Do We Really “Need” It? A Former Student Says NO.

A student from a few years ago just came to mind as I began to notice how many people around me were saying what they “needed” for Christmas. “I really need black boots because all my other pairs are brown…I need a TV for the bathroom…” ? Then, I noticed I too was inappropriately using the same word…“I need to get Christmas hand soap”… “I need poinsettias for the living room…” Um, no I certainly do not “need” them. They are yet another decoration on top of an already well-decorated house.

My student was 23-years young and she entered the class armed with creative graphs and charts on actual boards, along with PowerPoint slides. The class was tasked with offering a “persuasive” presentation, their chosen position requiring data, personal experiences, evidence or other concrete material to support their stand. This student’s claim was that the modern couple in contemporary America did not need the income they professed to need.

Hmmm. I leaned in. This one might be truly interesting. She was so young to determine that she didn’t “need” a new-built house by 27. So young to claim that kids should have one parent at home and for most, they did not “need” the second income. On that note, my eyes darted around the room, certain there would be protestors following her controversial comment. When I began college teaching 20 years ago, I wouldn’t have thought anything of her words because people tended to simply accept whatever family choices their friends, neighbors and co-workers made. Now, students are so offended that all statements – conservative or liberal, happy or sad, ethical or unethical, etc. etc. etc.-lead to someone expressing offense.

After making a few controversial claims (as required in stating a “position”), she proceeded to support her points, beginning with the story of her grandparents. They lived on one income, grandpa worked without a college education and raised two children. The story was compelling, with grandpa ultimately retiring close to being a millionaire after owning a fine home and putting his kids through college. He was not an entrepreneur, but a laborer. They did not live in squalor but a nice middle-class neighborhood. She emphasized that they did not go without, but had plenty including the occasional family vacation.The presentation wore on, charts with credible sources showing the average income in 1950, along with the prices of several products used daily then and now. She compared prices, inflation, took into account the skyrocketing cost of vehicles and housing and contrasted everything against the incomes. Upon completion, there was an overflow of cash among modern couples after the “needs” were met. Where did this overflow go? To the new “needs”: everything from $500 birthday parties to regular manicures, pedicures, multiple devices per person, per household, overseas vacations for spring break instead of trips to Florida, new cars every two years…and on it went. High school senior trips are no longer using district budgets for a fun field trip, but parents are expected to hand over a thousand for a senior trip to France.

We fell into the too-much-spending more times than I care to admit while raising our children. When I was growing up, my parents and step parents would have never given such luxuries a thought, let alone paid for them.

These “new needs” are the norm. Unlikely that many people will end up millionaires on two full time incomes, let alone one household income with the way we spend.

She effectively argued that the cultural beliefs Americans espouse profoundly affect how they handle their money. The cultural belief system, regardless if flawed, emotionally harmful or even if it causes neglect in marriages or parenting, is one of the leading factors in “needing” more money and stuff. Although excruciatingly unpopular in the modern college classroom among peers who vehemently disagreed with her fundamentals could not deny the power of the data.

Just like the next girl, I have been guilty of buying more than I should during Christmas. Perhaps a combination of age, maturity and having older kids, I don’t splurge like I once did. But compared to half the world’s population, many in poverty, yes, I still spend more than is necessary. When kids are little, there is thrill and excitement that’s still worth every penny to me. But, little kids also don’t “need” much to truly be joy-filled.

As individuals dwelling on this planet (even though we’re not of it), it’s natural to want cool stuff. Collectively, no matter how devout or grounded we are, we periodically look over the fence to see what’s up with the seemingly greener pastures next door. We know better, but we still occasionally ponder our choices. Frankly, bigger homes have more space and that’s not a bad thing. Convenience household items that we don’t necessarily “need” honestly make life easier. But, at what emotional, spiritual and relational costs?

The points are priorities and balance. As Franklin Covey says in his famous Habits books and in First things First, if everything important is cared for first, then go get the rest.

I’m a fan of setting goals – earning anything you want…a degree, income, achievements…they are part of life. What my student reminded us all of that day is that the earning requires balance.

What were once “treats” are commonplace. What was once “special” is now expected. And for those who still can’t earn enough to get those treats and special-everything, it makes them feel bad. It really shouldn’t, but it stings. Pulling back from the cultural norms is necessary to regain some perspective. That is hard during a season when we spend hours online shopping and walking through beautiful stores enticing us with all sorts of things we never knew we always wanted!

God knows what we “need” and fulfills more wants than we give Him credit for.

He knows we want to spoil our kids and surprise someone special with a “wow” gift at Christmas. There is nothing wrong with those things and I embrace them. During this holiday season, I’m just going to retreat every now and then, so I can fully give thanks for what I already have.

30 thoughts on “Do We Really “Need” It? A Former Student Says NO.

  1. blindzanygirl December 17, 2018 / 3:49 am

    I love this, and its very simple truth. I was only talking about this to my hysband the other day. Of times when life was so much simpler. Thankyou for thus

    Liked by 3 people

    • Family to the 5 Power! December 17, 2018 / 7:46 am

      Your comment reminds me too of the simplicity that we benefit from when we don’t get caught up in all the extras life presents us with. Thank you for reading. Merry Christmas to you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Carol Balawyder December 15, 2018 / 4:50 pm

    A very appropriate post for this time of the year. Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    • Family to the 5 Power! December 15, 2018 / 11:27 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I’m going to check out your site now! Thanks for the follow😊.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Mama's Empty Nest December 15, 2018 / 1:14 pm

    Well, that is one wise 23-year-old! I so agree with her presentation, but going one step further, I agree wholeheartedly with what you’ve said here. God does supply what we “need.” The rest is superfluous and to declare that what we want is what we “need” is so very self-centered I believe. I’m finding it surprising yet encouraging to hear young people starting to realize that. More stuff, more indulgences spent on self — none of that can ever give you true joy. And it certainly doesn’t fill that empty void inside of us; only Christ can do that. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Family to the 5 Power! December 15, 2018 / 11:26 pm

      You are so right that only Jesus can fill our empty places. Yes, she was an attentive one but there are so few😞. Thank you for reading and for your thoughtful comments.🎄

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Invisibly Me December 15, 2018 / 6:43 am

    Such good insight and what a great presentation. I think it’s a mix of these ‘new norms’ that form in society, the evolving ‘stuff’ that’s now available through scientific & technological advances, and how “we periodically look over the fence to see what’s up with the seemingly greener pastures next door” that leads to such expectations and consequently overspending, the need for more, the need for stuff. I also think there’s often a hole, a need, in people that many try to fill with this ‘stuff’, but it’ll never be enough. It’s an elusive concept. Great post, thanks for sharing! =]
    Caz x

    Liked by 2 people

    • Family to the 5 Power! December 15, 2018 / 10:42 am

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I agree! Only God can fill that perpetual emptiness we struggle with. Merry Christmas!🎄

      Liked by 2 people

  5. lghiggins December 14, 2018 / 11:13 pm

    Amazing insights from a college student. I’m impressed! A longtime Apple fan, I recently made the tough decision, with my iPhone4 on its last legs, to go with an android phone. I lose a lot in compatibility, but could save $500 over the purchase of an iPhone7. I wouldn’t even consider what the iPhoneX is going for. I truly needed a new phone, but I only wanted a new iPhone. This student’s message is a good one to take into the Christmas season and on into the new year.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Family to the 5 Power! December 14, 2018 / 11:39 pm

      It’s hard to purchase a new phone! So expensive but we are all so reliant on them now. Thank you for reading and Merry Christmas!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Deepti Tanna December 14, 2018 / 7:13 pm

    It’s a very beautifully penned article…thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Cinnamon Girl December 14, 2018 / 4:23 pm

    Beautiful posting! The message is so honest and understandable. Thank you for sharing your wealth! Happy Holidays!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Family to the 5 Power! December 14, 2018 / 10:40 pm

      Thank you for your time in reading it and the thoughts you shared with me here. Merry Christmas!

      Liked by 2 people

  8. koolkosherkitchen December 14, 2018 / 3:50 pm

    Thank you for this post, a timely reminder that the best gift from Him is our health and the health and well-being of those we love, and He will take care of all our true needs.
    Happy Holiday Season to you and yours!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Family to the 5 Power! December 14, 2018 / 10:37 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing this! I appreciate it. I’m not on FB, but I’ll try to look it up on my daughter’s account.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. grAnnie Roo December 14, 2018 / 12:01 pm

    Thank you for so eloquently expression the burden of my own heart lately, “Ducky”.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Judy December 14, 2018 / 9:45 am

    Thanks for a needed reminder to be thankful for all the things with which God has already blessed me. ❤

    Liked by 4 people

    • Family to the 5 Power! December 14, 2018 / 11:46 am

      Thank you for taking the time to read my post. Gratitude is always important but this time of year it’s easy for me to overlook so I’m working on conscious thankfulness. Merry Christmas!🎄🙏🏻

      Liked by 2 people

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