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Impulse buying has been a thing since, well. . . since people could buy things. Regardless of time or place, people have been paying too much for stuff they have no business buying.

Sound familiar? Yeah, me too.

I still cringe when I think about how much I paid for that light-gray, Members Only jacket I bought in high school. Even worse, those pigskin cowboy boots!

Ugh. Double ugh.

The phrase “pig-in-a-poke” became associated with impulse buying during the 16th century. Unscrupulous merchants would sell a piglet in a bag (“poke”) for a ridiculously low price. The scam? They would substitute a kitten for a piglet! Jumpy to make the deal, greedy consumers neglected to check the bag before paying. They arrived home only to discover their “piglet” purred!

A cautionary saying for the savvy shopper was soon born: “Be careful you’re not buying a pig-in-a-poke!”

But that’s easier said than done, especially when we lack self-control. Each time we fall prey to another impulse purchase, our patience for making good purchases wears down. Soon, our poor money choices snowball into an avalanche of debt. We are left discouraged and even hopeless.

True, budget apps and online classes can be game-changers for organizing your saving, spending and even giving. Still, these are no match for the human will. The problem isn’t always that we don’t know how to make sound financial decisions; we just don’t want to make them!

Can our impulses be kept in check? Is it possible to make regular, reasoned and calculated money choices? Can that little whisper telling us to “buy now” ever be silenced?

Yes, it can. But first understand that self-control and patience aren’t like groceries. They can’t be put on your shopping list, picked off a shelf and purchased. That’s because these are supernatural traits, which are possessed entirely apart from our own design and ability.  

This point easily gets lost on us, especially in the frustrating haze of out-of-control spending. We forget that patience and self-control are fruit of the Spirit. Instead of trying harder, the first move toward balanced, personal finances is learning to jump at the impulse of the Holy Spirit instead of our own.

This begins with prayer. Use the words of the Psalm writer: “Turn my eyes from things that crumble and towards your Word which preserves my life.” (Psalm 119:7, NIV)

More deeply, “Turn my heart towards God’s righteous purposes and away from unjust gain.” (Psalm 119:36, NIV)

And then turn away — from deals that are “too good to pass up;” from sales gimmicks promising you’ll save more by spending more; and away from the tyranny of the latest and greatest.

This rhythm is the aroma of Christ, especially in a world choking from debt and over-spending.

When others are scooping up as much as they can get, regardless of cost, you pause and say, “I think I’ll wait. It might just be a pig-in-a-poke.”


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