Do You Really Need X to Live?

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The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Kelly Gurnett. Kelly runs the blog, Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

We live in a privileged society. We take for granted things that our parents and grandparents never would have dreamed of. Heck, we take for granted things that we never would have dreamed of 10-20 years ago. (I still remember thinking that the screechy AOL dial up sound was the sound of the future, and now the phone in my pocket can tell me anything I need to know in milliseconds.)

But, how many of the things on our monthly budget are really must-haves? Consider these five things that you may not need after all:

1. TV service. With things like Hulu and Netflix streaming, there is really no need to pay a hefty cable or satellite bill every month. Few people ever watch TV live anymore, between our hectic daily schedules and our impatience with commercials thanks to skip-forward options. So, rather than storing a ton of episodes on your DVR, why not just watch them as you get a chance through a free (or drastically reduced) service?

2.  A music collection. I know, I’ve added hundreds of tracks and playlists to my iPod, too…but maybe I can cross updating that data off my future to-do list. Because thanks to sites like Spotify, you can save as many songs as you like on your own customizable playlists (and share them with friends) for free if you’re willing to put up with ads or for a nominal fee if you’re not. (You can also get rid of your Sirius XM subscription thanks to sites like Pandora, which also offers free or paid options.)

3.  A gym membership. Unless you absolutely have to have that pricey membership fee hanging over your head to force you to keep exercising, there’s no need to pay exorbitant prices for access to workouts you can just as easily do at home. Invest in a movement-sensing gaming system like the Xbox Kinect or Playstation Move, and you can do any number of workouts, from Zumba to yoga to your own personalized, digital-trainer-led fitness program, on your own time and in the comfort of your own home. Or, just go the good old-fashioned DVD route.

4.  A second car. Plenty of couples with kids, jobs, and the whole shebang manage to survive with just one car. One spouse will carpool with coworkers or take public transportation. Spouses will work different shifts so sharing is easier. You realize you can walk to the corner store in 10 minutes instead of driving there in 1, and you will be okay. (It may even be fun to get out in the fresh air!)

Cars eat up a huge amount of our budgets. Between gas, maintenance, insurance, and parking, having one less car can save you tons of money.

That said, who says you even need one car? If you live way out in the country and have to drive 20 miles to get to anything, then yes, I would consider it a necessity. But, if you live in a city or suburb with readily available public transport, you may not need a car at all. Should you find you need one on occasion (like to pick up a friend from the airport), plenty of car-sharing services like Zipcar are springing up all over the country to meet this occasional need.

5.  A big house (or a house, period). The longstanding American dream of owning a home has shifted, thanks largely to the skepticism caused by the mortgage crisis. But, it’s more than a matter of concern over buying more house than you can afford—it’s a matter of all the expenses and obligations that go along with home ownership, which many people are beginning to rethink.

Yes, some may argue that renting is like pouring your money down the drain (or into someone else’s pockets), but when you rent, you have your maintenance (indoors and outdoors) taken care of for you. If something breaks, someone else foots the repair bill. If it snows, someone else plows the driveway. Plus, you have much more freedom to pick up and move than you do when you’re locked into a 30-year mortgage and have to face the hassles of selling to “get out.”

Home ownership is a big commitment, with many ongoing costs (always more than you expected, as any home owner can attest to). So think twice before adding that white picket fence to your “every grownup should have ___” list.

How about you all? What things in your life do you currently pay for but think you could probably live without to save some money?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

    ***Photo courtesy of


    1. My wife is trying to sell our second car as we speak! Don't let her read this article!!!! 🙂 Luckily, it is paid for, so I do have that going for me.

      Honestly, we have tried to cut out a lot of the things in this list. The more we simplify our life, the happier we are. Even better is the fact that simplifying our life has given us more money and time to do the things that we really enjoy!
      My recent post This Is What I’m Thankful For…

      • CordeliaCallsIt says:

        Haha, I'll keep mum if you do!

        You're so right about the beauty of simplicity–not only does cutting back on needless things save you money; it makes your life less cluttered and makes you appreciate more the things that you do have.

    2. Jon@PayStudentLoans says:

      I would love to be able to get rid of our second car. Unfortunately it is not in the cards for us due to our jobs being at different times. The TV bill I continue to try and cut to the bare bones.

      The one thing I cut was monthly haircuts (pun intended) – I bought a $30 trimmer once and now $15/month is saved. As long as you don't mind the occasional “joining the army” jokes. More importantly it saves me a 1/2hr each month and is way more convenient.
      My recent post Are Student Loans a Good Investment – ROI

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