Today’s  guest post comes from the endearing and committed, Jenny Whitcomb, a delightful Massachusetts-living mother of six, known for making sculptures out of her teenage son’s messy room and always infusing her mothering with humor and creativity. She enjoys life’s simple pleasures like grape laffy taffy and marathon soaks in the tub.

piggy_bankimageA week ago I attended a meeting where someone said, “We live in an age of entitlement.” That word, entitlement has since been reverberating in my head. It’s plinking around between my ears because the word itself has a bothersome connotation. In a world where instant gratification is an integral part of our routines, it’s hard to imagine that people would think about feeling entitled to live in a certain neighborhood, eat meals out, have a day at the spa, or wear specific brand labels. Please don’t misread.  I’m all for betterment.  It’s just that when working to make improvements turns into expecting upgrades, I get queasy, and wonder how our sense of stewardship has become distorted and provident living becomes a quaint idea of the past.  I asked my kids if they knew what entitlement meant. I got puzzled looks. One wants new jeans, another a sweatshirt.  The definitions they came up with were well-thought out— to give someone a title, among others— but none were correct. And even though my kids haven’t officially reached adulthood, the fact that they couldn’t put a finger on the meaning of a word that describes our day-to-day existence was troubling. Thus the question: If we live in an age where we feel we deserve so much, why don’t we recognize it?

 The cover of Time magazine this week has a red ‘reset’ button on it, and the caption underneath it reads “The End of Excess: [and] Why this crisis is good for America.” I’m thinking that in order for this economic crisis to be good for any of us, we first need to recognize that we are living to excess. Realization should begin at home… right? And lucky for us, this epiphany happened on a Monday morning.  So FHE became a Consumer Awareness 101 group therapy session centered on two visuals: a credit card, and a piggy bank. We shared thoughts, from youngest to oldest, starting with the credit card, and taught each other everything we knew about that little piece of plastic. The youngest deemed it a Wal-Mart card. He said, “You swipe it, and then you buy things with it.” The next in line said “It’s a credit card, and there’s money in there, and you buy stuff with it.” And so it went, right up the line. The common missing element was that the kids didn’t understand that to use the card, in fact, is to borrow money. Not like borrowing money from your brother, your mom, or a friend, because the lender doesn’t know you, and is not kind. And if you don’t repay the lender within a short period of time, you won’t be forgiven. You will be punished. The cruel irony is that society would have us believe a credit card represents freedom for consumers. Reality teaches otherwise: debt is bondage. Now how to make my son feel imprisoned by the sweatshirt he doesn’t want to pay for.

  During our discussion, the piggy bank did not have the significance I thought it would. It seemed to be a shelf decoration for plunking pennies into. I was taught that saving your coins would put you on the road to buying power. It’s an interesting thing to study how the mind works when purchasing something with cash versus a credit card. As you hand over the amount needed in cash, you experience a kind of reckoning—it’s difficult to give over the hard-earned money. When you whip out a plastic card, however, it’s a different, enabling feeling. Ergo the ease with which we feel entitled to spring for dinner, or justify new carpet. It takes discipline to manage the card, more than it does to make purchases from a piggy bank. The key? Embrace the principle of work and save in order to consume. Not that owning a credit card or desire equals entitlement, but understand that the credit behind our credit cards is actually cash. To have the money in our pockets before we spend it is a worthy guideline. Did FHE prove enlightening?  The message I wanted us to take away from this is that entitlement is a word with strings attached.  The puppet master should not be a large corporate bank.  It should be the wisdom of living providently. We should feel entitled to share this knowledge with others. After all, if we don’t, who will?

How have you brought entitlement to the forefront of your consciousness? How do you fight against it? How do you teach and live the principles of stewardship, work, and spending in our consumerist age?

April 2, 2009

Jenny Whitcomb

Emerita

69 Comments

  1. traci

    April 3, 2009

    We talk about this issue in our house often! We both volunteer places where we here demands constantly on the consumer part of life. Where people come in and ask for money or goods and we screen them. The attitude toward the screening is incredible – I deserve this! When asked why, answers are given such as – you have it, everyone has it, i’m a good person. It is very frustrating. (so all good people have cable?)

    So let me bring this home to our house now, the nitty gritty. By having this attitude in our faces every week, we start to examine ourselves. First it is easy – we thot. We don’t go out to eat every week, we don’t have cable or any tv for that matter, no smoking or pop etc etc,sounds good huh? But what about what we do do.

    What I am learning is that it is not so much what i have or what i do, but my attitude toward it. Why would i deserve ( and that’s the word we are dealing with here) a night out because i’m tired – is everyone that is tired getting a nite out? What will we be willing to give up, in order to have that? Is it worth it?

    Why do I “deserve” to go to lunch with a girlfriend, while my husband works? Is that what he works for? to give me girly lunches? I hope not. I hope our lives are more than that. Why do I get a day away? My mother tells me she never did.

    Again, this is not against lunch or other things – but the why!

    I have been using the wait 3 days rule on purchasing wants. I also have been starting the idea that i don’t purchase any wants without talking to my husband first. Many of these wants when I tell him about them, just the telling seems silly and frivilous and the decision is made just in my talking about it.

    We are working very hard to be free from all debt. And what I have learned is that sacrifice can be turned to contentment. Free lessons on the internet, loaning books and movies at the library, etc etc etc, you all know the drill, inexpensive hobbies and then balancing it out with allowing things we both enjoy.

    As everything we talk about here – a work in progress!
    Thanks for the post.

  2. L-d Sus

    April 3, 2009

    What a great idea for FHE. Thanks.

    I have been wondering how I might steer my children off the road to monster-consumerism. I’m going to try this next Monday.

  3. Leslie

    April 3, 2009

    Jenny- very thoughtful post. This is a subject I am passionate about- in fact one of our “graff family values” we have is stewardship- the motto we have is “We are grateful for all we have and use everything wisely.” (we paired it with D&C 82:13 – “where much is given much is required” scripture). I think afer seeing the lack in so many places around the world I am determined to teach this to my children- to help them keep perspective. (the excess of it all and frivolity of our lives can be very hard to swallow by comparison) On our trunk in the family room, I keep the books Material World, and Hungry Planet (both books by photojournalist Peter Menzel.) For now even if it’s pictures I want my children to weigh out wants and needs and not take for granted or feel ingratitude. I can’t wait to travel with them and help them see this principle more clearly. We love to do kiva loans, and other humanitarian prjoects as a family. I too am death on credit. I teach my kids as my dad always taught me- don’t charge it unless you can pay the bill in full. The told us to never go in debt for anything except a house (or education) and growing up with that made it stick! I am glad I grew up with parents who raised us with good consumer/financial sense. I teach my kids the pioneer saying- use it up wear it out, make it do or do without.

  4. ~j.

    April 3, 2009

    GREAT post.

    My almost 10-year old was chatting online with Grandma the other day, who asked what li’l ~j. would like for her upcoming birthday. Her reply: “Well, I’ve been thinking it’s about time I should get a credit card.”

    And so, your FHE lesson will be our FHE lesson. Sheesh.

    • QueenScarlett

      April 3, 2009

      You have smart cookies there ~j

  5. ESO

    April 3, 2009

    I love those books!

    I find that most (all?) people–children and adults–find it difficult (almost impossible) to be grateful for that which they feel/think are NORMAL. So, it is pretty normal in the US to have 2 cars, so no one thinks it very special or a privelege or anything. One or two generations ago, families with 2 cars would have felt it VERY special! People in many other parts of the world would find it exceptional even today. But most kids and many adults won’t think twice about it.

    In fact, we don’t think twice about being able to shower whenever we feel like it or have 3 square meals a day. These are, in fact, great luxeries. One easy (impactful) but expensive way to bring this home is to travel somewhere more needy. Barring that, community service, thoughtful use of documentaries, and good books can bring these things to our attention.

    I’ll be keeping my eye on this thread to see what else people come up with.

    • Leslie

      April 3, 2009

      amen to the shower and meals and the cars~
      even having a change of clothes- doing medical missions abroad really changed me! It’s hard when the per capita income in mali ($251) is less than most teenagers spend on a prom date… It’s so hard to find the balance.

    • Jenny

      April 3, 2009

      ESO, you bring up an important point. We forget to be grateful for things we consider as normal as turning on the faucet and expecting water to come out. It’s good to remember that in many parts of the world that IS a luxury. Gratitude is a gift we can return to our Heavently Father, who allows us to live lives so full of luxury.

      • jendoop

        April 3, 2009

        This is why I would love the church to more evenly divide wards. Taking into consideration not just school districts and number of priesthood holders but also a diversity of economic needs. We are in an inner city branch where most people do not have cars. Yet the ward immediately next to us, which meets in our building, is oblivious to the great needs that exist- a fat, happy ward. Our entire family is receiving a great education about needs and wants.

      • jendoop

        April 3, 2009

        Sorry, I meant that to be a reply to ESO 🙂

  6. Jenny

    April 3, 2009

    Traci, great comments. I like the three-day rule–time can cure us of many impulses. “Sacrifice can be turned to contentment is lovely pearl of wisdom.
    L-d Sus, FHE is such a great medium for approaching important issues together–and you can set the tone, whether it’s serious or light–you’ll know what will work best for your family. I found the 2 books Leslie mentions in the comment following yours, and we used them as centerpieces on our kitchen table for a week. It was great to see the kids perusing these books over their breakfast and after school snacks. They had great things to say, and I highly recommend them.
    Leslie, you are a fountain of gracious wisdom. Your motto regarding stewardship is a great reminder that we need to remember gratitude. Thanks!

  7. Shirley

    April 3, 2009

    Jenny, this was a wonderful post. A credit card is good to have for those emergencies where you don’t have the ready cash–it is in the savings account and cannot be accessed readily. I can’t understand why people abuse it and then they get themselves into such financial debt that they don’t know how to get out of it. I can’t even imagine maxing out a card. I do have some credit cards and am extremely careful in my use of them and always pay them in full. My Dad always said, as did Leslie, be sure you have that amount of money in the bank to pay the bill in full before you charge. This has always stuck in my head. One card had a credit line of over $10,000! I changed that in a hurry to $5,000. This is where people go crazy. I opened my first savings account with a $20 bill I found on the sidewalk outside the front of my house many many years ago. I’ve saved all my life and at times wish I had saved more. I’ve never felt that I was entitled to a “free lunch”, so to speak. I think twice before I buy something. If I need it, I purchase it. If I can do without, I do without. I’d like a new car. Mine is 11 years old and has almost 173,000 miles on it. It runs well, I’ve had some major repairs done to it, but it is still going. It has not failed me and takes me where I need to go. Do I deserve a new car? Probably. Am I entitled to a new car? Probably. Do I want the expense right now? Not really. Am I content with what I have? Certainly. And your post is wonderful food for thought and thank you for your insight and values. What you have learned well from your parents and have tried to instill these into your children which, as they get older, will be forever grateful as they carry this on to their children.

    • Jenny

      April 3, 2009

      Shirley,
      I love this thought from Randy Pausch’s book “The Last Lecture” where he was telling the reader why, when his wife dented both cars by backing out of the garage into the second car parked in the driveway, they were not going to bother spending the money to fix the superficial wounds:
      “…if your trashcan or wheelbarrow has a dent in it, you don’t buy a new one. Maybe that’s because we don’t use trashcans and wheelbarrow to communicate our social status or identity to others… not everything needs to be fixed.”

  8. alanna

    April 3, 2009

    Great post and useful comments!
    I have nothing to add but a lot to learn from this topic.
    Thank you.

  9. dalene

    April 3, 2009

    Great post. It’s interesting to me how different children have different perceptions of this. My two oldest have direct deposit and so they save most of their money–only taking it out when they need it. I buy necessities, but they have to pay half of other big items (band or choir tour, etc.) and all of “wants.” Yet my two youngest (who were raised during times when we haven’t struggled as much financially) feel entitled to everything their friends have (we live in a neighborhood in which we are near the bottom of the income level). One of the best things I ever did was throw a big fit over how fickle my daughter is over clothes and tell her she had to buy her own.

    I love Traci’s thought: “What I am learning is that it is not so much what i have or what i do, but my attitude toward it.” I’m going to work on this…

  10. Ellen

    April 3, 2009

    Love your post, Jenny!!

  11. courtney

    April 3, 2009

    I’ll admit that this was a hard lesson for me to learn! There are many things that I bought (including many meals out) that I felt like I “deserved” because I had worked so hard, had a bad day, etc. And then it was a really tough wake-up call once I graduated from college and had to start paying back student loans and I realized the money I spent was real. And it’s hard to change bad habits.
    That’s a great FHE to have. It’s good to remember that just because you know what a credit card is and means doesn’t mean your kids know. And it’s your responsibility to teach them! I only have a one year-old, but I am determined to teach her to be responsible, and not to have a sense of entitlement– something so dangerous, but so common.

  12. cheryl

    April 3, 2009

    *warning –my comment will cause my own embarrassment…

    My husband and I always thought we were being careful with our money –we seriously never felt entitled to anything, really. We both came from families where working for money and then saving it was key –I think my husband has had a job since he was 11 and payed for college through scholarships AND working part-time. Anyway, fast-forward to a time when we worked for a company that glamourized credit and massive spending and the “lifestyle” of being rich. We still considered ourselves careful and frugal (and would shake our heads at those who were extravagant), but we still made some stupid decisions.
    After a 4 or 5 years, those decisions snowballed, and now we are paying for them (literally!) big time. Add to that my husband’s recent acceptance into an EMBA program??
    Ouch, ouch, ouch.

    Debt is the HEAVIEST burden I’ve ever felt. I hate it. Loathe it, really. It’s embarrassing and it’s paralyzing. I feel so duped because we knew better –we did! So, we plink along, chipping away at the debt as fast as we can while living as frugally as we can at the same time.

    But you know? Just like the Time magazine? I think this was one of the best things EVER to happen to us. I hate it more than anything –but at the same time I recognize what an incredible learning experience this is for us –and for our kids. Hopefully they will learn from our mistakes and never be so crazy!

    Last thoughts: Because of my experience, I have decided to teach my kids more about work and more about earning money, rather than giving them things. Extra chores for extra cash for even field trips at school are in the agenda…even with my embarrassing story, I have to admit that I have never been a fan of entitlement and I never will be.

    • Jenny

      April 3, 2009

      Cheryl, thank you for sharing your story! You are your own best counselor. And kudos to you for passing the lessons you’ve learned on to your kids and to others.

  13. SilverRain

    April 3, 2009

    I have been deeply blessed by parents who always made it perfectly clear that credit cards were to be used like checks, and that necessary debt was to be paid off as quickly as possible. It has saved me from a great deal of fear and heartache.

  14. Becky

    April 3, 2009

    Well written Jenny. This subject of entitlement – especially with children today – makes my stomach hurt. I am so grateful that mom and dad raised us with good work ethics. Having a paper route at 8, earning all of my own money, was the best lesson I could have ever learned. Working so hard to earn so very little made it really hard to part with it and so I would choose very wisely how I spent my money. Now it’s time to really sink this into my own children’s psyche.

  15. Emily U

    April 3, 2009

    The people whose parents taught them how to stay out of debt are really very lucky.

    Both my parents and my in-laws had debt while raising their children, and in spite of seeing our parents struggle with it, we now have student loans, car loans, and credit cards to pay off. We are digging ourselves out, but debt really is bondage. I’ve thought so many times, “if only we didn’t have to make this payment every month.”

    Unfortunately, knowing debt is bad and actually staying out of debt are two different things. One way to stay out of it is to simply accept the fact that you may need to go without sometimes. This is where entitlement comes in. My husband and I needed the education and the cars, but we also bought things along the way we could have lived without.

    • Jenny

      April 3, 2009

      You’re right. Being given that knowledge at a young age is empowerment. Now you have the opportunity to bless the lives of others with the knowledge that you have gained. Recognizing that you CAN ‘live without’ is key. Finding no-cost alternatives to ‘things’ you might go in debt for is also an option. Living providently is supposed to mean living joyfully within our means. So many good thoughts!

  16. Dovie

    April 3, 2009

    Provident means making provision for the for the future.

    I have experienced want and abundance. Want in my childhood and what I consider sufficient for my needs, and sometimes even abundance in my adult life.

    What I haven’t figured out is living providently. I’ve figured it out in my brain but in practice, not so much.

    I don’t feel entitled (except maybe to a nap) but I just don’t think I am as wise a steward of the resources I have been blessed with, at least not as much as I should be.

    The idea that Heavenly Father has blessed me with resources because he was giving me an opportunity to use them as he intended and not because some how I deserved them helps. Figuring out the intent, then following through is so tricky. Shouldn’t be but it is.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    • Jenny

      April 3, 2009

      Thanks for pointing out that our resources DO come from Heavenly Father, and we ought to be introspective when we think about how we are using them. Provident Living is such a multi-faceted topic, but yet is a very simple concept. Like someone mentioned earlier, the ages old quote of “Use it up, wear it out (or fix it up), make it do or do without” is a good place to start.

    • Nan

      April 4, 2009

      This is my favorite comment; I came back to reply after I’d read sixty or so. I love what you said about needing to realize that a loving Father in Heaven has blessed us with certain gifts–material or otherwise–not just for our own gratification, but to bless others. I am not sure I’ve ever thought of it exactly in this light before. I am sure this thought will be present with me often this week. Thanks.

  17. Justine

    April 3, 2009

    I was never really taught about debt, and my parents spent pretty freely on our family. They didn’t go into debt for it, as I now know, but the result was the same. I had a very hard time in college, and after my parent’s cut me off at my college graduation day, I fell flat on my face. Thankfully, credit wasn’t so easily available back then, or I would have been in a world of hurt.

    I have a tremendous testimony of saving. My husband is so good at it, and he has really pushed me to learn the great lessons of saving. It feels really good, and it makes me want to spend less as I watch our savings grow.

    Anytime we have to take on a spot of debt, it really is a terrible feeling. I really like what Cheryl said though, it’s a powerful lesson to be in debt, and one that I’m actually grateful for. What better way to learn to detest it?

    But teaching my kids the power of self-denial is so hard! It doesn’t have to be done with all economic things, though. Even teaching them to deny themselves 20 pieces of chocolate and instead learn to savor one instead has an impact on them. (I hope!)

    • cheryl

      April 3, 2009

      Yes! Justine –I’ve struggled with weight issues for years and I’ve been trying so hard to teach the kids the difference between eating more because we’re hungry or eating more because it tastes good. This idea of entitlement and excess is definitely something that can apply to many facets of our lives…

  18. Amy Jo

    April 3, 2009

    You go girl! I can say that as Jenny’s my twin! Great post! Like the additions to your thoughts. This is such an important topic, and I’ll take all I can get.

  19. KR

    April 3, 2009

    Yes, yes, and yes!!! I have a bachelors in US history and I am absolutely amazed at the change in psyche about the American Dream and what it means. While it once meant that you could pick yourself up from your own bootstraps, work hard, and ultimately accomplish financial success, I hear on the news now that families are ENTITLED to OWN a home no matter their income. While I believe that everyone needs food, shelter, and clothing, families need to work hard and save to reach their dream home.

    I have been married for one year, and since the week we returned from our honeymoon, my husband and I have had a weekly budget meeting. We created a budget according to our expenses/needs, wants, and income. Every week we go over what we spent that week in each category, what we are saving for, and so forth. It grants us open communication about finances and peace of mind in knowing how we will pay all of our bills. We have a “personal money” category of a relatively small sum that is ours to spend individually each month. If I want to go out to lunch with a friend I don’t need to ask, but when my personal money is out for the month it is out. That has been very helpful for living within our means. Because I am going back to grad school and he will follow me in grad school soon after, I am sure we will need student loans and will have a much tighter budget, but this has been a good foundation for us.

    I am grateful for the counsel of church leaders who teach us to save and stay out of debt. I believe the Lord will bless our righteous efforts.

  20. Catania

    April 3, 2009

    I want to echo some of the other comments tfat have been made. I believe that entitlement is a true malady. Not only does it hurt us temporally, but it affects us spiritually. Another word for it may be pride – in that we think we know more than God, and we refuse to recognize the blessings we’ve already received.

    I think that the antidote for entitlement is true gratitude to our Heavenly Father. Gratitude will turn our hearts upward and will also help us to be humble – which is also antithetical to entitlement.

    Anyways. This is a great post. I think that it is totally relavent. I’m trying hard to be a more grateful and less entitled person, and I hope to be able to teach my children the same.

    • jenny

      April 3, 2009

      I so agree with you, Catania, that living an “entitled” life and aquiring debt harms you spiritually. When you have that mindset, or burden or bondage of debt, your spirit is bruised and constricted as well.

  21. lee

    April 3, 2009

    So many good comments here. My husband grew up with nothing. That was the best education ever. He now earns a lot, saves and invests well, and spends cautiously. He doesn’t feel entitled to anything, even though he has hundreds of thousands in savings. You would never know it to look at our lifestyle. We are happy without a lot of “stuff” and we have great peace knowing that we are very far from the bottom of our money.

    Like so many of life’s ironies, an indulged childhood can be a huge disadvantage and a deprived childhood can be a great springboard. Although as a mother, I don’t hear myself saying “Gee, have I deprived my kids today…?” ha ha. Maybe I should…

    • traci

      April 3, 2009

      Your husband is very lucky that he has this attitude and made these decisions in life. I deal with people every day who are poor, have very little. some work and save and end up like your husband. Some become bitter and greedy. I am not sure I know the attitude difference that we can help change yet.

  22. Jo

    April 3, 2009

    I was actually raised with parents who were very well off. Money was never an issue nor did my parents ever struggle finacially. However they gave us an allowance, which was fairly generous, but that was it. We had to learn to budget our allowance and save because we had to buy everything and I mean everything. If we wanted to go on Spring Break or buy something big that meant we needed a part time job to pay for it. I’ve never had a problem with money and am still a big saver and the only debt my husband and I have is our home and a car we just bought last week.

    I really believe it was how I was raised. So, I don’t think the only way to learn to be good with money is to have been raised with little or to have little money as an adult.

    • Sage

      April 5, 2009

      Jo, I loved your comment. I have thought a lot about this topic because of my parent’s bad example of acquiring debt, of where I grew up (near very wealthy people in the Bay Area) and the poverty I experienced from where I went on my mission: Peru. Also, because of my husband’s upbringing. His family had little.

      Although my parents haven’t been very wise with their own money, they always taught us to work and we had to pay for most of our own things (I started babysitting at age 10 and had to pay for my own clothes).

      As a couple, we have spent a lot of time trying to understand more about money–reading tons of books on it and trying to become financially literate (a huge lack of education in our country in my opinion on this topic).

      Mostly we have tried to listen to the council of our prophets about staying out of debt (of course this was after being in a fairly large amount of debt from school and from some work-related things).

      Anyway, what I wanted to point out (after much verbiage, sorry) is that the important thing is how you use the money you have…not that you had to struggle necessarily. Sometimes people with this attitude resent others who have made a lot of money. I live in one of the wealthiest stakes (we have New Canaan, CT in our stake) and I have learned not to judge wealthy people just for their wealth (so many people seem to resent anyone who is successful).

      I have found that when you do learn to manage money correctly, (paying tithing, saving, giving to the needy) you are blessed–both spiritually and temporally. Then the trick is not to let your abundance cause you to develop pride….

      sorry for the rambling.

  23. Lisa

    April 3, 2009

    Love this post. I went to a meeting last night where this very thing was discussed. We worked hard to teach our kids about working and saving for their needs and wants. At our house we love mint brownies. Whenever I make them, inevitably someone would cut a corner out of the brownies before I had a chance to spread on the mint frosting and then pour chocolate glaze on top. What a great object lesson this became. You can eat the brownie before it’s frosted and it tastes pretty good. But waiting for the finished project is even better. Immediate gratification seems great at the time but then you miss out on the blessing of all the frosting. Our kids came to understand that if you really wanted/needed something then you save until you can pay for it.

    The hard part has come now that some of them are married and their spouses don’t think the same.

  24. Caitlin

    April 3, 2009

    Jenny!
    What a pleasant suprise to see a post on Segullah from a familiar face from the ward in MA I grew up in!
    I’m not a frquest reader (or commenter), but I’m glad I caught your post, and have really enjoyed seeing your blog. Your a wise woman, and thanks for sharing some of your wisdom.

    I love this quote from President Monson from last conference:

    “Both abundance and lack [of abundance] exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend . . . when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present—love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature, and personal pursuits that bring us [happiness]—the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience heaven on earth.”

    I think about this often if I catch myself feeling entitled or jealous of another’s possesions. We all have been blessed with SUCH abudance. No matter how much you have, there will always be SOMETHING you are lacking, or someone with more. Misery is focusing on what we don’t have (again there will ALWAYS be SOMETHING), and happiness is recognizing the blessings of each day.
    I agree that this economic downturn we are experiencing can be a blesing for our nation and each of us individually, if we each take the time for introspection to see how we acted entitled. Since our nation is in so much debt, obviously there has been alot of entitlement going around.
    I feel grateful I married a saver who has taught me much in this area.

    P.S. In case you forget who I am, without giving my last name online, I’m Tom and Louise’s daughter 😉

    • Leslie

      April 3, 2009

      Thanks for that quote Caitlin- it’s great!

    • Jenny

      April 3, 2009

      Isn’t it funny who you bump into out here in cyberspace… nice to hear from you Caitlin, and what a beautiful quote from President Monson.

  25. Sue

    April 3, 2009

    I love this post, and it is so timely. The comments have been terrific, too. I’m left with little to add, except to say that KR’s post resonates with me, the one about people feeling entitled to own a home the minute they’re married and losing sight of the idea of pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. I have seen this happen many times over, and now I am watching these couples lose their homes or go into major debt trying to hold on to them. The same is true with cars. And on and on.

    It’s a sad situation, and I do think the economic crisis in our country might be a springboard for healing the excess spending bug. I sure hope so!

  26. jendoop

    April 3, 2009

    Wow, this topic stirs up so many thoughts. Entitlement and debt could be two hugely different topics.

    As a child I didn’t have much of anything. Now as an adult, I don’t feel entitled to much of anything. When I do get something nice I feel it shows gratitude to Heavenly Father to take good care of it. Yesturday when I did my own yard spring cleaning (many of my neighbors hire yard services) I thought about being embarrassed that my yard isn’t as well manicured as my neighbors. Then I realized that I should feel good about laboring with my own hands to take care of what I have been given. We would go into debt if we paid someone to do it for us.

    On the other side of the family my husband was raised with more money, living with a level of comfort I was unfamiliar with. He feels a certain level of failure that we don’t have the fine things his parents do. It is a subconscious drive, but it is a measuring stick of success in his mind. To him, that is what providing for his family means. To me, providing for us means that we stay dry and eat every day. We have to be careful what standard of living we teach our children to expect out of life.

    • jendoop

      April 3, 2009

      I must admit that because I didn’t grow up with much money that when I am confronted with decisions about money I don’t know what to do. 401K? Insurance plans? Mortagages?

      I realize my post sounded to idealic. We have debt. We’ve moved cross-country due to lay-off twice. That is expenseive. YUCK I hate debt. (I also hate moving.) And because I went hungry a few times I have no problem with food storage, you could even say I hoard it.

      OK, true confession over.

    • Melissa

      April 3, 2009

      I agree, and think that the concept of providing well is something that men struggle with particularly. I constantly have to remind my DH that there is more to providing than just money, but somehow the measureable (material) things that are visible seem to be what people notice. It also ties into the whole concept of the righteous being prospered.

  27. Nan

    April 3, 2009

    Thanks for your timely message. In LDS circles we hear much about evils of welfare because of the entitlement aspects, while those of us not in poverty act entitled in ways that we often fail to recognzie. You have shrewdly pointed out that this canckerous social attitude is not about poverty–it is about a lack of contentment and gratitude for the great blessings we’ve already been given. For all that the welfare system in the US is in need of a healthy dose of gospel principles, I haven’t heard any economists fault the Social Security Administration with imploding the economy. The guilt lies with too many wanting something for nothing–that is a problem that spans every social class. My heart aches for those in our communities who are out of work (my own county is well above the national average), but I am in agreement with Time magazine: if such hard times cause us to focus our energies on principles of work and paying as we go, then in the long run it will be the very best thing.

    I’ve found that with my kids spending a lot of time int he garden helps teach industry and self-reliance. Frivolous gifts are hardly ever given except at Christmas and birthdays. If they want things otherwise, they save up allowance.

    • Brooke

      April 3, 2009

      i love this comment, nan. entitlement filters into all of our life– not just the $$ part.

      reading this post is hard for me because we know a few people filing for bankruptcy right now and THEY ARE REALLY GOOD PEOPLE!

      i don’t feel like it was entitlement that got them there. maybe a bit of bad luck, unfortunate timing. it’s true they lived off of their food storage and savings for a looong time, but they’re still at the place it seems most of the people here on budgets are trying to avoid.

    • Di

      April 4, 2009

      i heartily agree with this very insightful comment!

  28. Jaime

    April 3, 2009

    I loved this post. My sister and I were talking about the behaviors of one of our other sisters a few years ago. She said “she has a sense of entitlement”… Thats always stuck with me, and I’ve thought alot about what that means when people go around acting as if the world and it’s inhabitants owe it to other people.

    The hard thing I find when someone posts about finances, and related issues, is all the people that are soooo prideful and preachy about themselves and comment on how they are so not like that, and everything they do to avoid it, how smart they are, and how well they were raised, and also how well they are teaching their own kids…. puullllleeeaaase! Most of us dont get on here to read peoples own perspectives on themselves, on their soapbox, telling the rest of the world how successful they are and how idiotic the rest of the world is in their eyes. Most of the time they dont realize how arrogant and judgmental they sound!
    OH well, just my own perspective on that. The main point I have is that I loved your own story about this, and I think we are all vulnerable if you think about how vastly different cultures can be on this earth. I laughed when you mentioned new carpet too, because I am definitely wanting some of that!!!

    • Red

      April 3, 2009

      If it makes you feel better, I will admit that my husband and I are outrageously bad with money. We have also been blessed outrageously by our Heavenly Father to be able to dig out of our financial mess (a really, truly BIG one), but we still struggle all the time to keep our debt and savings in line. We both hate budgeting. We do our best because that’s part of what it means to be an adult. But I kind of hate this topic and I don’t get any joy out of scrimping, coupon-ing or being frugal. I don’t find it fun at all.

  29. Sara

    April 3, 2009

    There’s nothing wrong with people being successful or making right choices. We can learn from them and use them as an example in areas we are struggling.

    Only reading about people being dumb or making mistakes can be a very discouraging and almost helpless thing. Of course it’s nice to know we’re not the only one and for people to be honest, but if all we hear is the negative it could also belittle the wrong choices we make in our lives if we feel that’s the norm.

  30. Giggles

    April 3, 2009

    I use the credit card because they give me reward points. And because I pay it off every month, it’s free money every two years or so. But I always make sure I can pay it off every month.

    I was a poor part-time school teacher before becoming an even poorer full-time graduate school. Seeing the numbers in my bank all the time is very helpful. All excessive spending (even on much needed chocolate) gets cut unless I’m sure I can pay rent and other bills. It makes me a little sick in my stomach to take out a student loan each semester, but I haven’t taken the full amount offered yet.

    One way my parents taught me about saving was whenever I said I wanted something, they said I could have it, as long as I paid for it. I quickly learned there really weren’t that many things I actually wanted.

  31. angie f

    April 3, 2009

    Entitlelment is something we struggle with at our house. We are surrounded by families who act wealthy (whether or not their bank balances support their lifestyle remains to be seen–there are a lot of short sales and foreclosures around here too) and, among other things, throw their children lavish birthday parties every year. I am the mean mom who says no to the chuck e. cheese parties, the bounce houses in the back yard and the like. I don’t want to cultivate an expectation in such a thing any more than it already is. I know my family has it cushy. We are gainfully employed, we are a two parent family, we have the gospel, we are healthy, we are not behind in any of our bills. Frankly, everything else is gravy.

    But even more than the sense of temporal entitlement that I see all around us, it’s the idea of life entitlement that I see (and fight within myself) that says if I am righteous, I am entitled to a happy marriage, health, happiness, faithful, successful children, and wealth stemming from a fulfilling job that allows me the perfect life/work balance. I have seen too many for whom those things do not arrive on the schedule requested and it is used as a testimony deal-breaker where in the opposite of Job they “curse God and (spiritually) die.” I don’t want to be like that. I don’t want my children to be like that and I wonder how to teach hope and the promise of eternal rewards and mortal happiness without suckering myself and my family into an idea that we are entitled to our rewards on our own schedule. But that’s a bit of a different subject . . . .

    • Jenny

      April 3, 2009

      You are teaching hope and the promise of eternal rewards and mortal happiness by having your family understand the statement ‘We have it cushy.’ Recognizing that gainful employment, family, the gospel, your health and stability cover the basics and more is a mark in the win column. Isn’t this such an amazingly full topic?

    • Nan

      April 4, 2009

      One thing that has helped us is that we only give parties on the odd birthdays. That way, they have to look forward to and plan it for a long time and then it is a huge, fun deal. But even then, most of the stuff is homemade. Also, on birthday party years, we don’t do any presents. The party IS the present. For all the thousand mistakes I’ve made parenting, the biennial birthday party was a really good decision.

  32. Lindsay

    April 3, 2009

    Watching what has happened in the lives of my brothers and my brother-in-laws has given me a theory. I think a big factor in how you treat money is how your parents did financially while you were a teenager. If things were tight, you know what it’s like to have to be frugal. But if there’s money for nicer things and meals out, you think that’s how it is and you deserve it.

    We waited 7 years to get into a home because we wanted to be able to make the payments. My brother waited all of 6 months and is now hoping to sell his house before it forecloses because he can’t afford it. Just because someone else has something doesn’t mean the next person is entitled to have it.

  33. she-bop

    April 3, 2009

    Ok, so I’m feeling like this is just what I needed to read right now. I am definitely having a FHE lesson on this. Both on debt and entitlement.

    Here’s what happened in my world tonight: 15 year old daughter has a cell (yea, don’t get me started) which is old and she wanted to upgrade. She talked hubby and I into going to the cell store “just to look”. I figured if we could get a better phone for free, that we might as well. Hmmm. She found the Blackberry Pearl that she absolutely HAD to have. Hubby was seriously considering it when he noticed me giving him the stink-eye. $100 for phone upgrade PLUS an extra $47 per month because we needed a better plan to use that particular phone. For a teenager! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Basically, after embarrassing said child, I said in no time, place or way was that happening. And I walked out…with the checkbook.

    It took them a little bit to come out to the car, and the ride home was silent. (Hey, I guess that was a good thing.) Where have I gone wrong that this is even considered? Talk about a sense of entitlement. It’s made me reflect on just what my kids are thinking…and then I come and read this post. Let’s just say….timely.

    • dalene

      April 3, 2009

      It’s sooooo hard being the bad guy parent. I applaud what you did. (Although I have to say, I want one of those really badly. But nope. No way. And no way would I get my kid something I couldn’t even afford to buy for myself.) Way to go!

  34. jks

    April 3, 2009

    My husband was laid off in January and found a new job, with less money. It is wonderfully fun for me to manage our money and despite some difficulty hashing out our new budget I am really thrilled with my husband being willing to be more frugal. My parents raised me with no sense of entitlement despite their money. So it is difficult for me to deal with my husband’s typical American kinds of wants.
    Anyway, suddenly people are being a little more careful. I think that is awesome! I think it will benefit the generation of my 11 and 9 year olds (like those Great Depression people?), maybe not my little kids though.

  35. m&m

    April 4, 2009

    angie f, my friend, you shared what came to mind when I read the post title. I think it’s so easy to feel entitled to whatever blessings we want, and to forget that even each breath is a gift. Life can just be hard, and it’s hard to accept that reality.

    As to ideas about trying to avoid the attitude and behaviors that are tied to financial entitlement, I think it’s good to hear what others do, and I don’t see that as the same thing as being prideful (although of course it could be).

    That said, to me it is sobering to think about how easily any one of us could get into serious financial trouble quickly if a crisis hit — disability, extended job loss, medical difficulties w/ big bills, major home repair needs, even car issues, etc. I would hope that none of us experiences that, but the reality is that life is full of unknowns, and even the most prepared can fall into difficult times, and that sobers me to the core.

    But since living in fear of such stuff really doesn’t accomplish much, we just try to do the best we can. We always pay off credit card balances (I was taught the card is like a check principle). We are trying to pay down our mortgage as quickly as is reasonable. We do food storage and try to have an emergency fund always there.

    I also am a ‘mean mom’ in the sense that I say no a LOT. I try toto make things hurt. If we need new clothes, we buy at DI, on ebay, or the cheaper store-brand whenever possible. We have done most family trips on the cheap. We gratefully wear hand-me=down clothes from friends and family. I am a crazy sale shopper, and my kids know it.

    The other day, I was lamenting the fact that something I bought could have been cheaper elsewhere, and my son said, “It wouldn’t hurt so much if you weren’t so cheap.”

    So, maybe something is sinking in? 🙂

    It’s hard, though, living in middle-class America. I need to remember and help them remember more often that we really do live in luxury, so even these lessons can seem insignificant, when push comes to shove.

    But then again, I think some of what we can do is teach them about stewardship and responsibility…where much is given, much is required, etc.

  36. Di

    April 4, 2009

    What a fabulous post! Very insightful and well articulated. I was recently thinking about the concept of ‘entitlement’ and reflecting on this pervasive attitude among the medical school applicants and students I knew. I read this statement from Pres. Hinckley (New Era 2007) last night and wanted to share it:
    ‘You must get all of the education that you possibly can. Life has become so complex and competitive. You cannot assume that you have entitlements due you…”
    How did we become a people and a society so entitled? I think it started in the home – and that’s where we need to address it! I’m seriously grateful for parents (who are not LDS) who did teach me the concept of work, and not only living within your means, but staying out of debt!

  37. cindy baldwin

    April 4, 2009

    This is something that I see so much in my generation of newly-marrieds. I grew up thinking that the early days of marriage were thrifty times – you didn’t get a huge diamond, you didn’t buy a house immediately, you had one car. I am amazed by how many of my peers are running around with engagement rings that still have money owed on them and buying houses first thing. I think that we as a culture have become a) so “entitled” and b) very disassociated from the idea of tactile money. Sadly, it’s not that difficult to see where all the huge debt came from!

    One of the things I’m trying to do is keep an on-paper record of all expenses and how they fit into our budget. For me, the act of physically writing down something helps me to keep better track of it – I’ve never been comfortable carrying enough cash to do my groceries, etc. My husband and I use a check card most of the time. Keeping a paper-and-pen record, for me, helps me to stay aware of all our expenses even though I’m sliding the card.

  38. Brooke

    April 4, 2009

    jenny, just wanted to tell you i was thinking about this during elder hales’ talk this morning. wow, way to call it, girl!

    • Leslie

      April 4, 2009

      and what a fabulous talk it was one of my favs of the session

    • Jenny

      April 4, 2009

      I know! A great talk… We’ll be referring to that one a lot.

  39. Nan

    April 4, 2009

    Hah! I’m glad others picked up on this. I checked back in here just to tell you, once again, how timely. Your heart was certainly in a good place this week. I loved that his focus was as yours–we don’t have to be in poverty to act entitled. Elder Hales talk (and Elder Christopherson’s from October) have really made me think today that it is time to reprioritize what we “need” in order to live. It could be a hard task.

  40. Amanda D

    April 6, 2009

    Great post. Much to think about.

    My husband and I use our credit card for everything (it’s paid off every month) but we haven’t done a good job teaching the kids that we have to pay a bill each month. They can’t figure out why we can’t afford something they want because I have that card. I’ve tried to explain but it isn’t working.

    We definitely need to do a FHE on money. And soon.

  41. Kay

    April 6, 2009

    It’s not just about money though is it? I have read this post a few times over the last few days. Each time I read it I have the same thought. That I really do feel entitled to stay at home with my family. My husband is now out of work and disagrees. Even my Bishop has suggested that this culd be a great time for me to get a job, he thought I would be excited about it! Actually no, I am not. I really do believe that my (and I don’t mean anyone else’s) place is at home with my children. I am struggling with this idea of change and do not know which way to turn. Where does entitlement end?

  42. m&m

    April 6, 2009

    Kay, I am not sure that is entitlement. That is an ideal taught by our leaders, and wherever possible, imo, that is something to aim for. I don’t think we need to be afraid to say that. There is also, however, the recognition that that is not always possible, and we need to respect that as well.

    Only the Lord can help you know what is right right now in your life. But I don’t think you need to feel bad about wanting that ideal. Pray, pray, pray for guidance for you and this difficult situation. You and your husband are a team — find this answer together.

  43. Kay

    April 6, 2009

    I have just reread my my comment and realise how selfish and lazy it makes me look. I still want it with all mt heart though.

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