Friday, 1 July 2011

What do we actually need?

The world is a greedy place. Everyone wants something, thinks they deserve something, or want to make money from something. It made me start to think about what we actually need versus what we want. If you break down everything you spend money on into an order of priority starting with the most important and ending with the most luxurious thing you spend your money on I think the majority of us would be the same. The cut off point is at the luxurious end. Take someone like me, there is very little, almost nothing, at the luxurious end but I often work with people who put almost nothing into the most important end and loads into the luxuries.

What do we actually need to live a basic but content existence? Shelter, warmth, food and drink, friends. Obviously it is shelter that costs more than anything else in our life for most people. Those very small lucky few that inherit properties and never know the weight of a mortgage are very much in the minority. Food and drink costs increasingly more, but the more I read other peoples blogs on frugal living, the more I see how much the majority of the population wastes and how little we can actually live on, especially if the first (shelter) provides you with space to grow and store your own. Warmth is on the increase financially and we should all be looking at other ways to decrease our fuel bills. I have friends who spend double what I do on gas and electricity and can't understand why. When I was around at their house they had the heating on to dry the clothes - this was 2 days ago, a nice warm day, enough said. Put on a jumper is the one thing that most people could do and don't, yeah, perhaps I am lucky, I don't feel the cold so much, but I don't walk around the house on a cold winters day in a tee-shirt. Friends, good friends, should cost nothing. I am probably not the only one of you reading these frugal blogs that have this quandary - when friends want to go somewhere nice for dinner, or to do something expensive that I can't afford and they can. A good friend will always understand and just get it if you explain that you can't afford to, but it sometimes can cause difficulty I find. I will suggest them coming around for dinner to me instead of going out, I can cook something very good for everyone for much less than it would cost for me to go out and pay my own way in general. I intend this to go one step further when I start making my own wine and beer (preferably from foraged goods). Most of my friends get me now and those that don't just think of me as tight fisted - I can live with that.

So, when we break it down the largest portion of our income goes on shelter. Now there is the luxuries list. Now this is different for everyone and some will have other necessary expenses that they need to pay for their shelter - ie, travel expenses to get to the job that pays the mortgage.
But I am talking about the luxury items that are not wholly necessary for a happy existence - gym membership, perfume, mobile phone, even broadband. Yes, these things make life more interesting, but if we were to start with none and then decide which were the most important luxuries then I think most people would begin to at least cut down on their direct debits. Take broadband. It is a luxury in the grand scheme of things, but it is one that most of us could not really do without in this era, so I would place that on my necessary luxury list. Mobile phone, well most of us have way more minutes than we use in our package - I know I do. I recently did an overhaul and found that I am paying for 1000 minutes a month and during the last 18 months the most minutes I have ever used in one month is 425, less than half in other words. That will be cut down when my contract comes up for renewal. Now I need my mobile phone for work. Actually that is not true at all, A mobile phone makes my work easier, although it is not necessary, but therefore it will go on my necessary luxury list. Computer insurance - gone, boiler insurance - gone, gym membership - gone (a long time ago) Toiletries, make a lot of my own now, even aftershave.

I am not really saying that anyone should live with no luxuries, but it is a good exercise to break down what exactly in your life is a necessity and what is not, then you can get some perspective as to what you NEED to spend your money on and where can be cut back. Start with direct debits and work through to daily spends. Over the next month I am going to look carefully at where my money actually goes to and decide what will come with me to my new life.


  1. Most people just sail along, paying for the unecessary in order to make an easy life. To look at your finances and make decisions on cut backs is far too much to bare. It also means to make life changes. Humans are creatures of habits and changing habits is never an easy task. You are now making these changes in order to facilitate your new life.
    I think you are doing great. Now is the time to make these changes, as when you`re moving you will then be fully used to what you are trying to achieve. Your new life will not be a bed of roses but you shall have peace of mind and a good grounding for success. Whoever has not understood or is unwilling to accept you and your changes might not have been the right person to socialize with in the first place. Seek advice and acceptence from likeminded folk and you will soon make new and valuable friends for your new life. I wish you all the luck in this world for a successful new life style!!

  2. I am hoping in the face of this downturn that more people see the light - it is just that - some people get it and some people dont. I have always been frugal and I dont find it that hard as my needs and wants are few and while I sometimes look in charity shops I dont often buy anything.
    I find some frugal bloggers dont get it and could cut back much further than they do. Ilona at Life after Money is my gold standard. She lives very well on 8,000 pounds per annum(and she still has a mortgage) - lots of disciplined planning goes into that.
    I could nt do without certain things - the library, parks and hiking trails
    bbc radio, sun tea in the summer. (put three tea bags in a jar or big jug - put it out in the sun for a day and then refrigerate - some people add a bunch of stuff - before you do that try it plain)

  3. Thank you both for your comments. It is true that perhaps I find it fairly easy to be frugal because I have never spent masses in the first place. I have my indulgences (books mainly, though these are nearly always 2nd hand these days) but on the whole my needs are small. Lizzie, you are right about Ilona, she is inspiring and everyone could learn something from her. I love the sound of the sun tea, never heard of that before, very interesting and I will try it.

  4. Oh, and cover the teabags with cold water before putting it out in the sun !
    You can put mint, lemon etc. in afterward but it is nt really necessary and is so refreshing and inexpensive.

  5. I made it (although it wasn't sunny as long as hoped yesterday). Its really good and very refreshing. I drank the lot actually. Will have to make some more if the sun shines tomorrow. Thanks.