Challenging economic times inspire people universally to make wise financial decisions. Whether it's choosing to repair a vehicle instead of purchasing a new one, or investing in simple pleasures vs. opulent outings, such behaviors are proliferating. One culture that has always lived austere, yet meaningful lives is the Amish. Increasingly, people are intrigued by their lifestyle; and wonder what aspects of their living they could comfortably imitate.
Lorilee Craker is the author of the new book, "Money Secrets Of The Amish-Finding True Abundance in Simplicity, Sharing and Saving." She examines their lifestyle, which is extravagant in peace, family and community closeness. For them, thrift is a muscle that is exercised regularly.
Craker interviewed Amish folk in Michigan and Pennsylvania, including an Amish banker whose clientele is 95 percent Amish. During the Great Recession in 2008, his bank had its best year ever. Amish experts and Englishers' (Amish reference to anyone non-Amish), financial perspectives accentuate the book too. Here, two of their money-saving habits, bartering and rethinking gifts, are discussed.
Bartering. Bartering was a popular social behavior from the 1880s to the Great Depression. It's common again today. The Amish, who have a long history of living outside a cash economy, love to swap goods for goods, goods for services or services for services. In regards to bartering, ask yourself, "What are you good at and what could you negotiate for something of worth?"
Unfortunately, Americans can be too proud to barter, but it's popular in foreign countries. Barter, and you will:
- Build relationships and community.
- Engage on a deeper level when you must express your needs.
- Think of your assets first before your needs.
If you're uncomfortable bartering, start with your friends and acquaintances; and seek bartering opportunities. Post what you need on social media sites.
Rethink Gift Giving . The Amish give one gift per child for birthdays and christmas. Gifts are often useful, need-based and hand-made, regardless of the recipient's age. The first step in rethinking gift giving is to scale back. Consider giving gifts that are either: a. experiential or charitable, or b. homegrown in some way.
Experiential gifts. Give the gift of a single experience, shared or not, of know-how, skill, and most importantly, memorable. Examples include sporting events tickets, museum memberships, or Horseback riding lessons. Experiential gifts can be expensive or cheap, as it's more about investing in the relationship.
- Un-wrappable gifts. They can be fun, frugal, yet meaningful. Give coupons for services including babysitting, housecleaning or yard work.
- Coupon-gifting. Consider giving the gift of time, allowing you to create memories, which are priceless. Coupon gifts are also something to anticipate using.
- Make a donation in the recipient's name to an endeared charitable cause.
Homegrown. Examples include painted pottery, made candles, garden stones, and soap.
- Cook, Can, Bake. "Somehow there's something about a kitchen gift that's infused with so much more than the cost of ingredients," says Craker.
Secondhand. Aim for 20 percent of your gifts to come from resale, consignment or thrift shops, suggests Craker:
- Resale shops. Can include costume jewelry for kids.
- Consignment stores. Look for name-brand clothing, baby shower and newborn gifts.
Shop Your Own Home For Gifts. One person's junk is another man's pleasure:
- Re-gifting. This practice gets a bad rap, but if you have something in good condition that someone else would appreciate far more than you do, why not give it to them?
- Practice re-gifting beyond Christmastime. Sometimes gifts carry extra meaning for both the giver and receiver. Parents can give away special home items to their grown-up children. Such objects are treasured, emotional connection points to their upbringing.
Money Secrets Of The Amish illustrates that bartering and gift giving can be both hip and practical. And, you needn't don a bonnet or suspenders to prosper.