardigans in June or getting a sweater you really love in March for the next year.  You can get some GREAT deals this way.

Go with a list.
Before I go shopping for new clothes at the beginning of a season, I assess what I already have.  Once I've accomplished this step, I actually create a list of things I'd like to purchase for that season and I estimate the cost of each item.  This helps me guard against impulse buys (ooooohhh but it was under $10!) and reminds me that I DO want to save a little chunk for that sweater I really like.  Also, estimating the cost of each item means that you are less likely to pay too much for an item because you have pre-determined what it's worth to you.

Final thoughts:  I'm a girly girly girl.  I like to go to the mall to just walk around.  I am a Christian mom who doesn't aspire to denim jumpers.  I battle the culture and the pressure to be like the world.  I feel the looming and creeping desires that tell me, "more is better" and sometimes I lose the battle.  I don't shop and spend perfectly, and I'm pretty sure that sometimes (even when I'm not trying to) I dishonor God with my purchases.  Sometimes I don't feel very pretty or put together, and I think the answer might be to go to the Gap and walk in circles until I find something to buy...something to make me new...cooler, prettier, more likable... These are the moments that I remember my need for a savior because I'm so self-centered and off base about what really matters.  If I didn't have Jesus to cover for my sins in this area, I would be separated from God forever, with no way to approach his throne.  I need his grace to overcome materialism and self-worship.  I need his help to put on what is pleasing and perfect and beautiful in his sight.

Ladies, I commission you to go into this fall shopping season with a THANKFUL heart for what God has given you.  You are richly blessed have abundantly more clothes and accessories than the vast majority of the world.  You are living in luxury, and you don't need any of it to be beautiful before God.  Be generous.  Spend less than you wanted to.  Enjoy everything you have to the glory of God.

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