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Needs vs. Wants

  August 27

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Ah, the classic need vs. want debate seems to happen every day ’round here. Discerning the difference between needs and wants seemed so easy as a child, but once you add in adulthood, hubby, and bad puppy, the lines between these two ideas seems to get blurred. My personal philosophy on doing all things as budget friendly as possible means I say no to wants more often than I’d like (read: all the time). Of course, your wants probably differ from say, your Mr. Right’s wants. I’d love some feedback on how you decide what’s best for you and your family and when you decide to splurge. Here are some examples that we talk about all the time at my casa to cut costs and keep our spending as low as possible.

Need: A car that works.
Want: A new car. Mine has had so many repairs, I’ve lost count. It has 150,000 miles on it. I’ve had it through everything – including Category 5 Hurricane Katrina. This car survived the hurricane with me, traveled with me to many colleges, and has now made it through half of my grad school education. I’m emotionally attached to it. His name is Kal. But, I really WANT one of these (Note: I’m not asking for a Lamborghini here):

Solution: Continue to repair Kal and apologize profusely to him for searching for something new and better. The couple times a year repairs have all been less than a car payment would be, and so I keep him. He’s paid in full. But, my mouth will continue to drool and stare lustfully at all yellow bugs on the road. (I’ve wanted one since high school.)

Need: Food.
Hubby Wants: Fancy spices, fancy pots & pans, ingredients I’ve never heard of to make food.
I want: To eat Hubby’s food. Like all day long.

This is a tough one. The hubs is an awesome cook. He knows how to make things, like chocolate syrup when there is no chocolate syrup in the house. These things might seem normal to you, but are like magic to me. But, so often when we are sitting down and creating our “plan of attack” with coupons for the grocery store we talk about extras like steak and ice cream and my downfall, snacks for afternoon hunger. It really ends up always being me who is reminding sweet hubby that we can definitely eat pork chops instead of steak and hubby reminding me of all the times I proclaim loudly that I’m having a steak craving (I told y’all about my penchant for steak in this post). So, if you are the main money organizer in your family, how do you not seem like a nag all the time reminding your significant other just what you’ve got and what you can spend?

Here’s hubby planning his coupon attack:

Need: A break from work.
Want: Vacation x A Million
Solution: Try to take day trips.

I’ll admit. We’ve been spoiled travelers. I was unbelievably (ridiculously) fortunate enough to have a study abroad trip paid in full by my university back in the day. I still feel like crying when I think of how lucky I am that I got to have that experience. My then-boyfriend (current sweet hubby) was able to tag along with me at the end of my studies and we backpacked all over the place.

Of course, nice folks aren’t paying for my vacations in full anymore, so we wistfully watch the cooking channel when they travel to some of our favorite places! We actually booked a 3 day beach vacation for the end of the summer but after crunching some numbers a few weeks later, we made the hard decision to cancel it. We truly believe in not spending money that we don’t have. This is difficult in a world full of materialism and pretty, shiny, pink things. It is definitely a constant struggle to live by this rule and even harder for the hubs and I to consistently remind each other of our long term goals.

We get around these issues by doing things like taking day trips (there are so many pretty places to see in Virginia). We also (as you know) shop at estate sales and thrift stores to decorate our house and make it a place we enjoy living in. We sell things we don’t use anymore on eBay and to consignment stores. We cook at home a lot. We cash in credit card points for things like gas cards instead of magazine subscriptions. I should tell you that we’re definitely not always perfect with this system. The hubs and I have both bought things before we were married that we shouldn’t have. But, we make a constant effort to make decisions as a team since being married. We share a checking account completely and do not have separate his/hers “fun money” accounts (at least not right now). If we eat out, we try to make it a lunch out and order things like water instead of coke to cut costs. We buy fun things for each other as rewards or gifts not “just because.” Of course, all of these examples are in no way how everyone should live. These are just things that we try to practice day to day and have worked for us.

So, here’s where you come in. I’d love to hear all of your needs vs. wants opinions and how you run things over at your casa. I’m always up for new ideas on how to not seem like a stick in the mud all the time as well! Oh and if you happen to have a yellow bug that you’re giving away because you love my pink-and-green blog, you can tell me about that too. 😉

7 responses to “Needs vs. Wants

  1. Wow. I really admire your commitment to living within your means. I could certainly learn some lessons from you about it, so I will keep reading.

  2. Hi Cat,
    I can’t believe how similar we are. I was looking through your blog and I know that we are going to be great blog friends. keep up the good work!

  3. Great job on budgeting. Remember when Dad gave you a toy
    model of the new Yellow VW Bug and told you it came in an even
    SMALLER size???!!!

  4. I love this, such a good idea!

    And reading about your solutions has really inspired me to review what I’m up to!

    Hmm my biggest want vs need – I’d love a pet, but my partner very sensibly points out that I live in an apartment and I already have my mother’s cat when she travels (frequently).

    Our compromise is to make the most of the time we have with him 🙂

  5. I’m a mom of four young children and I’m in my fourties. We are JUST NOW doing what you are doing! It’s been two years of really tight living. We got into debt because of a money-pit of a house and medical needs for our two special needs kids. But, along the way, we stopped making the distinction between want and need. We “needed” a new roof. But we “wanted” architectural shingles. Those kinds of foolish decisions just added to our debt load. We will be out of debt in Mar ’11! I just wanted to encourage you to stay the course. You are a couple of smart, savvy, wise young people to make those kinds of choices for your lives! kuddos to you!

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