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.
April 18, 2012 at 00:12
i used to b a want, want, want person, now i question those wants and instead ask need? need? sometimes i ask god also, do you think i need this or will need this? many times i put the item back
April 18, 2012 at 07:58
Me too! Actually, recently I was very impressed when I was in a store and realized that I no longer really craved things (books/ movies/ videos/ candy) like I used to – perhaps a sign of maturity? Or perhaps it is because I have found more satisfaction with life and people and no longer need to be affirmed by things…….
Words From the Moon
April 18, 2012 at 00:14
Thanks for a great post, a reminder to all of us in this materialistic society we live in. I think the key to our consumerism is moderation, and not having more than we truly need, along with treating ourselves once in awhile.
April 18, 2012 at 07:56
Words spoken like a pro! Thank you! 🙂
April 18, 2012 at 00:18
According to Julian Barnes (via William Deresiewicz in http://theamericanscholar.org/toys-and-joys/ ), “children easily get into the habit of believing that just to say they want something is an interesting and valuable expression of their personality.” Deresiewicz argues that real happiness is not a consumer experience.
April 18, 2012 at 07:55
What great insight to add – and a wonderful quote! I agree completely!!!! 🙂
April 18, 2012 at 00:26
Bravo on this post! Nothing like an expedition with your children to show you just how powerful our market leaders have become. It’s like Chinese water torture…”Can I have one? Why not…please… please…please…please…I will walk the dog…etc…ad infinitum…” We have a really simple way to avoid giving in to consumeristic tendencies and falling prey to debt and marketing departments who are finding ever more unscrupulous ways to get us to part with our present or future money. You head out to the country…you become penniless student hippies to whom money simply doesn’t factor in many aspects of your life and suddenly you are totally free of those consumer choices! I must admit…I could do with some of that Hershey’s chocolate…and a few M&M’s would dull the blackberry pain…but I think you hit the nail on the head with your post and pointing out that we are all racing to keep up with “The Jones’s” when the Jones’s are actually a massive multi national corporation of marketing executives who know exactly how to push our buttons and keep us wanting more…and more…and MORE! Cheers for these great thought provoking posts delivered first thing in the morning (I live in Tasmania Australia remember so I wake up to them…) for me to ponder and ruminate over as I get dragged down the country roads behind our dogs for their morning walk.
April 18, 2012 at 07:50
Thanks so much! I really appreciate your comments and insight. I think it is time my family become hippies and move to Australia!!! (Actually, we would LOVE to live in Australia!!!) 🙂
April 18, 2012 at 10:55
Have you ever read any Terry Pratchett books? He wrote one called “The Last Continent” where EVERYTHING is poisonous. That’s Australia for you! Feel free to migrate here and take up residence, I, for one, won’t placard the plane that brings you here 🙂 wouldn’t that be something huge to give yourself for your 40th birthday? Lol! Best talk to the family before you book those tickets…
April 18, 2012 at 10:58
🙂 !!! Maybe I could surprise my family with a move as my gift to them for my 40th??? 😛
April 18, 2012 at 11:06
ROTFL! “Hey guys…we are moving to Australia!”… “Guys?…” (said “Guys” are all lying in a dead faint on the floor)… by the way if you ever do decide to move to Australia, DON’T move to Tasmania. Its full of rednecks…sigh…
Petar Sardelich LMFT/PT/MAC
April 18, 2012 at 00:32
“The things you own, end up owning you.” – Tyler Durden
April 18, 2012 at 07:48
GREAT quote! Thank you!!!! 🙂
April 18, 2012 at 01:14
When you don’t have money or credit to spend on unnecessary things ..it’s easy, you have no choice..but it’s when after a few years and two incomes for example or higher income ….all of a sudden ‘credit’ is readily available to you. We made the mistake at a time in our lives where we used credit incorrectly…we could not pay it off at the end of the month and so we carried it with a high interest
Eventually we got it right and only used what we could pay off totally at month end…
Retailers will most gladly make it easy for people to get credit..the secret is in outsmarting them and paying off whatever you buy..want or need…at the end of each month.
April 18, 2012 at 07:48
Yes, so true – it is easier when you do not have money or credit. Funny you mention that because the credit and higher incomes actually really do end up making you go into more debt. It is wonderful that you figured it out and got it right, as some people never do and then in their older years they suffer immensely. When I was in college I made the commitment to myself to NEVER purchase anything that I cannot pay off at the end of the month (therefore, if I cannot afford it I actually SAVE for it FIRST) – what a good strategy this has been for me. It has kept me out of the significant debt I have watched many friends and family members struggle with.
April 18, 2012 at 01:28
I love this post and agree 100%. Thanks for bringing up an issue too many are unwilling to see in honest terms. It is definitely about balance in life! ~Susie
April 18, 2012 at 07:46
You are welcome! 🙂
April 18, 2012 at 02:46
I really appreciate this post. A lot of times, I (and many others, I am sure) will find myself saying “I need a new cell phone,” or “I need a new camera.” Then I remind myself that we do, indeed, live in a consumer society, but I, in no way, should feel that I am lacking, because I am not. My budget shouldn’t be based on what do I want to do this week, it should be based on what do I need to get in order to survive and care for my family. I need gas to get to work. I want an iced coffee to have on the way. I need to eat lunch. I want to buy it at my favorite sandwich shop.
Thanks for the good reminder to be cognizant of my purchases.
April 18, 2012 at 07:44
Yes, definitely! This is something my family is constantly working on. At the moment we are not in any debt, but now we are realizing that if we do not really work to save, we will be miserable in retirement………
Ampi's Creative Life
April 18, 2012 at 02:50
Fortunately, but sometimes unfortunately, we are a nation of consumers. Advertisers know exactly how to convert our feelings of “wants” to feelings of “must-haves.” Even knowing this, we still fall into the trap and constantly buy things we really don’t need, or worse yet, things that we can’t afford.
April 18, 2012 at 07:43
Very true – it is the purchasing of things that we do not need and cannot afford that is the real problem.
April 18, 2012 at 03:05
Wait, are you really sure I don’t need “toxic waste” candy?? Darn. 🙂 Great post!
April 18, 2012 at 07:43
Maybe you do need it??? 😉
April 18, 2012 at 03:35
I like it, and I agree. Great post, and it kind of coincides with mine for today: http://charleslmashburn.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/how-much-does-it-cost-april-17/
April 18, 2012 at 07:42
Thank you and thank you so much for the link to your post!!!
April 18, 2012 at 05:34
I’m not sure there is any difference between our children who want everything they see on TV, and the adults I know who follow the same pattern. Honestly, self-control in ‘consumerism’ and finances is a part of maturity, and sometimes when I look around at all the marketing and ‘consuming’ I feel like I’m surrounded by a bunch of little boys and girls who never grew up. That felt good to get out…now I can get off my soap box.
April 18, 2012 at 07:41
I agree completely! And thus is the reason so many Americans (and others) are in tremendous amounts of debt. For the most part if is a lack of maturity (obviously debt due to lack of health insurance, etc. is different, but also not the main source). I wish more people would see this reality!
April 18, 2012 at 11:36
Where ever we turn we are told about all the stuff we need – “to be happy” – look at all the smartphones, ipad’s .. and it doesn’t matter what we buy, it will be out of fashion in less the 6 months. I think I will be a lot happier if I buy an other pair of shoes – always been like that since I started to earn my own money. Still I have shoes that I never had on my feet’s outside the shop. Terrible! Have become a little better, but not much – but on the other hand is my mobile phone over 10 years old. *smile Have looked at a new – but I only want one that rings and send text, not to be found – so I carry on with old. You’re so right what you saying here. My grandpa always said that shopping is like “when we pee our self” – first it get warm, but every quick it goes cold and uncomfortable, I would say that is so right about all the credit cards. 3 years ago I decide that not a debt anymore – payed of every credit cards and loan – what a relief and what great way to live knowing that every penny is mine.
April 18, 2012 at 22:46
Yes, definitely! What I have found is in the purchasing moment I believe I will be happier with the new phone/ shoes/ etc….. but in the end, once the novelty of the instant gratification wears off, I really do not feel happier – this is indeed how consumerism works… because when the “happy” wears off, we want the next high, we want more – and consumerism becomes an uncontrollable drug for some – the high of that gratification being the constant next fix. I LOVE your grandpa’s quote – he is SOOO right! 🙂 It IS indeed a relief to not have the strangling debt… My only debt is my mortgage and my student loans…. and my credit cards are paid at the end of every month and nothing goes on them if it cannot be paid…. it is so freeing, and a much much healthier way to live.
April 19, 2012 at 00:58
Yes, I agree with you – we shop for making up for something else … that we miss in life.
April 18, 2012 at 13:50
The lifestyle you describe of buying an old car and driving it into the ground and the like, that’s what I remember in my childhood years till I hit my teens but after that things changed and the pace of life exploded and today is, well, today.
Definitely plan to do the same as and when I have kids of my own and give them videos to watch instead of TV at the earliest years and honestly I want them to start with the old school stuff like Looney Tunes and such because I don’t know about you (I love cartoons and still watch them) but 99% of the new childrens entertainment is such utter stupidity and sheer brain-rot that Id hate for that to be what’s teaching my kids.
April 18, 2012 at 22:42
Yes, exactly – when I was growing up no one would dare to imagine that the world would become what it is today. At that point in time we were not the consumers and “wasters” we are today. My girls LOVE Looney Tunes, Sesame Street, Popeye, and all the classics we have offered to them and enjoy them as much as, or even more than the garbage that can grace our TV screens today.
April 19, 2012 at 11:54
great minds good sir, great minds think alike… or as I like to contrast whenever that saying comes up: fools seldom differ. 😀
Take care, cheers.
April 18, 2012 at 15:26
Here in the third world we feel this pull similarly, as advertising has conquered every last desolate corner of the planet! One would assume it’s easier to resist temptation, as there is so much extreme and depressing poverty right in front of us, yet the affluent 1% supports the local glitzy malls with great enthusiasm.What’s even more scary is that the poor 99% are just as reckless when it comes to spending their money on clothes, alcohol and cellphones, yet they cannot send their kids to school (even state schooling is not free) or even buy nutritionally balanced food. Which means the kids live on a diet of cheap starches which contributes to health problems and learning difficulties…When I shop I’m only too aware of wants versus needs, knowing that the majority of the population lives on about 2U$ dollars a day. A sobering reality.
April 18, 2012 at 22:39
This is so very difficult. In my first post on this issue (Wants Versus NEEDS) I mentioned precisely what you spoke about and talked about how much I personally learned as I visited third world countries. The discrepancies are incredible… but not just in the third world, also in inner cities in the USA and other places. Inner city families often managed to have a TV, alcohol and cigarettes readily available, but the children had no shoes and little to no nutritional food…. so the epidemics exist in all parts of our society, regardless of overall country affluence, which is a really interesting observation…….
April 18, 2012 at 15:27
I’m not particularly susceptible to marketing anymore and have long known my wants from my needs. HOwever…I just realized that I’m more likely to buy somehting that comes to my email box. i think because it’s personal. so now I know and I can be aware of that risk. thanks for the great reminder
April 18, 2012 at 22:37
Ahh, what an interesting realization! And so poignant for the times we live in! I think I am also susceptible to this, particularly when I am having a bad day, etc…. in those moments when a great new ebook shows up on amazon that could instantly come to my kindle…… or a cute sweater I could have in a few days…… yes, we definitely could stand to learn that the impulses can exist in the stores, or in our homes (when our guard tends to be let down more.)
April 18, 2012 at 22:59
we have laws about door to door selling and the customer’s right to bow out of a contract for up to 4 days, after signing in our homes. but e-buying is a whole other category. and I have to watch. Heaven help me with sounds true and hay house. Sheesh!
April 18, 2012 at 20:11
Teaching children to find their own balance point between wants and needs is wonderful. I tried that with my kids at the grocery store. My primary goal was to make it in and out of the store without a scene, but I hoped they would learn something as well. Every time we went shopping, I told them they could each pick two things they wanted. They could choose treats or a toy – but only two, and they had to have their final decision before we got in line at the register. The older one learned the value of comparison shopping by the time she was eight. The younger one seemed to make his choices more intuitively, but he did learn the reality of limits.
April 18, 2012 at 22:35
Wow, what a great idea! This is something I want to try more often with my girls….. I think, since they are slightly older, I may add the element of giving them a certain amount of money for the store which they can spend as they choose. 🙂
April 18, 2012 at 20:51
I definitely get sucked into the “I want this, I want that” consumer lifestyle, and I need to remind myself (often) that life will go on if I don’t have that new handbag or those shoes. Thanks for a great post!
April 18, 2012 at 22:33
Yes, and when we do remind ourselves, we are so much freer! 🙂
April 18, 2012 at 21:39
Thanks for visiting, now I get to know your blog, and enjoy! Confusing wants and needs is a big one, for people of all ages. I like how you addressed it with yourself and the kids…this is how it works, and we can still buy if we wish, we just need to be very conscious. Nice!
April 18, 2012 at 22:33
Thanks so much! I LOVE your blog name! Thanks for the compliment. 🙂
April 19, 2012 at 17:39
I hope you know that turning 40 is awesome! I don’t know if you figure it all out, but it’s an empowering time to be a woman. 🙂 Thanks for visiting my blog! Elizabeth
April 19, 2012 at 23:08
And thank you for visiting mine! I look forward to turning 40 and beyond!!! 🙂
April 19, 2012 at 21:40
Great perspective. Thanks for stopping by my blog 🙂
April 19, 2012 at 23:05
And thank you for stopping by mine! (and for the compliment!) 😉