But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
-1 Timothy 6:6-7
Our culture makes it easy to want things now — credit cards, no down payments on homes. You name it, we can get it now. We know where that has gotten us as a society. But, we saw it in our kids, too. Wanting that item they saw on TV or the item their best friend just got; asking for things while shopping because the cool packaging caught their eye. Everywhere they turned the message they received was “you need this,” “buy me,” or something similar–a message that made them want what they didn’t have and perceive that they needed something more.
We struggled to figure out how to teach our kids to wait–to not buy on impulse. To be content.
Our recipe was simple: A piece of paper, a magnet, and a refrigerator. It helped all of us learn about waiting and making thoughtful decisions.
So here is how the refrigerator-note solution worked. If the kids wanted something, they had to write it down on a piece of paper and put the date on it. We then posted the item on the fridge. It stayed there for two weeks. If they still wanted the item at the end of two weeks, they could buy it– assuming they had enough money.
The result? Our kids rarely ended up buying the items posted. I don’t remember where we learned that trick, but I am grateful for it. It helped the kids and, over the years, it has helped us, too. Nothing like writing down that you want a $15,000 car and posting it on the fridge for two weeks — only to decide that you really didn’t need it or want it after all.
This works for other decisions in our lives, too. When prayerfully considering family choices, I found that posting the prayer where I could take a moment to consider it throughout the day helped. I find I jump in and make life’s decisions on my own. It feels better to do rather than to consider thoughtfully and prayerfully. I think if I’m doing and moving forward that is good. But, of course, my spur-of-the-moment, shoot-from-the-hip choices, haven’t always been what a prayerful and well-considered decision may have yielded.
Being content with what we have and learning to wait will always be a struggle. We desire. It is part of being human. But, learning what makes us desire and act impulsively–and then finding ways to change those impulses honors God’s desire for our lives.
Note: I re-posted this from my old blog. And, I just saw that Don Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz and founder of The Mentoring Project, started a series today on commercialism that fits nicely with the theme of impulse buying that I touch on here. You might check out his post.