Yesterday’s conversation about needs and wants was so good!  My blog posts are also posted on my Facebook page and there’s always a second conversation going on over at Facebook for each post.

I thought two suggestions were worth mentioning here today.

Wendy suggested that when you see a sign that says “Save 25%” read it as “Spend 75%.”  I think this is an excellent suggestion that can help us battle the temptation to “fall” for a sale on something we don’t really need.

Becky said that without realizing it, advertising can cause us to feel that if we don’t shop we’re missing out on something.  So true.  If we don’t recognize the emotional pull that advertising has on us subconsciously, we’ll fall for it every time!

To further illustrate this and to give us some additional strategies, I want to share an excerpt from Living With Less So Your Family Has More. This excerpt is from the chapter on contentment.

In Greek mythology, the Sirens, who were three beautiful, seductive women, would sing their beautiful songs to lure sailors to their island. The men couldn’t resist listening to the sweet song, and ended up shipwrecked on the rocky shores. In today’s culture, advertising has a similar draw to us. We’re enticed by the right words, the right colors, and even the right music.

We’re writing this chapter during a one-week Florida vacation. Even today I (Jill) found myself drawn into the advertising hype as we drove to our favorite, free snorkeling site in Destin, Florida. “Sail Aboard Blackbeard’s Pirate Ship,” called one sign. “Oh…my boys would so love that experience!” I thought to myself—even though a cruise like that isn’t in our family vacation budget.

A few blocks further we happened upon Krispy Kreme Donuts and the “Hot Donuts” sign was brightly lit. “Mmmmm. Krispy Kremes sounds so good!” In fact our daughter Erica saw the sign and immediately said, “Can we stop at Krispy Kreme?”
And then right next to Krispy Kreme was a beach store having a huge sale. “Everything $5 or less!” screamed the big banner signs. “Wow, what a great sale!” I thought to myself. “Maybe we ought to stop.” Then I realized there wasn’t a single thing I could think of that we would need at a beach shop. The advertising was doing its job well, drawing my mind and my senses into its siren call.

Is there nowhere to turn without being assaulted by advertising? Think about it. If you go to a movie, you’ll watch a half-hour of straight product advertising followed by movie trailers advertising even more movies before the film you actually want to see begins. When you’re on your computer, pop-up ads pester you anytime you surf the internet. When watching an hour show on television you’ll see about 20 minutes of commercials. In grocery stores, there are ads on the child seats on the grocery carts, coupon machines right in the aisles, and “sale” signs blasting you with the “best” deals. In the checkout line, product placement of candy, gum, and magazines calls for your attention. And have you ever noticed the little plastic bar that separates your groceries from the customer’s groceries in front of you on the conveyor belt? Yep! You’ll find advertising there, too! Even the most savvy shoppers can get worn down into buying all kinds of things we really don’t need or don’t have the money for.

Another reason we struggle with contentment is that we get caught in the comparison trap. A small child always seems to want the toy another child has in his hand. The “comparison trap” starts early doesn’t it? And we don’t really seem to grow out of it. Our human nature naturally hunts out and sniffs out what “toys” others have that we don’t have. We have our own perfectly good toys, but someone else has something new or slightly different and suddenly we want it, too!

We’re all tempted to compare our life to the lives of others. Proactively, however, there are some strategies that help us to stop longing for what we don’t have. Try putting into practice these five ways to conquer comparisons and increase contentment.

First, develop a thankful attitude. Many times we’re unhappy not because we aren’t doing well, but because we think others are doing better. Instead of looking at what others have, let’s move our eyes to what we have. And let’s start thanking God for those things everyday.

Second, establish a reasonable standard of living. We need to develop our lifestyle based upon our convictions, not our circumstances. Wherever God has you financially, stay convicted to live within your means. Learning to live within a predetermined budget is important, too.

Third, learn to discern between wants and needs. Needs are the basics of food, clothing, shelter, and healthcare. Wants are anything beyond the basics. The world screams to us that wants are actually needs: every child needs this toy, every dad needs this tool, and every mom deserves this kitchen appliance. But the definitions of needs and wants must come from you, and not from culture.

Fourth, recognize that appearances are not necessarily accurate. When you see someone who has a bigger house or a newer car, they also likely have a bigger mortgage or a larger car payment. They may have “toys” that you’d love to have, but it may be they also have a huge home equity loan to finance all those toys. The stress they may be experiencing from debt may not be readily evident, but it could very likely be present.

And finally, ask for God’s help. If you struggle with envy, jealousy, or coveting, ask God to help you change your heart and your mind. Usually this means we have to start by confessing to God and asking for his forgiveness for how your heart is twisted up by the sin. But then we’re able to start with a clean slate that has new possibilities. Ask God to remind you of what you do have when you are tempted to want what someone else has.

What about you? How do you work to increase contentment in your life?

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