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    “Needing” One’s Wants

    January 12, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    I have been given many lessons in frugality lately. Has anyone had this happen before? One is taught a lesson in one place, hears it repeated in another, and then the next day one hears it reaffirmed and restated in such a way that one finally gets it, and all one can think is that God must be offering tutoring in some new subject? This is what I mean by “many lessons.”

    What I have come away with is that many Gen-Y-ers {including myself} have too many “wants” considered to be “needs”, and this leads to much materialism…not to mention dependency on “stuff” for comfort, and distraction from community interaction.

    If one would like to check out where I have been learning these lessons, one can first read this post by Cindy at Dominion Family. Here is an excerpt:

    Truthfully, clean sheets and shampoo are luxuries. Everyday more and more “things” move from the luxury column into the need column. You have to be counterculture these days to do the most ordinary things like read a book or say no to your child or get rid of the TV.

    In her posting, she suggests reading this article on agrarianism {a topic I am exploring a bit lately} by Andrew Nelson Lytle. It’s pretty long, but gives some good concrete examples in story form, which I found helpful.

    I don’t really need to tell what I learned directly, because the next day I found this post, which I found strange because he was also quoting Lytle’s article. I liked this analysis {emphasis mine}:

    We might also paint the struggle as that between contentment and lust. The shiny skyscrapers are not built by them that teach us to be content with such things as we have, but by them that spend great sums creating perceived “needs” which can be filled only with the latest The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine. And once you buy the machine, the purchaser finds that he has yet more needs – more gas for the machine, parts for the machine, the children want a newer and faster machine, the latest accessories for the machine, help repairing and maintaining his credit which he used to purchase the machine, more consumable entertainment to fill the idle time when they used to be doing the work that the machine now does for them, etc.

    But things really came full circle when, on Tuesday night, I went to my monthly Keepers at Home meeting. I must briefly explain that this is a ministry of older women in my community to younger wives. Once a month, in accordance with Titus 2, they instruct us in some topic that encourages us to be better wives or mothers {or both}.

    This month’s topic was budgeting/finances/financial organization. Now, this is a topic that I consider to be one of my strong points, and yet I still became aware {probably because of lessons I had been learning in the days prior to the meeting} of my own struggle with mentally labeling a “need” a “want.”

    Here are some issues Si and I are now discussing in light of what I have learned:

    1. Long Distance: We have a long distance plan that includes unlimited minutes covering all three phone lines in our home. {Please understand that our three phone lines include the two lines for my husband’s at-home business.} Up until now, this has actually been the cheapest way for us to maintain our phone bills, because of all the minutes required by the business. But I learned Tuesday night that our local discount store is now selling calling cards for $0.99 that contain 99 minutes. If we can make this work for the business, we may save about $45 per month–or $540 per year.
    2. Date Night: As much as everyone will advise that having a regularly scheduled date night will {statistically speaking} add to our chances of marital bliss, the fact is that “dating” as a concept didn’t really exist until just under 100 years ago, and people have managed to get married and stay married for thousands of years without going on dates of any sort. Now, making sure that we have uninterrupted times devoted to nurturing our love is, of course, quite important. But really, a “date night” {where we spend money on babysitting and gas and food and entertainment} should be distinguished as a luxury item.
    3. TV/Cable/Internet Access: This is a tough one in our modern world. My husband’s business requires us to have internet access. But if he had another job, we wouldn’t need it at all. We don’t need our basic cable, we want it. Technically, we don’t really need a TV at all. We only turn our TV on for a couple days a week. We find the days without TV to be quite enjoyable.
    4. The Little Things: I’d like to use the example of microwave popcorn. Early in our marriage, we kept it on hand, as I am a popcorn junkie. Then, I remembered that it could be cooked from kernels. And I don’t cook it in one of those Stir Crazy things, but rather in a traditional soup kettle right on the stove top. It’s cheaper, it {in my opinion} tastes better, too, and E. finds the popping sound entertaining.

    I could go on and on, but I won’t. And please don’t misinterpret all this as a suggestion that one should, without question, get rid of all these things…though if one is currently facing bankruptcy, one may need to.

    My point is that I think I need things, when in fact the truth is that I want them. This could be twice as long if I went into “why” I want them, but suffice it to say that God has promised to take care of me. And He does. {Oh, the stories I could tell!}

    So why do I chase the wind as if it mattered? As if it could ever make us happier than He?

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    2 Comments

  • Reply Brandy February 21, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    Kimbrah,

    Thanks for the ideas! We recently discovered the bookstore browsing idea as well! We were tempted to go to a movie, but knew we really couldn’t afford to (I think it’s up to $9.50 per person). So we went down to a little bookstore nearby and found a cheap classic book we’d been wanting to read (More’s Utopia), and spent some time reading aloud by a fountain instead. By the end of the evening we were so glad we didn’t do the movie!

    I will definitely keep you in my prayers. This is one of the many challenges I think we have in common! 🙂

  • Reply Kimbrah February 21, 2007 at 6:09 am

    Brandy-

    What a timely and encouraging post. I am presently going through these revelations myself and it helps to know that someone else is on the same path.

    One way we have found to maintain a date night is to switch kids with another couple in a similar situation as us for a couple of hours every other week. One week we watch their kids, the next they watch ours. Then we spend our date night perusing books at Borders or going to a donut shop for a chat or something cheap like that. Mostly we just like to go somewhere where we can talk uninterrupted and maybe have a bite to eat and a drink to sip (tea for me, soda for Eddie). Hope that gives you an idea for future date nights.

    I will be praying for you on this matter of needs and wants, and if you could be praying for me as well I would really appreciate it.

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