Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lacking Contentment

I pride myself on being a bargain hunter extraordinaire. One of my best friends from high school once told a chaperon on a mall trip that if she couldn't find me the best place to look was near the clearance racks. It was, and still is, completely true.

But I'm struggling right now with trying to figure out where blatant consumerism for the sake of consumerism starts and good, honest bargain hunting ends. I went to The Gap last Sunday for a free pair of pants- an incredible deal because I LOVE Gap's pants and I truly don't know how I got chosen to receive such a valuable coupon. While I was there, I found out that my weight loss efforts have had huge effects, I've dropped 2 pants sizes even though my overall weight loss is only 20 lbs, and decided to go ahead and buy myself some jeans too, since they were on sale and another coupon I had essentially made them buy one get one free. Throw in a dress and another pair of clearance jeans and I walked out of there with a bag full of great clothes for just over $100. Not bad right?

Right. But did I need any of it? Probably not. My clothing collection already takes up nearly 2/3 of our walk in closet, my husband's stuff shoved to the side and underneath my ever expanding racks.

Then there are the sites like Groupon, Living Social and SavvyAvenue. I buy things from these sites that I wouldn't otherwise make room in my budget for because they are cheap. None of what I've bought is "bad" it's just that I know that these are items that I could live without. But because it's literally a click of the mouse, it's easier to buy than reason with myself.

I'm also a "member" of RueLaLa (if you're not and want to be, email me, I'll send you the invite.) They are essentially a clearing house for factory direct clearances. They carry everything from furniture to clothing to cookware. Last week they hosted KitchenAid and this week they have Analon. I've wanted new cookware for some time now, so I'm very tempted to shell out the $200 and get some of this high quality stuff and a deep discount.

The problem that I'm struggling with is that, yes, I wantnew cookware, and an argument could be made that I have a few pots and pans that need replacing. But the reality is, I have a full set of cookware that works just fine. It's not perfect, but it works.

Financially right now, we don't have a whole lot left over. But, we have a whole lot that most people don't- 2 iPhones, 3 computers (in a house with 2 adults and 2 toddlers) etc. etc. etc. We have more than we need, but because I am constantly seeing other things that I want, I feel like I'm depriving myself when I don't hit the "checkout" button on my online cart.

We are living nearly debt free right now- we have 1 car note (we paid off my car last week!) and our mortgage. Our monthly expenses are relatively high because of where were have chosen to live, but we handle them. We don't have much in savings, but we don't carry credit card debt. I see all of our friends going on vacations and buying (it seems) whatever they want whenever they want and I can't help but be jealous. Maybe they are drowning in mountains of credit card debt, I don't know, but sometimes I wish I could just have that carefree attitude when it comes to money. But I also know I want to be secure and responsible.

I'd love some suggestions for how you handle the balance between giving yourself what you want and being content with what you have. I've heard of people that have gone an entire year without buying anything new. Or only bought goods from local vendors at the source of production. I'm not ready to try for a year, but a month maybe? I don't know if I could do it. Tell me what you think.

*Photo from here


  1. I'm going to have to become a follower of your blog so I don't miss posts on these kinds of interesting topics.
    The same, but different, I struggle with the same battle on my conscience.

    I long to be a purists. Admire the minimalistic approach. I'm kind of anti-consumerism. I lean strongly toward environmentalist tendencies. Less stuff. Less shipping. Less packaging. Less waste.
    I won't buy individually wrapped anything for our kids' lunches. Only use reusable containers. I make my own laundry soap. It makes me feel good that my thriftiness is both good for our financial wellness, and better for the earth.
    BUT. The guilty part.. I've been longing for a new kitchen. I've spent more time making this decision than any other in my life. I want a more beautiful, more functional kitchen! But, the one we have isn't bad! I don't want to be wasteful in a society that I'm critical of for being so. Don't want to be a hypocrite.
    I also want a new patio area with a pergola. Oh, the guilt. Do we NEED a new patio & a pergola? No. It would be purely for luxury.

    But then, we're much like you (which I find refreshing, by the way - both your financial responsibiliy & that you're willing to be open & share about this) ..in that we live nearly debt & bill free. Our vehicles are paid off. We live with no credit card debt. We have just our mortgage, which is on it's way to being paid off in the near future.
    There's the argument that a new patio could be a wonderful gathering place for family time. It would be very well used. We work hard for what we have. We've earned every bit of it. Life is here to be enjoyed. Maybe we deserve a few things in life that aren't just necessecity.

    I don't buy a lot of clothes, expensive toiletries, etc. We don't spend much (if anything) on entertainment. This is my one area of splurging, my home. In doing that, I suppose it's an investment. Home is also a pretty important place, and to make it more organized & welcoming to our family, that's all good. And,like I said, we're pretty environmentally considerate.
    So it's not all evil greedy waste.
    At least, that's what I keep telling myself. ;)

    We're going ahead (after months of debating & years of planning) with the new kitchen.
    The way I'm balancing my feelings is that we're mixing in with the new some re-using & re-purposing.
    We won't waste the old cabinets, but will reuse them somewhere else. We'll be creatively resourceful in many ways. And hopefully that'll offset our indulgance in the new cabinets that are weighing on my shoulders.

    We have some friends (older) who are likely millionaires. One thing Mitch often states when we're on a related topic is that "you don't get rich by being dumb with money" or something like that.
    These people we know are really careful with their spending. Even when they don't have to be.
    (At the same time, Mitch is the one always tyring to convince me that we should go ahead & buy things we don't need.)

    Balance. All things in life are a balancing act to me.
    In this case, what works for our budget. And our responsibility as stewards of the earth.
    And happiness. Some things like art & music, aren't necessity. But what would life be without them? Reminds me of a C.S. Lewis quote.. "Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival."
    To enjoy life is good.

    But then there's another quote I love by the composer Richard Wagner I believe; Joy is not in things, it is in us.

    Balancing act.
    Sorry - I carried on for quite a while here.
    And not sure I added anything useful.
    Good topic you bring up.

  2. Thank you Amanda! It's good to know it's not just me...it feels like it is sometimes. Enjoy the new kitchen, you will use it well.

    I love that CS Lewis quote- it's new to me. Thanks for sharing!