Monday, August 25, 2008

Necessities That Aren't

Sure, the article was published back in June, but I just now found it. And it piqued my interest:

Bankrate: 12 New Necessities That Drain Your Cash

Author Jay MacDonald gives us a list of twelve items which, he says, current American society deems "necessities." As he writes:

However, modern life has created a host of "new necessities" that many people swear they cannot live without -- a daily latte, premium cable, a weekly manicure, a new leased automobile and cell phones for the family.

In reality, there's a more accurate word for those pricey add-ons: entitlements.

Just for kicks 'n' giggles, I wanted to take a look at Jay's twelve "necessities that aren't" and see where I stand on each one. So here goes.

Daily Latte
My wife and I love good coffee just as much as the next couple, but you'll see us standing in line at Starbucks maybe once per month. I do occasionally order coffee beans over the 'net, and I most certainly do brew my java at home (as in, every morning). But you'd never find me spending $4 or $5 per day on coffee. Not a chance.

Cable TV
Guilty as charged. We do have cable TV, complete with a host of premium channels (HBO, Showtime, etc.) and HD programming. If times became tough, I could easily give up the premium channels. The rest of it? Tougher. But it could be done.

Uhhh ... whatever. Not an issue for my wife or myself.

Seriously? This is a necessity for WHO outside Hollywood?

Bottled Water
I drink my share of this stuff. But the article seems to imply that folks invest in home-delivery services for water, and I'm not in that league by any stretch. A big ol' tray of Aquafina bottled water costs me less than $4 at Sam's Club. And even then, we reuse the bottles with water from our Brita filter pitcher (and at my work, the Ozarka service).

Second Car
Sort of depends on the household, doesn't it? Ours is certainly a two-car family (well, three cars, if you count the rarely-driven '67 Mustang in our garage). My '95 Nissan truck's long since paid for, and our '06 Accord will be likewise in a few months. If dire financial times came along, could we become a one-vehicle family? Could carpooling become a household task?

Some consideration of the idea suggests that my work schedule, and our kid's school schedule, would make this somewhat challenging. But since Lisa (my wife) is a SAHM, it could be done.

How much money might be saved this way? For us, with both vehicles paid for, the financial benefits are negligible at best.

Cell Phone
I have one (partially paid by my employer), and Lisa has one. In a pinch, I'd sooner give up our home phone service.

Lawn Service
Guilty as charged (again). Lawn service (the weed n' feed kind) cost us $205 this year for the annual plan; that's about $17 per month. I'd give it up in a heartbeat if conditions warranted.

I do mow and edge my own lawn, thank you very much, which is the sort of "lawn service" that the article was actually discussing:

The average cost for weekly mowing, hedge trimming and leaf blowing is $65 to $90. It's hardly a savings to shell out $260 to $360 a month, is it? Mow your own and save the dough.

Everybody needs 'em. And if you have growing-up kids, you need 'em constantly. Sure feels like it, anyway. So far this year, our three-person household has spent just a shade under $1,200 on clothing. So yeah, this is an appreciable expense, and one we could slice considerably. But I wonder about this comment from the article:

"I think most Americans could easily go for one year without buying any new clothes," Yeager says.

No new socks? No new undies? Surely he jests.

Private School
As concerned parents who are getting our first glimpse of the public-school system in about twenty years, Lisa and I have considered this. The monthly private-school dues are stout, indeed, and the recommended school in our area is WAY across town. Yecch.

I can't say whether private school is in our daughter's future or not, but I can say this: It is not a necessity in any circumstance I can envision.

Childhood Parties
No extravagance on our part here — not yet, anyway. Birthdays at home or at McDonald's have been just fine to this point.

I can't see how anyone not about to end up on Oprah or Dr. Phil could possibly consider this to be a necessity.

Pet Grooming/Walking
We have two cats, for cryin' out loud. As pets go, we might as well have named them "Low" and "Maintenance."

Stuff I'd Add to the List

I'm good with most all of the expenses on MacDonald's list. But what about:

Eating Out
Especially at lunchtime and during working hours. Most of the people I know couldn't imagine bringing their own lunches each day. Sacrilege!

Broadband Internet
I'd sooner give up cable TV than my cable internet. A LOT sooner.

What else am I missing? What sort of stuff is out there now that folks consider to be "necessities," but in reality are just "niceties?"

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— Posted by Michael @ 8:52 AM


I would add books and magazines to the list. Use your local library for your recreational reading. At our library, you can also borrow movie DVD's, which saves rental fees.


CREDIT!!! I will give Dave Ramsey his due, but the number of Americans who would cut up the cards, not re-finance the home, not buy the new car, etc. are few and far between.

Therefore, credit must be a necessity! Right?????

Anonymous Anonymous
, at 9:54 PM, August 25, 2008  

Electronics upgrades. Just because there's a fancy new cell phone or iPod or PDA on the market doesn't mean you have to run out and get it!

** Comments Closed on this Post **

Thoughts on my personal finances, goals, experiences, motivations, and accomplishments (or lack thereof).

My financial life began turning around when I took responsibility for it.
— Dave Ramsey


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Currently: $0
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