Like many of you, I have a lot less money to throw around these days.

As a “survivor” in a large organization that has made considerable layoffs, I feel a little bit of guilt and a lot of responsibility.  I am one of the lucky ones, as luck had lots to do with me continuing to be employed.  Who knows when my luck will run out?

So what am I to do? With this guilt?  With this responsibility?  With my money?

I am taking a gamble with it … and this one is even more fun than BINGO! Instead of building my nest egg, my security fund, my back-up plan, I am spending more money more wisely.  I have begun a movement in my family budget to purchase with purpose.  Our rich tradition of Catholic Social Teaching has crept its way into my finances and it is fabulous!

I understand that my purchases have the ability to affect my community in amazing ways.  The Catholic Social Teaching tenet of subsidiarity moves me to choose local individuals and businesses.  Giving preferential option for the poor and vulnerable has motivated me to put a price tag on my honey-do list and hand it over to my unemployed buddy.  It wasn’t in my budget to pay for the toilet to be fixed or closet doors to be hung, but these days I am willing to spend a little more to make a greater difference for another person.  I can make sacrifices in other areas to support a friend or a business whose mission vibes with mine. 

It is neat to shop around for opportunities to buy goods and services from sellers who donate a percentage of their profits to a charity of their choice, or mine.  Ebay allows sellers to donate portions of their profits and has an entire section of handmade gifts that have “pay it forward” prices, asking individuals to send what they would have paid for this item to their own charity or neighbor in need.  What a fantastic business model!  What good for the community! 

A friend of mine began a farmer’s market at her church this fall.  Parishioners can buy produce from her garden and others – even the mulberry bush on the parish property provided some stock.  There are no prices marked; you name the value.  All money is given to the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry and all leftover fruit and veggies are given to needy families who are usually stuck with the canned version. 

I have even started looking on the back of my bulletin and patronizing those stores or businesses that are supporters of my parish community.  I call it purchase with purpose; the church calls it Catholic Social Teaching.  It is values-based shopping.  We all know money talks.  What we do with our money says a lot about us and who we are.  We have the opportunity and responsibility of choosing where our money goes.  Why not support a person, a family, a business that has values aligned with your personal or family values?

My friend Lisa developed a ministry that provides leadership opportunities to teen leaders in the inner city of Milwaukee.  She hosts simple fundraisers where you can buy a chicken dinner to support the peace-making workshops these high school teens organize.  Since I am going to head home and make chicken for my family tonight anyhow, I might as well change a life and buy her chicken.

(Erica Weber is a married mother of two sons. Her family belongs to Our Lady of Lourdes Parish on Milwaukee’s South Side.)