Money To Live

August 5, 2008


Filed under: advertising,credit — by moneytolive @ 5:00 am
Tags: , ,

In the mail recently, I received a letter telling me that I “deserve the opportunities that come with a larger credit line” and that my credit line has been automatically increased by 20%.

What the credit card issuer might have in mind is a vacation to celebrate finishing grad school, a shopping spree for a wardrobe for my new job, or buying all new furniture for my new apartment. What I have in mind for what I deserve is safety, love, and nourishment.

I cringe when I hear people say they “deserve a new TV” or even a new car. An ex-boyfriend tried to convince me to get a new car because I worked hard and “deserved” better than my old leaky Saturn (rain water dripped directly on the front passenger seat). But the car was otherwise in great shape, and if my parents had not insisted I drive (and given me) a new car, I would still be driving the leaky Saturn.

What this really comes down to is how we understand and explain our purchases. A common way to sort all purchases uses two categories: “needs” and “wants.” Anything that you say you “deserve” probably falls in the “wants” category.

I propose four questions to help decide whether or not to buy a “want.”

  • Did I already know that I wanted to buy this? or is an effective, sneaky marketing strategy at work?
  • Will I use it regularly?
  • Is it fabulous? is it well made, does it fit my lifestyle, am I sure it will not go out of style next week?
  • Can I afford it? is there enough discretionary spending money in my bank account today?

If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, do not make the purchase today. Think about it, and maybe the purchase will make sense next week or next month.

When you get back from your next shopping trip without buying anything you “deserve,” take a seat and kick your feet up — you deserve it.



  1. Katy, I know I don’t fit your profile, so I’m hesitant to comment. You can tell me if you want me to refrain. Your topic of wants v. needs raised several issues. In teaching money management, I quit trying to distinguish between the two. Does it matter? Isn’t the bottom line really how much it costs and if I have the money? Can anyone other than a highly educated self-actualized individual answer that? I tried applying your questions to my almost-overwhelming wanting of an iPhone. I can’t decide if it fits want or need. But I still don’t have one in my budget…yet. I guess I can buy cheap wine to make up for my lack.

    Comment by lillian — August 6, 2008 @ 11:40 am |Reply

  2. Hi Lillian,

    Thanks for reading! You are always welcome to comment — I love to hear new perspectives. Since you have worked in this area, it will be great to hear what you think.

    I also question the value of dividing “wants” and “needs” (the words are in in quotes because I do not have good definitions of them).

    Our “needs” consist of food, shelter, and warmth (and A/C in Texas). By those standards, nearly all Americans are dramatically indulging in “wants.”

    I am also thinking of getting an iPhone.

    Since I have been thinking about buying one for a few months, this is not an impulse decision (I already knew I wanted to buy it).

    Since my family and friends are scattered around the country, I will use it regularly. Also, it will help me blog on the go.

    The iPhone is fabulous.

    Can I afford it? Right now, no. But when my job starts in a few weeks, yes.

    I am waiting to purchase the iPhone for 1-2 more weeks so that it is right before my job starts, and hence right before the paychecks that will pay for it.


    Comment by Katy — August 6, 2008 @ 11:58 am |Reply

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