Why are Mennonites so cheap? We cringe, we joke, we laugh, we get angry. Is it true? I don’t have any proof but just ask anyone who deals with them. Here are some possibilities and theories. Please forgive the generalizations.
1) Strong family connections and traditions have been passed down. Mennonites are known for having strong family values and homogeneous community relationships. The depression era (1930’s) effected everyone but in strong families the thought patterns of survival were strongly passed to the next generations. I grew up hearing depression stories on a regular basis. I wasn’t taught to fear but I was taught not to spend money. Children without close communication with their parents may not have heard stories of struggling.
2) Mennonites have been taught to work hard. People who work hard value what they work for and don’t want to waste it. Hard workers don’t like to give to free loaders. Hard workers also don’t have a lot of free time to spend casually.
3) Many Mennonites embrace a simple lifestyle. This is often taught in Mennonite circles as a way to save the environment and resources for others. It also goes along with the Anabaptist teachings of separation from the world. People who embrace a simple lifestyle don’t want to spend money on flashy, worldly, or unnecessary material goods. They don’t want to be wasteful and foolish spending is wasteful.
4) People spend their values. Mennonites have a strong value system which also guides financial management. Young members are influenced by older members that instill these values. Success can be seen in many Mennonite leaders and young people feel that financial success can be achieved.
5) Mennonites traditionally give to the church, missions and humanity needs. People in general like to spend. People who give freely can meet that desire and not feel the need to spend on personal wants. They also don’t want to support worldly organizations verses Christian ones.
6) Mennonites have seen their parents succeed financially and model after them. Disciplined youth can graduate from high school and enter average paying jobs and still get ahead. They live on a strict budget and save. Many buy an inexpensive house that allows them to build equity. This pattern goes against what society tells us is possible. Society tells us that we need more money. Mennonites tell us to save our money.
7) Add up the six points and Mennonites can be CHEAP. Ask waitresses or businesses that offer services what they think. Many will be able to tell you horror stories. Anything taken to an extreme is bad. All of these points can be positive attributes but don’t take them to the point of hurting others.