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Is It “Need” or “Want”?

by Lynn G. Coleman

Credit card debt is depressing and debilitating, yet many of us
think we can’t live without it — literally. But the reality is
that we probably do not “need” many of the things we buy,
and I’m not just talking about lattes.

Ben and Judy were sick of spending more than they earned
and decided to go on a serious budget. They intended to pay
cash for everything and save for luxuries. However, when
they worked out their budget, they saw a big problem: They
spent more on
basic living expenses than they earned. Even
clipping coupons and packing lunches for work didn’t make
much of a dent. Ben and Judy's monthly budget is shown in
the chart. Are they right that everything is necessary?
Income
 
Salary (net)
    $3,818.00
Est. interest
    200.00
Total Income
    4,018.00
Expenses
 
Autos (use/upkeep)
    230.00
Auto payment
    450.00
Cable TV
    98.00
Clothing
    200.00
Computer expense
    50.00
Entertainment/
recreation
    400.00
Gifts/donations
    150.00
Groceries/
household
    600.00
Grooming (hair, spa)
    200.00
Miscellaneous
(cleaners, etc.)
    50.00
Mortgage
    1,700.00
Telephone/cell phones
    150.00
Utilities
    130.00
Total Expenses
    4,408.00
Balance
    (390.00)
Yep, they were right — or were they?

I immediately saw some additional savings in their so-called
necessities. First, we do not “need” a cell phone; we “want”
a cell phone. People did not walk around with phones glued
to their ears until about 10 years ago. We still communicated,
we still had friends, we still lived full lives. Don’t start telling
me it’s necessary for security. If you have to work or travel in
dangerous areas or worry about your car breaking down, even
a deactivated cell phone will dial 911. And frankly, I haven’t
heard of too many people being saved from tragedy because
they had their cell phone handy.

Second, we do not “need” a computer; we “want” a
computer. Sure surfing the net is fun, but it’s a luxury. You
and the kids/grandkids can still do research at the library.
Need to take work home? Fine, then you should be able to
expense the computer to your employer.
Five signs you are
living beyond your
means.

Check out these
f
rugal living
articles.

If you love Ella
Fitzgerald (as I
do), watch this
YouTube video of
her performing
“Give Me the
Simple Life” from
the 1969 Montreux
Jazz Festival.
Ben & Judy's Budget
Third, cable TV. “Want” not “need,” sorry. You might need basic cable (about $16 a month in most
areas) to get a signal, but we lived out 40+ years of our lives with only a few channels to watch.
Why we suddenly think we can’t live without 120 is puzzling. Besides, there’s nothing on anyway.

Same goes for Blackberries, iPods, Xboxes, and Wiis. We don’t “need” them.

Kitchen remodeling: “want.” New car: “want” (if you live in a major city with public transit, any
car is “want” rather than “need”).

I hear people screaming now: “I need my car!” No you don’t. I grew up in Chicago and spent 47
years without a car.  Now that I have one I think I “need” it, but I don’t.  I just don’t want to ride
the bus because it takes longer and I can’t buy as much stuff when I shop (a good thing, no?).  
When I didn’t own a car, I paid a nominal fee for grocery delivery and took taxis if I was out late at
night — all much, much cheaper than owning a car.

What else do we think we can’t live without in this modern world?
Send me your ideas to share
(and let me know if you want to remain anonymous).