My Story: Wants versus Needs

contributed by Mary in WA


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Much of the emphasis of this website is to differentiate between "wants" and "needs." Sometimes, this is not very clear. There are things everyone needs, such as food, water, clothes, and a roof over our head. One does not necessarily need a computer or a phone. However, my life would be more complicated without them. And there are those things that add enjoyment or aesthetic value but are not necessarily practical. How do I decide whether to make that purchase or let it go?

Years ago, just before Christmas, my husband lost his job. We knew about this months in advance and had saved. (We were frugal as it was.) We were visiting my sister's family that Christmas and had purchased our discounted airplane tickets several months before. That Christmas morning, my sister unwrapped a brand new bread machine. I had never heard of a bread machine, but I was already "in love." For the duration of our vacation, we had wonderful bread. I decided that when I got home, I would scout around for a "cheap" bread machine. To my profuse disappointment, the cheapest I could find was $250. I tried to reason that no one I knew, other than my sister, had one, and it was a very impractical expenditure under the circumstances. Never the less, I knew I would use it. I decided that when it was feasible and when I found a cheaper price, I would buy one.

A month later, I found one for $100 cheaper. With my husband's approval, I bought it for my birthday. I still had a little trouble with the logic of that expenditure under the circumstances, but I knew it would bring joy to the whole family. (I still remember all of us looking through the little window with a flashlight at the rising bread the first time I used it.) For a pocket full of change and a little bit of time, we could have a lot of comfort food. I used that machine three to four times a week for ten years until it died a natural death. (I figured that I saved anywhere from $500-$1000 on baked goods over those years.) I now have a bread machine that cost less than a third of what I paid for that first one, but my kids are grown and I don't use it quite as much.

What is the moral of my story? Money in and of itself isn't worth anything. If the object of your desire is worth more than the cost and you don't have to go into debt to purchase it, follow your heart. On the other hand, money in the bank helps me sleep at night. I know it will be there when I need it.


"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by MyStory@stretcher.com

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