How to Use Ignorance as Your Secret Money Saving Weapon of Choice

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In a recent conversation, I felt a little out of the loop.  The crowd was discussing their favorite TV Shows.  My wife and I haven’t watched a single episode of any of the latest and greatest shows.  We don’t have cable or any sort of live TV.

Our source of TV/movie entertainment comes from a combination of Amazon Prime and Redbox.  Amazon Prime costs $79 per year ($6.58 per month), and in addition to free 2-day shipping, it gives members access to free Amazon Prime eligible movies and TV shows.  Since the Prime movie collection excludes a lot of recent movies, we’ll go to Redbox if we’re in the mood for a movie.

By going the Amazon Prime route, we also miss out on two pieces of advertising – previews of the hot shows coming up next and advertisements during a show.

Yesterday, I was at my in-laws’ house to watch some March Madness basketball, and I saw advertisements again.  I caught myself thinking – that would be an interesting show to watch.  Then I realized how much money it can save by being ignorant.

You can’t want to buy or participate in something you don’t know exists.  

Could there be a financial benefit to limiting your exposure to advertising and to all the latest and greatest advancements?  Most certainly.  Could you be doing a lot of unnecessary work because you’re not up to date with the newest releases?  Most certainly.

Somehow, we must seek to learn to utilize ignorance as a tool to produce the fruit of contentment.

The iSlick iPhone App Illustration

I have an app on my phone called iSlick.  This app highlights certain hot deals and items for sale.  I often wonder if the app actually saves or costs me money.  Sometimes I think it saves me money, and sometimes I know it costs me money.

Last month, iSlick highlighted a Starbucks promotion where I could get a $5 credit if I downloaded the iSlick app.  I’ve only ever been to a Starbucks once in my life, but who am I to pass up on a free $5?  In March, our family was supposed to fly out of the Denver airport early in the morning.  However, a snow storm the night before caused us to make the last minute decision to drive down to Denver the night before.  Driving in a snow storm made me crave a nice hot Starbucks drink.  My wife also wanted something, and so being a newbie Starbucks patron, I was intimidated by the ordering process.  I ended up getting two big (not official Starbucks terminology) hot chocolates.  The total cost was $7??.  I paid an extra $2 and change for my Starbucks order.

The point is this: had I not followed iSlick, I wouldn’t have known about the $5 Starbucks offer.  I wouldn’t have gone to Starbucks, and I’d be $2 ‘richer’ for it.  However, my money saving app allowed me to spend $2 I otherwise wouldn’t have spent.  Sure, I could say that I saved 70% at Starbucks, but that would only be true if I usually go to Starbucks.

This illustration is applicable to any ‘deals’ type website, apps, or products.  I’ve also questioned if Groupon actually saves money.

The Claws of Advertising

Over half of the things I own, I own because I was convinced that I needed something that I didn’t even know existed.  Yes, it is true that most of the things I have I’m also glad to own.  This post isn’t about ‘avoiding the evils of technology’.  Yet, the fact remains that the more you expose yourself to advertising, the more you’ll want what you don’t have.  Usually, we apply Paul’s call for contentment as follows:

Be content with what you have until they create something better.  Then purchase that item and commit to being content until the updated version comes out.  At that point, you should once again be content until new improvement are made.

It makes me wonder how do we really live out contentment (Phil. 4:11) in our ever-changing society?  What does contentment functionally look like in 2013?  Can I buy all the latest and greatest and still exemplify the contentment of the Bible?

I’ve got answers to these questions, but I want to hear what you have to say about it.


  1. says

    “Be content with what you have until they create something better. Then purchase that item and commit to being content until the updated version comes out. At that point, you should once again be content until new improvement are made.”

    That’s a good point. Here’s my story.

    When the iPhone 5 was released, there was a lot of chatter about those who bought that phone as soon as possible were lemmings, wasting money, etc.

    But here was my comeback to those who snarked “YOU got an iPhone 5?” And yes, that came from someone who knows I blog about finance.

    My reply: “My old phone was broke.”

    She couldn’t argue that point.

  2. Doug Over says

    I agree with this philosophy. I believe that being separated from the ads is a significant measure in not being tempted.

    We seldom watch movies from Hollywood, (like never), but my wife has a collection of old movies and musicals. Our entertainment/preparation for Sunday is a Gaither music video. We have gotten great pleasure in the movies from Sherwood Baptist church.

  3. Roger says

    You have illustrated the problem well, Craig. I am also a former missionary to a third-world country, and that experience has sensitized me to our wealth in the developed world and how much stuff we have. It is not just technology, though that is a significant amount, but stuff of all kinds. I was once in a small men’s group, having recently returned from our mission. I was bemoaning the temptations of stuff and explained how looking through all the ads in the Sunday newpaper caused me to want more stuff. Another man asked, “What are you going to do about it?” Then and there I decided to stop tempting myself in at least one way; I no longer go through all the Sunday ads as a matter of course. I might look for a specific item, but rarely do I just browse the ads. It has helped.
    After years of struggling with this, looking for the answer, I’m convinced there is no easy answer. We live in a materialistic world, and are bombarded by temptation every day, so we are going to be tempted. The solution is to build defenses such as the ones you and I have described that help us “beat back” the world as it tries to encroach on us.

  4. Joe Robertson says

    Likewise, right before I left on a short mission trip a couple of years ago, the main thing aggravating me was how to straighten out a problem with a satellite TV contract. After working with “dirt-poor” people in Mayan villages in the Yucatan peninsula, I came back. I couldn’t believe what had been my major concern before. It always does my heart (and priorities) some good to simplify my life, and see what really should be important to me.

  5. says

    Yep, I’ve always known that ignorance was bliss, and only in the past few years have I sought to use it for happiness.

    My wife and I have a very nice TV, but we agree that we spent too much on it, and when we actually need to buy a new one, we do not want one that is bigger or better.

    However, it’s easier said than done.

    And it’s kind of like how I can’t keep myself away from the new candy in my house, even though I know I wouldn’t complain if we had none in the house, like the past 6 weeks. If I somehow forgot about that candy, I’d have a much healthier diet right now.

  6. Ted Calvert says

    Discontent has probably been the stimulant for many of the good decisions I have made in life & Paul hardly lived a passive life himself, so discontent is not itself wrong. Paul said he learned to be content – to me implying we choose our contentment rather than let advertisers / “the Jones next door” decide if I am content or not. Ignorance is wonderful but because there is actually useful stuff out there we each need a protective technique that works for us. We each have our techniques to avoid the flu each year mainly based around avoiding viruses or fortifying ourselves against contact.

    What works best for me is a mix of:
    1. Keeping a list of what I may need soon (looking for best value for money before I need it now) so it is a targeted search
    2. Reminding my self “They are not my friends, it is my money they want”
    3. Plenty of plans for how else I can spend discretionary money

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