If you’ve fallen on hard times, it’s extra important to know the difference between needs and wants. This is especially true if you don’t have a financial safety net. Temporarily sacrificing your wants will help you take care of your needs. Don’t go hungry for the sake of pleasure. Of course, sacrificing some wants during good times will help you build your financial safety net for the next rough patch (and your other goals).
– Expensive food: Food doesn’t have to be expensive, especially with all the sales. Store brands are normally cheaper and normally just as good (sometimes better) than name brands. Protein is available in a wide variety of forms (meat, beans, nuts, cheese, etc.) in a wide variety of prices. You can even save some money by buying cheaper cuts of meat, including ground meat. You don’t need to eat in restaurants, including fast food. Cook at home. Take lunch to work. Take snacks too. I normally eat five times a day: breakfast (cereal), morning snack (crackers), lunch (peanut butter sandwich and carrots), afternoon snack (pretzels), and dinner (varies). I eat small portions throughout the day to maintain my sugar levels (I’m hypoglycemic), and it helps with metabolism too. You don’t need junk food. Snacks can be healthy and inexpensive. Instead of buying the overpriced snacks already packaged into servings, save money by buying the bigger sizes, and create the servings yourself. Instead of always buying baggies, I use small containers for my snacks and sandwich. I reuse a bag for my carrots until it looks like it needs to be replaced.
– Expensive clothing: Buy decent clothes at good prices. Take care of them. Avoid items with logos since they’re seriously overpriced. Buy used. My best jeans cost $4 at a resale store, and nothing is wrong with them. Do you actually need more clothes? Wear what you already have as long as they’re not holey and still fit. I haven’t bought any clothing in over a year, and I’ve bought very little over the last five years. One of the ways I take care of my good clothes is to not wear them around the house. I wear old “house clothes.” For extra care, I wash clothes in cold water, and I don’t put certain fabrics (i.e. polyester) in the dryer.
– Expensive shelter: Is it time to downsize or relocate to an area with a lower cost of housing? I remember sharing a room with my brother when we were really young and living in Venezuela. Of course, siblings of the same sex are able to share rooms for longer than we could.
– Entertainment: This might help our mental stability (especially in hard times), but it doesn’t need to cost anything. Do you already have games (i.e. computer, board, card, etc.) at home? Great! Then, you don’t need to buy more! It doesn’t matter if new versions are released. Do you like to read? The library has thousands (millions?) of books for free. You don’t need cable, Netflix, or similar services. In fact, libraries usually have movies and TV shows, and some libraries (like mine) don’t charge for them. If you’re financially struggling, you don’t need to go to the movie theater or expensive festivals. You already have entertainment at home. If you want to get out of the house, visit the library, a friend, or a family member. There may even be a free event happening in your area (just remember to take your own inexpensive snacks). People who love sports don’t need sports equipment. Go to the park, and have some fun! Get creative, and make a ball out of something. There may be free events in your area where you can participate or watch. If you do want some sports equipment, buy it used at thrift stores and garage sales.
– Vanity: Unless you’re physically unable to keep your nails under control, no one needs manicures or pedicures. No one needs to dye their hair. I’ve never had a manicure or pedicure, and I’ve never dyed my hair (and yes, I like my “salt and pepper” hair that started greying at 18).
So, pay close attention. I have a feeling some of your wants are being confused for needs.
Updates: I now eat three times a day instead of five. My schedule changed, and I no longer need the morning and afternoon snacks. My lunch is peanut butter on a piece of toast plus a banana. I no longer have cable; I stream free movies on a device plugged into my television.