Oh, but before I begin, I want to say this: in my last post, I expressed uncertainty about whether I could consider myself any kind of authority on the subject of money. Well, I had a brief email conversation with money expert Matt Bell from Matt About Money, and he said that looking at my data, my husband and I can safely consider ourselves âfinancially brilliant.â So there! We are money pros. Matt says so.
OK, so this sounds basic enough: Donât buy anything you donât absolutely need. But how do you determine what you donât absolutely need? I mean, we all need iPods, right? And we need to go out for movies on weekends to maintain our sanity, right?
Well, I canât give you any universal keys to determining what is necessary and what isnât, but I can tell you what my husband and I do. So hereâs how the above principle plays out in our home:
As far as Ben and I can see, the biggest unnecessary money-suckers are:
2. Already-Been-Made Food
3. Entertainment (especially the kind that comes with a monthly charge, like satellite TV).
This may be alarming to some, but Ben and I survive without much of the above three things. Allow me to elaborate.
Mennonites are known for their aversion to technology. My husband and I carry on this tradition, I guess. Itâs not that we are so much anti-technology as we are anti-expensive-crap. And for us, gadgets constitute expensive crap.
Ben has never owned a cell phone. Iâve had the same cell phone for the last 8 years. (Well, actually, the phone company voluntarily sent me a new one for free a couple of years ago because the old one was working on a system that had become obsolete. Sweet).
Sometimes Ben thinks it would be nice to have his own cell phone, but then he thinks of the 30-or-so bucks we save a month by sharing mine, and decides, âNah.â
We donât own any kind of gaming system, laptop, or any kind of portable media player whatsoever (that means no iPod, iPhone, mp3 player, or anything else you can plug into your ears). The last portable media device I owned was a walkman (which played cassettes) that my sister and I bought together from a yard sale. Iâve never even owned a Discman.
Ben and I have never owned a CD player except for the ones that came in our cars. If we want to listen to music we play it on our shared desktop computer, which we bought three years ago. Thatâs the same computer on which I do all my writing, researching, and internet browsing. Thatâs right: every Facebook status, blog post and tweet you see comes from this here computer that never moves.
I admit, some people might conceivably âneedâ an iPhone or a Blackberry or laptop to do their work or whatever on. If theyâre, like, the CEO of a company or something. But the rest of us absolutely do not. For the rest of us, theyâre luxury items â ones that Ben and I can do without.
And you know what? As far as Iâm aware, no one has ever referred to us as âBen and Kathleen, those guys who donât have an iPod, not even a Shuffle.â No one has even noticed that we donât have any gadgets! It has had no impact whatsoever on our sense of self-worth or other peopleâs perceptions of us. Some people might consider us hicks but no one has ever said it to my face, so Iâm OK with it. And we have saved heaps of money.
No Packaged or Restaurant Food
OK, thatâs not entirely true â Ben and I often eat boxed cereal for breakfast, and we eat out at restaurants probably two or three times a month. But otherwise, I try to cook and/or prepare everything else we eat myself. I have given up frozen dinners. I cook dinner every night, and we take the leftovers with us to work and school the next day. I try not to ever cook anything that costs more than $3 per person per meal. Itâs not hard at all. Beans, rice, oats and potatoes are so cheap theyâre practically free, so I try to include them as much as possible. Â Again, we save heaps of money this way. It also happens to be good for our health. Bonus.
Very Little âEntertainmentâ
Ben and I donât get cable or satellite TV. Weâve always just had a TV antenna so that we could watch The Office, but now that television has gone digital we have to watch it online. Bummer.
We only see movies in theaters when something really special is playing, because movies are the ultimate money-suck. When we do see a movie, we never, ever, under any circumstances, buy their outrageously overpriced snack foods. We just watch.
So what do we do for fun, then, you may ask? Well, the second principle that I outlined in my earlier post (i.e. âDo the work yourselfâ) means that my husband and I donât have mountains of spare time. Benâs usually busy building or installing or assembling something, and Iâm usually cooking or cleaning or writing something. And we like it like that. So we donât have a lot of time for things like TV and video games.
When weâre not doing these things, we rent DVDâs. We get together with friends. We read books. Oh, and we are crazy about Lost. We spent four months solid last year watching pixelly pirated episodes of Lost on our computer whenever we had a spare moment. Good times, man. I was unreasonably joyful when we found out that Jin wasnât dead after season Four. This year, not so good. Weâll see what happens in the coming weeks.
So thatâs what we do to avoid buying anything we donât need. How about you? What have you cut out as unnecessary? Is there anything else Iâm missing? What else do normal folks commonly buy that could easily be cut out?
Photo courtesy of Don Hankins.