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12 'necessities' you can eliminate from your budget

Does your family really need multiple cell phones?

By Karen Datko Oct 18, 2009 5:13PM

Here's a concept we can wrap our mind around: A Bankrate article talks about 12 "new necessities" of modern living that are actually "entitlements" we can do without.

The article quotes psychotherapist Olivia Mellan by way of explanation:

A lot of us in wealthy, overspending America are either born or raised with a tremendous sense of entitlement. We say to ourselves,"I work hard or, I work at a job I hate -- at least I should be able to have a Starbucks coffee every day or eat out for lunch." But of course, those are not needs, they're wants. They're pleasures.

Here's a partial list and why we agree with the article's conclusions:

Cell phones for every member of the family. Do your kids really need them? Have you read articles about how kids spend so much time texting that they neglect schoolwork -- in the classroom? Do you cringe when you see a teen chatting up a storm when he or she is behind the wheel? If you think security is a consideration, save money and get a prepaid phone.

Lots of new clothes. Why be a slave to the latest fashion? If you save your old clothes, as Kris at Cheap Healthy Good points out in a letter to her junior high self, they'll be in style again. And if you can't break free of your clothes jones, be hip and buy your Carrie Bradshaw look-alikes at consignment or thrift stores. (See this New York Times article for details. And if you want to see cool photos of clothing that people have discarded, check out FoundClothing.)

Elaborate kids' parties. We are still amazed that "graduation" from middle school has become a big occasion. Gee, aren't we supposed to get past the eighth grade? Don't be like some folks and spend a fortune on your toddler's birthday. Your little one doesn't care. (And neither should your inner child. If you feel that your parents didn't honor your oh-so-special milestones sufficiently, talk to a therapist. Your child needs an adult in her or his life.)

Lawn service. Cut your own grass (and clean your own house). Lise at Frugal in the Fruitlands would tell you that some activities people engage in to save money -- like clipping coupons and reusing plastic food-storage bags, as well as some DIY projects -- aren't worth the time you put into them. We think that's true if you're getting paid big bucks to work 24 hours a day, but if you're a mere mortal, it's likely that you're not. So, in your off-work hours, take care of what you own. As the Bankrate article points out, you might get so much exercise doing normal things that you won't need that gym membership.

Pet care. Buy some clippers and trim your dog's hair. (And don't trim the hair of a dog that doesn't need it.) With a little training, you can even do your dog's nails (and we don't mean paint them.) Why pay someone to walk your dog if you could shed a few pounds by doing it yourself.

Published June 14, 2008



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