Necessities or Entitlements

There's a great article today on Yahoo! Finance about possible ways you can save money in our current recession by eliminating the "new necessities". They list 12 things that many people have come to view as life's necessities and what you could save by eliminating or scaling back. Here they are:

Daily Latte
The notion of giving up your daily latte and getting rich has become a cliché for a reason: A barista-made latte costs roughly 100 times what a homebrewed cup of Joe does. Would you pay $1,000 for a pizza? Get real. Brew your own and save $25 a week, or $1,300 a year.

Cable TV
Bruce Springsteen described cable TV succinctly in his song "57 Channels (And Nothin' On)." But even if you can't imagine living without C-SPAN, you can save by dropping premium cable while holding onto basic service. Dropping premium channels should save you about $25 to $30 a month, or $300 to $360 a year. If you're more ambitious, you can save a bundle by dropping premium and basic service. Basic service often runs about $30 to $35 a month, or $360 to $420 a year. So if you drop cable entirely, you'll save $55 to $65 a month, or $660 to $780 annually.

Standard manicures average $10 to $15 at nail shops and $20 to $25 at spas and salons. Standard pedicures run $15 to $25 (nail shops) and $35 to $40 (spas and salons). Acrylic nails run $25 to $35 (nail shops) and $35 to $45 (spas and salons). If you only skipped one of each per month, you would save $50 to $110 a month, or $600 to $1,200 a year. Just doing your own weekly manicure will save you $520 to $1,300 annually.

What, give up Botox? Don't frown. Those treatments -- typically scheduled every three months -- cost on average between $300 and $1,200 per visit. Let nature take its course and save $1,200 to $4,800 a year.

Bottled Water
Some people consider bottled water a necessity, even though the perfect low-cost alternative is available from any faucet in their home. "Bottled water drives me crazy," Hunt says. "There are so many studies that show that tap water is better for our kids because it has fluoride and it's not stripped of all the minerals." Drink tap water and pocket the $25 to $40 monthly fee for bottled water delivery, based on online averages.

Second Car
Hands down, a second car is the highest-ticket "new necessity" in America today. It's so prevalent that Yeager is doing his book promotion tour by bike just to point up the sheer absurdity of our one-person, one-car paradigm. Hunt, who routinely leased a new car every three years for 22 years until her finances crashed and burned, tried carpooling with her husband 10 years ago and never bought another car. "I said, 'You know what? Oprah has a driver,'" she says. "That was such a wakeup call to me, because a car had become a necessity of life." Not only does she not miss the car payment, maintenance, license, registration, insurance fees and outlay for gas ("We save at least $1,000 a month," she estimates), but there's that domino effect: She no longer zooms off to the mall to shop at the hint of a sale.

Cell Phone
Those TV ads that feature parents distraught over their family's cell phone bill may qualify as truth in advertising for once. "This drives me crazy," Hunt says. "I'm sorry, a 4-year-old does not need a cell phone. I think even a family with teenagers could get by with one or two prepaid phones that they pass around." You can save $40 to $60 per month on average, or $480 to $720 per year, for every cell phone you eliminate. A prepaid plan used sparingly will save you money over a contract plan.

Lawn Service
Here's the rationalization for a lawn service: My time is worth more than I'm paying them to cut my grass. Heck, it's actually a savings! Well, yes -- if you were mowing your lawn during business hours instead of at night or on the weekend with the rest of us. The average cost for weekly mowing, hedge trimming and leaf blowing is $65 to $90. It's hardly a savings to shell out $260 to $360 a month, is it? Mow your own and save the dough. If you do enough lawn and garden work, you may even save the $35 to $40 you shell out each month for your fitness club membership.

Where would retailers be if we only bought clothes we need? "I'm not a fashion-conscious guy, but I've observed that clothes, even the cheapest clothes, last forever," Yeager says. "When was the last time you truly wore something out?" While we're not suggesting you dress in rags -- or worse, go without clothes altogether -- satisfying your wardrobe jones with a measure of frugality can save a bundle. "I think most Americans could easily go for one year without buying any new clothes," Yeager says.

Private School
Give up private school? Are you crazy?! "A lot of parents almost feel that they are abusing their children if they don't send them to private school," Hunt says. "I don't agree with that." Instead, Hunt believes parents can save a bundle -- and provide their children with a top-notch education -- by sticking with public schools. "I'm a huge proponent of public school," she says. "I think some private schools are actually inferior because sometimes their instructors don't have to be credentialed." Oh, did we mention that you're already paying for public school anyway? Go public and save anywhere from $8,000 to $35,000 per year, according to the Boarding School Review Web site.

Childhood Parties
If you don't have kids, you probably can't appreciate how out-of-control children's birthday parties have become. "Every kid has to have a bouncy house for their birthday," says Hunt, who lives in Southern California. "It's not enough to have just a cake; you have to have a meal. And now you have to invite the parents." Hunt adds that such celebrations no longer are restricted to "big" birthdays, but occur every year. "And they celebrate graduations, from preschool, for kindergarten, for elementary, junior high," she says. "When they get to be teens, the whole group has to go somewhere. By the time you graduate high school, now you go to Aruba." Young parents, you've been warned.

Pet grooming/Walking
The cost of grooming your dog averages $30 to $50 for small breeds, $50 to $70 for midsize breeds and $70 to $90 for large breeds. A pet walker on average runs $15 to $27 per walk. To save money, invest in a $25 set of electric clippers and learn online about how to groom your pet. You'll pay for the razor with the first haircut. And wouldn't a daily walk do you both some good?

All right everybody - be honest. How many of those 12 things are in your budget right now? It's 4 for me.


All In said...

4 for me.

Anonymous said...

All 12.

Especially private school for my kids and the botox.

What? No, I'm NOT giving them up.

- Josh

Mookie said...

well my wife has a cell phone...I still really honestly have no idea why, unless its just to give me another bill to pay
and clothes..to a point, mine are usually Christmas gifts...the boys get theirs because they outgrow EVERYTHING...I need to learn how to make instant midget kids so I can save on that expense. The wife...she doesnt do too much clothes shopping
so, at most 2

Joe Caruso said...


Although I agree with some of this article, yahoo's numbers are a little questionable. Some of this looks great on paper, but not in reality.

1. Latte: In order to brew latte's at home, you need an espresso machine. A good one that will produce cafe-like results will set you back about $1,000+. It's going to cost about 40 cents a cup, which would be about 10x less than a cafe.

2.Private Schools: I think for the most part public schools are the last resort for education. Spending money on your child's education is certainly not wasting money. People who say they're a huge fan of public schools make me a bit concerned.

3.Botox: Complete waste of money. If you're that ugly, injecting bacteria is really not going to help much. :)

4. Second Car: Unless you live in a city with great public transportation, a second car is a necessity, especially for a family. I tried it and it was very hard to do.

It's about balance. It's just as stupid to spend too much on pampering yourself as it is to be cheap and not enjoy life...

– Joe

Java Mom said...

I could give up daily mochas.......I could not give up my car......I could give up cable.....I could not give up my computer and internet......

I could give up Botox.......cause I will just PHOTOSHOP the wrinkles out !!!

Anonymous said...

I was 0 for 12. We have simplified our living a great deal in the last year. Even started drying our clothes on "the line". About the only "optional" monthly expense in our life right now is high speed internet($50). We spend about $1,000-$1,200 per year on private education. Able to save quite a bit there since my wife is the teacher, I'm the principal, and the daily commute means walking to the kitchen table.