As I was reading a book by one of my favorite authors the other night, I came across a line in the story that really made me think – “We can live without the things we need, but we will fight to the death for the things we want.”
Let’s think about the things we need….food, water, shelter….and for all intents and purposes, people in our lives to love. But could you really forego any of those things if it meant you could have something that you wanted more than anything? Case in point – the release of the latest IPhone. I have some friends who have talked about nothing but the new phone since Apple announced its debut. Frankly, I don’t understand it. Do I want to sacrifice a month’s worth of groceries, electricity, water, cable and internet in order to afford to buy the newest version of the IPhone when the one I have works just fine? Ummmmmmmm…that would be a big fat NO! Granted, not all of us have to face this type of decision…unfortunately, I am not one of them and I struggle from paycheck to paycheck…but I digress.
The sad thing is that our society has become so confused over the difference between a “need” and a “want” – and trust me, there is a difference; they are not interchangeable. Sure, we all see, hear or read about things that we want to try, a new gadget or a new outfit…but do we really need those things? The majority of the time, the answer is no.
I have learned the hard way that if we focus more on those things we want, rather than those we need, we will be totally screwed in the end. As a young adult, I admit I didn’t care. If I saw something I wanted, I bought it regardless of the consequences down the road. Can’t pay my car payment this month? Who cares…I NEEDED a new outfit. Running behind on my credit card bills? Sorry…but I NEEDED a mani-pedi to go with the new shoes I got with my new outfit. Um…..hello??? Wake up and smell the debt! These are WANTS, not NEEDS and they do not pay the bills.
Since I’ve grown up a bit (hopefully) I now find myself questioning everything I buy. Yes, there are times I have made mistakes, but lately when I see something I’d like to have I ask myself three questions:
- Do I have enough money to pay my bills and buy groceries this month? (If the answer is no, then there is no need to proceed to question 2).
- Why do I need/want this particular item? (How many of you have answered this question with, “I don’t know…I just do”). Again…this is a “want” response and does not indicate “need”.
- What are the benefits if I make the purchase right now? (Usually the answer to this question is excitement – again, not a “need” emotion.)
There are many frivolous things I’ve bought over my 40+ years on this Earth and if I could return all of them for a refund, I would have the start of a nice little nest egg when I retire.
The moral of the story is this…next time you see a commercial or ad about a new product or pass by a store window and “absolutely fall in love” with what’s there, take a minute and walk away. You’d be surprised how trivial the “item you can’t live without” becomes.