Money Secrets of the Amish: Finding True Abundance in Simplicity, Sharing, and Saving. This book was borrowed digitally from the public library lending program - a wonderful service I feel fortunate to have access to.
Lorilee Craker is having another child and needs a bigger house but can't afford to sell the one she lives in because they are underwater, so she does what any Mennonite might think to do; explore the money secrets of the Amish in an effort to change her own life.
These financial stories are almost always the same, someone's financial life is a mess but then they find inspiration in somewhere and turn things around through thrift, appreciation for what they have, and making more money. And I love them all. It's like when I was 16-25 years old and even though every Will Smith or Tom Cruise movie followed the same predictable lines, I still enjoyed them and Craker's is no different.
Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without.
This first piece of advice was especially relevant to me as I'm reading more about Stoicism as a philosophy which promotes the idea of enjoying what you have. The concept is that we should appreciate what we have instead of wanting something new or better. This happens so frequently with cellular phones and other devices - at least for me. I think that the newest thing will be better, it likely won't. This computer I'm typing on now has a flapping battery flap that requires I type on a flat service instead of my lap (It's my flat-surface-top computer) but it works just fine. We also do this with clothing, furniture, almost everything in our lives. I've not had to get rid of one piece of clothing because it has worn out in the last nine months but if I hadn't begun practicing not buying things I certainly would have added to my closet in an attempt to replace those items.
The second Amish money secret is to embrace delayed gratification. We don't need such and such a thing right now, we can wait. I remember reading a long time ago that if you want something you should save ahead of time for it. Keep that money earmarked for whatever it is you desire but work like crazy for it. This serves two purposes, it keeps you out of debt to buy it but it also makes you appreciate what you're paying. When I was younger I wanted an autographed baseball - it was $70. I begged my parents to lend me the money and I would work it off but they refused, insisting instead that I work for it and then buy it, their support would be ample chore opportunities to earn the money. I did end up saving the $70 needed but did I buy the ball? No, I realized that I didn't want to work that hard and just get a ball. This savings really helped because I was able to pay cash for both a new car and engagement ring when I was in my 20's.
The Amish also believe in paying on time,
"To pay someone on time is an extension of the commandment ‘Do not steal,’” he said serenely. “If it’s due on the tenth, and you pay it on the fifteenth, you are stealing that man’s money for five days.”
I liked the essence of this idea, that you could view this as stealing and Craker does too - but she also does the math on what she was paying in late fees and that jostled her mind more than any horse and buggy ride on a rutted road ever could.
Craker speaks most passionately in the section about giving gifts. It sounds like earlier in her life it wasn't uncommon to give her children lavish gifts for their birthdays and holidays because giving gifts is way that she expresses her love towards the people around her. What she realizes though, is that while giving gifts to express love is good, they don't have to be materialistic. She can give time or gifts of experience instead and these are often more appreciated.
The Amish are also fervent savers. Like Mr. Money Mustache their perception is that anyone can save towards their goal, whatever it is. In the book Craker features Mr. Amos Miller who saves $400,000 over twenty years while feeding fourteen children and renting a farm to work. It's here where Craker shares of of the better tricks toward savings. The next time you go shopping and get a receipt that has printed how much you saved, actually go and save it. If the receipt says you saved $20.25 then when you arrive home take $20.25 and put in in a piggy bank.
Craker also writes passionately about despoiling her children. I have similar thoughts when I think about Amish children and what they do. I don't think my daughters need to be mowing the lawn - yet, but I can hardly wait for this day to come - but they don't really do much of anything around the house. It's my goal to take this idea of despoiling them and make appropriate chores a more regular occurrence.
Teaching my children, especially the little one, to be satisfied with what they have started with me paying more attention to how they were treating their things... As Andy, an Amish father of nine, told me, “A lot more is caught than taught.” page 96.
The book also highlights the value of buying things used - underwear too - as well as re-using anything that might have some life left in it. Craker closes with a chapter highlighting that the best things in life aren't things. Instead of movies at the theater it's movies at home where you can talk and laugh all you want, it's board game nights with the whole community, it's sharing what you have with others, it's a culture lacking TeeVee and instead with friends and family.
This was a highly enjoyable book. It read very quickly and was well paced - two very important things for me as a reader. Even though the story is the same as many other personal fiance stories I still enjoyed it because it was about people and that's a very Amish thing to appreciate.