The appeal for stuff is something that I am not sure I get. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like receiving gifts like anyone else. It is just the cleaning up the house that I don’t like. Recently, I walked through a small store that held a bunch of random items for people to purchase. It was hard to locate anything worth looking at in the mountain of worthless trinkets that are made solely to collect dust. I found myself impressed that such a store was able to function for so long with the amount of random junk in there. It makes me wonder what compels someone to buy something they will never use.
How much stuff do you really need? It is actually much less than we probably realize and yet there are aisles and aisles of stuff in stores for impulsive consumers to spend their money on. DVDs just collect dust and add to collections that do nothing but provide occasional entertainment. Then there are books. I love to read books, but I also have a library close by that has a lot of books in it. These books I can check out for free, read them and return them. That way they don’t get added to the bins of random books that so many people have in their home. The pursuit of more stuff leads to the pursuit of more places to put this stuff. This really makes me wonder why we do this to ourselves. I do not want a bunch of strange-looking dolls, trolls, or trinkets looking at me on shelves. They are not decorative, they are clutter.
Then there are the services that we spend our hard-earned money on.Cell phones, as an example, have become more and more expensive to own. Verizon has recently come out with a share everything plan in which they charge $40 a month for access for each smartphone and then another $50 for 2 GB of data. Oh, and if you want to upgrade your phone they charge you $30 to do that. Think about all the money that is spent on data charges and fees. That is $600 a year on data alone! In many cases this leaves people paying for way more than they actually need.
Before I turn into a technology blog, let me get back to the point here. The appeal of stuff is something we all must deal with, if for nothing else but to keep out of debt. We need to think before impulsively buying something because often the purchase is not as fulfilling as the thrill of the chase. With 4 children, our house is full enough without adding a bunch of extra things to step on.
So, here are some ways I keep things in perspective.
Food/Shelter – Yes, we need these things. I think I probably should allocate some money to them.
Clothing – To a point, yes we need to buy clothes. The question is how many clothes does someone actually need? I can get by with a rather limited wardrobe and so can the rest of my family. So much of what we get for the kids comes from people who want to donate it to us. Whatever we don’t use gets given away as well. We buy very few clothes for our kids as a result.
Toys – What kind of toys do we buy our kids? We buy toys that they can play with over and over again. For example, our kids have a lot of Lego sets and Lincoln Logs. They have toy cars and trucks. They don’t have action figures and weird toys that break in 2 minutes. I like things that will last and will get played with regularly. We have a Geo Trek Train set that all the boys have played with and still do to this day. The baby toys have all been passed on through all of our children and they still work fine.
Electronics – If we don’t need it, we don’t buy it. This is the hardest one for me because I really would like to have the latest gizmo. If I were to chase the latest device, I would be broke. Coincidentally, many people do go out and buy the latest device and are broke. Go figure.
Books/Games/Movies- We play some games with the kids and get a lot of books from the library. Movies are a waste of money, unless they are movies that will be watched a lot. Too many of them just get thrown away after sitting on a shelf for years.
Entertainment – My kids play with each other. They use their imaginations. They build things with dirt and sticks. They play in the yard and ride their bikes. This is a solid, healthy use of time. They don’t need a bunch of junk; they play with what they have. As a result, they appreciate all the more the gifts they receive.
How do you determine what to buy or avoid in those discretion areas? Was there ever something that you bought on impulse that you wish you hadn’t? Do you have any life lessons to pass on to others on this topic?