Tuesday, April 23, 2013

But I NEED it, Mommy!

I thought I'd take a brief segue from describing my life and how I do things to focus for a moment on one of my motives for being homeless and how it applies to someone . . . normal, I suppose. Since I want this blog to be applicable beyond just entertainment or simply describing what I do, I figure sharing some of what I learned might be handy.

Needs versus wants. This is something that our mothers beat into our heads in the toy aisle and as we begged for candy at the checkout line. It's something every college student learns to appreciate when going to the grocery store. However, it's something that all of us ignore (sometimes regularly) when armed with a credit card and flexible financing options. What causes hundreds of millions of mature adults decide to be so irresponsible, often to the point of financial despair? Is it merely greed? A pursuit of happiness through materials, perhaps? Maybe it's the fact that our Western culture has made us so accepting of debt. I would venture to say that it goes beyond these factors, but I'm not really sure what the cause is.

Since becoming homeless, I've been forced to reconsider my needs and wants for several different reasons. Obviously, I have more money to spend (which I'm trying to use to pay off debt), but I also have FAR less space than before. With all of my possessions in a 5x10' storage unit, I can't exactly pull out a pot when I need it or grab a book off of the shelf. I've had to rearrange a few times as I adjusted to my lifestyle and realized what was important and what I needed.

Coupled with having less space, I also want to keep from drawing attention to myself. Sure, I could strap a car-top carrier or a hitch cargo box on my car, but people would likely notice me pulling clothes and toiletries out of my car. How small can I live while still maintaining a comfortable lifestyle that doesn't raise eyebrows?

Though I've been forced to reconsider my needs and wants due to my lifestyle, this likely isn't the case for anyone who might be reading my blog. The average American doesn't have to think about whether or not to get a new set of towels versus two cheap ones because a set takes up too much space - I do. So, what do I want you to do, humble reader?

It's fairly simple, really. We need to re-attach our brains to our credit cards. Before being anything, ask yourself: do I really NEED this, or does buying it give me a guaranteed return benefit that makes it worth paying for it? It's a very simple question, but our impulses seem to help keep us from asking it. It applies to anything, really. I have three pairs of shoes - do I need another pair? No, not if the others are in good repair. Should I get the salon-quality shampoo or the off-brand? They both clean just as well, don't they?

However, I'd argue that there are times where spending more is justified. The low-fat yogurt is a little pricier than the regular variety. Your health is too important skimp on, though in no way does that justify spending $75 dollars for a bulb of organic garlic at a health foods store. Is it worth using high-quality synthetic oil in your car instead of getting a oil change for $19.95? You tell me - your car is one of the most expensive things you own. How long do you want it to last? I'd treat it well.

All in all, I think that living smaller is smarter, but I think it takes a conscious effort to remember what's important and necessary. While every person has to make this judgement for themselves, are you remembering to make that judgement at all?