When Cheap Costs

When Cheap Costs

Cheap Costs

My friend Kevin’s mom was famous for explaining away any purchase she wanted to make by saying, “But, it on SALEEEEEE…”

For most of my life, I was just like Kevin’s mom. If there was a deal to be had, that was all the justification I needed to make the purchase.

Cheap goods are never without a cost.

As I’ve gone deeper into my Clutter Free life, I’ve come to understand a core truth: Cheap goods are never without a cost.

1. Cheap goods cost us space.

Cheap goods we don’t need but justify because they are on sale (or already cheap), take up room in our houses. We need a way to store these things on top of the other things we’re already keeping.

2. Cheap goods cost us time.

If clutter is a problem, then the minutes every day you spend looking for lost items, moving stacks, and dealing with clutter are slowly chipping away at your life.

3. Cheap goods cost us money.

A dollar here and there adds up. I’ve noticed a correlation between those who struggle with clutter and those who struggle with spending. We stockpile things we think we’ll need in the future, while not stockpiling what we will really need—money.

4. Cheap goods cost us our integrity.

Many of those cheap goods are produced on the backs of others—slave and child labor in foreign countries. Since I’ve stopped buying lots of clothes (I’ve bought five items in 2017,) I’ve been able to buy better quality items I know aren’t made with slave or child labor. As a practicing Christian, I need to be aware that I may have slaves working for me, even if they are half a world away. What is my moral obligation?

As I go deeper into my Clutter Free journey, these are the things I need to consider.

I’m not saying that bargain shopping is bad. Quite the opposite. The biggest bargain is not buying things you don’t need.

Break the Cheap Goods Habit

So if you’ve developed an addiction to cheap goods, how do you go about breaking it?

1. Shop with a list.

Always know what you’re going into the store for, and come out with just that. When Roger and I go shopping at Costco, we have a massive list. (We only go once a month and buy most of our food there.) At Costco, we do allow ourselves one indulgence, usually through the samples that are pushed like drug dealers.This month it was the prepared chicken salad. Oy. Vey.

The list rule applies for Target, Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond, or any other store we might be tempted. Bring a list. Stick to the list.

2.Stay Accountable.

If you know you struggle with sticking to your needs, ask a friend (or the Clutter Free group) to keep you accountable. It’s so much easier to resist temptation if you know someone is going to be checking up on you.

3. Budget.

If you’re saving up for something bigger and better, it’s easier to say no to the nonsense. We use the You Need A Budget (YNAB) app and love it. We remind ourselves that we can have anything we want, as long as we budget for it.

4. Realize it’s OK to have nice things.

We didn’t bring home any souvenirs from our recent vacation except books, a nice shirt for Roger, and one thing for me. In a little shop in Victoria, there was a woman selling handmade soaps. I found an orange and ginger soap that smelled like heaven. I fell in love.

Normally, I’m a basic soap girl. We have a large container of Soft Soap that we use to refill all the soap dispensers in the house. Cheap and easy. But I realized a few things:

*I loved this soap and would enjoy it while it lasted.
*I was supporting another woman’s livelihood.
*It isn’t clutter. When it’s used, it’s gone.

I bought the soap.

I love the soap. Guess what, I use the soap. And I don’t feel guilty about the price tag because that little piece of soap lines up with my Clutter Free values. And that? Is worth every penny.

How Our Family Ebenezer Helped Us Through a Season of Financial Stress

How Our Family Ebenezer Helped Us Through a Season of Financial Stress

by Amberly Neese

Money stinks.

Don’t get me wrong I appreciate the freedoms and opportunities money can afford, but the lack of it is draining.

My husband and I have been in full-time ministry for most of our lives. Budgeting has been a necessary reality since the beginning of our union. Dental bills, unexpected car repairs, medical issues, and the cost of everyday life created stress for us in various seasons but nothing could have prepared us for nine months of unemployment.

The cost of unemployment

We had just moved so I could accept my dream job at a Christian camp in the mountains of Arizona. I left teaching, took a pay cut, and trusted God’s call. Everything was awesome until my husband started looking for a job. He has a Master’s Degree from USC (on a full ride), decades of experience, and, frankly, he is a good guy. Nothing. No one seemed to have a need for that which he had to offer. It was arduous.

The tension in our home with our teenagers and between my husband and I became palpable. An increase in raised voices and shed tears precipitated a change. That change came in the form of a trip to the dollar store (God bless the dollar store).

We bought polished rocks, a candle, and a Sharpie. I pulled out an old glass hurricane lamp and charger plate from the garage and got to work. I put the candle in the middle of the charger plate, placed the hurricane over the candle and spread the rocks all around the outside of the glass. Then I called a family meeting where I told everyone anytime we felt overwhelmed or frustrated, we needed to contribute to our family’s ebenezer.

A family ebenezer

Ebenezer is more than the name of the lead character in that old Christmas story. It comes from the name of a stone raised by Samuel to commemorate a victory over the Philistines at Mizpeh (I Sam.12). The word itself comes from the Hebrew (ebhen “stone” + ezer “help”). God often asked His people to remember His goodness by building an ebenezer to remember His faithfulness. God didn’t do it to feed His ego, but instead, He knew we’d need the reminders.

We have very short memories in times of trouble!

Each person in my family was given a few rocks and asked to write something God had done to show His love in the past week. We used the permanent marker to scribble our ideas on the rocks. Anytime we saw the hand of God provide for our family, we wrote on a rock and placed it on the inside of the hurricane glass.

They served as our reminders

By the end of the unemployment drought, we had gone back to the dollar store three times to buy more rocks. Even on days when our financial situation looked bleak, it was very difficult to feel sorry for ourselves. Written on every rock we saw His faithfulness evidenced on a daily basis through others, circumstances, and His church. The arguments dissipated and the joy quotient vastly increased.

Someday when my kids leave the house to start families of their own, the first thing I will send with them is the makings of an ebenezer. I pray when they face the tumult of difficulty, such a visual reminder will commemorate God’s faithfulness, and the “joy of the Lord (will be their) strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

One Small Win: As we built an ebenezer, He built in us a solid trust in His provision. When we removed some of the rocks, we were reminded of all that had happened. We were flabbergasted at the creative ways God provided for our family.


Amberly Neesefamily ebenezer is a national speaker, author, and humorist with a passion for pointing others to the joy found in Christ. She has won hearts (and funny bones) of people all over the country at hundreds of conventions, camps, seminars, retreats, and chapels. She also serves as the program director at UCYC and an adjunct professor at Grand Canyon University. Amberly received her Master’s degree from Biola University.

Amberly has been married to Scott Neese since 1992. They have two kids, Judah and Josiah. They live in beautiful Prescott, AZ and love the Food Network and all things Star Wars. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.