4 Ideas to Reduce Excess “Wants”

posted by Andrea | 10/24/2016
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wants

Even as a frugal person who values simplicity and purges like crazy, it’s amazing to me how much STUFF comes into our house on a regular basis. Stuff from school, stuff from church, stuff from the neighbors, stuff from Grandma, stuff from a friend’s birthday party, stuff, stuff, and more stuff.

We truly NEED nothing… yet at the same time, there are often so many things we WANT all the time (myself included). 

Of course, there is no “quick fix” for not wanting something cool when you see it (I think this is part of human nature!) but I do have a few relatively simple tips I use for myself (and for my children) that seem to help reduce some of those excess “wants”.

These ideas are especially relevant now, as we gear up for another holiday season filled with even more stuff… but they work well year round too!

1. Don’t Shop.

This goes for in-store AND online! Maybe this is a little too simplistic… but speaking from lots and lots of experience, it REALLY works!

Even if you’re just planning to “window shop” or browse Craigslist, the likelihood you see something you want is exponentially higher than if you stayed away from the store and away from your computer in the first place.

While you’re at it, you might also consider canceling the sales catalogues that come to your home and unsubscribing to any coupon and deal emails you feel cause you to want more.

2. Monitor Your Media.

I realize it’s next to impossible to avoid all media and advertising, but I’m confident that whatever media you DO take in each day plays a significant role in the degree of satisfaction you have with your own life — as well as how often you feel like you “want” something else.

Do you read other blogs and wish you had their hair, their fashion sense, their kitchen, or their family? Do you scroll through social media and come away feeling like your life would be so much better if you just had whatever your friends have?

And don’t underestimate the power of those annoying TV and YouTube commercials either!

Thanks to Netflix and Amazon Prime, my kids almost never see commercials — but whenever they do, it’s always interesting how they react. Once, we saw a commercial for a doll when we were at my parent’s house… and 3 days later, Nora was still talking about that doll she wanted so badly.

I definitely don’t think TV and social media are bad, but if you’d like to cut back on excess wants, you might want to monitor your media.

3. Use Different Language.

As I mentioned last week, I try to use different language when I talk about “stuff” and it has helped a lot! (read that post here).

Instead of saying “I want that” or “I need that” say, “that looks cool” or “I like how that wall color looks with that couch” or “I like the style of that jacket.”

It’s amazing how different I personally feel about something when I can simply acknowledge that I like it or that it looks nice, but I don’t necessarily want it or need to have it.

I know my kids pick up on this too.

4. Limit Gift-Giving Traditions.

I LOVE giving and getting gifts. In fact, “gifts” is my #2 love language.

However, I have tried really hard to limit gift-giving traditions with my kids — mainly because I think it turns into a numbers game of being “fair”, giving everyone the same number of gifts, spending the same amount of money on every person, and stressing over finding just one more gift.

I will often give my kids little “surprise gifts” throughout the year — a fun new dress-up outfit from a 2nd-hand store, new stickers from the dollar store, a new toy from the neighbor’s garage sale, etc. as fun ways to upgrade the everyday — but we really don’t do that many gifts for birthdays or Christmas.

We usually give our kids 2 or 3 small birthday gifts (often used and secondhand items) and maybe 4 or 5 smaller Christmas gifts (plus stocking stuffers). We don’t do any gifts for Easter, Valentines, Halloween, or any other holidays.

Of course, I don’t think there is much harm in a few little gifts for various holidays throughout the year… I just don’t want my kids to be obsessed with getting something every time we celebrate a different holiday. We can do fun crafts, make special recipes, wear costumes, eat candy, go to parades, etc., but we don’t always need another gift just because Hallmark says it’s a special day.

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If I wanted to keep you here all day, I could probably list 20 more little tips to reduce excess wants… but I think these 4 cover a lot of ground.

Of course, these tips won’t work perfectly, and they certainly won’t work immediately; but over time, I hope they will help you and your family reduce excess “wants” and enjoy what you already have instead of always wanting more.

Do you have any other tips for reducing wants in your household?

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23 comments

  1. Lee Winemiller Cockrum

    10/25/2016

    We always got one gift for birthdays, no gifts for Easter or Valentine’s, just a bit of candy. We did get a fair amount at Christmas…at least it seemed like it’s to me! Lots of fun though! My mom did use it as a time to stock up our art supplies, slippers, a few other clothing necccesities.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, I’m also a fan of socks, undies, slippers, and craft supplies as kid’s gifts. They have the fun of unwrapping something they needed anyway — it’s a win-win!

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  2. Deana Wiese

    10/24/2016

    The not shopping is HUGE!! I greatly dislike shopping, but always get sucked in when I do step into a store. Since kids, I have zero time to shop, and it’s been a blessing in disguise. Much less anxiety and much more time for the important things.

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — yes, we are “lucky” that we don’t like shopping. We save so much time, energy, money, and stress!

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  3. Nicole Hodge Pittaluga

    10/24/2016

    Make a rule to only pay cash for “wants” and put a 24-hr waiting period on purchase. Chances are, I’m too busy the next day and I forget about item or move on to something else. Also, I try to think of how many of same type of items (purse, shoes, necklace, kitchen gadget) I already own. I go back to “shopping” in my own house for things I don’t use very often.

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  4. Liz C

    10/24/2016

    The ability to reframe language is one we use with our kids, with good success. I always have my notebook with me. Each child has a page in that notebook. When we’re out and see something neat that they “want”, they can point it out to me and say, “That’s one for my list!” I note the item, price, and location on their list of Things That Are Neat. If something gets consistent notice over the span of months, that’s an item or experience I’m going to look closely at for a potential gift. Most of the time, just the act of pointing out and acknowledging the coolness of something is all that was truly needed.

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    Andrea Reply:

    the notebook is a great idea! thanks for sharing Liz!

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  5. Jj

    10/24/2016

    A friend of ours usually gave her kids a new book for Valentines Day but one year gave everyone in the family a new pillow. They loved it! Haha! And I LOVE your word choices with your kids and have been trying to implement them. I often say it’s not in our budget, so theyou know they can’t get it. But I like the way you word it. It makes it a positive thing!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — I’d take a new pillow for Valentine’s Day!!

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  6. Kelly S

    10/24/2016

    I especially like your media tip… I don’t think I always realize what an influence reading blogs, Facebook ads, etc, have on me… Especially since so many ads are targeted so perfectly to me now with their “magic” of figuring out what products I would like based in my internet history.

    One additional tip that helps me:
    I keep a “wish list” on one of the back pages of my planner, where it is accessible but not very visible to me. When something pops into my head to buy, I record it back there, unless it is something I know we truly need (I.e. Diapers). I usually things sit on that list for a few days, or even longer, before adding them to a shopping list. Often after a few days, I realize I don’t really want it anymore. Or, at least not yet, and I can just let it sit on the list till a special occasion or gift card or whatever. But, I like knowing it is written down because then I don’t have to think/lust after it anymore. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh yes, the wish list. I keep one of these too. Not only is it great for reducing “wants” it’s also really handy whenever someone asks about buying gifts for me or the kids!

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  7. Christine from The (mostly) Simple Life

    10/24/2016

    I hardly ever shop in store, but shopping online is a major weakness! I don’t often order things, but I do plenty of browsing. I do need to limit by visits to Sam’s Club though. I always find cool kitchen stuff or comfy clothes that I want and it’s so easy to go over budget there!

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes, you’re the same as me — hardly ever shop in stores, but online is a lot easier!

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  8. Angela

    10/24/2016

    I agree about kids and commercials. We don’t have cable or Netflix so the majority of our kids’ cartoon viewing is on PBS, but it’s interesting to see how commercials catch their interest when they’re at their grandparents’ houses. I vividly remember Saturday morning cartoons and the advertisements for the latest toys and cool tennis shoes! Nothing like a snazzy commercial to make you aware of something you MUST HAVE, when five seconds ago you didn’t even know it existed!

    I’ve also always made an effort to choose my words carefully (not saying “I want” or “we can’t afford”), and I keep a notebook in my purse to jot down items that the kids (or I) like. My mom jokes about how she’s never heard kids who instead of saying “I want that”, say “Can you put that on my list?” : ) It works with me to eliminate impulse purchases also. If I jot it down, and if when I’m at the store again the next week, I still really want that item, I’ll seriously consider it. But often times, the item isn’t as appealing a week later, or it might even be gone. In which case, it wasn’t supposed to be mine! : )

    I admire the ideas you share for being very real and attainable, especially the home decor, fashion, and organizing ideas that don’t require a big budget. Your blog leaves me feeling inspired and energized, not envious or down on myself or my home.

    I do envy your hair though. : ) I wish I could get my short hair to flip up into a cute faux-hawk like you’ve been doing – it’s such a fun style! Alas, my hair is much too thick and heavy and straight for that. : ) You must have some natural curl/wave.

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  9. Mary Campbell

    10/24/2016

    I spent the weekend working the yard sale area of my quilt guild’s show. I have a few strategies that kept me from buying. First, I had measured and priced fourteen boxes of donated fabric (from myself and a friend). Second, I fondled the fabric I already own and love before going to the show. Third, during the sale I kept repeating to myself, “I am in touch with the abundance in my life.” I also remind myself it’s unlikely that anything I haven’t needed in the last 60 years is something I need now. That said, I did buy a couple of notions that I’ve been lusting after for years–I limit my buying to yard sales.

    My guild has mini-groups that challenge one another to embrace new ideas, new materials, new techniques, and new tools. Four of us have started out own mini-group–“No New Ideas.” We have enough ideas to last the rest of our lives, so we’ve been able to cancel magazine subscriptions, pass on workshops that require new tools, and stay home sewing during the local shop hop.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Love these tips — thanks for sharing Mary!

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  10. Leslie

    10/24/2016

    A few times a year I take a month off from buying anything non-essential. Next month is “No-Buy November.” If I see anything I’ve “gotta have,” I promise myself not to buy it that month, and if I really want it I’ll get it the next month. Usually I forget about it. It really helps me distinguish the difference between want and need. Of course this shouldn’t be an excuse for “loading up” the month before and/or after 🙂

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    Angela Reply:

    I meant to comment on Leslie’s response too…I think taking a month off from buying extras is SO refreshing! I like to do it in January or February, after all the excess of the Christmas season. It helps me to re-focus on budgeting and turns my attention back to the great feeling I get when I take good care of our family’s resources. It’s a good excuse to use up some extras from the pantry and freezer, and it’s also really refreshing to see just how little we really “need”. Great tip!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, I’ve often done this in January or February too. We did it in May once at it was a lot harder since I wanted to get stuff for the garden and house projects!

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    Andrea Reply:

    We’ve done this in the past too! I is always amazing to me how challenging it can be not to buy anything unnecessary!

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  11. Deb

    10/24/2016

    Watch “Hoarding, Buried Alive” once a week. Just joking. Keeping a list of things that you “want” but don’t need with the prices that you are willing to pay next to each item. For example, I am looking for a buffet for our dining room and I don’t want to pay over $50. I don’t need it, but if I found the right one for $50, I would pick it up.

    I also think it helps to know EXACTLY where you are going to put it or store it when not in use. Some things are nice to have like at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but storing a roasting pan or turkey platter year round takes up a lot of room.

    Overall, though I would say that having an ongoing list and avoiding trips to tempting stores are my best ways to curb the desire for MORE!

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    Chris Reply:

    Deb,
    Your first sentence says it all! I’ve only seen the show a few times because I find parts of it frightening, but every time I watch it I immediately fill up two bags: one for donation and one for the trash. It’s the cleaning equivalent of Scared Straight!

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — so funny (and sad) and true! Good tip!
    Also, you know how much I love lists 🙂

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