Sometimes we just need to get back to the basics. What is your definition of a need? How do you define a want? A popular movement in America is the minimalist approach. By their lifestyle and desire to be free from debt, many are getting rid of all but the basics to live a simpler life. On the other hand we have people laden with heavy debt because they’ve over-indulged in acquiring things. In fact, we’ve lost a sense of what we need in life versus what we think we need. It is so easy to grasp onto the extreme way of handling finances rather than being diligent in finding a right balance. So what constitutes a genuine need?

NEED is:

Necessary for survival:

Eating- Food is necessary to survive. In America we have an overabundance of convenient, rich, succulent foods. However, most cultures around the world can survive on simple grains, vegetables, legumes, and fruits. Meat is a luxury, unless you don’t mind eating hunted foods. It is possible in hard financial times to eat inexpensively if you exercise the self discipline to plan ahead and prepare less convenient foods.

Ensemble- We all need clothing to shelter our bodies, keep us warm, and make us presentable. Visit thrift shops and discount stores to find the clothing you need. In our culturewe often let fashion define who we are. But in reality you could get by with undergarments, socks, one or two pair of shoes (depending on your job), bottoms and tops.

Dwelling- You need a place to live. So many people get into a bind by renting or purchasing a home far outside of a logical and reasonable budget. Find a clean, safe place that serves the purpose of keeping you and your family out of the elements that fits into your budget.

So what constitutes a want? Here are some popular things that our modern society will often say are needs, but in reality, if someone wants to be honest, a person could live without.


Wheels- If you don’t have the money for a vehicle or for the basic upkeep of a vehicle, research your alternatives. Can you walk, ride a bike, use public transportation, ask for a ride, carpool, etc? We recently heard of James Robertson, a Detroit man who walked 21 miles to and from work every day since 2005. He came to everyone’s attention because a college student heard of his plight and started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for him. He is a modern day example of working hard and surviving without a vehicle.

Activities- “I need to do stuff.” Think about ideas to engage in free and appropriate activities. Libraries, parks, playgrounds, and community events are a few ideas that offer alternatives with vast opportunities.

Network: Internet, phone, etc. Everyone needs to be accessible right? Use a prepaid cell phone plan. Utilize the free Wi-Fi offered at most public places. Don’t pay unnecessarily “for home use” if you need to find ways to save money. Or stay at the cheapest tier possible. It might be a little slower but at least you have access when you want it.

Television- I remember hearing in an education setting that every child needed to have a television to stay in touch with society. But if you can’t afford a basic access, don’t overextend yourself for entertainment. You and your kids have plenty of interaction with society. Most schools have educational videos they play during class. Newer TVs are usually programmed so you can use antennae to get local content. Save up for a one time purchase of a TV antennae and still access TV in your home.

The bottom line is: If you cannot afford it, you might not truly need it. Once you’ve managed your debts and paid them down you might be able to reincorporate your wants back into your lifestyle comfortably. Work to get back to the basics!

Guest Blogger: Ester Johnson, AFC®

May 06, 2015

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