Needs vs. Wants

Needs and Wants

When it comes to funding all these somedays I have, I really wish I was independently wealthy. It sure would make it easier to go out and do or buy some of the things I want. But the reality is that I am not independently wealthy. I have to plan and save for these things.

There are so many temptations out there. All these daily deal sites that want me to buy their deal because, well, it’s a deal! I could save a lot of money if only I would buy something from them. And sure, many of these are truly great deals. For instance, I love books and so does BabyGirl. So when Groupon had the recent Barnes & Noble deal I got in on it.  I wanted it. I was saving 50%!

But did I need it.  Need it as in it is required for my daily living. I didn’t need to buy the Groupon deal. I wanted to. I wanted to save money that I knew I would end up having to spend. And it’s not often that a deal for a bookstore comes up. Clearly a want, not a need. And, sure I don’t need an iPhone. But because it makes doing business and keep connected with CycleGuy, I have one. For me, the convenience factor is a tradeoff with the cost factor.

I need heat and electricity and internet and food and gas for the car. But I don’t need to go out to eat when I know that it is cheaper and often more healthful to eat at home. Dining out is definitely a want. For me and my family. And even though heat is a need, I’ve decided that with an extra blanket and sweater I could avoid turning the heat on. I need to be comfortable in my home and I’ve found a way to do that without having to turn on the heat. It’s not for everyone, but it works for me an my family.

Budgeting is one way to look at Needs and Wants, and so is finding balance in your life.

We need clothing. We don’t need high-end couture fashion. It’s a matter of choice as to how need is defined when it comes to clothes. For some families, it’s acceptable to purchase pre-owned items. For others, thrift and consignment stores don’t even enter the picture. It’s another example of how need is defined differently for each family.

My friend Heather, whom you met yesterday if you read my Budget Date Night guest post, started a No Spend Month program for the month of February. Heather is already very frugal. She’s a work at home mom to three girls and her husband works in the tech field as well as at home doing the back-end work for Heather’s many websites. With 3 kids, all of whom have food allergies, she’s keenly aware of how wants and needs vary from family to family. Her food budget is seen as high by some, although she has to account for special foods that often don’t go on sale or have coupons. Safe foods are a need for every family. It’s just that for some family those safe foods are very expensive.

In talking with friends and looking at my family budget from last year, I realized that CycleGuy and I have a pretty good grasp on our family budget and overall spending. His living in another state makes things a bit more challenging. For example, coming back to Phoenix is a need for him. And while I miss him dearly, sometimes I see it as a want (especially when I see the airfare). I’ve examined some of my wants and reevaluated them so that we can fit his travel into our budget. We need to make it work for our family.

Schooling is another big category that is part want and part need. Again, it’s a very personal choice for a family to choose private school and say it is a need. Many may disagree, but none of this is for other people to judge. I choose to homeschool. With that comes different expenses and costs than if BabyGirl went to public school. We also see violin and french lessons as a need for her education. The money must come from somewhere, though.

It’s easy to say everything is a need. What it comes down to though is making hard choices. I’m not a music fanatic. CycleGuy is. For me new music from iTunes is a want. For him it’s a need. So we need to come together and find a balance. Heather talks about this, too. Which makes me feel good, because I know it’s not something I deal with alone.

Most, if not all, the things on my Someday List are wants. I’d have to look really closely to find a true need. It doesn’t mean they aren’t important. Each and every one is meaningful in some way to me. But a girl can’t live on needs alone!

Have you taken a close look at where you spend your money? What are your needs and wants?


The Importance of Understanding Food Freshness Dating

1951 Eggs
photo credit: Ethan Prater

We’ve all seen the ‘use by’ or ‘best by’ dates on food. And we know there there to protect us from eating spoiled foods. But recently I learned a little more about these food dates and was surprised to find what all of it means.

These ‘freshness’ dates are on all kinds of food. We expect it on food that has to be refrigerated. Pantry foods, if you’re like me then you know that after awhile things can get stale so you toss ’em. But more and more food manufacturers are highlighting these freshness codes not only so your food is at its peak but also to protect themselves from liability.

You pretty much know when milk has gone bad. Especially if you’ve ever poured it over your last bits of cereal and ….. Well, let’s just leave it at we know when milk has gone bad. But what about foods that don’t really ‘go bad’ but have ‘use by’ or ‘sell by’ dates? I love the great deals on foods the store marks down b/c it’s nearing the end of it’s time on the shelves. But is that really a good idea. And a good use of money?

I thought I’d share with you what some of these food freshness terms mean so you’re able to make better decisions as to how you spend your money and whether something really is a great deal or will you need to eat the 10 boxes of food so quickly or else you’ll end up tossing ’em.

Sell by” tells the store how long to display the product for sale. Buy these product before the date expires. This date is for the retailer, so the store knows when to pull the item. Feel free to reach to the back and get the one with the farthest out date. The focus is quality of the item (freshness, taste, and consistency) rather than whether it is going to spoil soon.

Best if used by (or before)” date. This is a quality issue, not safety of the item. This date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date. Sour cream, for instance, is already sour, but can have a fresher taste when consumed before this date.

Use by” date is the last date recommended for using the product at peak quality. The date is determined by the manufacturer of the product.

If you can’t consume 45 boxes of pasta in a year, then don’t buy it just because its $0.25 or even free. Dry pasta only lasts about 12 months before it will start to taste stale and flat.

And those marshmallows that go on sale after the holidays that you’re thinking you’ll stock up on and save until next year? They only have a shelf like of about 10 months. So if you do buy them, just double check them before using them after any date printed on the package.

One item in my fridge has always intrigued me. Worcestershire sauce. I don’t use it a lot. It’s more of a product I use to make marinades. But a few years ago I got a pack from Costco. It’s only 3 of us. When am I going to use that much Worcestershire sauce? So I gave one bottle away and kept the other.  That stuff has one of the longest shelf lives! I’m not sure if I should ever use it again, though, because if it can last in the refrigerator up to 10 years I’m not sure if it’s really a sauce or an embalming fluid. It just weirded me out.

Almost every product now has some sort of coding or date on it. Keep them in mind when you’re shopping so you get the freshest foods possible. And, if you’re stocking up try to keep your oldest items toward the front so you don’t end up wasting money.

I hope you found this information to be helpful. Fresh foods taste best and we deserve it! Are you ever concerned about or keep an eye on food freshness dating?


Being Frugal Does Not Mean Being Cheap

Money Pile

In this, ‘The Great Recession’, a lot has been said about people cutting back and spending less.  We’ve all seen the effects of this retraction from the free-flowing money days of just a few years ago.  Back then people thought I was cheap.  I’ve always had this seemingly abnormal fear of poverty.  I could blame it on my mom and spend years in therapy or I could embrace my cheapness.  Except, I wasn’t cheap! defines cheap as miserly or stingy.  These have a very negative connotation and I’m neither of these!  Sure, I may not want to spend $15 on a chicken sandwich for lunch but that’s just good sense in my mind.  I’m a bargain hunter, a deal seeker, a woman on a mission!  I’m not cheap, just ask my hubby.

So what does frugal mean?  Many people think cheap = frugal, so if you did then you’re likely in the majority.  Frugal has a bit of a negative tone to it but it sounds more 1960s June Cleaver-ish.  According to frugal mean practicing economy, living without waste, thrifty.  Now that’s me!  I choose not to spend my money on things I can instead plan ahead for on my own.

Frugal people definitely do things a bit differently.  They tend to spend, consumer and give differently.  It is all very purposeful rather than just about the dollars.  Both the frugal and the cheap often have the same tendencies — buying things on sale, eating at home, packing lunch, etc.  The difference, though, lies in the reason behind the choice.

A cheap person buys on price alone.  A frugal person tends to buy on value.

A cheap person will go out to dinner and spend his last dime.  A frugal person will invite you over for a nice home cooked meal.

A cheap person will buy something because it’s on sale.  A frugal person will buy something on sale if they have a need for it.

A cheap person will spend $10 on a gift you don’t want.  A frugal person will spend $5 on a gift they know you really want.

A cheap person acts in their own self-interest.  A frugal person makes decisions that is best for themselves and their family.

A cheap person eats out and doesn’t leave a tip.  A frugal person orders so they stay within their budget which includes an appropriate tip.

A cheap person often doesn’t care about quality.  A frugal person will often spend more for a quality item and considering the long term cost.

A cheap person won’t care about throwing things away since they have no value.  A frugal person will research ways to make something last longer.

A cheap person will complain about money.  A frugal person will discuss ways to make money go farther.

These aren’t scientific facts, just my perspective and opinion.  Being frugal is about making informed choices instead of impulsively acting.  I know I can’t have everything, but I can plan so that those things I do have are things I really want.  Being frugal isn’t about depriving myself or my family or my friends.  Rather, it’s a way of life that focuses on finding out what is really important.  So instead of telling yourself ‘I can’t afford it’, use frugal framing (like that fancy psychology phrase I came up with?) and say ‘I choose not to spend my money that way’.  Remember, being frugal doesn’t mean being cheap!