The pandemic forced many to make hard choices. We’ve been cutting back, and some found that lifestyle deflation isn’t such a bad thing. Much like the financial crisis, frugality made a comeback in many cases and became the new money-stylish thing to do. Instead of showing off gadgets, many of us are telling everyone how savvy and adaptable we’ve been during the lockdown.
But, even as we cut back, selling items to bring in cash or refraining from buying some creature comforts, there are some things that we can’t live without. I saw an article on this subject from U.S. News and World Report’s Rick Newman at Yahoo! Finance, and it listed some things that Americans have a hard time living without:
- Portable computers.
- High-speed Internet access.
- Smart phones.
- Music downloads.
Some of these items on the list, like booze, coffee, pets, and portable computers aren’t really high on my list of must-haves, but I do need high-speed Internet access, TV, and, to some extent, movies.
What Can’t You Live Without?
I looked around my house and thought about what I wasn’t willing to sacrifice throughout this latest economic hiccup. Obviously, since I work from home, high-speed Internet is a must even after the pandemic is over. If everything else had to go, I would still need to get online. And I like to stay in, watching TV shows and movies from Netflix. In a pinch, we would probably cancel the satellite subscription since it wouldn’t be the end of the world if we waited a few months after each season of our favorite TV shows is over to watch them on DVD. We could also go online to stream them if we wanted to.
But there are things I can’t live without that didn’t make the list. I enjoy eating out. Since the pandemic, I want to go out even more now. In order to justify eating out once a week though, my friends and I switched from going to dinner to meeting up for lunch. Lunch costs much less, and I still get to eat out, which I love to do. I also love books and continued to buy them through not only the pandemic but also during the Great Recessions years back.
As a society, and as individuals, we have come to view certain things as necessities. Most people take for granted that television is required as part of life. Most of us even think of smartphones as necessities. Items that were considered luxuries a decade ago are now thought of as needs – things that can’t be lived without. But when push comes to shove, we could probably survive without many of these things. Other than the Internet, which is my source of income, nearly everything I consider necessary for my sanity is actually a want.
What you really need includes food, shelter, clothing, and a way to get to work. If you can provide those basic necessities for yourself, your needs are covered. But there are certainly a lot of other things that make living more pleasant, and that we rely on to help us maintain our sanity, stay connected with loved ones, or to just enjoy life. While there is nothing wrong with these material items and experiences, it doesn’t hurt to remind yourself that nothing everything is a need. Prepare to let these “necessities” go if you have to.
Are You Tired of Living Paycheck to Paycheck?
I lived paycheck to paycheck when I was young, creatively looking for ways to make ends meet. In those days, I could take the checkbook to the store and let it “float” for a couple of days (today even checks can be immediately verified).
Later, as we learned more about money management and as we began making more money, I stopped living paycheck to paycheck. It’s not an easy process, especially if you are already behind, but it can be done.
Confront the Realities of Your Situation
Right now I live in Idaho, one of the states where people are least likely to live paycheck to paycheck because of the low cost of living. I first stopped living paycheck to paycheck after my ex and I moved from New York (one of the states where living paycheck to paycheck is most likely) to Utah – another state where it’s easier to avoid running out of money before running out of month.
Look at your situation. What are some of the realities you are facing? We couldn’t really get a handle on the situation until we made the move to a state with a lower cost of living. We probably could have made it work in a more expensive state, but it was much easier to learn what we could live without by moving. The pandemic gave all of you the same opportunity. Your lifestyle have changed in the past year. When things go back to normal, are you going to go back to that old life? Or are you going to continue saving more and foregoing some of that lavish spending you used to do?
What are Your Priorities?
Of course, life isn’t just about living on the bare minimum. But deciding on your priorities can help you make tough decisions about what to cut out of your budget, as well as where you might need to live. Think about what matters most to you, and trim other costs from your life. When we decided that we were tired of living paycheck to paycheck, we made it a priority to reduce our costs. We moved to a cheaper area and lived in a smaller place than we wanted. We changed our entertainment habits and focused more on getting rid of debt and building a cash cushion.
Because we knew our priorities, we had an easier time saying no to things that didn’t matter as much.