The value of thrift has become something of a revived one among Americans since the Wall Street crash of 2008, when many lost their lifetime investments to the financial industry. Living well beneath one’s means instead of trying to keep up with the Joneses, is the secret to saving money the Amish way. Lorilee Craker, the author of “Money Secrets of the Amish”, spent time talking to the Amish regarding their money saving successes and how it can be implemented by Americans every day, regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof. Most importantly, Craker stresses how the Amish view debt as a bad thing, and how buying on credit is not the wisest thing to do when one’s resources are very limited.
Unlike the “Fancy people”, or non-Amish, the Amish do not spend money to achieve instant gratification. Instead, they look at the big picture in the long run, learn to save up for something important, such as a farm. Delaying gratification, the ability to say “No” to one’s immediate wants on a daily basis, helps an individual develop the necessary discipline to save money. In today’s economic climate, spending money to stimulate business growth is not always possible when it comes to retail prices. The better option is to seek out necessary items at thrift stores, through bartering, or to simply refurbish what is starting to get worn out. For example, a pair of favorite jeans that is starting to wear out and get a few hole can be easily patched up with a few inexpensive appliques, instead of buying a whole new pair of jeans. Craker also recommends price comparison shopping and even uses an example of buying a pair of fashionable shoes from Talbot’s at a fraction of the original retail cost from a local thrift store. While this makes sense to a degree, a frugal shopper can also make out well by not comparison shopping and just head straight for thrift store without a particular brand name in mind, but find the right item in need, such as a pair of designer jeans. This falls under the “buy what you are looking for at a cheap price” category, but is still far better than spending a day at the mall purchasing items at full retail price.
Craker also devotes a chapter on shopping for holiday presents for children. While many parents are prone to spoiling their children with a lot of toys that will get used only once, Craker suggests shopping second-hand for just one present at birthdays and Christmas. Teaching children the value of thrift – and a present they will truly appreciate – will lead to better money management skills once they reach their adult years. Another chapter is devoted to the kitchen, a room of the home where the Amish excel at thrift, preparing full meals from scratch. Since the Amish do a lot of baking, they tend to buy a lot of ingredients in bulk, like sugar, flour, and baking powder. Nobody makes pies like the Amish do, whether it is a blackberry or snitz pie. Canning, homemade jams and jellies, pickles, and bread are just some of the many foods the Amish prepare on a routine basis. Cooking from scratch may seem impossible in today’s hurried world, but with excellent time management, can be done successfully.
What Cracker does not cover in the book is detailed practical how-tos in the household, such as utilising produce parts that most people do not think of using, such as the green leafy tops of carrots and radishes in soups and stews. Gardening is important to the Amish too, as is herbalism (here a small section devoted to learning herbalism would have been useful; I recall venturing into the woods behind the house I grew up in and learned to identify what wild plants and flowers could be eaten, such as violets, strawberry leaves, grape leaves, and so on). No Amish bulk supply store is complete without an extensive herbal aisle, from teas to oils and cooking spices.
“Money Secrets of the Amish” is quick reading, interspersed with humor by Craker, who has a talent for relating anecdotes about the Amish as well as her own family life. At 224 pages long, the book can be completed in several hours, with the reader being able to retain and learn much in being money savvy like the Amish.