Wednesday, April 2, 2008

You Still Have Your Arms and Your Legs

In light of the economy many people are having to make some financial cuts in order to stay atop the rising costs of day to day living. This is a good lesson is wants versus needs. Needs are food, shelter, & clothing, the bare necessities to keep a human being alive. Many could argue that in America we could also lump transportation so we can get to/from work as a need to be able to get food, shelter and clothing. I believe that is valid. However cable television is not. When we speak of wants we all know that this means things that you could live without - cable, a new Wii, designer clothing, etc. So in today's economy, how can one discern between what you really need and want?

Ask yourself these few questions:

1. Can I get by without it? Let's use the example of cable television. Some could argue that this is actually a need because they are trying to save money by cutting out any outside entertainment whatsoever. You could reason that this is actually less money than going out to eat or a movie or some other form of entertainment. I believe this could be deemed logical reasoning if you were not having your house foreclosed on you. If you are trying to cut back and do so by eliminating all other forms of entertainment including eating out and settle for just keeping cable so you can be entertained at home for an amount that you can expect and budget each month I think this is feasible. But not so if you cannot pay your fixed bills. You need to cut the cable out completely.

2. Do I want to trade my time for this item? I have always looked at a purchase in terms of how much time it would take for my husband to work to earn that amount. Let's say that you are looking at buying a $15 sweater at Target. Great deal right? $15 sweater! Yay that's a bargain! But what if your husband, the sole breadwinner of your family, makes $15/hour at his job? Your husband would have worked an hour of his life, an hour he cannot get back, for you to have that sweater. Is it really worth it to you that your husband, or you for that matter, worked an entire hour for that sweater? When you look at your purchases in these terms you might find yourself hanging things back on the rack.

3. Are you having to choose between a want and a need? Let's say you have a few kids and would like them to take soccer lessons, or piano, or whatever they want to do. Granted it is nice to let your kids take lessons but not if it means paying for the lessons or the power bill. 60 years ago kids rarely took lessons like they do now and still they turned out alright. Your kids are not going to suffer just because they don't play T-ball this year. Perhaps they will develop their imagination since they will have to find things to do for themselves outside while they play. I can think of worse things for a child to develop rather than their imagination.

4. Can this be temporary? So what if you have to cut the cable? So what if you can't let your kid play soccer this year or get that new sweater you like? This is only temporary. Once you have your financial bearings then you can let yourself breathe a little bit and add back in some of the things you are cutting back on now. Nothing is forever. You'll like another sweater. You'll probably read more or devote time to getting your financial life back on track when you cut the cable. Your kids can play soccer next season because by then you will have put aside money to plan for that expense (hopefully).

5. Finally, and most importantly, look at how others live - I'm not talking about the Joneses either. I just read this book "Three Cups of Tea" about the plight of one man who goes into remote regions in the last 15 years to build schools in little villiages where young girls never had the opportunity to be educated. All I could think of was how blessed and fortunate we are to live in a civilized country. They did not even have clean water and the infant mortality rate was so high that 1 in 3 infants died before age 1. Many mothers died in childbirth. The man, Greg Mortenson, brought medical care, vocational training and built schools for $12,000, so nothing fancy and these people were able to haul themselves up by their bootstraps and begin to work themselves out of poverty. They would have loved to have what the person on government assistance in the US has now. Yet people who are poor in this country complain that they cannot get ahead. Try living in a mud hut and drinking dirty water all the while living in a harsh climate near the Himalayas where temperatures hover around 0 degrees and make a living. Someone is always more worse off than you. Not that you should take comfort in this but let this be your snap back to reality - as bad as it seems you are still not as bad off as you could be. You still have all your arms and legs, since they have not been blown off by a landmine. You have a source of income and if you don't then you can get assistance from your government to help you so you don't starve to death like those children you see on television in Africa. Let's hope you have a car and don't have to walk 12 miles to the nearest town to get supplies for your village. You have heat or air conditioning. The next time you feel pity for how your life is progressing take a look at how others live. It will put things in a new perspective for you and perhaps you might become grateful for the position you are in currently.

1 comment:

Jerry said...

We just made a big cut-back this afternoon, selling one of our cars. While we will miss it in some ways. (How goofy is that to be emotionally attached to a vehicle... but I kinda teared up as I pulled out our daughter's car seat - lots of happy memories). But hey, we will be happy to enjoy the insurance savings as well as the gas savings.