According to the survey people found the following items “essential”:
Cable / Satellite TV – 49%
Cell phone – 46%
High-speed Internet access – 44 percent
Entertainment (movies, books, dining out, etc.) – 32 percent.
Big screen TV – 6%
Gym membership – 6%
Now different circumstances will make different things essential for different people. For example, high speed Internet is “essential” for me in that my income is based on time I spend on the Internet. Could I live without high speed Internet…yes, but I would be a lot poorer. It allows me to do more and thus increase my income far above the difference I would pay if I went back to dial up.
Another factor is that i can afford everything on the list. Even though they may not be essential, I have everything except the cell phone (never had) and gym membership (had one, but wasn’t using it enough to justify paying for it). If I was trying to pull myself out of debt, however, the only one I could truly classify as essential for me would be the high speed Internet.
While I’m sure there are a few people that require satellite TV as an essential part of their work and income, I highly doubt that it is 50%. I get most of my news off the Internet and with the decision to try and make this my full time job, I haven’t watched TV in the past month. Understanding that many of the things we want are not necessarily “essential” can greatly help you keep within your budget. This is because you can use those things that you want to help motivate yourself to save.
A great way to work out wants and needs is to give the list of the things you believe you need to a third party. If you can convince them that having them will make you more productive than if you didn’t have them, then you can make a strong case that they are essential. if you can’t, then it doesn’t mean you can’t have it, but you need to realize it’s expendable if money gets tight.