We spend a lot of time talking about ways to save money, many of which involve understanding how financial systems work so you can use them to your advantage rather than them taking advantage of you.
You see, it is only through largely letting go of consumerist habits and attitudes that you can begin to find more satisfaction in what you save than what you spend.
A large part of shifting the mindset is to truly understand what it is we actually need to live our lives. We must be able to distinguish between what we want, and what we actually need.
We must also let go of the attitude of deserving. Many people justify bad purchases and decisions based on deserves. I’m a human being, so I deserve this.
This attitude of deserving seems to be especially pervasive right now, where many people feel that they deserve luxuries and privileges just for existing. It doesn’t matter whether or not I can afford it or in some cases, whether I’ve worked hard for it. I deserve and need it to be happy.
Well, we’re here to tell you that there are some things you do deserve, but they probably aren’t what you think.
In fact, there are only 5 things you actually need and deserve in this life, and unfortunately, not even these things are guaranteed. Anything above and beyond is things you must earn, and while we acknowledge that many individuals are given a head start in life, we guarantee they will fall far behind by the finish line if they do not continue to earn their way.
We are also not saying that you can’t indulge in luxuries and your wants, we are simply saying if you want to reach financial freedom, you must work hard, spend smart, and live within your means.
So, what are the 5 things you actually need and deserve, and why should you care?
Because if you have these things, you have everything you need to do great things.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but for many people in this country and throughout the world not having enough food or water is a major concern.
In fact, around 42 million Americans were food insecure in 2016, which included 13 million children. Furthermore, there were around 5.4 million seniors that were food insecure in 2015. These numbers reflect what’s going on in our own country and grow significantly when world statistics are considered.
Access to water is another prevalent issue, although not as much in the U.S. The majority of people affected by lack of access to water live in Africa and Asia, and many individuals must walk up to 6 kilometers (about 3 ¾ miles) a day to collect water.
When you are hungry or do not have easy access to water, all other desires tend to fade into the background. You don’t just need food and water to live. You need it to develop and thrive and to allow your body and brain to work to their fullest. You need these things first if you want to partake in other pursuits.
Food and water are the most basic needs/deserves we have.
I (Sebastian) went through a couple of tough years. There were times when I often went hungry and had only two or three pairs of clothes to wear. I had a sick family member and a baby brother, and any food we had went to them first.
I remember days when I only had one small meal, and I learned to ignore the hunger pangs as best I could. This took a toll on me, of course, and I struggled to concentrate in school and elsewhere.
When I was growing up everyone had to walk a mile to the nearest market to get fresh food just for the day or for part of the day (because we didn’t have refrigeration). Over time you get used to it, and it becomes normal. That is human nature.
Similarly, we are used to living at a certain level here in the U.S., and it is just our normal. Anytime we deviate from our normal life, we worry and even complain.
I have experienced two normals: one being to survive and the other to maintain a comfortable living. I remember the awe I felt the first time I stepped into a grocery store in the U.S. The abundance of food, clothes, personal care products, candies, and other items was shocking.
Even though it may seem somewhat extreme, the experiences I had growing up put things in perspective for me throughout my life, and I know all too well the difference between needs and wants.
If you’ve never known what it is like to go without food or water, you can count yourself very lucky.
The next thing you need/deserve is shelter. Here we define shelter as a place out of the elements that you can call home. Somewhere that you can stay warm and dry and be comfortable.
Again, there are a great number of people within our own country who cannot say they have access to consistent shelter. A 2017 report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development stated that there were around 554,000 homeless people in this country, with 193,000 of those having inconsistent access to nightly shelters.
Many points to the rise in rent cost over the last several years as the main reason for the rise in the homeless population.
Luckily, neither of us has ever had to live without adequate shelter. However, what is adequate and what is desired are again two different things.
Rising housing costs mean that it’s more important than ever to shift your mindset to frugalism and to live within your means. It also underscores the importance of foregoing luxuries in order to build up savings whenever possible.
You must literally save for a rainy day.
Luxuries are wants; shelter is a need.
This is a big one for me (Tawnya). I work with children daily who have experienced abuse and neglect, and I know how prolonged unsafe environments have a lasting impact on individuals.
Exposure to consistent violence and uncertainty literally changes your brain.
Children learn skills necessary to survive their unsafe environment and translate those skills into other situations as they grow up. Unfortunately, the skills that help you to survive unsafe environments are maladaptive in the larger society, and these children grow into teens and adults who tend to struggle.
Again, while safety is something you deserve, it is not something that is guaranteed. According to the American SPCC, 7.4 million children were involved in child abuse cases in 2016, and an average of 5 children die every day from abuse and neglect.
Furthermore, according to the NCADV a third of women in the U.S. have experienced domestic violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lives.
These statistics are not to dismiss violence in other capacities and toward men but to underscore how widespread violence is and how prevalent it is in some of our most vulnerable populations.
Like food, water, and shelter, if you live your life in fear of violence, then other desires/wants become secondary.
This one is a controversial topic in this country. However, no matter what your stance is on who should pay for healthcare, if someone is sick, then they deserve to have access to treatment options.
We don’t know the answer to the healthcare dilemma, but we do know that people deserve access to the best treatment options available, even if they are largely the cause of their malady.
I had written before about my grandma, who died of lung cancer after she wouldn’t stop smoking. Yes, she was warned and wouldn’t stop. Many thousands of dollars were spent on her treatments and could have been saved if she had stopped smoking. Yes, it’s not fair for your tax dollars to go to someone who is choosing to kill themselves.
But if that were your husband, wife, child, or even grandmother, you would want them to have access to the newest and best in the hopes that it might be enough.
You would want them to live.
Healthcare is something that is a need and is deserved by all.
Finally, we come to the 5th thing that everyone needs/deserves in their life: worth.
While it may be possible to feel like you have worth without one or more of the other 4 points, the value and impact of worth will be pushed aside in favor of the other, more urgent needs.
Thus, similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we’ve placed worth as something that can be most felt when the other 4 needs are already achieved.
Worth refers to having meaning in your life, feeling like you’ve accomplished something, and having a reason to be here.
Worth is fulfillment.
People obtain feelings of worth in many ways. Some feel it through religion. Others, through their work. Typically, worth is the feeling that we are making a difference in the world, no matter how small.
Worth is also something that can ebb and flow and change throughout the course of your life. Perhaps what gives you worth as a young adult will be completely different when you are elderly.
Whatever it is, people need and deserve to feel like they have accomplished something and that their life is worthwhile.
Moral of the Story
Why are we telling you this?
These points sound more like an inspirational or self-help book than a financial blog post.
However, shifting the mindset from consumerism to frugalism requires you to be able to put your life in perspective and to readjust your priorities.
What are the things you actually need to live and succeed? What are the things you should focus your efforts on attaining most?
Millions of people in the U.S. live without consistent food and shelter and are consistently exposed to violence.
When you think about that, does a new car or a daily latte really matter that much?
Is it worth living paycheck to paycheck just to have things you don’t need while jeopardizing the things you do need?
The 5 things you do need and deserve are food/water, shelter, safety, healthcare, and worth.
If you don’t have one or more of these things, work as hard as you can to attain them. If you do have these things, you have everything you need to live.
The rest are wants, so if you do indulge, make sure they’re worth it.
Robyn is a millennial mom with a passion for personal finance. She has her MBA and has been studying Personal Finance on her own for as long as she can remember.
She has always been “into” personal finance but got inspired to start her blog after a period of extended unemployment. She says that experience really changed the way she viewed her relationship with money and the importance of accessible personal finance education. Read more at A Dime Saved.