Financial Stewardship is Overrated

I have been extreme couponing for years and incredibly frugal for even longer. When it comes to financial stewardship, we’ve got it covered. Lately, I’ve been thinking that financial stewardship isn’t all that God cares about when it comes to making purchases and taking care of our home.

In fact, I think there is something that God cares about even MORE than our financial stewardship... Human stewardship.

Every time we make a purchase, even if the item is free (when I am using coupons) we set into motion a series of events that causes human lives to be destroyed. Yes, you read that correctly. Human lives, children’s lives, destroyed because of what we purchased at the mall.

Was it really such a great sale? Was it really that awesome when I got a new pair of jeans for $5? How many children did it take to manufacture that pair of jeans?

I have been battling with these thoughts for quite a while but I couldn’t find a solution. Most items, especially clothing, food and technology are manufactured by slaves. How do we change what is essential to our living? It’s not like I can quit eating, wearing clothes or using technology, quite frankly, I don’t even want to change any of those things. So then what?

This weekend, I hit a desperate state. Every pair of Truth’s jeans had holes in both knees and Zoe was close behind with only one pair of jeans left. The war was raging, between my ears. Where do I buy slave free clothes? They don’t even sell slave free clothes*!!!

I should have figured it out sooner, but I hate (HATE) the smell of thrift stores. I used to be able to tolerate the stench but when I learned to coupon, I could beat the price of almost every thrift store and it quickly became pointless.

The thrift stores in Portland are awful or maybe I’m just cheap a good steward, but the prices are outrageous. I quit attempting to shop at any of the stores after we moved here, five years ago. It was pointless. Why would I spend $5 on a pair of jeans at the thrift store when I can go to the mall and get a pair of NEW jeans for $5? It was a no-brainer. But then everything changed.

I grabbed Truth’s and Zoe’s hands, held my breath and walked into the thrift store. Did I mention that I HATE the smell of thrift stores? Why do they smell like that? How do they all smell the same?

Anyway, we come out 30 minutes later with four pair of jeans for $22. It wasn’t a great deal. I didn’t feel like I saved a bunch of money, actually I spent an extra $2 for used jeans. The difference was how I felt. I was being a good steward of people. Spending an additional $2 on four pair of jeans, translates into children on the other side of the globe NOT having to manufacture four more pair of jeans.

I have never seen the sweat shops in India or China, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I have never talked with a child that is forced to work 12+ hours a day to make the shoes I’m wearing, but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter. I have been a slave, I do know what it feels like to not have a choice. I do know what it’s like to be forgotten by society. I can NOT continue to live as if the individuals in the other side of the globe don’t exist.

Human stewardship is caring for the individuals that God created in His image, designed by Him for a purpose. I believe we can have the best of both worlds, we can have both financial and human stewardship. I will never be frivolous. I just can’t waste money, but stewardship is more than my finances. It’s about being educated and thoughtful with ALL of our resources, understand that my choices effect others all over the planet. I must create change and this change starts with me.

To New Beginnings,

Jes

*Fair Trade clothing is a much better option, however it is difficult to find an entire wardrobe. It’s also important to research the labeling of “fair trade”. Many times the label is used but it only applies to the “cut and sew” portion of manufacturing, not the production of the fabric.


25 Comments

  1. Good thoughts…thanks for the reminder. And, as a fellow Jess with a herd of children, I love the title of your blog! :)

  2. Nice post! You may really enjoy reading a true story called The Man Who Quit Money by Mark Sundeen (even if you never intend to give up using money). Another great read (for free online) is The Moneyless Manifesto by Mark Boyle. I took what he said about freeskilling and created a freeskilling community in my city. You can read that at: http://www.moneylessmanifesto.org/book/foreword-by-charles-eisenstein/

  3. This is a great post. I’ve been having some of the exact thoughts lately and have determined to now, as much as possible, clothe myself and my family from thrift/consignment stores (agree with you on that thrift store smell too…). Sometimes the price is even higher than buying new, but I agree with you that it’s better stewardship of both human lives and our earth.

  4. Brilliant. There are some places which are totally fair trade the whole production. They are not cheap because the worth is put into people who make the clothes. They are not silly money either and they do have sales. Also organic means the workers who grow the cotton or process the clothes have not been exposed to nasty chemicals. Some places I shop are people tree http://www.peopletree.co.uk/( look out for thier goody bags), eternal creation http://www.eternalcreation.com/( beautiful, amazing quality, pricy but do have sales and are Australian so opposite seasons to us which means our current season items are often on sale). Bishopston trading (less pricy), http://www.bishopstontrading.co.uk/shop/index.php. Finally global kids http://www.globalkids.co.uk/. Sorry for the long winded post but hope it’s helpful. Happy shopping

  5. This is not fair trade but I *think* it’s all US from grown to sewn: http://alabamachanin.com/women

    Have you thought about paying someone to patch your kids’ jeans? Or getting them the book Sewing School and letting them have a go? My daughter did her own jeans at age eight. The first try did not hold so she did it again-they look cute and are still going strong. I’m not very good at getting around to mending myself but I paid someone once to do my mending and spent less than I would have for replacing the clothes.

    So sorry your thrift stores are so expensive. My favorite starts kids’ clothes at fifty cents and that is so worth the smell! Also, even if you can buy new for so cheap, can you get as good quality? That is, I’d rather spend $5 at the thrift store and get something nicer and longer-lasting than I could buy with the same money new.

    All just thoughts and trying to be helpful, not critical. I think about similar things, especially with food. We buy a lot of our food directly from farmers and it’s hard to read blogs about how to feed a family on the super cheap and then not turn my brain inside out thinking about the conflict between financial and human stewardship. Thanks so much for this post!

    • Mending is a great idea! My kids also grow so fast that their pants get too short around the same time the holes begin… The way our family coupons, we purchase $40-$80 jeans for around $5, so we get the good quality jeans but the human stewardship has become increasingly important. It’s also a new challenge for me! We love our local farmers markets! Portland is great for fresh local food!

  6. I love this! I’ve been thinking along these lines as well and trying to shop at our local consignment stores for our kids especially. Jeans, button down shirts, Easter dresses—all easy finds at thrift stores. But what about things you just can’t find there? Things like bathing suits and underwear and the specific size shoes I happen to need for my three little ones? I just placed an order at Target.com, and felt a bit sick over it, but I wasn’t sure what else I could do while staying in my budget… Help!

    • We are still in process of switching from all new items to previously loved items. My goal is to purchase everything except socks, underwear and shoes from thrift stores or craigslist. As for those items, I buy a season ahead and get the clearance deals. Right now, the stores are switching to spring/summer so all the warm shoes and socks will be very discounted. I saw $80 children’s winter boots at Fred Meyer for $8 last week. Even underwear, have seasonal cycles!

  7. You’re fighting the good fight.

  8. You might like the book ’7′ by Jen Hatmaker. It addresses this so well and is both an entertaining and life changing book.

  9. Good stuff. I’m sending to my husband.

  10. Mishqueen

    Do Made-In-America clothing have the same labor issues?

    • Hi! It would vary by manufacturer. I don’t know of companies who manufacturer their own fabric then sew the garments exclusively in the US. It may be time for me to do some research! If you know of a company I would love to know!

      • Mishqueen

        I’ve been following this woman’s blog, maybe it’s a good place to start. She is good about replying to inquiries.

  11. Alabama Chanin http://www.alabamachanin.com/women and perhaps Goodhew http://www.goodhew.us.com/goodhew.html
    On a slightly different line, have you tried thredup? They are used kids’ clothing and now women’s online. It would avoid that thrift store smell. :-) I have not tried it though I’ve taken a look at the site.
    I thought about this issue more this week as I heard on the radio that a study/survey done after the Bangladesh garment factory tragedy saying Americans still put a higher priority on price of their clothing rather than conditions of the workers making the clothes. They didn’t ask me!
    Not that I’m perfect at ALL. My older daughter had a recent growth spurt and I was caught short. We hit the thrift stores and bought what we could but ended up buying a couple of sale items online. I don’t like doing that and it spurred me on to double check our “stock” and go yard sailing despite the rain yesterday. Thankfully I found stuff to make it worthwhile.
    I would love to hear the results of your research into US companies. My dad lost his job when I was in high school because of the textile industries moving overseas. We were fine but I know whole small towns in the south really suffered.

    • Lord have mercy! Some of those coats cost more than we make in a month! Haha! I would love to be able to support the designers but I may be sticking to thrift stores for a while. My kiddos grow like crazy and it’s hard to keep up. We still buy socks, underwear and shoes at the normal stores but I also use coupons, so we don’t spend much. I will always be uber thrifty. =)

      I’m sorry to hear how the outsourcing has affected your family. It is so damaging… Thank you for sharing.

      • Oh dear, I did not look at Alabama Chanin’s prices! Of course, some people are already paying prices like that for clothes. Not us; I have looked into the DIY stuff more but I still admire what Natalie Chanin is doing to bring back textile production in the U.S. I think that’s what Goodhew is doing as well.

        I should have given you the link to thredup: http://www.thredup.com/ It’s like an online consignment store. Pretty straightforward but I have not shopped it yet.

  12. Jes, I’ve bookmarked this post and re-read it so many times. Today I linked back to it on my own blog. Here’s the link if you’d like a look: http://www.natureofaservant.com/2013/05/motivation-for-monday-ethical-shopping.html
    Blessings!

  13. I completely agree, we must bring production and manufacturing back to the U.S. too many people need jobs.

    ThreadUp looks awesome! Thanks for sharing resources!


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