Monday, July 19, 2010

The Art of Creative Deprivation

Stuff! Stuff! Stuff! We all seem to know we have a problem with it. We all wish we could get rid of it. We all believe we'd be better off with what's the problem?  I struggle with this concept just as much as every other American. When I talk about this, it is with a knowledge that I have a stuff problem also. I have two cars, two cats....even two houses (which allows me the space to store even more stuff!!) I am just incredibly frustrated that my kids don't seem to care when they misplace their $80 i-pod or their $50 game. It bothers me that they incessantly talk about when the newest "whatzit" is coming out...and how they just can't wait to get it. But then I talk about "needing" a new sofa and new bunk-beds...oh, and don't foget that we have to remodel our 1950's kitchen next summer.  It seems as if it is just non-stop, and I wonder how we got here.

My father-in-law mentioned that with the advent of women entering the work force, this need for more truly blossomed. Working moms, combined with easy credit, made it easy get anything we needed and most things we wanted without even having to wait. And if one of us loses a job, we can make it on one salary for a few months. And let's face it. We all love it as much as we hate it, or we would do something to change it! I could, for example, quit my job, sell both houses and one car and move into a paid for condo or smaller home and I would be just fine. (This thought is always in my mind, by the way) But for some reason, we just keep striving for more.

How to at least alleviate the pressure? Creative deprivation. A term I borrow from my frugal mentor Amy Dacyzyn. What is this? Basically it's forcing yourself to make do with less, even when you can afford more. This is really hard for us. We want our kids to have the best. We don't want them to be teased. We get them what they want because they know we get what we want, so how can we say no? Here's the answer: cut back! If your kids are "food snobs" already...quit eating out so much and when you do, go to the cheapest place in town. Save the nice restaurant for special occasions. Even if you or your child can afford the newest designer outfit...put it on hold for at least a month, or use that money to anonymously help someone in need. I guarantee the pay off will be worth it. Amy talks about taking her kids for a rare trip to the ice cream shop and watching them savor every drip. Would your kids do that, or would they be complaining that it was the wrong brand or the AC wasn't working right?

I think (know) one of the keys to making this work is living it yourself. If you are a whiner, never satisfied and always finding something to complain about, even at the nicest restaurant, expect your child to follow your lead. If, on the other hand, you live a life of gratitude and make a big deal out of even the smallest will raise a thankful child. We all love to be around thankful people, don't we? We don't teach gratitude by constantly giving materially to our kids...we teach them to be selfish. Want them to know real gratitude? Give up the money you were going to spend on a night out and buy food for the homeless shelter with it...them take the kids down with you and serve the people there.

Warren Buffet recently said that the key to success in a child's life was love. Imagine that. Anyone out there feel my self-inflicted pain???


  1. Great post today! I need to do further reflection. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Well said. Our version of creative deprivation includes only going to the drive-in movie where I am a volunteer and therefore we see the movies for free, and also taking advantage of the free ice cream socials once a week at my job rather than going out for ice cream that we have to pay for. Sure, it is hard to not go see that movie you've been wanting to see the night it comes out, or you may not get the flavor you want, but it forced you to learn to be patient and to try new things. And then, of course, there are the home hair cuts. We all keep our hair super short, and I am thankful that we aren't spending money for four people to get regular haircuts. At this point in his life, my 8 year old has only been to the barbershop once, and my 5 year old, never! The stool in my bathroom and my handy-dandy Oster clippers work just fine!