Practicing contentment when you’re living on a budget isn’t easy…. at all. I have gained lots of practice in this as part of our journey to financial freedom and I would love to share some of what I’ve learned about it with you.
“But I want it…”
You know that feeling when you’re standing in front of the dollar spot at Target looking at all the cute seasonal items that you had no idea you needed until that moment… It’s that subtle feeling of discontentment that tells you that you need to buy something to fix that need that you didn’t know you had five minutes ago.
Then the dollar signs add up even faster when you’re perusing through the Hearth & Home section and suddenly all these items that weren’t even on your radar are now throwing themselves onto your “have to have” list. You’re picturing that centerpiece and those placemats on your table now, and if you just had that signature wreath on your front door, your house would look like Joanna Gaines designed it herself.
Living on a budget can be hard. It means practicing delayed gratification and self control, and let’s face it…. Sometimes it sucks.
But in reality, living within a budget, practicing delayed gratification, using self control – they all begin with a common skill – practicing contentment.
I have begun to realize that contentment, thanksgiving, and gratitude all go together. Our culture tells us that we always need more. Everywhere you look, whether it’s social media, TV, magazines, retail stores, you will see the message “YOU NEED MORE.” It’s woven in so skillfully that it’s hard to even realize that it just isn’t true.
So what do you do when you’re living within a budget and practicing contentment, but you still have this little voice in your head saying “but I want it…”?
Practical Tips for Practicing Contentment When You’re Living on a Budget
1. Don’t buy it right away.
This is the single most important part of taming the “wanter.” Walk out the store without the item that you feel like you HAVE to have. The temptation is the strongest when you’re staring at it. The pull of the temptation to buy will get weaker just by your decision to wait.
2. Assess your feelings & identify your needs.
I have found that many times the temptation to purchase something that I don’t really need is greater when I am tired, sad, overwhelmed, or feeling insecure.
Ask yourself why you want to buy this particular item. Are you feeling insecure about who you are as a person, and a new handbag or outfit would help you feel better? Are you feeling frustrated about the condition of your house, and are tempted to buy something to make you feel better about your house? Are you having a “Keeping Up With the Joneses” moment?
Take some time to really assess what is going on in your head and heart. Are you trying to meet a need with a temporary fix? Once you have assessed what is going on inside of you, identify what it is you actually need right now. Spend time meeting your need with something that will actually resolve it rather than just mask it.
3. Create some rules around purchasing…
I have realized that the temptation to buy things that I don’t need is greater when my house is messy and my laundry isn’t done. I feel like we “need” something, when really I just need to remember what we already have. Since I know this about myself, I have created some rules or standards that I have to meet first before I go shopping.
–The house must be clean-ish
–All the laundry must be washed, folded, and put away.
If I really want to go for it, I deep clean and organize some of our clutter zones. When I see how much we really have, it brings me back to reality and I realize I don’t actually need anything.
4. See if you can find a similar solution with things you already have.
Many times we already have so many things that are sitting in the backs of our closets not even being used. Repurpose something that you already have. If you’re a crafter or a DIY sort of person, you can really get creative with this one.
5. Ask yourself how much value that item will bring to your life.
Is that item that you just have to have something that you’re going to care about in a month or two? Or is it just going to be another thing in your home to create clutter or contribute to the laundry pile?
6. Be thankful for what you have and take care of it.
We have so much stuff that it’s easy to lose sight of reality. Remember the true purpose of stuff. Houses are meant to protect us from the elements and provide a safe place to do life. Food is meant to fuel our bodies and keep us from starving. Clothes are meant to cover us and keep us warm. The rest is extra. If you have a roof, food, and clothes, be thankful for them.
I have begun to realize that being a good steward of our finances means putting energy into taking care of the things I already own. When my house is clean and tidy, and my clothes are folded and put away, the desire for more stuff just isn’t as strong.
Turn your attention to thanksgiving and gratitude for the things you have been blessed with. There will always be more to want. You have to actively choose to be thankful and practice contentment for what you already have.
7. Purchase wisely.
What if you do find that you actually need something after all of that? Purchase wisely. Have some patience and put thought into what you really want out of that product.
Don’t impulse buy.
Shop until you (1) find a great deal or (2) find exactly what you’re looking for. Choose quality and make sure the things you purchase will last and will be something that you will enjoy and use for years, rather than something that you will not care about in a month.
The next time that you feel the pull of the “But I want it” syndrome, choose to practice contentment. Practicing contentment when you’re living on a budget gets easier the longer you do it. Delay purchasing. Assess your feelings and identify your needs. See if you can repurpose something you already own. Remember the true purpose of “stuff.” And be thankful for what you have.
P.S. Before you go…
One really important piece of saving money is planning. It sounds so simple, but if you don’t plan time to do your laundry, cook dinner, or tidy your house, you’re going to end up spending more money eating out or buying things you don’t need simply because you didn’t plan well. One of my favorite planning tools is the Unhurried Planner. You can get your Unhurried Daily Planner below!