Sin at the Clearance Rack
I love fashion. I click through photos of the eye-popping pieces walking down fashion week runways. I ogle celebrity styles, like Michelle Obama's silk Thom Brown ensemble and her Jason Wuu gown at the inauguration. I recently read a Wall Street Journal article trumpeting the "return of the five-figure dress," which reported that "clothes really can cost as much as a house."
Then, in a blog post, I discovered a new word for myself: frugalista. See, I love fashion, but looking at high-end fashion with its high-end price tags just makes me feel smug.
The newest addition to my own closet is a trendy cape-fronted gray jacket. I bought it at a thrift store. When I wore it to run errands the other day, I was stopped by a fellow customer. "I have that same jacket!" she gushed, "Did you get it at Nordstrom's?" I discovered she had paid $60 for hers; I paid $9.
I'm a Goodwill stalker and a Craigslist surfer. When I travel, I check out the consignment boutiques. My husband and I even have our own version of a haul video. I hold up my purchases, and he guesses how much I paid for them. They're always from the clearance rack.
Did I mention my $300 wedding gown? My $3 designer shoes? My $1 boutique-label dress?
One day my friend Jessica stopped me and my $8 suede boots in our tracks. "Christian women think it's only people with expensive outfits who are prideful," she said, "but Christians can be just as proud. . . of their bargains."
She's right, of course. This frugalista has a dark side, and the Biblical word is not so nice: it's pride.
I do have some decent reasons for thrifting. For one thing, wearing inexpensive clothing allows me to cheerfully hug my peanut-butter-covered four-year-olds. Bring on the finger paints; I'm good.
Other women hunt bargains out of absolute financial necessity. Some intentionally use their savings to advance Christ's kingdom. (An email in my inbox even had the subject line: "Couponing as a Christian Mission.") And Christians are often reminded in Scripture of the need to wisely steward the earthly resources given to us by God. Clipping coupons can be a sound, Biblical practice, but it's also easy to be pharisaical about saving money, to equate frugality with righteousness.
In his book Issues Facing Christians Today, theologian John Stott identifies three sins associated with money: "materialism (an obsession with things), asceticism (an austerity which denies the good gifts of the Creator), and pharisaism (binding one another with rules.)" I doubt he had frugalistas in mind, but the shoe certainly fits.