The things you "need"


Some of the things you need aren't really needs, they are entitlements, not in the legal sense, of course, but in a social sense. They are things you believe you have a right to own or consume. An article, 12 new necessities that drain your cash, lists a few that I have heard people swear they need: premium cable TV, a second car, bottled water. The article makes the point that these entitlements are really more burdensome than they are truly necessary.

It made me think about my own entitlements. Do I have any? How did I get them? I came up with a theory.

Luxury --> Habit --> Entitlement

Entitlements start out as treats, like having a coffee at Starbucks once in a while. Then they become habits. You have a coffee at Starbucks every time you go shopping at the mall with your friends. Finally they pass over from habit that you could skip into a daily necessity. A daily Starbucks fix is so entrenched in the way you live that you can't imagine what you did without it. You need your entitlements and you can justify them in many ways: you have enough money to afford them, so why not? You need a way to unwind after a long day at work. You always wanted this. You need the caffeine.

So with this in mind, I looked into my life, consulted Tod about our daily habits and found some entitlements. Most of them were pretty minor:

Nice soap. We buy fancy and exotic bath soaps. All different kinds. We started picking them up as souvenirs when we travelled. Now we get them from boutiques locally. Of course Lux or Muse would do just as well.

Expensive lotion. I have been using the same Clinique skin cream for over 20 years. It costs a stupid amount of money. I am sure there is a more reasonably priced substitute.

Good linens. We both love high thread count sheets and big thirsty towels. They do last longer than inexpensive linens and we only have three sheets and two sets of towels, so maybe this isn't as much an entitlement as good spending.

Imported foods. There are several bottles of fancy olive oil in the pantry. We have Greek olives and French bread from the good bakeries. We seek out imported oddities at the supermarkets.

And there is one really big, wallet-draining, nearly burdensome entitlement in my life. Travel. It absolutely follows the luxury-habit-need pattern. If I do not see some new and different place in the world at least once a year and more like two or thee times annually, I get edgy. I need to travel.

Of course I didn't used to be this way. Travel was a luxury 20 years ago - we had no money. Any far-flung excursions were occasional, though we did take a lot of day trips and weekends to our friends' farm in the nearby countryside.

Then we settled into a pattern of traveling to celebrate our anniversary. The trips started out as gift of a weekend at a B&B not too far away from home. It was such fun, we made it a habit that expanded scope when we moved abroad. Now our annual anniversary trips have gotten us to Italy, Ireland, India, Fiji, France, and all over Japan.

And here I am, on the verge of jetting off to Australia for a few weeks to visit a friend, and it isn't an anniversary trip. This will be my 4th time to Australia. I've been to China twice (four times if you count Hong Kong before the handover), to London several times, all over the US and South Asia.

I believe I need travel to keep my creativity and intellect in balance and I can't imagine life without traveling. Although it is expensive, I have enough money to afford it. I know how fortunate I am to be able to afford this.

But I don't really need it. I could probably get what I need in my own backyard, just like Dorothy Gale. Maybe.

Do you have any entitlements?


Good beer. In the summer, i'll drink tecate with lime, but in general I refuse to buy the watered-down beers that are so prevalent. I also get my milk delivered from a local company with happy cows, so there is that as well. A yearly (at least)trip to the desert is also on the list, I suppose. I don't just think I'd 'like' to get out of town, I usually feel i 'need' to get out of town.

Interesting what they chose as 12 necessities in the article. I feel quite out of touch, now.

Thank you for this eye-opening entry, it made me think a lot!
I use to have lots of them: bottled sparkling water, designer perfume, luxury hair cream, and the list could go on, but I've had to watch my expenses, and I had to sacrifice those little indulgments... True enough they don't seem to be so necessary now...


Ms K, what about your weekly shiatsu?

For me on a regular basis, it is nice soap, hair colouring, face wash, moisturiser, lollies.

Others that I would love to have more often but can't find the time:

There are probably others. I know my mum is aways saying "you don't need that!!".

I considered including the shiatsu, but it's no longer weekly since my migraines seem to be getting less frequent. In the end, I decided shiatsu wasn't an entitlement, but more like a medical treatment.

That is great news about the migraines!!

I didn't know that is why you were having the Shiatsu. Must be effective in the long run then.

Hmmmm, good question!

I love my nice perfumes, but it seems i develop eczema more and more easily these days, and using perfume more than once in a week makes me break out... I cant bear to give away those bottles tho, and i can still use them once in a while.

Ive started bringing my coffee to work with me in a secondhand thermos i picked up. I make a proper coffee and heat up the soymilk and take it with me. Im saving HEAPS of money, and still enjoying great coffee!

Im 'entitled' to a splurge on new clothes now and again, even when i dont need them. But i buy lots secondhand and wear them til they die, or recycle what i dont want for the most part.

Im 'entitled' to a nice meal out, now and again, tho i dont really need it and can cook pretty well. I feel 'entitled' to top of the range tools (inc. camera & computer) but i will make do with secondhand for most other stuff. I love imported delicacies and top of the range organic stuff from the markets. Heh, and wait till you see what soaps we can get at the markets!!! Yep, thats a bit of an 'entitlement' for me too. Oh, and my hair products. That Joico conditioner is outrageously expensive, and i was even buying it when I was a student!

But bottled water - thats a different matter. Even when i was a kid we were not encouraged to drink the tap water here in Adelaide. Its one of only two cities in the world where ships dont take on water (or so ive heard). Here at the end of the Murray River its really not all that great for drinking. When we were young, we drank rain water. Now I buy bottled water and dream of a backyard to put the rainwater tanks in...

I am "entitled" to buy snacks every time I go grocery shopping. Ten-thirteen years ago I wouldn't even had dreamed about it... I counted my money when shopping. That's another thing I have grown used to - not wondering whether I have enough money while shopping, groceries or anything else.

And I'm of course "entitled" to have internet!

Good food. We don't go out a lot but we have special meals periodically where we splurge on good wine and food. Granted we spend less than if we ate out and the food is generally better but it is still an expensive meal.

Nice sheets - I like nice sheets and we buy pretty high thread count stuff when needed. We get many years of service from them and eventually they end up as cleaning rags.

Maid - We have a maid come to the house every two weeks. It's an expense that we don't need but it does free up a lot of time on the weekends for us to do things that we find more fun.

Things we collect - Do I really need 300 fountain pens? Do I really need as many watches as I have?

Great post. Not sure if I'll make any changes but I hopefully will think twice before buying something that I really don't need.

Good linen
Nice soap

These three things are my loves.
I amgreen (eco) not skin colored.. recycle and donate..

I am sure my veg garden counts for much, as when I am away, I yearn to be home cultivating and growing.

:) I am entitled to all the above, and I do not take for granted a hubby that says I am entitled to anything I want.

I am not greedy.


In my case, probably "tea leaves". I don't buy tea bags. I buy tea leaves.(It's OK any kinds of tea leaves)
And, My husband and I don't dring instant coffee at home. For guests I make coffee using expensive cofee beans, usually we drink inexpensive brook's coffee.

There's enough for everybody's need, but not for everybody's greed. - Ghandi

That being said, here are my entitlements:

A garden and patio - a "room" outside
Moleskine notebooks
Decent pens
Clinique Chocolate Coffee lipstick
Good music to listen to

There are probably more, but that's all I can think of for now.

A really good haircut & color, every 7 weeks or so.
Premium canned food for our cat.

Thought-provoking. I agree with your assessment of luxury-habit-entitlement.

I just returned from a 4-day retreat with an Internet group. It was my fourth, and I am planning for next year's. I think it is going from habit to entitlement at this point.

I rarely prepare lunch at home. What a lot of money we ould save if I did! At least we rarely eat dinner out.

Cable TV with on-line program information: I get impatient with how slowly the info grid comes up! I'm entitled to info right now!

And of course high-speed Internet. My life would be different without it.

At least I brew my own coffee and filter my own water. The wastefulness of plastic water bottles (and the shipping of them) is becoming an issue that I don't bear the weight of.

I cannot help to feel guilty when I buy stuff I know I don't need. I have just a few entitlements which I'm confortable with, but still I buy a lot of expensive things just because they are well designed.
Like Comme des Garçons shirts or perfumes, expensive forniture, design books or overpriced magazines. I travel a lot and somehow I succeed in convincing myself that is something I really need for my mind and body.
Probably my real entitlement is drinking coffee in a nice japanese café like the ones you can find in Shimokitazawa or Nakameguro.

Very thought-provoking.

Wine and expensive beer are our "little treats that became habits". Good food in general is where our money goes. Cheese from England and France. Greek yogurt.

On the tech side, my iPhone and my high-speed internet.

My Moleskine journals. Books. Books. Books. (We acquire most of them from Half-Price Books, or Daedalus (remaindered books) or BookMooch).

oooh great question. I agree on linens. They are so soothing! and wow, guess I'm not too original... books, notebooks, pens, travel, INTERNET, macbook (and all things macbook), my "blue pearl" granite countertop in my bathroom (I heart it). Oh, and spa treatments - massages are best, but if I were wealthy, I would get some treatment EVERY DAY, twice on Sundays. In short, I spoil myself.

The latest luxury? A leather/ cherry wood writing desk. ooooh. What a brat I am.

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  • washwords: oooh great question. I agree on linens. They are so read more
  • mss @ nipponDAZE: Very thought-provoking. Wine and expensive beer are our "little treats read more
  • baroccogiapponese: I cannot help to feel guilty when I buy stuff read more
  • Rebecca in SoCal: Thought-provoking. I agree with your assessment of luxury-habit-entitlement. I just read more
  • lulu: A really good haircut & color, every 7 weeks or read more
  • Jenn: There's enough for everybody's need, but not for everybody's greed. read more
  • Mieko: In my case, probably "tea leaves". I don't buy tea read more
  • Denny: Good linen Nice soap Travel... These three things are my read more
  • Ed: Good food. We don't go out a lot but we read more
  • paha siga: I am "entitled" to buy snacks every time I go read more