It’s so hard to stop money from flowing out of my checking account when there are so many things that I need! But when I stop and think about it, there are a lot of different levels of “need.”
I need to pay my bills. Housing, my car loan, my utility and credit card bills. These absolutely NEED to be paid. Everything after that has some variation to it.
I NEED to have clothes to wear. I don’t necessarily need to buy new clothes. I may be fine with the clothes already in my closet. If I absolutely need something I don’t already have, I may be able to find what I need secondhand. The State College Goodwill Store and the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store are two of my favorite shopping spots. And if I don’t find what I’m looking for there, I check ThredUp or Poshmark for online secondhand clothing. Most of the clothing I own came from one of these four sources. It’s pretty rare that I buy clothing brand new. I need to have clothes. I don’t need to have new clothes.
Food is another need that has a lot of degrees to it. I NEED to consume food to sustain my life. I need that food to be healthy enough to meet my nutritional needs. I don’t, however, need that food to be processed or pre-packaged, or ready to eat at the time of purchase. I’ve been focusing a lot this year on buying real food and cooking it into healthy meals rather than focusing on ready to eat freezer foods. It takes more time to cook from scratch. I spend a lot of time on the weekends making ahead some meals for the coming week. But for that effort, I’m getting a lot healthier food for a lot less money. And because those meals are prepared ahead of time, I don’t spend extra money on restaurant food. I NEED to eat. I don’t NEED to eat out or eat prepared foods. Sometimes a meal at a restaurant is a nice treat…but it’s not a necessity.
I NEED to get myself to work every day. I typically accomplish that by driving my 2012 Subaru. But the reality is that my car is not a necessity. I could take the bus to work and back. I could ride my bike to work. I could carpool. There are a lot of options other than owning a car. I CHOOSE to own a car and I accept the expenses of fuel and maintenance and insurance and parking that come with that. But my car is not something I need. It’s something I WANT and I have it because the ease it provides me is a priority to me.
There are a lot of levels in between what you NEED and what you WANT. Wherever your priorities lie will determine where you spend your money. The next time you are making a purchase ask yourself, “Do I need this?”