Defining "Need" (Payoff Step #2)

Last week, we talked about Step #1 in The Payoff process: Giving yourself a deadline. Today, we're moving on to Step #2...

We had to completely embrace the difference between need vs. want. Once we made the decision to payoff our house, and we set a deadline for when that would be accomplished, the next step was to figure out what could be cut from the budget.

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Although our married life had gotten off to a less-than-frugal start, after 12 years of practice, we had trimmed and cut to the point that we felt we were pretty good managers of our resources. You know there's a "but..." coming, right?

BUT...when we started scrutinizing how we were spending our money, we were forced to acknowledge that many of the things that we considered "needs" were, in actuality, wants. I began to dread telling Peter that I "needed" to go by Target, because he would ask me what was on my list. It usually went something like this...
I need to pick up some low-cut workout socks (it will motivate me to walk), and you need more candy for your jar at work (it's for your co-workers). I need to pick up a box of cake mix in case company shows up (I hate baking), and I need to pick up some birthday cards while I'm out (fact of life :: birthday's happen).
After a while, we no longer talked about the list. We didn't have to, because once we had that deadline in place, those so-called "needs" didn't really look like needs anymore. Their true colors came out and exposed them for what they were: WANTS and CONVENIENCES.

My treadmill doesn't care what style or color of sock I am wearing, so I wore different socks & did laundry once a week. That one choice saved me around $18 (because apparently they use gold thread to stitch up ankle socks!). Peter's co-workers no longer enjoyed the bottomless candy jar, our guests might (or might not) get dessert, and I started writing "Happy Birthday" on a 3 x 5 index card. No one cared.

Checking the motivation behind "I need" can be very freeing for your budget. For example, regardless of what you tell yourself, 90% of the time new clothes are not actually a need. Yes, that even applies to inexpensive, used clothing from thrift stores. The fact of the matter is, if you're serious about your payoff goals, your old clothes will do the job.

"But I have KIDS! They grow out of clothes!" (I can hear you making that excuse, even as you're reading this). Ask friends and family. Many of them probably have bags of no-longer-worn kids clothes and would be happy to pass them on - but they have to know you're looking. There's no shame in wearing hand-me-downs (I still wear them!), especially if it's helping you reach your goal.

While I'm busy making enemies...makeup falls under the "want" category as well. Do not leave me nasty comments about how I haven't seen you in the morning!

FYI: I could not discover a source to credit for photo. Quote is original to me.

For me, that meant going cold-turkey on book buying (harder than you think), but for you, that might look like realizing that you don't need to buy more makeup. Like it or not, the fact is, you will not physically die if you don't wear it, or wear less. And here's something else to keep in mind - this isn't forever, it's for a season. When your debts are paid or your goals are met, take some cash and hit up Sephora (or a bookstore!).

{Hang in there with me, even if you disagree...we're going to pick this back up in Step #5!}

Sometimes, all it takes it a little perspective. As I told the insurance woman, living overseas was one of the best experiences we ever had for learning the difference between need and want.
      Reality Check: I'll never forget the barefoot man who came to our house in Mozambique and asked if he could have Peter's dirty, hole-filled tennis shoes. The man's feet were probably closer to my size 7 than Peter's size 11.5, but he didn't care - shoes were a luxury item. Even dirty, worn out, too-big-for-you sneakers. If you ever need a good dose of reality, move to a third-world country. Your small closet will start to look like a mall.  
      Next Week: Self-Discipline 


      1. Amen! I love this post Carrie! Even though we are not saving for a house (we are saving to see our families) we are discovering that we do actually have enough and we don't NEED a lot of the things we think we do!

      2. I so needed this post!! I think it's time for me to get serious and really make drastic changes! I have 30k left to go, and my goal is to knock it out in 2014!!

        1. I'm so happy it was an encouragement to you, Tiffany! I hope you'll come back and share your progress with me in the future! GO YOU!! :)


      A reminder: there are more than 400,000 words in the English language, please use them wisely.


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