If you’re a woman and you live in America, odds are you have a not-so-secret love affair with Target. And I don’t blame you, I did too. The whoosh of the red doors, the instant warmth and comforting smell of the Starbucks and hot popcorn, the dollar section right inside the doors beckoning you further with cute-enough trinkets that would look just right on that corner of your desk…first you browse the clothes, because you just never know what might be on clearance. Then you progress to the shoes, then the kids clothes, then the home decor…the next thing you know, you’re being propelled out the door and towards your car by that same whoosh, only this the doors close with the ominous thud of $128.73. You originally only went in for some baby wipes and a toothbrush. You left with a couple of throw pillows, new hand towels, a couple of scented candles, those adorable baby clothes from the clearance rack, a bulk box of baby wipes, an empty bag of popcorn, and…no toothbrush.
This was me more times than I care to admit. There are memes and GIFs galore about the magical powers of Target. You walk in, black out, and leave an hour later in a shopping-overload daze. Target is hypnotic, therapeutic, and so hard on your wallet. About the time Target started introducing controversial policies, I decided it was a high time to break up with Target.
At first, it was harder than I thought. It had always been so easy. Need new towels? Go to Target. Need some retail therapy? Go to Target. Bored and just need to get out of the house? Go to Target. I had to change this reflex. This forced me to look around and start researching other options. Can I find similar products other places, for cheaper prices? The short answer is yes – Costco, Aldi, Hobby Lobby, Walmart, and local consignment and garage sales often offer more affordable prices. I just went to one consignment sale with a friend, and I got all the clothes my two kids will need until winter – including PJs, “Sunday best” outfits, swimsuits, and shoes – FOR $150! Sure, they’re not all new, but they’re in great condition and some of them did in fact still have tags on!
Before I knew it, I had gone six months without going to Target, and then a year. The weird thing was, I didn’t miss it, not even a little bit. But that’s not what I want to focus on right now. By now, you’re probably thinking, “If that’s not it, you’re taking forever to get to the point!” You’re right, sorry…
The point is – when I broke up with Target, I found that I was more content, not only with my home, but with my life in general. Before you roll your eyes and move on, hear me out. All those things I used to buy at Target, none of it was necessary. I was simply buying things because they were cute, pretty, sparkly, etc. After years of watching HGTV and reading every issue of home design magazines, I was addicted to using Target to help me make my home match those ideal homes as closely as possible. I had become discontented with my home and belongings, and my spending was irresponsible. Luckily, I did not accrue debt. But I did accrue stuff. And the more stuff that built up in our home, the more stressed I became trying to keep things neat and organized.
I was blessed that I found resources such as Ruth Soukup’s books and blog that offered grounded, Godly advice on how to cut back, simplify, and budget your needs (and desires). The Bible calls us to be good stewards of the resources God has given us. A good illustration of this is the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 in which Jesus explains that God wants us to use our resources for His glory. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” Filling our homes with useless clutter is not necessarily a sin, but it may be a sign of a heart that is not focused on using their resources for God’s glory.
The Bible also tells us we should be content and not lust after worldly possessions (check out the tenth commandment!). 1 John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” What’s interesting about this is that a lot of people get it backwards and think that following God’s laws means living a boring and burdensome life. It’s in our nature as humans to want things. God made us to crave His love, His presence, His voice. When we try to satisfy that craving with material things, we will soon find that those things and our desperate need to buy them become burdensome. If, however, we stay within God’s original design, we will find joy and contentment in the blessings God gives us.
I want to reiterate that I’m not saying everyone has to do like the rich man in Matthew 19 and sell everything, give the money to the poor, and live a life of supposed holy austerity. Very few people are ever truly called to that life. I love what Mark says in his version of that story: “Jesus looked at him and loved him,” (v. 21, NIV). In that moment, Jesus saw through the rich man’s extravagant exterior to see the hurting soul inside, and in that moment Jesus knew what the man really needed. That is the real issue here: we can never hope to fill our deepest desires with anything the world has to offer. Only Jesus can do that. That is what I’m driving at.
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that new purse or those colorful throw pillows unless we’re trying to use them to distract us from our relationship with Christ or fill holes in our hearts. Things can’t do that; people can’t do that. Only Jesus can make you and me whole.
This is the truth that resurfaced in my life when I broke up with Target. It wasn’t Target’s fault, and I’m not saying Target is evil or that no one should shop there. I simply needed to make a change and refocus. I have a beautiful, blessed life that is a gift from God. For me, personally, I needed to focus less on the things in my life and more on God. I still do. I’m a work in progress, as always!
As we prepare to make some huge transitions in a very short time, I have been reading, researching, and experimenting like crazy to find ways to stretch our budget. This was only one small change in the long run. Stay tuned in the weeks ahead as I share more of what I learned from seasoned pros like Ruth Soukup, Crystal Paine, and more!
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