When Excess Has Become Necessity

Posted on December 6, 2011 by

 With our country’s recent economic woes dominating the headlines the past few months, there is always an article or news story dispensing tips on how we can reduce expenses on everything form cell phone service to credit card debt and everything in between. Oftentimes the theme is centered on how we can “live well” in the midst of these more financially lean times.

I was thinking about this as I was considering my own lifestyle and the number of things in my life that are, in truth, not necessities, and areas where we could save some serious cash over the course of the year, but things that right now, we are simply unwilling to do without. And we consider ourselves frugal people! At the very least, we don’t buy anything, even cars, that we can’t pay cash for. So when I recently began to take a really hard look at what our lifestyle costs us, and my resulting unwillingness to make drastic changes to save some cash, it occurred to me, as it usually does, that this is the root of our problem: we have come to view excess as a necessity. And we have structured our lives in such a way that in many cases our excesses are defacto necessities.

Take my cell phone, for example, that I am rarely without. If I leave home and realize I forgot it and haven’t gotten too far away from the house, I turn around to go back and get it. After all, my children are in school all day, and if something happens to one of them, I need to be able to be reached right away. Not only in the case they get sick, but in case some crazy breaks out a gun and starts shooting on campus. I need to be instantly accessible, you know? My husband spends most of his day in his car. So he needs his cell phone in case his clunker breaks down. And on more than one occasion I’ve had to jump in the car to meet him somewhere to jump off his car, which wouldn’t start when he was leaving one office to go to another. He really does need his cell phone. As well as another car, which we are working on finding right now.

And my big girls, now teenagers, need their cell phones. So they can call me from school if they find themselves hiding under a desk from some crazy person with a gun. Did I mention that I need to be able to be reached right away? While my kids aren’t away from home nearly as much as the average teenagers during non school hours, they are not with me 24/7, and I like being able to know that I can call them they can call me whenever the need arises. Unlike many people, I only use my cell phone to talk to my immediate family members except on rare occasions. Everyone else knows not to call me on my cell. If I’m not home, leave a message. I don’t have minutes to waste chit chatting.

The husband and I decided to get rid of cable TV a couple of years ago. We went out and bought an antennae so that we could get local and major network channels for LOST news, weather, traffic, and things like that. As long as we could get that and PBS, we figured that’s enough. There must be some kind of a conspiracy because when I was a kid we didn’t have cable and the TV worked fine! Now it seems that you need to have cable in order to get anything other than gray fuzz on all channels but one. I’m convinced that the cable company is also the company that makes the substandard antennas sold at Circuit City. I know that several of you don’t own TV’s, so you could care less, and you are admittedly much better parents and deeper thinkers me, but this is about my life. So there.

Though I have made light of the matter, can you see where I’m going with this? Everything about the way we live our lives, the way we view our lives, demands that we spend more and more of our hard earned money and save less and less. Internet is a necessity. College is a necessity. Two careers are a necessity. Day care is a necessity. Two cars are a necessity. Public transportation is terrible where I live and not a viable alternative. But if my kids were all homeschooled I wouldn’t have to be on high alert to rescue them from the mad gunman, now would I? And if Benjamin Franklin is any indication, they’d probably be better educated, too.

Somehow Caroline Ingalls managed to run her little house on the prairie with the two dresses she wore during the week plus her Sunday-go-to-meeting dress. Since she worked at home, a fancy wardrobe wasn’t a real necessity. Yes, that was a TV reference. At least I’ve read the books, too. Of course, even us keepers at home have to make sure that we keep our look fresh. So maybe that wasn’t the best example. Still, my wardrobe isn’t nearly as expensive as a closet full of business suits and pumps.

My attempts to pare down my monthly expenses has yielded results in the following areas:

~ After contacting the phone company, my home phone bill was cut in half.

~I have convinced my hubby that it really does make more energy sense to keep the thermostat on 78 and use the ceiling fan.

~I have discovered Aldi, and learned to find ever increasing ways to cook from scratch. The grocery bill is down about $75 a month.

As for the rest of it, I’m working on it. But the truth is that we may not get rid of our excess necessities until we are forced to. And we have talked about it at length. When we have to, we will. What excessive necessities are you holding on to?

Posted in: Homemaking