Rethinking Your Wants and Needs

Wants and Needs

We’re constantly bombarded with messages from the media, telling us we need to buy this or that. We start believing those messages, too, because they also warn us that, unless we purchase the latest and greatest — we’re missing out.

And when we look at our social media accounts, we see the lives our friends and family are living. It’s so easy to forget all we have to appreciate when we think, “so-and-so has more fun/money/friends/stuff” and so on.

From advertisements that push us to mass consumption, to financial products like credit cards that allow us to acquire stuff without actually paying for it, our society encourages instant gratification.

It makes sense that people favor convenience over frugality and simplicity. We no longer care to differentiate between wants, necessities, and wishes, because we can just charge everything and think about it at a later date.

It’s easier that way.

But it’s also led us to think common discretionary expenses such as cable, coffee, new cars, and dining out are things we can’t live without. These are 100% wants, not needs.

People are simply too accepting of the fact that everyone else pays for it. It’s easier to think, “why not me too?” than it is to question what truly make up your wants and needs.

Let’s Set the Record Straight on Wants and Needs

True necessities never change. We all need water, food, clothing, and shelter to survive.

Our ancestors didn’t get to live a life of luxury with cable, smartphones, or fast food restaurants. Those are conveniences, and we pay a hefty premium to enjoy them.

In order to cut back on spending, it’s important to remember that. If you were to lose your job tomorrow, would you continue spending on these luxuries? Chances are, you’d cancel your cable subscription before you’d stop shopping for groceries.

It’s obvious that as a society, we need to change our financial priorities. We need to start rethinking wants and needs.

Wants Disguised As Needs That You Can Learn to Live Without

Because of our culture of convenience, we started to believe that some wants are vital to our being. They’re not!

Even though it might seem like living without TV is impossible, we’re confident you could if you had to. Keep this in mind the next time you want to buy something you think is a necessity.

When you want that shiny new car with a $30,000 price tag, ask if something cheaper could do the job. The answer will be yes. You don’t need a top-of-the-line vehicle to get around.

Let’s look at some other wants that are worth rethinking:

Daily Lattes: Yes, it’s an overstated fact that buying your overpriced coffee is a habit that’s expensive. And perhaps this one habit won’t kill your finances for good — but unless a daily latte is the only indulgence on this list, you may want to consider cutting back. You’re looking at over $1,000 spent on expensive coffee each year.

Cable TV: There’s next to no excuse for still having a cable subscription when there are so many alternative streaming services out there. Get Hulu+, Netflix, or Amazon Prime for less than $10 per month, instead of paying $100, $150, or $200 plus for a cable, Internet, and phone package.

Cell Phone: And speaking of phones, you can probably cut back in this area too. Start by not buying a new smartphone every six months to a year. Sure, technology gets outdated fast — but a 2 year old iPhone that was taken care of will still function just fine. Space out your cell phone purchases. Or consider switching to something like Republic Wireless, which offers smartphone plans from $5 to $40 per month.

Beauty Routines: While getting your hair done, going to the spa, getting a massage, or treating yourself to a manicure/pedicure on a weekly basis sounds nice, it’s hurting your wallet. Try cutting down on how often you go to start. Then take a good hard look at what you could do yourself at home for a fraction of the cost (think doing your own nails).

Anti-Aging Solutions: All of these products and surgeries come with a high price tag. Embrace aging, because it’s not going to stop. You might be temporarily delaying things, but sooner or later nature will catch up with you. It’s an invitation to a round of endless spending.

Bottled Water: Did you know they have Brita water bottles now, as well as pitchers? If you fill them up with tap water, they’ll automatically filter out the harmful chemicals. It’s a one-time investment as opposed to constantly buying a $4 or more pack of bottled water. There are also many filtration systems you can get built into your faucet. You don’t need bottled water anymore.

Plus, ditching the bottled water habit is eco-friendly, too! Waste less, save more.

Children’s Parties: The extent to which parents will go to celebrate anything involving their children can be great (and detrimental). We all love our children, but keeping your finances in order will be a better present for them down the road. Show your love and appreciation for them in a way that doesn’t involve pricey gifts or parties.

Gym Memberships: What’s the first thing you do when you commit to getting in shape? For many, it’s to sign-up for the gym. However, there’s no reason you can’t try getting into shape for free before making that commitment. There are plenty of YouTube videos out there that show you how to use bodyweight exercises (no equipment needed), and there’s always yoga, running, or hiking.

Pet Expenses: Pets are great family members, but they come with their own set of costs, too. Between food, grooming, and walking, you could be paying over $100 every few months. Instead, purchase a cheap pair of electric clippers to groom your dog, and make time to walk your furry companion.

Not to mention the pet itself. If you’re thinking of adding a four-legged member of the family, remember to adopt, don’t shop. Purebred pets can cost over $1,000. An animal from the shelter or a rescue group will likely cost about $100 in adoption fees — and you’ll give a loving animal a well-deserved forever home.

Further Items to Strike from the Budget

If none of these apply to your own spending patterns, consider these additional costs that many people classify as “needs” when they’re really just wants:

  • Single-purpose kitchen tools and appliances
  • Most technology (sure, Fitbits are cool. But do you really need to spend $100 or more for a glorified pedometer?)
  • Designer furniture (or even new furniture, if hand-me-downs are available from family and friends)
  • The most expensive version of anything

If you have any of these items or indulge in anything on this list, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But if you feel like you’re constantly short on money, or complain there’s nothing left over at the end of the month, or can’t make any progress on your goals to save and invest…

It’s time to take a good hard look at your spending and re-evaluate your wants and needs.

So, ask yourself: are there any wants you think you need to reconsider?

Reflect on your values in life and what you’re currently getting out of your expenses. Are they worth the money you’re paying, or would you be better off putting that money to use elsewhere?

Don’t fall for convenience. Always question why you’re spending your money, and you’ll stop automatically accepting that you have to buy things because you “need” them.

Knowing When to Go Pro

Hiring a professional financial planner could possibly be the key that unlocks the door to your financial success.  At the same time, choosing the right advisor to work with is an important decision that can often seem overwhelming.  In today’s show, we discuss the services that planners will and will not provide as well as key things to look for when hiring a pro.

In the March edition of MoneyAdviser, Consumer Reports outlined what typical fee-only planners will and won’t do for their clients:

What they will do:

  • Help you figure your net worth:  Typically, a planner will have the client gather the necessary data and then create a statement to uncover other planning opportunities, such as insurance analysis or estate planning.  (Do-it-yourself tip:  Collect current statements for all assets and liabilities and use an online net worth calculator, such as Mint or Yodlee, to determine your net worth each year.)
  • Advise you on 401(k) investments:  Your planner should be looking at all the pieces of your financial puzzle, including your 401(k) to ensure that your saving and investing goals line up across the board.  (Do-it-yourself tip:  See if your 401(k) plan sponsor offers access to investment guidance or check out the online retirement-planning program, Financial Engines, for additional support.)
  • Help you invest a lump sum:  A planner should be able to offer tax-efficient investment advice to their clients, as this is a core activity of financial planning.  (Do-it-yourself tip:  Use Morningstar software to research mutual funds and stocks for your portfolio.  Also, check out Bo’s Money-Minute about investing in a lump sum vs. dollar cost averaging.)
  • Determine if you’re properly insured:  Your planner should be able to evaluate your insurance needs, as well as refer you to an agent that can provide the coverage.  (Do-it-yourself tip:  Do as much research as possible and shop around for the best rates.)
  • Assess if you’ve got enough to retire:  A planner can determine whether you are on track for retirement or if you need to explore other options, such as working longer or changing your lifestyle.  (Do-it-yourself tip:  Assess your potential income sources, including Social Security, and use an online tool to calculate where you stand.  Consumer Reports recommends T. Rowe Price’s Retirement Income Calculator and Analyze Now’s Free Retirement Planner.)
  • Coordinate your retirement income:  Planners can determine the best method for drawing funds from your various retirement accounts, while considering tax consequences.  (Do-it-yourself tip:  Consumer Reports advises that unless your retirements consists entirely of Social Security and a pension, you might want to consult a professional on this one.)
  • Help you plan for college funding:  A planner can guide you on the best ways to finance your child’s education.  (Do-it-yourself tip:  Visit www.collegeboard.com, www.savingforcollege.com, and www.finaid.com for additional resources.)

What they won’t do:

  • Help you pay down debt:  As a general rule, fee-only financial planners refer such clients to a debt counselor or a bankruptcy attorney.  (Do-it-yourself tip:  Contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling if you need help with debt.)

The gray area:

  • Help you control your spending:  While many planners recommend following a budget, it’s not cost effective for you or the planner to spend hours together developing a detailed budget.  Most planners are interested in overall cash flow and will recommend cutting back if needed.  (Do-it-yourself tip:  Create a spreadsheet or utilize budgeting software like Quicken, Yodlee, or Mint.)
  • Create an estate plan for you:  Planners can help you decide the structure and tax efficiency of your estate, but an estate-planning attorney will be needed to draw up wills, trusts, and end-of-life documents.  (Do-it-yourself tip:  Contact an attorney to prepare or review your documents.)

If you decide that hiring a financial planning professional would be beneficial for you, the following credentials should stand out to you:

  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP):  holder has passed a 10-hour exam, has at least three years’ financial planning experience, and has completed an approved course of study.
  • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC):  requires eight college-level courses in financial planning and 30 hours of continuing education every two years.
  • Certified Public Accountant/Personal Financial Specialist (CPA/PFS):  CPA with specialized training in personal finance.
  • NAPFA – Registered Advisors:  holder meets strict education and professional requirements for membership in the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, for fee-only planners.
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA):  holder completes a series of three six hour exams and has four years of qualified work experience.

Hopefully this information will be helpful if you are considering hiring a professional to guide your finances.  Check us out on Facebook, YouTube, and please leave any questions or comments below!

 

Links to other things mentioned in today’s show:

Is This the End of Popping Vitamins?
On the Job, Beauty Is More Than Skin-Deep