Monday, March 9, 2015

How to Tell A Want from a Need

Is cable television a WANT or a NEED?  Many folks think it is like Oxygen.

I was talking about WANTS versus NEEDS the other day and how some folks like to take WANTS and turn them into NEEDS.  For example, Joe claims he is "financially stressed" and he is worried about money all the time and losing sleep.   I asked him how much he spends on Cable TV, and he said, "Oh, about $120 a month."

When I told him that he could be less financially stressed if he eliminated WANTS like that from his life, he looked at me like I spoke Latin, and said, "But I NEED my Cable TV to watch sports!"

He turned a WANT into a NEED, and if you look at his life, he has a lot of WANTS that he made into NEEDS and that is exactly why he is "financially stressed" all the time and losing sleep and damaging his health.

Why do people do this?  Our real NEEDS in life are, in this order:
1.  Oxygen
2.  Water
3.  Food
4.  Shelter
5.  Clothing
You can live a few minutes without oxygen, a few weeks without water, and a few months without food.  Clothing and shelter depend on where you live.  In a tropical paradise, maybe neither is needed.  In the frozen Arctic, you can survive only minutes without both.

These are your real needs.  Everything beyond that is a want.

But it struck me that there is a very easy way to tell a WANT from a NEED.   Just raise the price on the item in question - and keep raising it - until you reach a point where you would said, "Well, I wouldn't need that, then!"

For example, with Cable TV, at $120 month, for many people, it is a NEED.  They gladly pay over $1400 a year for television, which with compound interest could be $125,000 or more over a working life.  So clearly the cable companies have found their "pain point" for subscribers.

If it was, say, $250 a month, would you still get it?   Probably half would say, "Hell, no!" but the other half would keep paying.

$500 a month?  I am sure there would still be takers.

$1000 a month?  Hardly anyone.

$5000 a month?  No one.

The fact that you can take this "Need" and turn it into a "Want" simply by raising the price, proves that it is a WANT and not a NEED.

Things like oxygen, water, and food, on the other hand, you would desperately pay your last nickel for, no matter how high the price.   They truly are needs.

Well, OK, you say, at $500 a month, you wouldn't pay for cable.  You'd find something else to entertain yourself with.   After all $500 a month is far too much, right?

Right.   But so is $120 a month, if you think about it - particularly if you are "financially stressed" or "not saving for retirement" or "living paycheck-to-paycheck".   If any of these things apply to you, and you are mystified as to why are you are broke all the time, may I suggest you look at the television in your living room, the fancy leased car parked in your driveway, or the cell phone buzzing in your pocket.   All wants, none needs.

"But everyone has ...." you cry, like a small child arguing with their parents.   Yes, and if everyone jumped off a bridge, would you do that too?   You Mom said that, and she was right.   Basing your behavior on the behavior of others - who are likely as insolvent as yourself - is a really dumb idea.   In fact, doing anything based on peer pressure is pretty stupid, isn't it?

Anyway, that is the simple idea.   Take any item in your life, mentally jack the price on it by a factor of2, 3, 4, or 5, and then ask yourself, would I have gotten this item at that price?   And if the answer is "No" then ask yourself why you paid the price you did?

Maybe you could do without some of these things - or go to far cheaper alternatives.   If you are struggling with bills and seem to "never get ahead in life" it is something to think about.

Look at me, Cable-free for well over a decade now.   You might laugh at my battered old laptop and my cheap-ass GoPhone, but you know, at least I don't have to work anymore.

Which is better, owning a lot of shit and being unhappy, or having nothing and being euphoric?

Just a thought!