Money Secrets of the Amish

Money Secrets of the Amish and What You Can Learn

I was browsing through our in-house library the other day and picked up one of my old favorites. It’s called Money Secrets of the Amish- Finding True Abundance in Simplicity, Sharing, and Saving by Lorilee Craker.

All I can say is yes, yes, and yes to this book! Ok, that’s not all I have to say.

Actually, I have a lot to say.

I love to read and this book makes me laugh every time I read it. I’ve read it several times. It’s THAT good. The author, Lorilee Craker, is honest and hilarious!

Many people find the lives of the Amish intriguing, and so do I. What I find most intriguing is how they view money. After reading this book, I have realized how their views on money and ours aren’t that different.

In fact, our views on money agree completely with theirs.

I didn’t realize that we are so Amish.

Me and Dave Ramsey

“During my Period of Extreme Thrift, when I researched the Amish way of wealth, I realized Dave Ramsey wasn’t so bad after all. In fact, he’s downright Amish in some ways, when it comes to his views on spending and saving. Snap a pair of suspenders on him and the man would fit right in.”

Lorilee Craker- from Money Secrets of the Amish

I completely understand what she means here. Dave Ramsey has MANY helpful things to say about debt. However, we used to say that “Dave wasn’t frugal enough for us.” At the time, we were working hard to pay off our first and only mortgage because we consider a mortgage to be debt.

See, we thought that Dave didn’t consider a mortgage to be debt. *gasp!*

So, recently, I did a little research on it and, as it turns out, we were too hard on Ole Dave.

The truth is, this is what he has to say about a mortgage:

I don’t really like borrowing on a house, but I tolerate it because it’s a much larger purchase.

Don’t misunderstand. I recommend you pay cash for a house, too. I don’t like debt of any kind. But I’ll put up a small, 15-year, fixed rate mortgage where the monthly payments are no more than a fourth of your take-home pay. Still, I want you to get that kind of thing paid off fast, as well.

The best way to have a high-quality life financially, the best way to build wealth is to not be in debt. It stabilizes your life. And if you can’t learn to delay pleasure, then you’re not going to win with money. That’s the bottom line. Personal finance is about controlling the person in your mirror.

Every one of us has that 4-year-old kid inside us; that little kid in the grocery store who’s throwing a hissy fit because he or she wants that cereal. That kid’s name is Immaturity, and he or she doesn’t want to delay pleasure.

Dave Ramsey

I understand what he means. We never intended to have a mortgage. Right after we were married, we were renting a small, rundown house. We were going to stay there for a while and save money to buy a house. Then, the government offered a First Time Home Buyer’s Incentive.

We then realized that we could actually make money if we bought a house. So, we did, but we bought well under what the bank said we could.

We paid our first and only mortgage off in 13 months…and we were only 25 years old.

Since we paid it off so quickly, we made more on the First Time Home Buyers Credit than we paid on interest and we weren’t spending money on rent anymore.

A lesson in substituting

“One Plain housewife I spoke to said that when times are tight, she’ll substitute maple syrup (tapped from her own trees, of course) for sugar in her baking and cooking.”

Money Secrets of the Amish

How much does sugar cost? Not much. But the willingness to substitute it for something cheaper is remarkable.

When we were paying off our first and only mortgage back in 2011, we used smart cooking and grocery shopping techniques. I have said many times that we didn’t even buy cheese…for a YEAR.

I can’t tell you how many times I have substituted water for the milk in a recipe or left out the eggs if I didn’t think they would make much of a difference anyway.

And you know what? No one around here has noticed. I have saved us a lot of money over the years and my home-cooked meals (from scratch, y’all) haven’t suffered.

How many people are willing to do little things like this to save a few dollars on their grocery bill? Perhaps, just me and the Yoders. But, do you know what? The Amish and I know that it pays off in the long run.

All of those “few dollars” add up to something big. For the Amish, it’s a large farm for their children. For us, it’s the dream house we built (when we were only in our early 30s) on five wooded acres that we have no mortgage on. Oh, and let’s not forget the early retirement we’re planning when we’re around 45.

So, when everyone else is buying out-of-season avocados at $1.75 each, we’re watching our savings account grow.

Most American families are spending more than the average millionaire on groceries . . . every single month. Get this: The average monthly grocery expense for millionaires is $412.1 while a comparable non-millionaire American family spends $647.2 That means non-millionaires spend about 57% more on groceries than millionaires. Let that sink in for a minute.

If you haven’t caught on yet, these millionaires are frugal with their money. They worked hard for their money, and they’re not going to spend all their hard-earned dollars in one place.

Dave Ramsey
Millionaire Spending Habits

Now, I’m not saying that we’re millionaires. What I am saying is that becoming one is quite attainable when you think like one.

Teaching the Kids

“[Amish parents] do not spoil [their children] with a lot of extras. ‘We don’t buy them whatever they want.’”

Money Secrets of the Amish

We have more goals than just living a debt-free lifestyle and retiring early. We also want to raise children who understand the value of money and how to respect it. It’s not about buying things just because you can. Adults (and children) must learn the power of telling themselves “no.”

“It’s a natural thing for children to want. We try to teach them to be content with what they have.”

Money Secrets of the Amish

We are always teaching our children about money. In fact, I do this every day when I pay them to do their chores. (We don’t use real money, naturally.) I use a unique system I created using a chore chart for each day, payment with play money, and my “store” for them to spend it in.

You can read all about that here.

I do not give my kids an allowance and I do not pay them with real money for doing their chores. They are members of this house and there are things that we must do to maintain this house. And we do it together.

I simply use my chore payment method as a way to teach them about money and have some fun along the way!

I love what Dave Ramsey has to say about kids and allowances:

Child abuse is letting a kid sit in front of a TV all day playing video games and eating junk food. Kids need to understand what a little dirt under the fingernails means. Delivering newspapers, mowing lawns, or working at a concession stand are some appropriate jobs they can handle.

Guiding your children in the choices they make with money is HUGE! The lessons you teach them as they earn money and learn to spend, save and give will lay an influential foundation for their lives. Remember, if you don’t teach your kids how to handle money, someone else will.

Well said, Mr. Ramsey.

One of the first people to teach your kids about money are the credit card companies who will start sending them offers as soon as they reach college. When I started college, these offers came in by the handfuls. I didn’t open any of them.

Living an Easy Life

“The gentle tempo of their simple lifestyle seemed like soothing music to me.”

Lorilee Craker, Money Secrets of the Amish

That’s how I view our life: soothing music.

We don’t want things. We don’t need (or want) Roombas, Apple Watches, and Yeti Coolers.

We are smarter than that. To say it plainly…we aren’t suckers.

Our life is calm, peaceful, and content.

“We (Americans) like our things to be new and shiny, because most people are essentially like birds.”

The Amish make do. They fix things. “But that’s not the American way. We ladies and gentlemen of the World often think nothing of chucking our less-than-fabulous cars/ clothes/ furniture/ you name it and replacing them with new cars/ clothes/ furniture at the first sign of wear and tear.”

Money Secrets of the Amish

We aren’t this way.

We have a different mentality about buying “stuff.” That is what prompted me to write this: 7 Things People Waste Their Money on That Decreases Their Savings and How We’ve Saved Over $180,000 By Swimming Upstream

The way you view the things you already own makes a difference to your financial security.

Financial security is about being content and not tempted by shiny, new things.

Financial security is about seeing people on social media bragging about their new zero-turn mower (which they don’t need because they have a tiny amount of grass to mow), and knowing that you will be the one retiring early with your reasonably priced lawn tractor (which actually does everything and more than what you could ever need…with cup holders).  

[The Amish] look favorably on someone who is not living ostentatiously, but instead living a modest and simple life.

Money Secrets of the Amish

McMansions and No Cattle

Several times on this blog, I have explained what “big hat, no cattle” means. Basically, in our terms, it describes someone who has all of the outward appearances of having money but the truth is that they have nothing in the bank.

They are driving nice cars, they live in the American McMansion, they possibly have a pool, they have lots of “toys,” and they go out to eat on a whim….a lot. But, they are also the ones counting their pennies when the economy slumps and they lose their job.

They have no financial security. They also have no hopes of ever retiring early because they have continually blown their money on appearances.

In suburban communities, McMansion is a pejorative term for a large “mass-produced” dwelling. The term “McMansion” is generally used to denote a new, or recent, multi-story house of no clear architectural style,[9] which prizes superficial appearance and sheer size over quality.


So many people want to live large from day one. They graduate college, get their first job, and buy more than they could ever pay for.

That is why, from the very beginning, we got out of debt quickly, we’ve stayed that way, and we’ve continued to put money into our savings the entire time.

We live a “modest and simple life” by many people’s standards, however, I think we live kind of large. We choose not to eat out very much (because we like eating at home), we don’t buy things we don’t need, and we bargain shop as much as we can (we enjoy it).

Read: Red Pocket Product Review- Best Inexpensive Cell Phone Service Provider

Because of that, we have our debt-free dream home in our early 30s, we’ve been on many memorable trips including 10 cruises, we have paid-for toys like UTVs, our vehicles are paid for, and we have no worries of lay-offs, recession, or an economic slump.

AND, we have all of this without credit card debt.

Have I mentioned yet that my husband makes a reasonable income and I’m a homemaker who does not contribute to the family finances?

No problem. I’ll wait.

Delayed gratification is a particularly fine quality of the Amish, who are major long-term thinkers.

Money Secrets of the Amish

I have talked about this over and over. Many people do not know how to tell themselves “no” and they most certainly don’t know how to wait. It takes a lot of will power to see people with things that are “better” than yours and not go out and buy them too….because, let’s face it, anyone can go into debt for something. Few choose to wait and pay for it out-right.

To be mortgage-free, debt-free, and retire early, you have to learn the power of “no.”

When we live in pursuit of immediate pleasure—needing to have the newest gadget or accessories the moment they’re available, or wanting the perfect job without getting an education or working our way up from the bottom—we become just like toddlers again, completely incapable of delaying gratification.

Studies show that delayed gratification is one of the most effective personal traits of successful people. People who learn how to manage their need to be satisfied in the moment thrive more in their careers, relationships, health, and finances than people who give in to it.

Psychology Today

We have a bigger plan. We want to retire around 45. We don’t want to be in the rat race forever.

Delayed gratification is exactly how we’ve gotten where we are today. We aren’t tempted by everyone’s things and their fake front of money. We know the truth.

The truth is that delayed gratification and making a budget is what enabled us to build our debt-free, mortgage-free dream house at only 33 years old. It’s done. It’s paid for in full. It’s ours.

Keep in mind that budgeting is THE MOST IMPORTANT part of getting your finances in control and KNOWING EXACTLY WHERE YOUR HARD EARNED MONEY IS FLYING OFF TO EACH MONTH.

My Financial Hill

On Spoiling Kids

We (the Amish) are taught not to just buy whatever we please, but rather to work and save for it.

Money Secrets of the Amish

The Amish also don’t go overboard with birthday gifts and holiday gifts for their children.

We are the same way.

If children get into the toys and the gifts so much, they lose the meaning of the season.

Money Secrets of the Amish

For our children’s birthdays, we spend the day celebrating them together as a family. We have special meals and a dessert of their choice (sometimes their birthday cake might be a chocolate sheet cake and other times it’s a blackberry cobbler).

Do we give them birthday gifts? No.

We have so much fun playing games and spending time together on their birthdays that gifts would only mess it up. Honestly.

The few gifts they do get come from their grandparents but, recently, we convinced their grandparents to give them “experience gifts” like money toward zoo passes. For Christmas, my great aunt gave them a gift card to the Heifer Village where they can learn, experience, and donate all at the same time. Both of these gifts will be a great experience and educational.

For our daughter’s 8th birthday, I strung colored Christmas lights all over our screened porch, we turned on the mariachi music and had birthday cake outside. The Spring air smelled fresh and the lights twinkled against our dark woods.

It was beautiful. She was overwhelmed with excitement. It’s an evening she won’t soon forget and all we did was enjoy each other’s company. (And sing “Happy Birthday” at the top of our lungs…at least 6 times.)

I like the way Lorilee said it in her book:

It’s an investment in relationships, rather than electronics and toys, an idea completely in line with Amish abundance.

About Christmas…

I remember Christmas time when I was a child. My grandmother would send home the Sear’s catalog, and my siblings and I would flip through page after page of the toy section, circling everything we wanted. My grandmother wanted us to do this. Then, we would give it back to her and hope she would pass on this intel to our parents as well.

We would also write letters to Santa reiterating everything we had circled in the catalog. Santa needed this info, after all. I mean, he apparently knew when I was sleeping and knew when I was awake but he couldn’t see anything I had circled in that catalog. (As an adult, Santa really creeps me out, but, I digress.)

THEN, here it was…Christmas day. The day all of my dreams would come true. Everything I had circled was going to magically appear in front of me, one wrapped box at a time. But, that didn’t happen. Yes, I got some of those things but I also got clothes (which I did NOT circle), a new umbrella (that also wasn’t circled), and the doll I wanted but she had on the wrong colored clothes.

I remember the feeling of disappointment. Why was I asked to circle everything I wanted if I wasn’t going to get everything I wanted? Why was Christmas such a big let-down?

Then I would get mad at myself because I felt disappointed. I was ashamed of myself for feeling that way. I felt like such an ungrateful child because I knew my parents and grandparents had worked hard for the money that paid for those gifts.

By the time I reached high school, I didn’t like Christmas. All of the fuss, disappointment, and sadness over the feelings of disappointment had tainted everything. I remember specifically asking for NO presents one year. Honestly, I did not want them.

Of course, that didn’t happen. I was still given gifts because that’s just what people do.

I knew that I wanted to shake things up when I had my own children. I would put more time in celebrating them on their birthday and Jesus on Christmas. We would make memories together instead of focusing on things.

Read: Our Christmas Traditions

Our Kids Have Lived It Up

Now, does this mean our children have sad, long, dirty faces because they never get anything? No. Actually, the opposite is true.

They get extremely excited about our long list of family Christmas traditions. They love their birthday celebrations (that last an entire week) with just us.

And, do you know what else?

Our kids have:
swam with the stingrays and held sea turtles & star fish in the Cayman Islands
enjoyed authentic Mexican food in Mexico
explored Mayan ruins
celebrated their birthdays on cruise ships (because we just happened to be cruising on their birthday)
hiked in Roatan, Honduras with a Honduran guide
made their own chocolate at a chocolate factory in Cozumel
watched flamingos cross the road in Costa Maya

toured plantations, Historic churches, and fed exotic birds in Jamaica
listened to the waves roll in at night on Galveston Island
taken pontoon tours on favorite lakes

This list could go on for years.

The point is that we have always chosen to trade stuff for experiences together.

Let’s talk about savings.

You can very easily get into trouble if you have no reserve. Most of the Amish do not live on the edge.

Money Secrets of the Amish

When I was 8 months pregnant with our first child, my husband was laid off from his job. His company was cutting back and he was one of the people on the bottom of the seniority list.

However, we weren’t worried.

We had no debt, no bills, no mortgage, and we had built up our savings. We weren’t worried about the road ahead. In fact, we were very excited about it.

We enjoyed the time together. My husband was laid off when our daughter was born and he got to spend endless hours at home with her while she was an infant.

During that time, we bought 10 acres near my husband’s family and stayed on it in a small camper for a little while. I look back on those times fondly. We had a blast.

We wouldn’t have had any fun if we were worried about our finances. We were thankful we had planned ahead. We were thankful we didn’t “live on the edge.”

After a while, his company called him back to work and we got back to saving for the future.

No harm done.

The Big Picture

The Amish are stubbornly stuck on the big picture, fixated on achieving their fondest hopes and dreams; usually, this means a farm of their own or, as the entrepreneurial people shift into business, a business of their own.

Money Secrets of the Amish

Seeing your financial big picture is essential to becoming debt-free and staying that way.

Do you want to live in a paid-for house sooner than 30 years from now? Do you want to retire early? Do you not want to worry about finances for the rest of your life? Wouldn’t it be nice to have more than $100 in the bank?

Yes. The answer is “yes.”

As far as a mortgage goes, there was no way we were going to be paying for a house for 15-30 years. We would never let that happen because that just sounded suffocating.

When we were looking for our first house, we wanted something that we could pay for quickly. Our goal was to “step up” over the years (buying a small house then a little bigger house, and so on), saving money the entire time and adding no debt, until we had enough money to pay for land and our dream house IN FULL.

At first, that seemed like a lofty dream but, the reality is, that we accomplished that dream in just 9 short years.

Yes, we contracted our own dream house and paid for it in full after just 9 years of saving.

When our slab was poured and the concrete guys wanted to be paid, we wrote them a check.

When the sheetrock crew finished the inside of our house, we wrote them a check.

When the brick guys and the roofers finished the outside of our house, we wrote them a check.

When I say, “we wrote them a check,” I mean, the money came straight from our checking account because we had saved that money ourselves. We did not have a bank loan. We had worked for that money.

I’ll never forget the look on the Framer’s face when he handed us a $10k bill and we stood there and wrote him a check.

We were able to do this because, like the Amish, we had been “stubbornly stuck on the big picture” for years.

And we still are. Except, since we accomplished our goal and built our dream house in our early 30s, our “big picture” has changed. Now, we are fixated on early retirement.

Read: How to Become Debt-Free

One final word…

I love this quote I read in Money Secrets of the Amish:

“The reference,” Lorilee said, “is taken from Phineaus Taylor Barnum’s 1886 autobiography, The Art of Money Getting, in a chapter called “Avoid Debt’”:

Young men starting in life should avoid running into debt. There is scarcely anything that drags a person down like debt. …Debt robs a man of his self-respect, and makes him almost despise himself. Grunting and groaning and working for what he has eaten up or worn out, and now when he is called upon to pay up, he has nothing to show for his money; this is properly termed “working for a dead horse.” 

Phineaus Taylor Barnum

Quoting an Amish mother, Lorilee wrote:

I have learned through losing loved ones that it’s so important to look forward to life’s little pleasures: Coffee in the morning, listening to the birds, getting together as families.”

Money Secrets of the Amish

The Truth that transcends Plain and Fancy: chasing after money and things is meaningless, because the best things in life are free.

Lorilee Craker

If you don’t have this book in your arsenal, YOU SHOULD! You can pick up a copy here.

Also, don’t forget to visit Lorilee’s blog Peace, Love, and Raspberry Cordial

Feel free to leave me a comment!

All the best,

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