The Power of Contentment

Having a tight grocery budget recently, I headed to a discount supermarket in search of good prices.  One of the more expensive items on my list was a jug of salsa, a mainstay in our household.  I knew from experience it would cost around $6, a big chunk of my small budget, so I searched the shelves hoping to find a store brand on sale.  Unfortunately the store brand was priced at $6, but I found a brand name on sale for $3.99!  My heart rejoiced, and with excitement I asked my son to grab the on-sale product.

It was then that I noticed a well-dressed, elderly lady in the aisle watching us.  Feeling slightly self-conscious about my joyous outburst, I explained how excited I had been to find a name brand for $2 less than the store brand, since I usually bought store brands.  She smiled in agreement, and spoke with grandmotherly authority, “To me, they’re just as good.”

Though our conversation was short, my fellow shopper’s words stuck with me.  Based on her appearance, I am sure she could afford name brands and non-sale prices, but her air of confidence showed that she would not be fooled into spending more than she had to.  To her, the store brand tasted as good as the brand name – not because it had been scientifically proven, but because she had decided that she would be content with it.  Her words were those of a wiser generation, and we would do well to pay attention.

You see, our Starbucks-crazed generation has lost sight of the fact that our decisions can inform our desires.  Haven’t we all been offered an upgrade at a restaurant, only to find it would cost us an extra $2 or $3?  Suddenly, the upgrade seems less desirable, and we settle for the standard option.  Or we go to a coffee shop with a limited amount of money, and though we would like to order the large size, we order what we can afford?  What happens in each of these examples is that, once we decide what is important, our tastes line up with that decision.

Our human desires are fickle, and far too often we allow them to make our choices for us.   When desires rule over decisions, our choices can lead us in directions that waste our time, money and life energy.  Past generations learned through necessity that we do not always need more to be happy.  In fact, our elders can teach us that in learning to live with less, we can become more content.  We can decide what is important and choose to be happy with that.  In doing so, we discover the power that contentment has to transform our lives.

In what area of your life could you choose to be more content today?

5 thoughts on “The Power of Contentment

  1. You are so right! I retired rather recently, and after 35 years of earning a steady, though not very large, income, I expected to really feel the pinch of living on our CPP and OAP only. After all, quite a drastic change to our lifestyle, going from dinner out at least once a week and travel several times a year, to none. But we are SO content to be able to spend relaxing day after day together and feel incredibly blessed. I’m making bread again, mending clothes, researching ways to use left-overs. I go to thrift stores to find fabrics for my new hobby, quilting, but why not? Being thankful, counting blessings – every day in every way – this is how it can and should be.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Irene! I’ve heard from a few friends that retirement was a difficult transition for them, emotionally and economically. You seem to be embracing it joyfully. Is there anything particular that helped you ease into the change without losing contentment?

  2. What a great topic! This is something I think about a lot.
    Last year my resolution was to stop buying things I don’t need.
    While my primary motive was to reduce my debt, (which got a lot easier once I stopped automatically spending all my disposable income), the experience also taught me that things don’t make me happy (especially when they are just increasing my debt load!).
    Over the year (and after I paid off my car!), I became more flexible, and now I occasionally do buy something I don’t need, if it’s pretty and I can afford it. But in general, I’m focussing on getting enjoyment from experiences rather than gadgets!

    1. Wow, Caroline. That’s inspiring! Any advice for readers on how to stay motivated and not get discouraged when attacking debt? What kept you on track toward your goal?

  3. I have found that buying at thrift stores truly has expanded my ability to have things I couldn’t otherwise have on a fixed income. I too am on a pension and really, at my age, why do I need something brand new all the time. I have learned to snoop out sales on produce and meats that have just been marked down because they were yesterday’s items, but still good dates. I freeze a lot of things like mushrooms after dividing them up in portion sizes for myself. Many no name brands are made by the brand name companies and often the sizes are larger than the brand names. It has become a game to me to find the best bargains for the amount I allot myself. I am sure that lady you met felt really good about your chat with her. It gave her a reason to still feel useful as she was older and also less lonely because you took that few minutes. Enjoying your blog. Lots of food for thought. All the best in your venture Kim.

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