Danielli's Money Saga Part the Third: The Hard Reality of "Need" vs. "Want"

7 years ago
Television set in swimming pool

It has been almost three months since I first pledged to improve my financial health in Part 1 and Part 2 of my money saga. While I still have a long way to go before I’m where I want to be, I can confidently say that I’m making progress. I’m starting to feel less like Old Mother Hubbard and more like the Little Engine That Could.

Some milestones:

  • My savings account is no longer for show. There’s money in it—in the triple digits ... $276.19 to be exact!
  • I’m becoming a financial nerd. By doing my homework and taking some action, I’ve been able to cut costs on some expenses. For instance, I talked to my doctor about medication alternatives and now pay $30 less each month ... breathing room is nice!
  • I’m starting to feel in control. No more delinquent bills and the shame that goes with them!

The biggest thing, overall, is that I’m becoming more aware of my financial self and behavior. As a result, certain things are becoming more instinctive, like passing up the pre-washed, pre-sliced apples at the grocery store for whole fruit instead. It may seem trivial to most, but for me, it’s a responsible financial move that represents progress.

My current focus: Understanding needs versus wants. To some degree, these are pretty black-and-white.

Needs (Go for it!): Rent, bills, groceries, medication, dog food, parking tickets ...

Wants (Whoa, horsey!): Videogames, jewelry, Starbucks, Hawaiian vacations, a French bulldog ...

Unfortunately, life is also fraught with gray areas that can throw you into a tizzy. I call these the “in-betweens,” a hybrid of what you want but may also need. These are things I could probably live without ... but the question is, should I?

In-Betweens: Haircuts, clothing, shoes, girls nights out, pedicures, art supplies ...

It's true that I may not need any of these things. But they do help me feel good, confident and ... balanced. For instance, I know that I can save money by staying home on Friday nights, especially since my fiancé and I can always have a good time together, even if we’re doing something as mundane as laundry. But I enjoy spending time with my girls, venting and gossiping over appetizers and wine. And, since I spend the majority of my day being a corporate drone, I like to keep my sanity and creativity alive by drawing and painting. And while no one but me can probably tell I haven’t had a haircut in over six months, there’s something about starting a new season with a fresh look. It’s invigorating.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that I can’t live without these things. I need some shades of gray. But with in-betweens, it’s really easy to go overboard. So I guess that’s my next step: Figure out how to fit these things in while still being able to move forward financially.

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