Materialism. Whether you consider it the scourge of modern society and the root of socital ill, or see it simply as a part of modern life, materialism is something that homesteading requires you to avoid. If you find that you can’t leave the store without a new “toy” or gadget, your homestead finances will suffer badly until you banish materialistic thinking.
I know it is something I have to fight. My tongue hangs out so far it drags the floor and I drool down the front of my shirt when I wander the Tool Corral at Home Depot or the kitchen gadget section in Bed Bath and Beyond.
Materialism is the constant need for more. More clothes, more appliances, more books, more whatever… just more! I suppose it’s great to live in a land where “more, more, more” has usually been possible (though the economy of the last few years has changed that), but it has made the battle to simplify our lives, eliminate clutter, and save money harder and harder. often competing with the forces of materialism inside us.
This causes undue stress and financial hardships for those who haven’t yet learned to subdue their materialistic tendencies, and that stress and financial harddship doubles for those transitioning from a “normal” (whatever that is) lifestyle to a homesteading one.
It’s a common belief that materialism stems solely from a desire to have more stuff. That’s not always the case. In some, materialism may stem from a sense of greed or desire to own simply because the ability to do so exists. For others, however, there may be underlying issues that foster the materialistic tendencies.
A study done in recent years and published on ScienceBlog.com indicates that the reason teens and pre-teens, in particular, experienced such a strong sense of materialism was tied directly to their lack of self-esteem, an issue that a homesteading lifestyle helps prevent. Homesteading kids tend to grow up with a sense of confidence, a knowledge and belief that they, literally, can do whatever they set their mind to. When these kids are affirmed and develop a more confident level of self worth, materialistic tendencies tend not to become an issue. They don’t feel a need for “stuff” to BE somebody of worth..
So how do we learn to make do with less and resist the continual urges to have more? Often, by simply doing that – resisting. Resisting impulse buying, refraining from overspending, buying only what we need; these disciplines will help us fight materialism where it hits the hardest – in our pocketbooks.
Shopping with a list will often curb materialistic, impulse buying. Knowing what you need and planning to buy only those things will go far in helping you fight this battle. For example, I know that in my case my grocery shopping forays tend to be about 25% more expensive when I don’t have a list than when I do.
Caveat: This only works when you actually follow the list. Picking up that extra half-gallon of ice cream that is not on the list, just because it is a yummy looking new flavor that looks SO GOOD, is bad for your budget…and your waistline.
This works for small as well as big purchases. Put every single desired purchase down on paper and develop a plan to buy it. If you are shopping and see an item you want that is NOT on your list, don’t buy it. If you decide it’s something you want, write it down on a new list and make your plan to buy it. This eliminates impulse buying and spending over your budget.
Note for the outdoor sports types: This does not apply to fishing equipment. That is a whole differentballgame. If you see it and want it…buy it. Now.
Another option is to shop with cash rather than a check or debit card. Remember the days when your parents or grandparents went to the store and bought only what they had the cash to pay for? If you find yourself quickly overspending, give cash-only buying a try. It can help you curb your impulse spending since you have a limited supply of cash in your wallet.
Teaching your children to follow the same patterns, both by your words and example, will serve them well. As they mature and develop, they will become less likely to buy in order to create a sense of happiness. Instead, in the process they will be learning that money is a tool that you control, rather than it controlling you. That kind of clear thinking will help them steer away from the trap of materialism and its strong hold on today’s society.