At what point does something go from being a want, to being a need? For most of us in North America (or other parts of the Global North… poor Australia and New Zealand, always left out of the monikers), we are well above the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy. (And no, the picture making its rounds on the internet with Wifi drawn in as the very bottom level does not make it a base necessity.)
If you are unfamiliar with Maslow’s hierarchy, here is a picture of it:
The gist of it is until the basics are sorted out (Physiological = food, shelter, water, sex, sleep, etc. Safety = health, body, property) they are our only focus in life and we can’t even begin to contemplate additional things, or “first world problems” as they are frequently called on the internet.
However, from our vantage point toward the top of the pyramid, it becomes easy to redefine what we see toward the bottom, from our well-off location on top. We view everything through a lens of our own experience, from victor’s history, to the politicization of space. When it comes to our own lives, it’s easy to view things as needs, not wants. Here are a few of those things.
In my life, I consider dishwashers a need. They are an essential component of maintaining marital bliss, or at least something which approximates marital bliss. They are frequently on the “must have” list when it comes to apartment hunting and house buying. I hope everyone has been forced to experience the pain that is not owning a dishwasher. It makes you appreciate them so much more when you do have one.
Dishwashers are a time saving machine, but not a necessary machine. If yours breaks, let it stay broken, unless you truly have the money. If you replace it, you need to bust a move making sure that the time saved on dishes is time spent side hustling to pay for the new dishwasher. My friends’ parent’s dishwasher broke and they spent months using it as a drying rack (they make excellent drying racks), because four out of five family members were in post-secondary education at the time. It’s possible. Dishwashers are a want, not a need, no matter how you self-justify.
While some eschew microwaves purposefully, the rest of the population tends to view them as a necessity. That’s not the case. I don’t know what else to say here, other than you can survive just fine without a microwave.
“I’m waiting to hear about a job.” Does NOT justify a cell phone as a “need.”
Most people, who are also waiting for a job, cannot affix themselves to a phone 24-7, either. They have part time jobs, or volunteering, or kids to take to school, or exercise time to take care of their body. Employers know this. They leave voicemails. You don’t NEED a cell phone, they’re just nice to have.
You don’t even need to have a phone, actually. You can get a direct line that goes to a voicemail box, online. Use that as your phone number, check your messages, and call back using Skype or Google.
I’m not saying that I would willingly give up my cell phone, but I am saying that I know it’s on the chopping block, should it ever need to be.
Did you know that you can get along just fine without a computer? There are many places that you can access the internet, without having to own your very own machine. There are senior’s centres, community centres, job centres, libraries, schools and internet cafes, to name a few. Yes, you can survive without a computer. I have gone months without having a computer in my possession, while traveling. Most of the time, I wouldn’t even know when I would next be able to find one. If you already know where you’ll find one, you’ve got a great advantage.
I also had lots of friends who didn’t have a computer for first year university, or for months upon months while on exchange in later years, even people in graduate school. No, I didn’t go to school “when you didn’t need a computer.” We had to use computers, constantly.
If your computer breaks while you’re broke, it sucks. But you can survive and make do.
So there you have it. Things we think we need, but truly can survive without. Some people think of washing machines and dryers the same way. When you strip away all of these types of things, that budget that refuses to balance magically gets a lot better. Cut, cut and cut some more, it’s all doable.
What do you like to consider a need, that is truly a want?