Friday, February 12, 2010

Make Purchases Based on What Brings You Value

Upon hearing that we have no television reception, my friend politely (and a little incredulously) asked, “What do you do at night if you don’t watch television?” This isn’t an uncommon question when people learn that we don’t know the latest American Idol news or have no idea what The Mentalist is about.

While we do enjoy watching television on occasion, my husband and I agree that we don’t find enough value in television viewing to pay for it. (In the sticks, the only way to get any channels is to pay for satellite service.) The same is true for cell phone plans. We get no service at our home, so we’ve opted not to sign a contract, and we use the pay-as-we-go option instead. It costs us $.15 a minute to make phone calls, but this encourages us to be intentional with our phone use.

Perhaps the notion of life without television or unlimited cell minutes unsettles you. Maybe you find great value in them; they enhance your daily life and contribute to your happiness—then by all means keep paying for them. The simple act, however, of running potential purchases through a mental filter that asks, “Does this bring value to me and my family?” may change the way you spend some of your time and your money.

One of our family goals is to live more with the money we have. When we use this credo to decide where our money goes, we opt to do things like get movies from an online service for $5 a month, rather than paying the $40 it would take to get a slue of channels. This allows us to choose movie titles that sincerely interest us, and we look forward to evenings spent at home together with a bowl of popcorn. In this case, we’ve found that we ultimately get more value out of spending less.

You may be able to afford to have a gym membership or a speedboat, for example, but being able to afford something doesn’t necessarily mean that it brings your life value. It requires money to haul, store, and maintain a boat that you may use just a few times a year. Could you find more pleasure in renting a boat a couple of times during the summer and splitting the cost with a few friends? As for your gym membership, it isn’t bringing you any value if you aren’t using it regularly. In fact, it may be causing more guilt than pleasure if you aren’t in the habit of going. Could you try enlisting a friend to walk or run with you a few days a week instead?

You have to decide for yourself what has value, on items big and small. Good chocolate is important to me, so I buy the stuff that’s 85% cocoa. Because I clean up messes all day long, pricier paper towels are worth it for me. I don’t skimp on trash bags or plastic wrap either, because I don’t have time or energy for fiddling with busted trash bags or plastic wrap that sticks to itself and not to the bowl I’m trying to cover. On the other hand, I buy generic medicines and purchase much of our clothing at secondhand stores—a particular name on a medicine or new clothing aren’t significant to me.

I encourage you to take a closer look at the purchases you make and ask yourself if they are resulting in a happier, more joy-filled life. If they are, then carry on. If they aren’t, what are you willing to change?

Carey Denman

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