To most, the Amish are little more than a quaint curiosity. And it’s easy to assume their simple lifestyle – while certainly interesting – is hardly practical. After all, it’s kind of hard to make it in the day and age we live in without the use of technology.
While it’s easy to dismiss the Amish lifestyle as impractical (try commuting to and from work on a horse and buggy and see how that works for you), there are quite a few things we can learn from them about personal finance.
As it turns out, the Amish are brilliant managers of money. And if you want to improve the way you handle your personal finances, why not learn from some of the best? Why not copy the financial best practices of the Amish?
The following are several Amish money lessons you can implement to improve your own financial life:
1. Be Content with What You Have
One of the most important financial lessons from the Amish is to not be envious of others. It’s about being content with the things you have.
Being content means not comparing yourself to others. It means not worrying about your older model economy car when someone else buys a brand new luxury model. It means not being jealous of others because they have a bigger and fancier house than you.
The Amish live simple lives by design. Do you think anyone in an Amish community ever gets jealous when someone gets a new horse and buggy? Probably not. What is there to be jealous about?
Learning how to be content can have a powerful impact on your personal finances. It can be very liberating. It means no longer desiring the latest and greatest gadget just because others are buying them.
2. Live Debt Free
The Amish don’t go in debt. They don’t take out loans unless they absolutely have to. They work hard for their money and pay cash for just about everything. If they don’t have enough money to buy something, they usually don’t buy it. It’s as simple as that.
When you buy something on credit – whether it involves a bank loan, a credit card, or some other type of credit – you instantly become a servant to the lender. The lender is the master and you are its slave. Doesn’t sound so great when you put it that way, does it?
Do you really need a brand new car? Is having that new car smell really that important to you? Why not save up your money and buy a slightly used model when you have saved enough to write a check for the full amount?
Living a life that is free of debt gives you an incredible amount of freedom. It can free you from the stress of coming up with monthly payments if something happens to your job.
No monthly payments often means less stress.
3. Build Your Savings
The Amish don’t spend every cent they have, and neither should you. They save some of their money to have a financial cushion to fall back on in case something happens.
Do you have any savings in your savings account? Surprisingly, most Americans don’t. According to a recent survey, 62 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. 28 percent have no savings at all.
Nothing. Zilch. Nada. Talk about living on the edge.
Sometimes things happen – like an unexpected car repair, medical expense, or the loss of a job. Having some money squirreled away in a savings account gives you the ability to handle the inevitable bumps in life’s road without being financially devastated.
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4. Do It Yourself
The Amish rely on their own skills and ingenuity to get things done. It’s a great way to save money. The feeling of accomplishment you get from doing something yourself instead of relying on someone else is an incredible rush.
Instead of calling a repairman when something around the house breaks, why not see if you can fix it yourself? The internet is a great source of information on how to fix just about anything.
There are countless tutorials and instructions available for everything you can imagine. One mom, for example, built her own home from watching YouTube instructional videos. If she can build a house, maybe you can fix a leaky faucet.
5. Be Your Own Boss
Have you ever noticed that most Amish own their own businesses? Instead of working for “the man,” the Amish prefer to strike out with business ventures of their own. And with their hard work, thriftiness, and tenacity, they tend to be very successful entrepreneurs.
If you work for someone, you usually earn a salary or an hourly wage. Your income is capped, and you don’t earn more by working smarter or harder. You may earn the same amount working as hard as you possibly can as someone else who is doing just enough to keep from getting fired.
If you are in business for yourself, there is essentially no limit to your income. If you work hard and make good business decisions, you could potentially earn a lot of money. It sure beats being a wage slave.
6. Shop Secondhand
The Amish are very thrifty and really know how to stretch a dollar. They have to be since they often have big families. They usually don’t pay retail unless it is the only option.
You can really save big by shopping for secondhand items. And it’s a myth that all used items are outdated, old, or otherwise junk.
Many people, for example, go out and buy a bunch of new equipment when they take up a new hobby. After a while, they completely lose interest in the hobby and end up selling their perfectly good gear on the used market for pennies on the dollar.
Need a new tool for a job? Check Craigslist. Is your car currently on life support? You can save thousands by buying a slightly used model. Looking for a chair for your living room? Check the local consignment store for a bargain.
7. Grow Your Own Food
If you ask most people where their food came from, they would probably say “the supermarket.” But the Amish know exactly where their food comes from – their own gardens – because they grow the majority of their food themselves.
Food is expensive (in case you haven’t noticed). In addition to saving big on groceries, growing your own food allows you to serve meals that are healthier (you can avoid pesticides). And you can easily save and store many of the vegetables you grow by canning them.
While growing a large garden isn’t possible for many – especially if you live in an apartment or condo – it might still be possible to grow a few vegetables in a small garden, a small hydroponics setup, or even a small herb box.
The Amish don’t always purchase the things they need. They don’t always exchange cash when they buy something. Sometimes they exchange their services or goods they already own for something else.
They trade goods and services for other goods and services.
This type of arrangement is called bartering. Trading used to be common in years past, but it has fallen out of style in modern times. Maybe it’s time to bring it back?
If you need your lawn mowed, for example, why not offer to do something you’re good at in exchange for having someone mow your lawn?
There are many different things you could do in exchange for another service. Just a few possibilities include baby sitting, tutoring, house painting, chopping wood, and many others.
There are no secrets to living well on a budget. The Amish do it all the time. It just comes down to using good common sense in your personal finances.
If you truly want to master your money, why not learn from the best? Why not learn from the Amish? They’ve got this money thing all figured out.