“I’ve learned that I can never go to Wal-Mart and buy just one thing.” What do we think we need so badly that we routinely go into a store for one thing and come out with ten? Do we really, really need it or is it just something we want?
My husband and I have put ourselves to a test since the beginning of the year. We are going on a very big trip next January and in planning for that adventure, have decided to minimize our excess spending. I am looking at this as an exercise in delayed gratification which is something I think many of us forget to practice once we get a decent income stream going.
It’s funny, but most people really do live up to their means. No matter what our household income was, we lived a lifestyle that fit the income at some level. Of course being good savers and people that are always looking to the future and planning for retirement, we have not been reckless with our resources. Part of living our lifestyle has been to save big during years when we could; but there were years also when there was less to save.
My husband and I realized that we had gotten very relaxed about our shopping habits. We would wander into Target on the weekend and drop money on things that we convinced ourselves we needed. But if on the following weekend you asked us what we got last week, I doubt we could have told you most of the time. It’s not that we were sending ourselves to the poorhouse doing this, but it was rather mindless! So our test has been to set a target limit on what we are spending on the day to day living, gas and grocery expenses.
This really gets you focused back to what your needs really are. And makes glaringly obvious what constitutes a want. My husband and I got positively giddy when we strayed from the gas and grocery diet we had been sticking to lately and went to buy him new underwear and socks last weekend. It felt like a shopping spree! We even blew our wad and got some for our son who was also in need!
We don’t need much it turns out. It actually feels pretty good to reign it all back in. Now, you are much more likely to find us sitting on our patio and drinking cappuccino in the afternoon (made by my husband) than trolling through the home goods section at Target or drinking a Starbucks latte (also available at our Target store). I can enjoy working in my garden and tending the planters. I’ve rediscovered the library rather than spending money on books at the bookstore (which I absolutely love, love, love to do!) On weekends we take walks on the local trails and cook out on the grill.
And I know that come January of 2013, I will be able to really enjoy the trip that we have planned. The trade-off will be well worth it. Not only will we be more relaxed about the expenses for the trip, but we will have spent this year assuring ourselves that while our wants may be many, our needs really are few.
If you are feeling overrun by the consumer lifestyle, I challenge you! Take a step back and separate out the wants from the needs. You don’t have to plan to do it for a year, but try it for one or two months. See how freeing it really can be to get out from under all the stuff! It’s been a good reminder to me……
On the journey with you…….Kathy
(Quote: Age 24- The Complete Live and Learn and Pass It On, by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.)