Discontentment undermines frugality
Last week I wrote about how my discomfort at caring for my children for four days by myself was influencing me to spend more money. I recognized the fact that discomfort can affect the spending of even the most frugal spender.
But there is an even bigger threat to frugality: the desire for more and better and bigger. It is a desire that is never satisfied. A wealthy man was once famously asked how much money it would take to satisfy him, he replied: “just a little bit more”. His response was a wry nod to the human condition. We are never satisfied and the few among us who learn to control the natural desire for more are the happiest – regardless of their socio-economic status.
When I was growing up, one of our Saturday morning chores was to vacuum out the family cars. I used to hate this job, not because of the work, but because of the vacuum we had to use. My dad had this old upright, canister vacuum that was about three feet high with a hose out of the top. The “car vacuum” as we called it was rusted and held together with bits of old electrical wire. The power cord was worn through in several areas and we were instructed to stay away from puddles in the driveway. The latches were loose and sometimes the top of the canister would pop off onto the ground. We would complain and tell dad that we needed to buy a new one. He would smile and reply, “that vacuum is 20-some years old and still getting the job done!” One time, one of my brothers almost wrecked it by sucking up some water, but dad got it running again.
My point is that he was content with that old vacuum – and his contentment saved him a few dollars. As long as the vacuum continued to successfully pull crumbs off the seats and floor mats in our station wagon, he was willing to use it, no matter what it looked like. There did come a day when that piece of junk bit the dust and for as much as we all complained about that piece of junk, I kind of missed the old thing even though the new Shop Vac was a little more hip and you could vacuum up water without ruining it.
I recently purchased a new wireless printer for our house. I got a pretty good deal on it, researched the model that used the least amount of ink and though I had done a good thing. However, the problem is that we did not really need a new printer. Our old one works just fine, I was just not content with having to walk into the other room and plug it into the laptop every time I needed to print. I wanted to be wireless!
It was a dumb purchase and I am taking the printer back to the store. The only reason that I spent the money was because I was not content with a perfectly adequate printer that had the slight inconvenience of requiring me to plug a cord into a USB port.
With food to eat and clothes to wear; content we are in everything.
– I Timothy 6:8
Can you get a long a little longer with the clothes in your closet? How about your car? Do you really need that SUV or is the minivan getting the job done? Do we rationalize in order to make that extra purchase or are we content with just getting by with the status quo? Just think, my dad probably could have afforded to purchase a new vacuum for several years before the old one gave out and if he had, he might not have had to listen to as much complaining from his kids and he would have had a new vacuum for a few months before it became “used”. But then I would probably not remember anything about cleaning out the car on Saturdays or learned anything about contentment from my father. To say nothing of not having that memory on which to call for this article.
To this day, that old brown and silver canister is a symbol of contentment. If my dad could use an old vacuum for 25 years, I can probably get another year at least out of my printer.
Article by Stew
Photo by mtungate