Friday, September 12, 2008

Frugal Friday: Managing wants

I’m often asked “how do you do it?” by people when they first find out that we live on a little over half of what our state considers ‘poverty’ for a family of six. It’s really an outrageous number, in my opinion, but that’s another topic. My general answer to that question is “We don’t have a TV, so our wants are easier to manage.” This certifies me as completely insane, and whoever asked usually walks away at that point.
Living frugally falls into three essentials for me.
  • Finding ways to meet our needs cheaply
  • Knowing the difference between needs and wants, and
  • Managing our wants.
Not having a TV goes a long way toward want management. I’m not so much talking about the shows (thought they’re included, for sure), but about the ads. Industries spend billions of dollars trying to figure out the most effective way to get me to buy their stuff. If I think their dollars on advertising don’t effect my spending, I’m pretty cocky. Instead of continuously battling my own desire for newer, better things that ads incur, it’s easier for me to be careful what media I consume. (Even sale ads in newspapers are difficult: “Look, clothes are on clearance at Kohls” immediately makes me think “Wow, I can’t afford to miss such an unbeatable sale! I’m sure I’ll need a couple of new shirts really soon.”)
So now, it boils down to this: if I’m careful about the media I allow in our house, not just me, but our whole family has fewer wants. This in turn makes living more simply and frugally much easier. We don’t feel like we’re denying ourselves all these pleasures, because we aren’t. We simply don’t want them.


  1. Sherry:

    TV definitely has too many ads. When we lived in Japan, we didn’t have ads but educational information in between. It was wonderful! I have definitely noticed a cut back in my children asking for a ton of things since we cut back on tv.

  2. pNielsen:

    People without TV’s tend toward political extremes according to FoxNews. Course, it’s a bogus survey; they only interviewed something like 70 people.

    Still an interesting headline though.

    We’ve watched a lot of TV on DVD this year; I felt sick a lot this Spring and we got through almost every season of 24 — which is a really cheesy spy show, but when you’re just trying to lay low and kill hours you’re not very particular. Anyway, point is we did it without the ads :p

  3. Amy:

    You’re singing my song. Thank you for sharing how powerful WANTS are!

  4. pNielsen:

    Remembered I blogged about advertising a while back:

    In 2007, “city dwellers” (don’t know how this was defined) were estimated to be subjected to 5,000 ads a day.


  5. liketrees:

    I liked the FoxNews article — thanks for posting it. It’s funny that they considered conservative Christians and granolas polar opposite groups. I know a lot fo conservative Christian granolas, and aspire to be one of them!

    5,000 ads a day. No wonder we’re an insane culture. It reminds me of the RBTV mind control in …. was it one of the old batman movies?

  6. Gretchen:

    I love that you don’t have a TV. I would like to work towards that. Please share how you do all that you do! Living on your part time income and everything. I am very interested!