We live in an economy of manufactured needs. There is a certain freedom to be found in realizing that a lot of the things we think we need we don’t really need at all! For a thought-exercise in how you can take frugal living to a whole new level, ask yourself: of all of the things that you spend money on or are planning to spend money on, how many of them do you really need?
There are, of course, some things that are inescapable needs. You need food. No two ways about it, you have to eat in order to survive. However, as is evidenced by the epidemic of obesity in our culture, some people clearly fail to understand the line between food they need and food they’re consuming just for the sake of consuming. In fact, I would suggest that just about everyone in western civilization eats more than they need to. Very few people eat only the food they need to eat in order to survive. Virtually all of us go beyond this by consuming more food than is necessary for our optimal health, both physically and financially!
Another inescapable need is water, both for drinking and cleansing. Water is probably one thing that most people could stand to consume more of. We could all probably benefit from an extra pint or two of water each day. Why not try using less water for showering, washing our clothes, and flushing our waste, and more water for staying hydrated and healthy?
I would suggest another inescapable need is some form of tools to stay connected to friends and family. Indeed, friendship is one of the necessary components for happiness. When it comes to maintaining friendships, having a few basics such as a phone and an email address is helpful. We could all probably find a way to spend less money on these things. Most phone contracts with mainstream providers cost at least $50 per month. In the case of smart-phones, it can be much more. Consider living without a mobile phone contract. Providers like Clear and Cricket offer pay-as-you-go mobile service that allows you to determine how much you spend on mobile service. Pay for only what you need, not an exorbitant service contract.
Examine your life and expenses and look for things that you’ve always taken for granted as necessary and ask yourself: are they really necessary? I think you’ll find that some huge percentage of expenses and material possessions are completely unnecessary. Clothing is an easy example of one such thing. Nearly everyone in the western world owns more clothes than is necessary. Many people are addicted to shopping and buy clothing they may only wear once or twice, or possibly even not at all! It seems far wiser to own a small handful of clothing you really enjoy wearing and get a lot of use out of than having a closet full of garments you never touch. Shop with caution and practice buying only clothing you feel that you need to have.
Another example of an unnecessary expense many people have is their vehicle. Many people if they tried hard enough could probably get by perfectly fine without a vehicle at all. But in cases where this is rather impractical, there is still a rather wide gap between a basic vehicle we own out of necessity and the monstrous, luxury gas-guzzlers you’ll see many driving around streets today. Is your vehicle what it should be, a mere tool for transportation? Or is it more than this, a status-symbol or an excessive luxury item draining your wallet in exchange for a pittance of small pleasures? Very few people truly need a vehicle with 300 horsepower or a surround sound stereo system. Most vehicles on the market today are packed full of unnecessary amenities. Consider acquiring a reliable and basic used vehicle. What it lacks in flare it makes up for in keeping your budget sustainable.
The list can go on and on. If we all look closely enough, we’d probably find that a rather huge percentage of our expenses are completely unnecessary! At the very least, it’s fun to contemplate how little we might be able to potentially get away with spending. When you realize that you’re capable of living a perfectly happy existence void of many of your current expenses and possessions, it alleviates the stress of whatever budget woes you might be facing.