The Levels of Need

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?”

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