I suppose this post, in all honestly, is a direct link to my previous post: 330 Days ’til 40: Wants Versus NEEDS. My family and I were recently in New York. The stimulation in Times Square, particularly for my two elementary age daughters, was almost too much to handle. I must admit the advertisers do an absolutely FANTASTIC job of assisting my children (and MANY adult and child Americans) at confusing wants and needs. Indeed, it is their charge to try to convince Americans that we NEED to purchase a variety of products that we in no way actually NEED in order to survive, or even thrive in this world.
Marketing is everything – even the sign above, where FAO Schwartz created a cute section titled, “FAO Schweetz” draws us in to want to see the candy and make sweet purchases. Everything is in the perception and our strength and ability to stand up to the advertising and resist our temptation to allow ourselves to be convinced that we NEED that which we do not. (You mean everyone really does not NEED “Toxic Waste” candy, or to design and build their own muppet (even though that is really cool), or to have matching outfits with their American Girl dolls???) Wow, what a revelation!!!
My family spent those days in New York taking advantage of the valuable learning experience and explaining about marketing and why/ how it works. (This is also something that we did when our girls watched TV and wanted EVERYTHING advertised) – at home they rarely watch TV and when they do, it is usually videos or other advertisement-free media options). It was a very good lesson for the girls to learn and one that I believe most adults could use a refresher on as well.
I think it is important to confess that we DID indeed purchase items in NYC, and even in Times Square. My girls got clothing from the M&M shop and made their bag of M&Ms in the colors they chose. We watched a play on broadway and we bought candy at the Hershey Store. We enjoyed every moment of it with our eyes wide open to the understanding that it is sometimes okay to give yourself something you want (even when you do not need it) as long as it is within your budget and does not cause your family to go into any unnecessary debt in these tough economic times.
Once again, it seems the key is balance and continual reminders regarding motivation.
Sometimes I wonder how many families would be better off economically if they were willing to purchase an old car and drive it into the ground, instead of insisting on throwing money away into leases just so that they can feel better about themselves by being able to drive a newer, shinier automobile. This is merely one example of many, and the feelings and realities associated are so very complicated.
Today, 309 days ’til 40, I will continue to remind myself not to get caught blindly in the trap of consumerism. I will consciously choose to spend the money I can on things I do not need, being honest with myself in these situations. I can do this without guilt, as it is okay to treat myself. I will also be aware of when I am putting my family at risk by spending money I don’t have on things I have convinced myself I need, but can really live without. Sadly, particularly in these economic times, I think this is a lesson that many more individuals need to become keenly attuned to.