When controlling spending, you must take a fresh look at your lifestyle

You Need What?

by Hannah Augustine

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As a member of the human race, you need food. You also cannot live without a type of shelter, a roof perhaps. On the same note, you probably will not be able to live if you never sleep and so I suppose some sort of bed can be placed on the "can't live without" list. It would also be acceptable to add and justify a myriad of other much-needed things in life. However, our list of needs seems to have grown, expanded and bulged to include items previously found on the "luxury" list.

The "can't live without" list now includes a cell phone that will not only take pictures and video, but will access the Internet and alert us to our GPS location (that way we can watch the beeping light to see what is nearby rather than looking around ourselves). The list also contains the need for one thousand plus cable channels, including ones that no one will ever watch. We need shoes with little wheels on the heels so we can glide instead of walk, a two-wheeled skateboard-ish thing so we can wiggle instead of kick, and a remote starter so we can push down instead of turn the key.

While many gadgets of our day are undoubtedly cool, let's remember that something being hip is not the main qualification (or, more accurately, not a qualification at all) for it being a necessity. The truth is most "must haves" lead to more and more swipes of another "can't live without" item, the credit card. Eventually, those swipes equal a monthly bill that, more often than not, we receive it and find ourselves wondering, "What in the world did I buy?"

How about a return to the basics? Perhaps we could use a slow down in the snowball of spending. If you're an addict, start with an attainable goal like not buying any clothing items this week. If you're up to it, stretch yourself and make it a month. Declare one day a week as your break from consumerism: I won't buy anything on Mondays. Make a list of all the things you bought in the last year and hardly used. Keep that list in your wallet and reread it when you're tempted to make an impulse purchase. Think about big purchases in terms of how many hours at work it will take you to pay for it. If that doesn't help, think about those hours in terms of doing your most hated work task with your most hated co-worker.

Limit yourself to one or two beyond-the-basics purchases each month. You can make a game of this. Think about the contending items and compare them based on value, cost, and general coolness. Spend enough time deliberating so that you only end up buying the items you really want. Stick to your one to two items a month goal. You will be amazed at how many of the once contending "must have items" slip into forgotten whims.

It is okay to splurge, sometimes. It's okay to buy that one item that you've had your eye on. It's okay to exercise that ability to purchase those beyond-the-basics items and enjoy the fact that you are able to do so. Yes, rewarding yourself with a hip new purchase every now and then can be a good release of your budgeting willpower. This is assuming that prior to the purchase, you were exercising budgeting willpower. Good luck trying to redefine the things you need. In the end, it really will make you enjoy, all the more, those little splurges.

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