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Apr
26

Are You Really Separating Wants from Needs in Your Budget?

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According to a Nerdwallet poll conducted by Harris Poll, 64 percent of Americans have accumulated some amount of credit card debt. But the reasons why people overspend is enlightening. In fact, the poll found that only 10 percent of Americans say the most common reason for credit card debt is that their income doesn’t cover everyday necessities.

There could also be psychological factors at play for overspending, like indulging in retail therapy when feeling down and out or having a bad day. But old-fashioned financial sense — like separating wants from needs in your budget — are also factors in overspending. It may seem like a no-brainer that needs are crucial for survival and wants are not. But is your grocery cart full of snack foods and ingredients you could do without?

Take a moment to reevaluate your needs from wants and take the next step toward financial health with these tips.

Focus on the Function

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the idea that you need a new house or car in order for your life to function better. But take a closer look at the issues. If your house has adequate space, but you’re feeling cramped, it’s probably worth waiting it out until your finances are in a place so you can upsize your lifestyle. Or, consider putting a little money into fixing up the attic into a new space instead of buying an all-new home.

The same goes with a car. Your car may just need a new timing belt and set of tires to get it running better. At the same time, don’t be tempted to keep driving a clunker without considering the dangers involved. Thin tires prone to poor air pressure can burn up more gas than a set of new tires. Get creative on ways to save by visiting a site like Tirebuyer.com for deals on tires and direct delivery to your mechanic.

Think About Cross Categories

It’s possible to have wants and needs on your list that blend together. For example, Internet hookup could be a need if you’re trying to grow and run a business from home. However, you may not need the most robust package to make it happen.

It’s easy to overspend on Internet hookup costs if they’re bundled into a phone and cable package. But dropping your landline phone service in favor of a low-cost cell phone plan through Republic Wireless could save you money. You can also cut cable altogether by streaming shows from Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu directly to your TV with a service like Apple TV or Chromecast.

Weed Out Hidden Wants

Take a good, hard look at your monthly budget. Groceries are obviously non-negotiable, but there could be hidden indulgences sneaking into your buggy. Look at snack foods, desserts and even things like paper plates and napkins.

A Costco membership may also save on groceries instead of a trip to the fancy all-organic grocery down the street. Or, consider compromising on a combination of coupons, your favorite organic grocer and a service like Amazon Fresh to optimize your budget to get your needs and wants under control.

Check in with Yourself

Sometimes your monthly budget only tells half the story. You may have spent just a little extra at Target this month, but do you know why? Maybe you were short-tempered with the kids and ended up getting them toys from the dollar bins to make it up to them. Or, perhaps you had a bad day and wanted a new magazine or outfit that made you feel better.

That type of emotional spending can turn even practical needs into wants. Buying a new set of towels because yours are frayed isn’t a need and could be fueled by frustration over your house feeling less than ideal. To combat emotional spending and weed out what you need, make a shopping list in advance.

It’s also wise to jot down how you’re feeling anytime you’re buying something beyond the scope of your needs. That way, you’re better able to detect any patterns in how and when you spend to get things back under control.

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