Resisting the Call of Stuff? Try Waiting a Bit

Wow, that's a nice truck!

Wow, that’s a nice truck!

Even in sunny Florida, there’s (finally) a bit of a chill in the air. Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and the football playoff picture is coming into view. Hello holidays! Starbucks has the red cups, and the mailbox is loaded with catalogs. Yes, it’s Christmas sales season again, the time of year when we gorge ourselves in a feast of consumerism only to be left feeling uncomfortably stuffed, and with depleted wallets, after the holiday season. Hey, we’re Americans, it’s what we do.

At our house we’ve been toning it down in the last five years or so. Sharon and I talk through what we want versus what we need, and we are working to become more grateful for what we already have. Gradually, we seem to be wanting and needing less. It helps that we don’t watch television. And our policy on catalogs is to get them out in the recycling bin on the same day they arrive. Why leave them around as a temptation? Slowly but surely we are freeing ourselves of the more-is-better mentality.

Now I still find myself wanting stuff pretty often. Some of my friends at work are “car guys.” When we get to talking about vehicles, I often start thinking about a new one – Man I would sure like a Toyota Tacoma or 4Runner! That’d be great! Maybe I should buy one. But honestly, my current automobile is just fine. It’s comfortable, gets me from here to there, and has many more years of useful life. I really don’t need a new one.

Of course that desire for more, and for the new, happens with many other things too. My single best strategy for defeating that desire is just waiting. I don’t beat myself up for having these natural desires, which are intentionally inflamed by advertising. I just wait, having an internal dialog like this – Do I really need a new truck? Yes, I want it, and it would be nice, but isn’t my current car okay? Isn’t everything fine right now? I can always buy it later, perhaps next month or next year. Maybe I should just wait a bit and see. Maybe I’ll buy it later. Or maybe I won’t.

This has been a surprisingly effective strategy for me. Waiting allows the acute emotions to subside and relieves the pressure to acquire more stuff. However, repetition is necessary. I’ll often have the same internal “maybe-I’ll-buy-it-later” dialog many, many times about a particular desire until it either completely resolves or I decide to pull the trigger on the purchase. Either way, my ultimate action has gotten a lot more thoughtful.

Be aware that the American merchandising juggernaut doesn’t want you to wait. Retailers are counting on our emotions to drive impulsive (and compulsive) purchasing, and so they work to speed us up. We’re all familiar with these headline come-ons: Special Offer, Limited Time Only, Buy It Now, Year-End Closeouts, and my personal favorite, No Cash, No Credit – No Problem! Just waiting conflicts with this “the-best-deal-is-now” mentality. So, I give myself permission to miss the sale, to not get the “best deal,” in order to take my time and be sure of my buying decision.

I don’t need the best deal. I need the best life. You do too. If you’re finding it hard to cut back on your purchasing, try “just waiting,” even just waiting until tomorrow. It’s working for me.

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Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.
– Jesus (Luke 12:15)