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Do We Really Need It?

The clear, sweet, small voice floated to me from the store's next aisle: "I NEED this, Mommy!"

I don't know what the child "needed" or what her Mommy's response was, but it got me thinking about what we really need in this life, and what we just think we need.

Our true needs are few: Food, water, excretion, sleep, breath, shelter.

Those keep us alive. Everything else, quite frankly, is optional. Yes, we can use basic clothing to keep us warm and present ourselves appropriately in our professional and social lives. It is good to have soap and shampoo and toothpaste to keep us clean.

And the rest? All the merchandise you'll see at the mall over the holidays?

Most of it, tempting as it can be, is completely unnecessary.

I'm thinking about that small child and wondering what lessons she will learn about what she does and doesn't need. Not just today, when much of what I'm saying would go over her head, but in the years to come.

Will she declare, as a teenager, that she "needs" designer clothes or a Wii? Will she say, as a young adult, that she "needs" an iPhone, a BlackBerry, a new car? Will she say, as a parent, that she "needs" a larger and more expensive house?

It's one thing to get a fun extra or two when you have the spare cash, and more, after you have paid all your bills. You've worked hard and earned it, although it's always good to remember there are plenty of ways to pamper yourself that cost little or nothing -- a good walk in the outdoors, curling up with a library book or some favorite music, a get-together with a friend or family member.

It's another thing to swipe your credit card to get those material extras when you don't have the cash on hand. It gets too easy to do this, again and again -- and one day, you've maxed your plastic.

Was your impulse buy worth the years upon years of paying interest on that card?

Trust me when I say I've learned these lessons the hard way.

There's a couple I know of who, for many years, made good money but bad choices. If a purchase looked good to them, they made it. If a trip looked fun, they took it.

I wonder how many times they said to themselves or each other: "I NEED this!"

Now, in this economy, the choices they made have come back to bite them in the butt. One of them is on the verge of unemployment, and both of them are on the verge of bankruptcy.

The stress of debt is ruinous to physical and emotional health. It is equally ruinous to relationships.

Learning to make wiser choices can save our wallets, our marriages, and our lives.

This, without a doubt, we need.

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( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Nov. 19th, 2008 07:25 pm (UTC)
Its true, half the crap we have is totally not needed. Especially stuff for our children. In a way I think the financial crisis is good because Americans need to wake up and live debt free. The only debt I have is my mortgage, and we are very lucky. People should learn to live beneath their means and stop worrying about "keeping up with the Jones'" and enjoy life.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )