A couple of days ago, I was sitting on the couch watching a television show with my almost thirteen year-old daughter. When it went to commercial break, I got up to get a drink of water. No sooner had I entered the kitchen when I heard, “Oh, I need that!”
Need? What could she possibly need?
I got my drink and walked back to the couch where we were sitting together.
“What do you need, sweetie?” I asked her.
“This thing is so cool! I don’t know what it’s called, but it bounces and is just really neat!”
“But do you actually need it?”
“Well, I want it.”
And that is where advertising sucks a person in.
My daughter has everything she needs. We feed her, clothe her, buy her goodies, gift her with toys, and she even has an iPad. She does not go without.
In fact, she has gotten rid of a lot of excess stuff throughout my minimalism journey just because she has seen my example and acknowledged that she doesn’t need a lot of extra junk sitting around her room. She has even acknowledged being happier with less clutter.
So after she declared she wanted this new item, an item that she couldn’t even identify by name, I said to her, “Five minutes ago you didn’t even know it existed and you were fine. You didn’t want it. You didn’t need it. You had never even thought about it.”
She sat on the couch deep in thought for what seemed like an eternity, but I am sure it was just a minute or so, and then she said, “You’re right. I’d never heard of it before.”
Then I asked, “So, do you still want it even though you just saw it and can’t even remember its name?”
“Well,” she said, “I don’t even remember what it was now!”
We both laughed. I mean seriously… she needed it – wanted it – and after a small discussion couldn’t even remember what it was.
And that, my friends, is a true example of the power advertising has.
Buy Me, I’m on Sale!
We live in a world full of advertising. Every day we are bombarded by commercials on television, on the radio, at the movie theater, on the internet… advertisements flood our existence. And they make everything look so appealing.
And you know, for businesses that is a very good thing. After all, businesses need to make money.
But for the average consumer, all of these advertisements can be a drain.
They drain our finances.
They drain our confidence.
They drain our energy.
We see ads and instantly have some sort of fear reaction that tells us we must have the item – after all, we can’t live life without it. The cool people have it. The people who are living life the right way have purchased these things.
So we spend money.
We don’t feel right about ourselves unless we have what the ads show us.
And in all of that, our energy is depleted because the stress lingers over us. It’s a stress of spending money we don’t have, cluttering up space we need for living life, and feeling like less than because we aren’t keeping up.
And my goodness… if companies attach a sale to it all… that’s when we even start to justify it.
We tell ourselves about all the money we saved. We buy more to save more.
But if you didn’t actually need it, you aren’t actually saving anything.
I’m exhausted just thinking about it!
Creating Something Better
I don’t want my kids growing up thinking they have to have everything just because some advertisement says so. I don’t want them making purchases just because they see a sale sign. I don’t want them living in overcrowded homes, full of junk and full of stress, just because they want to keep up with the latest trends they spot online.
I want something better. I want better for them, and I want better for me.
I hope that I will be able to have many more small discussions with my kids where I can help shape their worldview to that of one that embraces a minimalist lifestyle. I want them to have what they actually do need, enjoy some wants because we all deserve a treat now and then, and live in a way that keeps them financially free. I don’t want them growing up and buying everything despite their income and stressing about all they do not have simply because they can’t see past the clutter.
When advertising comes our way, my hope is that we will all stop and consider that we didn’t need whatever it was five minutes ago. We were fine. We were happy. And if we feel anything to the contrary, we need to recognize that it is simply the trick of advertising – and then we need to respond appropriately. In the case of whatever that thing was that bounced and was just so neat, well, the appropriate response was to laugh and continue watching our show.