First Person: What the Amish Taught Me About Money

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Growing up in Maryland, we would often take trips to the "Amish country" in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Always curious about the ways of the Amish people, I spent a lot of time talking to Amish folks and observing their daily rituals and habits. As I grew older, I realized the Amish were smart with their money. I've carried a few of the Amish financial lessons with me through life.

Don't be a slave to convenience

I did not see the Amish women take shortcuts when preparing their baked goods for sale at the Amish market. They measured their own ingredients instead of paying more for baking mixes. Everything was hand-carved, handmade, hand-sewed and handcrafted. They could stretch their food dollar.

Grow your own food

We would frequent the Amish markets when I was younger. Now I visit the farmer's market and grow some of my own herbs, fruits and vegetables. Since I live in Florida now, I'm in a different growing zone. Even though I can't grow apples here, for example, I can grow lemons. I estimate I save hundreds of dollars on lemons since I use them every day.

Make handmade gifts

We would often buy the Amish handmade gifts for people because they were so artistic and talented. I found people appreciated the personal touch of a handmade gift. My mom, who sometimes acts like she is Amish, showed me how to make scented soaps. I like to make strawberry jam for gifts, using Florida strawberries.

Barter to save money

I used to love to watch the Amish men bartering. Bartering requires keen negotiation skills. It's fun to barter "goods and services." My son agreed to mow the lawn the other day in exchange for me making him his favorite eggplant dish. I viewed that as a form of bartering.

Recycle and reuse

All of the Amish people I met made a habit of recycling and reusing. Their conservation values had an impact on me. When my children were little, I gave them a challenge. I told them to think of at least three new things they could do with their "trash" instead of throwing it away. They became more creative, turning gum wrappers into Christmas tree ornaments and cans into piggy banks.

The Amish people I knew lived simple lives. They were content with their Amish buggy instead of a BMW. I'd hear them say that they would have to "make do" with what they had. Unlike many people struggling today, the Amish seemed to have financial peace. I believe their approach to money was to have just what you need for your family, and to never hoard.

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