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How To Be Content With Less

The following is a guest post from Tessa of The Recreational Word Slinger

Before I got married, I used to buy anything and everything I wanted when I went shopping. I was working part-time, going to school, and indulging my every want. You can imagine the shock that I experienced when I was married and had to stop buying things for myself!

I struggled with “little” purchases when I would visit Target or Kohl’s every now and then. I told myself that this $10 top or book would not affect our budget much, so I would stick it in my cart and go on my merry way. As you know, that type of thinking is dangerous. Those small, insignificant purchases tend to add up over time to one significant deficit in the budget.

After the concept of spending cash only was introduced in our marriage, I realized that I was much more satisfied with having less than I originally thought was possible.

Here are 3 ideas that can help you be content with less:

1. Expect less.

Stop expecting to buy something every time you run an errand. I was so guilty of this before we switched to using cash. I would think that I deserved a little treat for having to get out and grocery shop or run errands. Direct your thinking towards expecting less.

2. Ignore the urge for more, more, more.

This is easier said than done in today’s society. We are constantly bombarded with different advertisements telling us that we need more. We have to retrain how we listen to or pay attention to such ads. When you become immune to advertising, you might find that your desire for more decreases.

3. Look at what you do have.

This idea is by far the one that has helped me get over my obsession with stuff. One way to do this is by verbally thanking our Creator for what He has given us. When I am more mindful of the blessings that I have been given, then I find that I am less mindful of my humanistic desire for more.

What tips do you have for learning to be content with less?

Tessa Hardiman is a wife, daughter, cat lover, bibliophile, novice runner, substitute teacher, and the Recreational Word Slinger. She blogs daily at The Recreational Word Slinger.

photo credit

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  • Over the last 4 weeks we just started using a cash envelope system. It was really difficult (but in a good way) because it makes you think twice about those little purchases. There have been many times were I have thought “do I really need that” because I did not want to spend the cash I had in my hand. I have actually put things items away because of this – where in the past I would just purchase it without thinking twice. We are already ready seeing a big difference in our budget and savings.

    Great post!

  • Christi says:

    I can identify with the difference the author experienced between single and married life. One thing that has been a real help to me in this area is our budget category for individual spending money. My husband and I each get a few dollars each month that we can spend on wants instead of needs. So if I want a Starbucks treat when I am getting groceries, then I can use my spending money for it without impacting the budget. However, since it is not a large amount of money, it causes me to think twice before spending. 🙂

    • Kayla H says:

      Christi, having some spending money has really changed the way we are getting out of debt. We do not feel as deprived as we did before, and we don’t blow our budget in other categories for things that should have been purchased with spending money. We are able to pay more down on debt than before too. I generally hold on to some of mine just in case I want to stop, for example, at Sonic for a drink and tots. That is a fun treat that I don’t have to feel guilty about or rob another category for. Having budgeted spending money can change your budget and your life!

    • Meredith says:

      We do the same thing! We’re now out of debt and saving our Emergency Fund. It works so well for us to each have money in our wallet to do what we want with!

    • Tessa says:

      Great idea Christi!

  • BethB says:

    Wow, you hit the nail on the head! So much of this describes me.

    We’re preparing for a small but significant income drop when I cut my workload after this semester. This has meant keeping a much more strict budget including using cash for almost everything. After only two months it’s completely revolutionized the way I shop. Especially at Target. I really see how those little purchases were nickle and diming our spending much higher than it needed to be.

    I also completely agree about being satisfied with what you have. I really think this is a huge part of successfully managing money. When I was in my 20s I racked up tons of credit card debt. Now that I’m ten years away from that I’ve given a lot of thought to how and why my habits have changed. Other than using the sense God gave a goose. 🙂 So much of it is looking around and truly appreciating everything I have instead of always wanting MORE MORE MORE. I still catch myself in that kind of thinking, especially with kitchen gadgets and clothes, but talking things through with my husband and actually having to wait before I rush out and make a purchase helps keep things in perspective.

    What a great post!

  • Jennifer says:

    We switched to the cash system almost a year ago – we don’t even use a personal debit card. (when we want to make an online purchase, we use a pre-loaded gift card) Boy, am I glad that we did because we are now expecting our 3rd baby! I have found that by not buying little things that we have the money to buy the things we actually want. The little things were just a quick fix when I felt deprived because we couldn’t afford to buy the “big ticket” things we wanted or needed. Another bonus… the house isn’t cluttered with stuff that we don’t need & I don’t feel guilty because I’m packing up a box of never used/ never worn things for donation. I do still get that “shop til you drop” urge, but now I hit up all of the second hand stores!

    • Hilary says:

      We were doing the same thing with a prepaid debit card, but then I realized how much we were spending in fees! A lot of them charge you a fee just to load them. We keep a personal debit card at home, locked away. It never leaves the house! This way we have it if we need it for online purchases, or reserving a hotel room etc. But we don’t have it when we are out of the house so we can not spend the money.

  • Janice says:

    One thing I have done is to unsubscribe from all the deal sites, store sites, etc., except for a couple very favorites. Also same things for catalogues. The more that comes in front of your eyes, the more opportunity there is for you to want stuff. But if you never even see it, you don’t even know what you are missing, and save a ton of money NOT satisfying your WANTS. 🙂

    • Amber says:

      Great tip!

    • Kathy says:

      Yes, and just don’t go to the mall! Plan ONE trip to Target for the month. I need to go through and unsubscribe from a lot of shopping and deal emails.

      • beth b says:

        Yes, this. Target is only 5 minutes from my house so it’s too easy to pop over for a few things. When the weather cooperates I try to walk but I’m there way too much. Being more organized about my shopping is something I desperately need to work on.

      • Rachael says:

        We buy almost all of our non perishable groceries at Target, though. I stick to a strict list when I go, and I go once a week. Our regular grocery store prices are outrageous (like $3 a dozen for eggs; $7 for hotdogs). Even with sales, I rarely shop there (I buy my produce at Sams Club). I love Target’s manufacturer and store coupon policy, and though it may not work for everyone, we find it’s the least expensive way for our family to shop for a lot of our groceries.

      • Allison says:

        I’ve started doing the same thing with the drugstores. I go every once in a while, but not every week. I still do the RRs and ECB deals on occasion, but I don’t feel like I need to go get something just because it’s “free” anymore. (And I avoid other “deals” that I don’t really need by not going in the door as often.)

  • Juletta says:

    I needed this today. Thank you.

  • Stephanie says:

    I think being content with anything is a decision. When something happens or doesn’t happen, when we look in our closet or driveway, or just plain get up in the morning; we have to decide to be content that day. As a family, we have had to make cut-backs and spend less. We could sit and lament what we don’t have or can’t do, or we can look around and count our blessing and decide that we are content with the day and what it brought. 🙂

  • Andrea says:

    The thing that has helped me the most is simply staying home. I also put things on an Amazon Wish List and I have a “wishing” board on Pinterest. If after a few weeks, I decide that I still want the item I saved, I will reconsider it.

  • Patti says:

    I keep a gratitude journal – just write down 5 quick positive things each night. It amazes me how little of what I am grateful for is “things”. It is usually spending time with someone, a surprise during the day, or when I am better off than someone else (such as when I saw a family moving this weekend while it was pouring down rain. I felt blessed to be in a dry house). It really does change your perspective.

    • JB says:

      I love this idea Patti! I’m going to try it and hopefully it will help me with one of my 2012 goals this year (which was completely “borrowed” from Crystal!) sending more handwritten notes. I think I will try to send at least one handwritten note a week to someone who comes up in my gratitude journal specifically to let them know I’m grateful for them in my life! 🙂
      Isn’t it funny how different your prospective becomes when stuff isn’t your focus anymore?

  • Great Post! Being Content has been a biggie for me lately. I’ve been really working on being content with what we have and it has bene so freeing. We have been working on getting out of debt and we didn’t get anywhere until I learned to be thankful for what we had. As soon as I started being content with what we had and where we were in our journey we started making progress. The months that we struggle, I can always look back and see that those were the months that we forgot to be content and we forgot to look for the blessings that come with our journey.

  • Lea Stormhammer says:

    I made a “not to buy” list when we had our first significant income cut (40%) 5 years ago. We’re looking at another 60-75% (we’re not sure exactly the amount anymore) income cut in the near future and I recently wrote out another one.

    In effect, it’s saying “here’s what we have already” – it includes things like linens, plates, silverware, furniture, a house, our vehicles, etc. – all the way down to little things like paperclips (which I think multiply on their own in the drawer) and cloth napkins. It makes me feel so very blessed and it makes it a whole lot easier to say “no” to those little things because I *know* (head knowledge and heart knowledge) that we truly don’t need them!

    Having that list has helped us save up to make some house repairs this year and we’re hopefully going to have enough to buy a new-to-us car to replace my 14-year-old Camry this year too. By skipping the little things, we have been able to have enough money to do the bigger things that truly mean something.

    Thanks for this post today!

  • Leighann says:

    The urge to buy more! more! more! is very strong in Americans. We have literally been brainwashed by television and print ads to be unhappy unless we’re buying something new.

    This is going to sound like some sort of wild conspiracy theory, but I’ve watched too many legitimate, sane documentaries about the advertising industry and Madison Avenue, and read several books about how it works. It came up in both my sociology and psychology classes. It’s going to sound crazy, but it’s absolutely true.

    All those ads you see on television, every ad you see in print, is literally designed to trick you and brainwash you. You are made to feel good associates with a product, and you are brainwashed by these ads into buying the product.

    This happens from early in childhood, especially if you’re allowed to watch a lot of television with commercials in it. This consumerism brainwashing can lead to you feeling depressed, unhappy, spending beyond your means, etc. Even if you try to change your life and live within your means, you can find it is more of a struggle if you watch more television and read more magazines because, even though you’re making an effort to use the cash envelope system and not use credit cards, everything surrounding you is telling you to SPEND SPEND SPEND! It’s telling you that you’re unhappy unless you’re buying that book or that shirt or that belt.

    There is a way to get around that. You have to turn your television off. You have to, every time, every single time, you see an ad, make yourself think “This is an ad to sell me something. Whatever the ad is saying, I do not want.” It’s just like if you’re trying to diet and have to tell yourself “No, I do not actually want that extra cookie.” Same type of thing: you have to sit there and actually tell yourself you do NOT want to buy that shirt, you do not want those shoes, you do not want what they’re selling.

    I’ve been working on this for ten years and it’s still difficult to do. Some people don’t even realize they’re brainwashed, but they are. It’s a horrible thing that Madison Avenue and the advertising industry has done to our citizens, created this culture of conspicuous consumerism, hurt our mental health. It’s hard to train yourself out of, but if every single time you make a purchase you double check yourself and go “OK, did I see advertisements for this recently that are leading me to want to buy it, or is it a general need for my household?” you will find you’re able to ignore and suppress the urge for more! more! more! However, it takes time, and just like any other habit it can be hard to break. You can do it 🙂

    • Heather says:

      I wouldn’t call it brainwashing, since most advertising is easily identified as such, and we still have our free will.
      I do agree that the advertisers are very good at what they do – naturally. A business must advertise if it’s going to let people know about its product, and not be driven out of the market by its competitors.
      Turning off the TV is a great way to avoid succumbing. I also try not to read too many magazines for the same reasonl.

      • Leighann says:

        No, it really is brainwashing. You don’t even realize it’s happening, because it happens in all sorts of things. Say you’re watching a movie with no advertisements. One of the characters in the movie uses some detergent, which looks like Tide. You didn’t pay conscious attention to the detergent, but the image stays in your subconscious and next time you go to the store, you’re more likely to choose Tide over another brand.

        It works the same with magazines. Many “articles” in magazines aren’t anything more than advertisements for products. Say a magazine devoted to babies and new mothers runs an article that talks about “the best strollers this year!” You can bet good money that they just got free “goodies” from the companies, and perhaps cash compensation to run that article and advertise.

        This is a potential topic for my thesis paper, so I have already done a lot of research on it. You really honestly do not even realize that some of the brainwashing is going on, and that’s exactly what it is – brainwashing. And as I said, it sounds insane. You go around telling people that commercials and advertisements are brainwashing them, and they might try to put you away. However, it’s absolutely what happens, and why it’s so bad for little kids to watch commercial television.

        Anyway, thought I would share. 🙂

  • Marianne says:

    The best way I’ve found to cut out the little impulse buys is to walk around with the item for a bit before going to the cash. I did this just yesterday and put it back close to the cash because the novelty had worn off and I didn’t feel like standing in line at the cash anymore. Works nearly all the time!

    • I do that too – even in the Salvation Army! Sometimes just walking around with it awhile helps you to think about whether or not you really want it.

    • Melissa N says:

      I do that too! Recent examples – pretty coat rack for $12 (rather than 4 fifty cent hooks), $5 cute Valentine’s T shirt, 6 solar lights for our walkway (at $2 apiece)…..nothing huge, some would be nice to have, but none were necessities, and that’s $29 right there. Nowadays, I pick it up and then immediately think if I want to walk back to this spot in the store when the novelty wears off 10 minutes later. And then I put it back down and walk away.

      • Jennifer says:

        I walked around the Salvation Army with a 19¢ bamboo rice paddle the other day…….I ended up buying it and am quite happy I made my little “splurge” purchase.

    • Elizabeth says:

      I do this too! I’ve heard that store say that the longer you have something, the more likely you are to buy it, but the opposite is true in my case. The “Shiny” wears off pretty fast with me, and I usually put it back. If I don’t I probably really do want it.

  • We live a fairly minimally and this lifestyle has really resulted in contentment for our family! We’ve found we just don’t want to acquire stuff anymore. We’re so much more thankful for the things we do have since we’re not always looking for bigger, better and more!

  • Two things I do when I feel like my discontent are growing are to:

    1) Go and organize an area of my home. Usually when I sort through all the stuff we already have and don’t use reminds me that we don’t need that much more.

    2) Stop viewing “Less cash or spending power” as deprivation and instead view it as an opportunity to have more of other things that people with more money don’t always have. I have learned so many new skills, like making things from scratch, menu planning, freezer meals, and even sewing/etc. because we were trying to make do with less cash. I realized that in exchange for less money, I was gaining other things, like a greater control over what I could eat because I could prepare it my way or grow it in a garden, or control in how I decorated because I could sew my own curtains and pillows.

    • Becky says:

      I like your comment about learning new skills. I’m a single woman and have always been intimidated by anything having to do with cars. But any auto repairs are so expensive. So, little by little I’ve been trying to grow my auto knowledge and skills. I started by changing my own headlight bulbs, then air filter, and just recently borrowed a repair manual from the library and replaced an actual part (knock sensor) myself. Anything that is urgent or consists of more than a few bolts is still beyond my limited skill set; but by investigating the problem myself before running out to spend cash, I’m slowly increasing my knowledge. And that could be useful even if only to understand a repairman’s explanation and my options when a bigger issue arises.

      • That’s great – I’ve always wanted to learn some of those things and think that those types of skills would really pay off in big ways.

      • Kathy says:

        Good for you! My husband and I are retired and living on a very minimal income … he is not and has not been a handi-person … I have found so many helpful tutorials on YouTube … from fixing a leaky toilet … to unclogging a stubborn bathroom drain … I have even taken up helping my single daughter at her house … its a good feeling to save money and have the satisfaction that you were able to do it yourself. Keep up the good work!

  • Another thing I do is to take care of what we do have – keeping it clean and orderly, whether it’s my kitchen or car, helps me feel so much better.

  • Cotton says:

    Really like the article. We …ahem, I have been on this journey for a while now. I love it. Less is actually more but I do think there are few that start out with this “epiphany” and more like it is a “process”. At least for me it has been. Thanks for sharing your insights.

    • Momof5 says:

      I’m so interested in your “ahem.” Can you talk a little bit about how it works when one of you is on the journey and the other, ahem, isn’t? I realized this weekend when my husband came home with some totally unnecessary items that all the internalizing I’ve been doing about living with less and appreciating what we have – really! The mall makes me queasy now! – has been, shall we say, one-sided.

      So do you mean “We . . . ahem, I” because it’s been hard for you, but not your spouse? If so, could you talk a little bit about how it feels to be in that position? Or if you mean it because actually you’re the only one in the couple who is on this journey to contentment with less, do you have any tips for making that work?

      I get the temptation of “shiny,” as Elizabeth says, above. But for me, “out of debt!” and “no student loans for the kids!” is shinier than any gadget in any store. Those shoes and electronics just pale by comparison. Is that weird? Is my husband’s approach (“Of course I looked in the electronics department. I was shopping!” – um, for coffee and vegetables, dear.) normal?

      Would love to hear what you think. 🙂

      • Cotton says:

        Hopefully you received my earlier reply? If not let me know and I will re-do it.

        • Cotton says:


          Well, it was really me. I agreed to spending less but I guess in all honesty my heart and spirit still wasn’t on board. My husband did not chide me nor scold me which I think in a small way made me feel even worse. Hopefully that makes sense.

          When I finally got in a mode of decluttering because of an impending move that is when the “lights” finally came on. I realized just how much and how many unnecessary purchases I had made over the years. I found myself sad, mad, repenting, etc. that is when I changed and got on “the program” fully and completely. I had always been careful with grocery shopping and hygiene products, clothing purchases but somehow I found that I had a big weakness for the “pretties”. The decorator candles, flowers, pictures, etc. There is nothing wrong in liking or wanting those things but in truth they were items we could not afford at that point.

          As I boxed up and carried off loads of “decorator” items to charity I was ashamed and over-whelmed with my level of greed and dis-satisfaction of the life and blessings I currently had. Then I changed. I am beyond content and still de-cluttering for a free life of “stuff”.

          • Momof5 says:

            Thanks so much for your openness. That he “did not chide nor scold” – sigh. I can see what I need to work on.

            Thank you!

  • jody says:

    We are saving for a new house right now, so what works for me is reminding myself that anything I buy right now will have to be moved at a later date and will make selling our current home more difficult as it will be more cluttered. That’s about the only thing that does it for me!!

  • Joy A. says:

    I needed to read this! This has been me exactly! I am going to print this off and hang it up to remind myself that I do not need a treat every time I go out shopping! Thanks so much!

  • Elizabeth says:

    This is so hard because buying things triggers the reward center in our brain. Not buying things, well, no so much. So we have to figure out how to trigger the reward part of our brain with out buying stuff… I try to do that by looking at how organized a closet is (would it be if it had 30% more stuff in it?) or at my savings account balance. Being conscious of our needs for reinforcement and getting that reinforcement in a positive way can really save us from making unwise choices.

    • Andrea says:

      I got a really cheap subscription to the daily newspaper, mostly for the Sunday issue with the coupons. It easily pays for itself. Having the paper arrive everyday and doing the puzzles/reading the comics makes me happy and feels like a reward. Getting real freebies in the mail helps, too.

  • Carrie P. says:

    I agree so much about walking around with items while in the store to decide whether it is necessary. I put back mostly every non- necessity. The shine really does wear off quickly when I think about how much preschool tuition, dinner or gas that unnecessary thing could cost!
    I also think it is so very true about keeping your “stuff” organized! You see what you already have and then think about what you can do with that rather than adding anything to the pile- whether it be crafts, clothing( for myself or our boys), office supplies, kitchen stuff( my personal “piles I must keep in check). I enjoy watching an ocassional episode of “Hoarders” for a good reminder of how joyfullness and being grateful are completely unassiciated with worldly things but instead with how your heart and soul are doing. Those people are often plagued with a trauma that has crippled their happiness and caused severe mental distress… Leading to the collection of stuff they are unable to even utilize. I am glad that awareness is being brought to their types of cases, as so many more need help with it. It is eye opening for the rest of us as well.

  • Laura says:

    I try to think about how much STUFF I already have to take care of… to organize, dust, keep the kids from destroying, etc. It reminds me that Things are a burden, and I *don’t want more*!

    (This doesn’t work for organizing things or upgrades for things we already have…. for those I just have to have self-control. :-D)

  • Danell says:

    A little over a year ago I had to give up dairy and soda (among other things) for health reasons. When I found out I was devastated. I thought that I couldn’t do it. But if I ate those things I would immediately become sick and have to seek medical attention. If I failed at my new diet it could cost my family hundreds of dollars…each time. Talk about motivation! I got used to what I could and couldn’t eat so quickly it amazed me. People would comment over and over again about how they could never be so restricted, or could never give up their soda etc. Each time I wanted to shake my head at them. I became content with less because I had to, but if I had begun to live a healthier lifestyle sooner, maybe I wouldn’t have had to go through that experience. Now instead of feeling deprived at the idea of going without I can think ‘Yeah, I bet I could go without that!’ I stop to think whether I need something, or just want it, and I picture putting that ten dollars into savings instead of wearing that ten dollar blouse for a season and then being sick of it.

  • Sarah says:

    One good Swap party every three or four months can help this passing need as well. We humans get tired of what we have and we want something new. New to us often works. So swap parties within your community can do the trick.

  • Lynn says:

    This is a great article! It helps me to retrain myself (and keep retraining myself) is instead of saying “I deserve this for running errands and getting out to buy groceres” is to say “I am blessed that I have a car to run my errands and the money to buy my groceries.” There are people that don’t have that.

  • Mary says:

    Love your article! My family and I just moved. While packing we donated 3 loads to the GoodWill- it was so nice to move less and even nicer to unpack less stuff.

    We’ve made huge effort to plan our purchases too. That way we are only going to a store when we need it and have the cash for it 🙂

  • Amy Jo says:

    I love this! I just talked today in my blog about an epic battle I had with myself about buying a new printer that I NEEDED. I talked myself off the ledge lol. This is so true! Learn to be content with what you have! I am trying, but we all have our moments lol

  • Beth says:

    You’re point about deserving was a hard one early in our marriage too. We weren’t buying LOTS of things, but the little things would add up. Thoughts like, “I’ve worked hard this week…I deserve some ice cream, or coffee, etc.” mixed with my husband’s similar though “I deserve some cheese or chocolate” would really add up. We cut our spending by realizing the power of these thoughts and applying the antidote of “contentment.” We also set up ways to meaningfully reward ourselves without spending and extra $10-$20 per week.

  • Joy says:

    I try to be more conscious about what I buy on holiday clearance or Dollar Spot at Target. I no longer buy these items just because they are on clearance. It has to be something I know we will use or need for next year. And I rarely buy anything at the Dollar Spot any more because most of it is cheap, China junk anyway.

    I also rarely go the craft stores either. I used to buy scrapbooking stuff (I was addicted to stickers) all the time. But found myself with little time to work on them and bins full of the stuff.

  • becky says:

    We lived in Central Asia for awhile. My friends and neighbors were not poor in the sense of what you see in Compassion videos and such. But they still had less stuff than Americans. Fewer outfits, shoes, less furniture, less variety in cleaning supplies… they ate out much less, cooked more things from scratch, spent less money on toys, travel, and entertainment. Sure, they weren’t necessarily content–contentment is a spiritual issue. But it helped me realize that I don’t need many of the gadgets, toys, clothes, or even living space that American culture says I need.

  • Annie Kate says:

    Lots of great ideas here! One that I use when I ‘need’ to go shopping: I visit to the library and take out way too many books and DVD’s. It has all the same perks as shopping except that you only have to pay if you forget to return them on time.

  • Andrea says:

    Another thing that has helped me…calculating how many minutes/hours my husband works to pay for the things I buy!

  • Jen says:

    A great post! Relevant in so many ways and to so many people. A few things I find helpful through practice (that may already have been mentioned):

    -Indulge a little. Make specific choices. Decide what is key to you and plan for it. Budget a small amount of cash for spending wants each month/week. As other readers mentioned, I like to get a latte sometimes. That can add up. Budget for it so you don’t feel like you’re depriving yourself. Either we want to go out to eat or have small treats sometimes. We can afford them, especially when we plan for it. If you do, join a perks club like Starbucks that gives you a free drink sometimes, coupons and some perks.

    That “treat” mentality is dangerous. Often I learn to make a treat at home by tweaking everyday things that give me that indulged feeling when I spend money somewhere else. The everyday ordinary can be extraordinary, thank Goodness! It is the mindset/experience not the money that I crave. It may sound silly but I make whole wheat muffins with crunchy brown sugar streusel on top. It feels like getting a muffin at Starbucks. It’s so much better for me and satisfies that pampered feeling. (A bubble bath also does the trick;).

    Pick what you love. I love to decorate. I budget a small amount each month for things for the house. It is a game to plan for what the house needs and repurpose something or transform an alley find for very little money. Sewing helps. I keep a running shopping list in my purse for all those little things I want /”need.” I really wanted a garlic peeler. But I would really like a new sofa that doesn’t make your back ache:). I can keep chop garlic with my knife and put that money aside each month for a couch.

    The arts and travel are very important to me. I find small ways to plan for and have that experience without spending too much money. A few nices weekends away using frequent flier miles and staying with friends (or saving up and planning for larger trips) gives anticipation. Discount tickets to plays or free concerts are available in every city. I plan for them and then anticpate the event more when it doesn’t happen every week. (I know I forget how to enjoy anticipation sometimes in this consumer society.)

    -Save change and then spend it on something frivolous or put it into a special account for something meaningful. I keep a jar for change and cash it in now and then or just buy myself a pack of gum.

    -Gratitude for what I already have is key. In this country, I think we forget how much “stuff” we do have and how blessed we are (Someone already mentioned the “Story of Stuff” movie. Great!). I try to remind myself. Every morning during prayer time, I thank God for so many of the blessings I have and specifically name at least 10, some physical and others not. Having a family, job, a house, etc. are true blessings in this world. I Google how much the average American makes compared to many in the rest of the world and we are so fortunate. That helps me put it into perspective.

    -Shop 2nd hand. It’s a win-win and cheaper. Someone gets rid of something they want and I get something “new” to me. See it as a challenge instead of a burden.

    -Practice intentional no spend days, weeks and months. It is great discipline and a great way to learn to be content with less.

    -If I truly want something and have the money, I make myself wait at least 24-48 hours depending on how much it costs. I do the “math” how much time it would take me to work to earn that thing. For example, a new pair of shoes might be calling to me. When I break down how much they cost based on how much I earn on average per hour, are they really worth my working for an hour just to wear? Sometimes, quality last better and is worth it. Most often, not. Put it in terms of how much work I have do reframes my buying decisions.

    -Look at what you have with new eyes. Rotate what you already have or trade with someone else. I put away some of my artwork and decorative objects and clothes. When I’m bored, I rearrange furniture and move drapes from one room to another. It is all my own stuff just with a fresh eye. Sometimes just picking fresh flowers from my garden gives me that breath of fresh air.

    – Sometimes I mistake the reason I’m craving something. Determine where your feeling is coming from. Sometimes, I want to go shopping not because I want something new but because that is how I used to spend time with my friends. Now, I find other ways to spend time with them. Are you tired and need some relaxation? For me shopping used to be a way to relax. Now I just go to the Goodwill.:) When I know why I want what I want, then I can usually change my thinking.

  • kathy says:

    One thing sticks in my mind that my mother told me growing up in the sixties. She said, if We had had everything we wanted we could not have saved anything. Parents have much to teach many times If we would avail ourselves of their wisdom. Also if young moms know senior women who raised families in the great depression I am sure they have many helpful tips they could share.

  • L says:

    It is very easy to notice and want what other people have. At work I notice that other people have nicer clothing, jewelry and drive nicer cars. But I am working to save for retirement and help my soon-to-be college bound children with “some” of their tuition. So the “cool” new vehicle and nice clothes will just have to wait. My day will come! Or at least I will have been able to help my kids a little bit with their future and have money when I am too old to work!

  • Learning to live with less is hard but I think a monthly budget is the single most important thing a person can do financially. I don’t think people realize how many doors can be opened by doing so. Keeping yourself on budget can lead to increased savings, paying off of credit cards, and maybe even getting that long awaited dream vacation. It just takes discipline to live without that expensive cup of coffee and brew one up yourself.

  • lizajane says:

    What helps me sometimes when I’m shopping is to do some people watching or glance into their carts. You can tell the people that are there to get what they need and go home versus the people that are there for a way to entertain themselves….they browse the shelves as they are walking around, they stop & study things that could never be considered a need, and they usually have stuff in their carts that you just KNOW they never came into the store intending to buy. And you feel just a little bit stronger because you haven’t given in to the impulse shopping mindset!

  • What a great post! Cash is the key for us -even if we are in a tight crunch and have to take from an envelope with plenty, we stop at that. If we can’t count the cash in our hands then we don’t spend it! Our goal is to not borrow from other envelopes, but we are truly getting a handle on our finances in the last six weeks so we are letting borrowing be our wiggle room.
    I also try to really simplify my objectives. We are focusing on this order: save, debt, give. This is what works for us and keeps us motivated. Try simplifying your objectives – it’s a breath of fresh air!

  • Joy Smith says:

    Man, I loooove this article! With 4 kids (18, 16, 13, 10) and only one income, living with less has become not only a challenge at times, but a good habit for my kids.

    Here are a couple things that have helped our family:
    1.) I have a double digit rule for clothes. If it costs more than $10, I don’t buy it. The only exception is shoes, but those have to be less than $20.
    2.) I NEVER pay full price for ANYTHING. If it’s not on sale, it doesn’t go in the cart.
    3.) I changed our vocabulary and perspective: nearly 4 years ago, when I quit my full-time job (which slashed our already meager income by nearly half), I deliberately began answering my kid’s complaints about anything with a reason to be thankful. “Mom, I reeeeeallllllly neeeeeed these shoes.” I would nicely reply, “Wow, buddy, you already have 2 pairs in your closet that you don’t have on your feet. That’s literally three times more shoes than most kids in the world your age have.” I know this sounds like a plastic answer, but it has worked wonders. Now, they do it to each other!
    4.) We expanded our worldview. Instead of comparing what we have (or don’t have) to our little demographic in our immediate city, we compare it to the world. My kids came to the conclusion on their own, that we’re actually rich! (Whew! For a while there, I thought I’d land them in therapy…). I’ve heard them say to their friends who are whining, “You know, just because you were born in this country, you’re among the richest 5% of the world.” Amazing hearing your teenage daughter say that!

    I love the tips in the comments and look forward to coming back in the next few days to see what else is posted. 😉

    • Marie says:

      Joy- I think you’re doing awesome!! My 3 kids are much younger (twins 5 and a one year old). I also NEVER pay full price for anything. It’s funny because I have a rule for clothing and shoes to that I’m willing to pay. For shoes I try to not pay more then $5. Some people think I’m crazy but I almost always find brand new shoes for under this price. I shop clearance. This rule has helped because if a pair doesn’t work out (because of bought ahead and the size doesn’t work) I can easily sell them and get what I payed for them so I’m not out the money either. And in 5 years I’ve only had less then 5 pairs not work out. I realize that as they get older the price will increase. Clothes I don’t spend more then $3-5 new. Usually I can shop at The Children’s place and buy everything for under $2.
      I think it is sometimes the parents fault that kids have more. Parents think the kids need it or want it. A couple times a year I go through the toys with the kids and it’s amazing what they’re willing to give up. I think it’s great that you have taught your children about the needs of those around them. I know we do the shoeboxes every year and my kids love it!
      Your doing awesome! Keep it up!

  • Jamie says:

    Thank you.

    I am having a difficult time with this. I am not normally one who wants things, but with my husband being at work or school ALL the time I find myself wanting to turn more to things, shopping or going out with our boys to lunch or activities and then feeling more discontent afterwards.

    I try reminding myself of my abundance of blessings and then in the next thought I am planning on redecorating a child’s room or something.

    I am a little lost on what to do, how to get myself out of this “poor me” mentality and just be content.

  • Z says:

    i joined a few years ago and she really motivates you to declutter. When i declutter i notice just how much extra of this and that i have and it helps me not spend more money.

  • Ellen says:

    Your blog and its entries have really helped my decluttering. By seeing all the nonsensical things we donated to charity, it astounds me how much we still have that we don’t need. By decluttering, it has helped curb me of the shop ’til you drop mentality I had! Now if, and only if, I overspend it is still on groceries but am working on it! 🙂

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