What Do You NEED Really?

So commonly we hear people say it. They can’t pay bills because they can’t afford it. They don’t fill their medications because they don’t have the money. This is such a cop out. And I used to use it all the time.  The truth is, almost any budget has some wiggle room.


There’s a huge wage gap in this country which is such an injustice. As unfair as it is though, it’s still a fact we have to live with until changes are made nationwide to fix it.

The first thing we did as a family to start taking control of our finances was to identify things we definitely need and things we can live with out. This came with a healthy dose of was really hard to deal with at first.

What do you NEED?

Spoiler alert: it’s a lot less than you might think. You need (for real):

  • Nutritious food
  • Water
  • Housing
  • Power and water
  • Clothing
  • Transportation
  • Toiletries
  • Communication

That’s basically it. When you really think about it, people need very little to survive and be relatively comfortable. Notice some things that are not on this list.


I don’t know about you, but cigarettes in my state are outrageous. After high school, I worked at a convenience store with a gas station attached. Then, a pack of good cigarettes was $5.15. Now, they’re over $10. March that math out. If you smoke a pack a day, that’s $70 per week, $280 per month. That’s enough to buy a nice car, which is exactly what Jeff did when he quit his 2 pack a day habit a few years ago. Plus, smoking is TERRIBLE for you, even in the short term. No judgement here, just pure finance.

Need motivation? Get a free cigarette tracking app for your phone like Get Rich or Die Smoking so show yourself exactly how much you save buy cutting out even a few cigarettes per day at first.

-iPhone 27, Unlimited Data with a 3D Camera that HASNT EVEN COME OUT YET!

The list says communication. You need a way to communicate with friends and family, make kid’s doctors appointments, call for help in emergencies etc. You DON’T need Internet wherever you go. You DON’T need to be able to update Facebook at your every convenience. You DON’T need the best and newest device you can get your hands on. All of these things are status symbols created by people looking to make a lot of money.

One of the first major things we eliminated from our swollen budget was our cell phone plans. Jeff still has his work phone at no cost to us, and I bought a $10 flip phone with prepaid minutes that I spend $20 on every three months. This was such a major savings, almost $2,500/ year. But also a major trauma. I loved my iPhone. The first month maybe was tough, but honestly now I don’t miss it. I kept my phone which can still text through apps like iMessage and Google Hangouts, and I can do everything but make phone calls in places that have wifi, which is pretty much everywhere now.

No matter how much you love your gadget, free yourself from the status symbols, because you don’t need them.

– A Brow Game on Fleek with Fresh Acrylics

I’m calling out the ladies here but the guys are just as bad.

Basic toiletries are necessary. Even a simple make up routine. But you DON’T need biweekly professional beauty services and a vanity full of designer make up. I’m not saying that if these things are extremely important to you that you should let your image go down the toilet, but you shouldnt be spending money on fingernails that needs to be going towards one of the essentials, like housing or paying off one of your credit cards.

There’s a bazillion hours worth of YouTube videos you can use to learn to do these things yourself. Not confident? Track down a technical school with a cosmo program that will only charge for products.

– 2018 Gas Guzzler with TV’s in the Seats

Everyone needs reliable transportation. This doesn’t mean a brand new SUV for a single person. New vehicles are another status symbol and a huge rip off. A pre-loved, slightly older, solid transportation vehicle may not be a parking lot stunner but can save you tons of cash, from insurance costs to excise tax and loan interest.

For some people who live in places where it’s available, transportation could mean a bus pass. Then think of everything you’d save on gas, maintenance and insurance. Oh the savings!

One more thing, if you live in a snowy area like we do, “it’s great in the snow” is no reason to blow $30G on a new SUV. I’ve driven in 13 years of Northeastern winters in a compact sedan and haven’t been stranded yet.

-Jam Packed Walk-Ins

This is coming from a girl that once had not one but two credit cards handed back to her for insufficient funds at the checkout at Marshalls.

Of course you need clothing that fits and is in good condition that you like. But you don’t need closets full of clothes and shoes you never wore. Go on Pinterest and search for “Capsule Wardrobe.” Need something new? Hit up a consignment shop for big discounts. Bonus points: gather up some of the clothes you’ve never worn and consign them for store credit to shop for free!

-1500+ Channels

This is our latest project. We’re currently exploring new more affordable TV options. Currently we have a satellite dish that costs $70/month even though we have the most limited package. Most likely we’ll be switching to a small antenna for PBS (mommy needs the kids to have Wild Kratts), and some new PlayStation tv thing they’re offering. Antenna has an upfront cost for the antenna only and the smallest PlayStation package is about $30/ month. I’ll post more info about this when we make the leap.

Too traumatic? Baby step: Reduce your current tv package by one tier.

-A Cookie Cutter Center Hall  Colonial with all Granite and Stainless

HGTV sure is great isnt it? With all of those totally unrealistic expectations it can forge in the imagination such as “even if we go over budget, it’s only a few more dollars a month, we can afford that!” No. You can’t. And honestly, you don’t even want to.

If you’re looking for new housing, be realistic about what you can afford and then reduce it even more. No one needs five bedrooms and six baths. Don’t shackle yourself to a mortgage  you’ll have to work your fanny off to even stay current on. There is such a thing as being “house poor.” Find comfortable and safe housing until you’ve accomplished all of your other financial goals.

-A Large Almond Joy Iced with Almond Milk

That’s my Dunkin’ Donuts order. And one of my major vices. Fast food, restaurants and pizza delivery will kill your financial goals. Don’t believe it? Look back in your bank statement and add up how much you spent last month on food other than groceries. It’s a lot right? To underscore this even more, last year I gave up ALL food items that weren’t groceries for two months (no iced coffee and a bagel, no Happy Meals for the kids, no lunch in the cafeteria at work) and bought a new couch for the living room with the money I saved.

I’m also working on a post about how to save on groceries that I’m really excited about. We went from $1000-1200/ month on groceries to $650.

Taking control of your finances means that you realize that financial freedom is not a credit card to pay for your new phone and handbag. So many things we think we need are dragging us down. Take some time and do the soul searching to see what you really NEED and what you can get rid of. And free yourself from the status symbols because you don’t need ’em. ✌🏼️


Author: Christina

I'm Christina! A 20-something wife to Jeff, mother of 3, just trying to take over the family finances, drink coffee and raise babies.

One thought on “What Do You NEED Really?”

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