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To get spending in check, ‘Be Thankful For What You Got’

Posted By Claes Bell On 11/24/2013 @ 8:30 am In Bank Notes | 4 Comments

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and not just because it involves eating a ton of turkey [3]. What’s really cool about it is it’s a celebration of gratitude [4], one of the most noble of human impulses — and also a useful tool for getting your act together financially.

In my experience, the best way to quiet a craving for stuff that’s bigger, better and newer is spending some time concentrated on appreciating what I have.

There’s some research to back this up. A 2006 paper [5] in the Journal of Happiness Studies by University of Miami researchers found evidence that people who tend toward gratitude were less likely to score highly on measures of materialism, especially when it came to the belief that material possessions lead to happiness.

But when you’re surrounded by wealthy people who seem to be thoroughly enjoying their money, which is especially the case down here in Bentley-infested South Florida, that can be easier said than done. I find that giving the William DeVaughn soul classic “Be Thankful for What You Got” a few spins can help. Here’s a sample of the lyrics:

Though you may not drive a great big Cadillac/ gangsta white walls, TV antennas in the back

You may not have a car at all/ But remember, brothers and sisters, you can still stand tall

Just be thankful/ for what you got

His ode to over-the-top ’70s Caddies and the virtues of gratitude may seem a little jarring at first, but it’s very American (we are large, we contain multitudes [6]). After all, Black Friday, a day dedicated to grabbing all you can at your local big-box store, comes right on the heels of a holiday dedicated to being grateful for what you’re fortunate enough to have already.

We’re constantly surrounded by marketing messages (heck, there’s an ad right next to this post) telling us in elaborate detail how much better our lives will be if we buy this or that new product. DeVaughn reminds us here that although those things may be genuinely cool and impressive to others, our personal worth is tied up in bigger things, and gratitude is a good way to connect with that.

What do you think? How do you encourage gratitude in your own life?

(Photo: Flickr user That Hartford Guy)


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[1] Tweet: http://twitter.com/share

[2] Email: mailto:?subject=http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/tackle-overspending-be-thankful-for-what-you-got.html

[3] Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and not just because it involves eating a ton of turkey: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/tackle-overspending-be-thankful-for-what-you-got.html

[4] gratitude: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/teaching-gratitude.html

[5] 2006 paper: http://www.psy.miami.edu/faculty/mmccullough/Papers/gratitude_materialism.pdf

[6] we are large, we contain multitudes: http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/s_z/whitman/song.htm

Thank you for reading!