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Needs and Wants - Getting out of Debt

Updated: Dec 10, 2023

Story by Randy Grathen

“Mom!” “School is starting, I need some new clothes.”

“Mom, I need to get one of those new foldable cell phones. All my friends have one.

“Mom, I’m turning 16 next month, can I get a raise in my allowance. I can’t afford to go to Starbucks with my friends anymore.”

We are bombarded incessantly by hundreds of ads every week telling us we need the latest “thing,” or we’re out of step with our peers and society.

Keeping up with the Joneses has morphed into keeping up with the rest of the country. Wanting something has gotten so bad that kids are beating up and sometimes killing each other over a pair of shoes.

May 14, 1990 — Raheem Wells, the quarterback for Detroit Kettering High, was murdered, allegedly by six teenagers who swiped his Nike sneakers.

Mar 6, 2020 — A group of teenagers beat up a 15-year-old girl and stole her Air Jordan sneakers during a robbery in Brooklyn.

Jan 12, 2023 — A New York City teen was left unconscious after being attacked for his Jordans outside McDonald's.

Every Thanksgiving parents jump in their cars and drive to department stores at midnight for Black Friday sales. Now Black Friday Week. People storm the doors when they open, trampling each other so they can fight over the latest gott’a have toy-of-the-year. Seriously?!?

People are in debt up to their eyeballs. Paying obscene interest rates on multiple maxed out credit cards. It has reached the point where people are buying food on credit. Now it takes both parents working to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Single parents sometimes work two jobs trying to make ends meet.

How do we get off the debt merry-go-round?

It’s not that hard to create a simpler, more rewarding life. But “ya gott’a wanna.”

So, what can we do?

Learn to cook at home and teach your kids how to cook. They will need these skills when they get older, along with many others. Take them grocery shopping. I had a niece who thought making dinner meant nuking it or going to McDonalds. It is much cheaper and healthier overall to cook at home rather than buy ready-to-eat and fast food. As long as you’re cooking, make enough so you have leftovers. You’ll have a quick second meal ready to go in minutes.

Seek out gently used stuff that can be rehomed in your life. I have purchased high-end brand name clothing for example at Goodwill, and consignment stores. If your kids didn’t know where it came from, and they looked at the label, would they be ashamed to wear it? Recycling is such a social justicey thing to do right now. Everyone should be proud of you for being so willing to contribute to saving the environment.

Needs and Wants

When Laurie and I got married my parents gave us their old washer and dryer set. There were nine people in my family. I don’t know how many loads of laundry my mom did per week, but Laurie and I used that Kenmore set for several more years before we finally replaced them.

Laurie and I have learned to be content with what we have. We don't have less; we just don't crave more stuff or always want the next "new thing." Very early in our marriage we made a life-changing rule. It’s called Needs vs Wants. If you "need" it, and you can afford it, buy it. If you "want" it (impulse buying) wait a day. If you still want it, and you can afford it - buy it. Otherwise, DON'T. We have been debt free most of our life married life (48 years) because of that simple rule.

Getting out of debt

We both came into our marriage with some financial debt. It took Laurie 5 years to get us out of debt. But, once you get your spending and debt under control, you can make life changing choices you never knew existed. You may have a high paying job that sucks but you’re stuck because of debt. If you were debt free, what would you, could you, do differently?

You only “need” one primary credit card and a backup. Having a second card in case one is stolen or it starts acting up you'll still be able to make necessary purchases while waiting to get your replacement card. Cut up the rest. There is no good arguement for having a credit card for every department store in town. Remember, unless you can pay off the card every month you'll being paying double digit intrest on your purchases because you wanted to save 5 or 10% up front - STUPID! Also, try using a little cash more often. You don't pay 18+% interst on cash purchaes.

Here it the KEY to destroying your debt problems!

Take the smallest credit debt you have and pay it down as quickly as you can. Most of your payment goes towards interest with only the smallest portion going to pay down the principle. You’ll have to give up some things for a while to make this work.

Make the minimum required payment as usual. Then make a second matching payment, or any additional money you can afford marked specifically to be paid towards the principle. Once you pay off the smallest debt take the money you were using to pay it off, and add it to the next larger debt. As you pay off each debt combine those additional monies, make the minimum payment, and then all the extra money will go to pay down the principle. Remember, interest is charged on the unpaid balance. The quicker you pay down the principle the less you will pay in interest. Keep doing this until you are now making a single payment on that one credit card you have left. Pay it off every month. You are now using the convenience of a credit card without paying horrendous, obscene amounts of interest to use it. The national average interest rate as of September 1st 2023 is 20.93%. Do you really want to pay that kind of money and get NOTHING in return for it??? Do the math.

Once your debt is under control start investing it or put it in a savings account, C/Ds, IRA’s or in Mason jars buried in your backyard. But whatever you do it, save as much of it as you can. Retirement is still within your grasp. If you don’t want to work until the day you die, get started now.

God told us to be good stewards of the things He’s given us. He also gave us skills that allow us to make money.

Deuteronomy 8:18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

Proverbs 21-20 The wise have wealth and luxury, but the fool spends whatever he gets.

Hebrews 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Ecclesiastes: Whoever loves money never has enough, whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. (Full text: Ecclesiastes 1-12)

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