She stands before the open double-closet which is packed with dresses, blouses, skirts, pants, shorts, shoes by the ark-load and sighs, “I have nothing to wear!” During the television commercial he goes to the fridge, opens it and, because there is so little room left in there, the apples roll out. He hangs onto the door, bent over while perusing, and says with some indignation, “There’s nothing to eat!” When a new iPhone comes out people camp in front of the store for up to 3 days before because they MUST have this latest iteration! Every few years the car gets paid off and we then rush off to get a new one, since new is better… never mind that a little thought would have revealed that the car being paid off means that extra money is now available each month; apparently “newest” trumps fiscal sense. Television commercials convince us that we MUST have the new juicing machine since it will do all of the work of dieting for us. New apps for our phone come out and we just HAVE to have them; after all, they’re only 99 cents so what does it matter since even a candy-bar costs more!
We live in a business and advertising culture which urges us to acquire without end. Just when I had come to the conclusion that there is no hope for us the phenomenon of “tiny houses” arises. These are, as their name implies, REALLY small houses (approximately 200 feet square), either stationary or mounted on a trailer bed which, rather than being built with the intention of filling them up with stuff, are built from the inside out by the owner first determining what he really needs in the house; that determination then dictates the size of the house. This mindset of assessing the difference between “need” and “want”, it seems to me, is the radical opposite of our current culture.
Not all of us, however, can run out and build a tiny house; nonetheless, we can take a good hard look at our consumer-patterns and ask ourselves: “Do I really NEED this, or do I just want it?” An aid to discerning this might be to institute living by budget rather than by impulse. Living by budget myself, I often find that as I near the end of a month and want to treat myself to a special meal the budget speaks up and warns me about that indulgence… at this time! I have learned to delay treating myself to something special until the next month’s budget kicks in, and even then I have come to realize that what I lop off of the budget at the front end of the month will not be available to me at the end of the month; this awareness helps me in assessing the difference between essentials and treats. Living within my monthly budget has two benefits: It keeps me from creating new debt, which would limit the possibilities for my life, and secondly, the budget enables me to actually put some money into my savings account, which also creates more possibilities for my life down the road!
Do you really NEED that new video game? Is it possible for you to tame what you want? What unthought-of possibilities might there be for your life were you to get off of the acquisition bandwagon?