Whenever it comes out that anyone is caring about their spending, and saying "no" to some things... you get judged. Judged as "being broke" and not having enough. Well, technically, if you had enough to buy any little thing the minute you wanted it you would not be a middle class American - you'd be filthy, stinking rich.
Anyway, when you go through FPU, you get judged. (You must be bad/irresponsible with money or you wouldn't be in this mess.) When you confess you are living on a budget a certain population segment will pity you (Poor thing, she has to watch every penny.)
But what really really bugs me is when people judge spending.
Confession: I do it to other people.
So I am a hypocrite. When you have told me that you have to declare bankruptcy because you have been out of work for 2 years, and that you are on the verge of foreclosure... and then you buy both a big screen TV and an iPad in the same week (true story)? I judge.
But going through FPU, I get judged on little expenses. Little spendings. Every time I buy a Coke to drink, I get judged, because really I "should be" drinking water, and by water, I mean free tap water. Or nothing. I should not spend any money on my hair, my clothes, my cell phone plan, etc etc etc ad infinitum.
I'm a person who has been told - by both loved ones and strangers, by credit counselors and bank loan officers - that I am extremely responsible with my money. And yet, I know there are areas where I could have done better.
I still remember in one FPU class where I mentioned having taken a cab that day. Yes sometimes I take a cab. I have spinal issues. I can't walk more than a block. If I have an appointment downtown, last summer I could have (and did) walk. But now I take a cab. If the journey requires 2 bus rides (a transfer) that is $5.50 there and $5.50 back, for a total of $11.00. Two cab rides with tip are $14.00. The difference is a whole $3.00. And yet, I got judged. And because class is at 6:30 amd I get off the train at 6:00 and still need to drive there, every week I would come in with a McDonalds bag and eat dinner in class. One of my classmates exclaimed, "But you are supposed to be saving money!" Said the woman who cut off her cable, but still had a Netflix account. Who took her family of 4 to New Jersey for Thanksgiving weekend.
So the question is -- what is a WANT vs. a NEED. Some needs are easy. I need to eat food. I need electricity, heat, and a phone. I need a way to get to work. I need clothes to wear for work. I need shelter.
Some wants are easy. I want a big flat screen TV. I want a cable package with a DVR. I want to go to the movies. I want the newest iPhone with unlimited data. I want a new car. I want to go to Bali. Want a DSLR.
But then there is the in-between, and how close is that to a Want or to a Need? I do Need to go to the dentist, and I cannot walk, therefore I Need to transport myself. The difference in cost between Need (4 bus fares) and Want (2 cab rides) is $3.00.
Yesterday I read a thread on a message board, basically judging every person who has or owns a smartphone as being a spendthrift. "HOW can anyone use one of those things, in this economy?!?!"
I have a smartphone. It is an iPhone 3GS. It was $50, purchased 3 months ago when my iPhone 3G broke. My monthly bill is $90. It is a $25 increase from my former T-Mobile bill, which was not a smartphone and thus the $25 a month is data only. I initially bought the phone because I was in library school, and libraries (most people don't seem to believe this but it's true) are not about books, they are about technology. Libraries are about information flow, and information comes to us, most frequently, through technology. I was falling behind my much younger classmates who were coming in to library school from college, who knew the difference between an iPhone and an iPod Touch. I was scrambling to keep up with them. I was printing out call letters for books, walking into the stacks, not finding what i needed, and having to walk back to a physical catalog, while my classmates, soon to be my competition for limited job opportunities, were looking at WorldCat through an app on the phone. I wasted a lot of time, which, working full time and commuting while in grad school? Was really hard on me. So I bought a phone and slowly started bringing myself up to the realm of where my classmates and soon-to-be patrons were.
I currently work as a digital librarian. I got this job just weeks after graduation, a feat unheard of libraryland. I work in a very technology-focused environment.
So was this phone a want? or a need? I get judged all the time, because to other people, it's just a Want, and I am spoiled.
Today I am wearing a new cardigan I bought last weekend for all of $18. I did not have it budgeted. But I have had, in my mind, that I NEED A VERY LONG BLACK CARDIGAN. What would Dave say -- I don't "need" a cardigan.
But women know. Women know that sometimes you have clothing you can't wear unless you have other clothing to wear with it. I have work pants I cannot wear unless I wear heels. I have shirts I cannot wear unless I have a longer layering tank or tee underneath. I can't wear any of my jeans with my boots because they are not cut right.
Since I don't have a lot of clothes (relatively), depending on how laundry day falls, what the weather is like, what shoes I can or cannot wear today, and what color bra is still clean, I find myself scrambling for things to wear with a closet full of clothes. One extra long black cardigan can open up many more work outfit options with what I have. I have been looking for one here and there ever since I realized this. So when I saw one at WalMart, for under $20, and it was cut how I wanted, I didn't even try it on. Just bought it in my size.
But technically... did I "need" it?
Did my FPU classmate "need" Netflix? Well she has 2 little kids so in her mind she "needs" something for them. Does she "need" to drive a big SUV that costs so much to fill up? With multiple kids maybe she does. Did she "need" to take a cross country trip at the holidays? Maybe she wantsneedswantsneeds her kids to have holiday memories with Grandma.
Just some thoughts swirling around today. Shortly, I have to go catch a cab.
PS. Just looked at my budget and I had $60 unallocated (bad girl) - so the sweater will come out of that.
Photo 1: Wants vs. Needs cartoon. From "My wants and needs, time to get back to basics..." TheLongAcre.net. 12 Oct 2011. LINK