This is the second of a five part guest post series by Kari Patterson. You can catch the introduction of this Frugal Living 101 series here.
It’s the DSW one that gets me every time. It pops up in my inbox: Up to $15 off! Limited time offer!
I click. I peruse. They’re all so cute! Fifteen seconds ago I didn’t need shoes. Now? Well, they’re such a good deal! And my shoes are pretty old … And if I bought two pair I’d save even more!
Such is the trap. At times the very vehicle we use for finding deals can backfire, making us more focused than ever on accumulating items we don’t really need. Please tell me I’m not alone in this. I don’t need camping gear until I see the REI sale. I don’t need groceries, but who can pass on a $10 off $50? My old flip flops work just fine, but Old Navy’s are just two bucks! And now that I think about it, mine are pretty tired…
It’s slippery slope toward discontentment, and discontentment can rob our joy, drain our emotional energy, and deplete the very resources we were working so hard to protect. How do we combat it? Here are a few ways:
:: Remember the Goal of Marketing
By choosing to bargain-hunt and coupon-clip we are entering the dangerous land of advertisements. Remember that the goal of marketing is to drive sales. Period. Advertisements seek to create some sort of discontentment in the mind of consumers so that they will desire to buy a product which promises to satisfy, fulfill, and ultimately alleviate that discontentment. New razors ($2 off!) will spice up your love life (and somehow give you long, tan legs). New and improved toothpaste ($.50 off!) will give you brilliantly white (and miraculously straight) teeth. A new pair of sandals this summer (buy one get one 50% off) will definitely make you look better in a bathing suit.
Over and over I find that I do not need something until I see it on sale. It promises so much, and it’s such a great deal!
I’ve written on this “Discount Distress” before. The only real way to save money is by not spending it. Even if it’s on sale. It might be the best bargain to leave it on the shelf. There is an amazing power and freedom in being able to walk away from an amazing deal because you know you don’t have to have it. You prove to yourself that things do not own you.
Contentment is not far behind.
:: Love what you have
We’ve all heard variations of the saying, “Happiness isn’t having what you love, it’s loving what you have.” Cliché, yes, but still true. Make it a habit to periodically shop at home. Take an afternoon, or however much time you’d spend running around to Target and Kmart and everywhere else you’d hunt down bargains.
Go through your closet. Try on some different clothing combinations. Throw some stuff out (I find that giving stuff away is far more exhilarating than buying new stuff). Mend what’s torn. Iron what’s wrinkled. Dig through your pantry. Make a goal to eat for two weeks just on what you have in the house. (Not sure how to make random ingredients into a meal? Check out Allrecipes and use the ingredient search. You’ll be amazed at the delicious combinations you’ll find.)Rearrange the furniture. Switch the curtains. Get creative. Take note of all your favorite items in the house and think about where they came from. Pull out the china and (gasp!) use it for dinner. Pick some flowers from the yard and make a bouquet.
There are a million ways to take what you have and make it luxurious. You’ll trick yourself into feeling pampered, and next thing you know, you’re the richest gal on the block.
:: Compare down
Here’s the trick with discontentment: We always tend to compare up. We compare ourselves with those that we perceive have more than us.
When was the last time you compared your house to the cardboard lean-tos that house millions of our world’s poor? When was the last time that you counted all the luxuries that you have that the vast majority of our world does not? For that matter, when have we considered all the luxuries we have that our parents and grandparents did not.
I have a 3-car garage, AC, a walk-in-closet, and a guest bedroom. These things were virtually unheard of in previous generations. And yet, what do I compare my house to? The glossy pages of the Pottery Barn catalog. Not a wise idea. The comparison game is always a trap, but especially watch out for the trap of looking up the ladder.
If we must compare, compare down. We are rich indeed.
Just like the skill of bargain-hunting, contentment too must be learned. We grow in it. So in the midst of clipping coupons, remember that the greatest gain is a content heart. When we’re content, we’re free to enjoy the deals without being driven by the gnawing hunger for more.
And that is the biggest savings of all.
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