Could you be Amish? While the Amish & Mennonites live a more simplistic lifestyle than most 1st- Worlders, us “Englishers” can learn some financial lessons from these people. You might often think of the Amish for making fine furniture, selling bulk food with a sandwich shop in the rear of the store, and the original people to “live off the grid” before it was cool to do so. But, the Amish also have some wise money lessons to learn & include in your own financial lifestyle.
During the 2008 “Great Recession,” the Amish weathered the financial storm better than most people. This is due to a culture of saving & being thrifty. Their business levels declined as well, but as most of them were not living paycheck to paycheck, they didn't have to tighten their belt as much. There was one Amish family that rented a beach house close to ours last summer in South Carolina. So they do have fun & travel like the rest of us.
I got the idea for this post after listening to Money Secrets of the Amish by Lorilee Craker. When we lived in Kentucky, we also lived near several Amish (not-Mennonite) communities and had the opportunity to have several conversations with some of them as we visited their food store periodically. While there are a plethora of “Amish hacks” in Craker's book here are a few that stuck out to me.
Make Do With What You Have
Us in the Western world live in a “disposable society” and our historic amount of disposable income has helped fuel this society. When it comes to electronics, it's easier to buy a new device as it's cost-ineffective or impossible to repair an old device. For other items, this works the same way. It's easier to replace rather than repair broken items around the house or garden. Also, if we want to change our decor style we go to the store and buy new to keep up with the latest fads.
Most Amish do not have to worry about money, but they stretch their dollars as much as possible because it is part of their culture. This can be repairing a broken shovel handle by finding another and reattaching it to the head. Actions that we do not have the “mechanical know-how” to complete because haven't had to (the negative consequence of simply getting a replacement from the store).
“Making Do” also goes beyond making simple repairs. It can also include using an item until it finally quits works & not upgrading to a better product just because you want to. These little expenses add up to big ones over the years.
Delay Instant Gratification
You have probably heard it before, never buy anything on impulse. Especially a new car that declines in value the second you drive it off the lot (my opinion). Some impulse decisions are more expensive than others to undo. It's best to wait 24 hours sometimes and sleep on something before deciding to make a purchase.
I will admit that this topic might be the toughest for me. Anytime I do anything, I want to know what the final result will be. Why? If something ends up not being worth my time or money, I will politely say no at the start and knock on another door.
The expression “Patience Is A Virtue” didn't become well-known because I am the only one suffering from impatience when it comes to life. We all seek instant gratification to a certain degree.
Making savings goals is something my wife & I do. We only make a finite amount of income & have to spend most of it on our monthly bills. But we have property taxes, vacation, and retirement to save for throughout the year. Sometimes we forsake making a purchase or going out for ice cream to meet our goals.
Don't Spoil The Child
One problem every parent has is trying to make sure their child lacks nothing. This means having food, friends, & awesome childhood experiences.
The Amish want their children to enjoy their childhood too, but they do not believe in as many lavish gifts or participation in youth sports that we think are “rites of passages” to be a good parent or to make sure our children have everything. Our 1-year old daughter is spoiled, so I am guilty as charged, but we want her to learn the appreciation of working to earn something they want.
I remember mowing lawns all summer in the 5th & 6th grade to save up enough money to buy an Atomic Purple Gameboy Color. My parents were not going to buy it for my birthday or Christmas.
Regarding Christmas gifts, the Amish will only give their children one or two items each. Their tree probably will not be overflowing underneath the branches like most of ours. One of the biggest gripes regarding the Holiday season for many people, is the materialism factor. I will be honest, an Amish Christmas does sound tempting to remain focused on the real reason for the season.
Will you hop on the buggy?
I think the Amish way of life is so unique because of the rapid progression of technology in the last 50 years. Some of my grandparents rode horses to their country elementary school & they were born in the final year or two of World War II (circa 1945). My great-grandparents were in their early 20's during the Great Depression, and I got to hear stories of them riding in Model T's & Model A's.
With the rapid advancement of technology, has come the rise of household and government deficits. It's hard for us to imagine being Amish because of so many modern conveniences. While living Amish isn't easy, it's very doable.
Even if you do not adopt their other principles, including their financial principles can help you live a simpler lifestyle that allows you a lifestyle of freedom and being able to pursue your long-term dreams.
If you still have some doubts about Amish hacks, here is some advice from “Weird” Al Yankovic….
Thanks For Reading,
What steps have you taken to pursue a simpler lifestyle? Financially or non-financially?
Josh founded Money Buffalo in 2015 to help people get out of debt and make smart financial decisions. He is currently a full-time personal finance writer with work featured in Forbes Advisor, Fox Business, and Credible.