N = Needs

I work with adults with intellectual developmental disabilities. I teach them how to manage their money, pay bills and follow a budget.
One of the big lessons I teach is the difference between needs and wants. We talk about prioritizing bills. We talk about what it means to really NEED something not just want it.

Its a difficult concept to teach when it seems like everyone has so much stuff. Our culture here in the United States is so focused on things and acquiring more. How can a person be convinced they don’t “need” cable TV? How about “needing” a smart phone? Is it necessary to have the newest gadget or the latest style?

I try to reassure each student that survival is possible without access to 700 television stations and that humans lived for thousands upon thousands of years without the things we take for granted. Many of my students live on a very limited income and that makes it much more difficult to afford many bells and whistles….but that doesn’t stop them from wanting it all.

Each year a group of former students, that have “graduated” from my program, and I teach a breakout session at a conference specifically organized for people with disabilities. The students really enjoy sharing the knowledge they have learned. They also like being able to tell the conference goers that they have learned the difference between needs and wants.

One of my favorite student stories that I share whenever I get a chance is about a young woman I worked with several years ago. She lived independently in an apartment. One month she told me she was going to skip paying her electric bill so she could get cable! Most of my students can put the pieces together pretty quickly and they realize without electricity the young lady couldn’t even watch TV. They laugh…and hopefully they think before making such a decision themselves!!

The A – Z Challenge will run through April. Each day is a different letter and a different photo…I hope you all enjoy!

16 thoughts on “N = Needs

  1. pattisj

    That is a cute story. Thanks for doing this important work. I’m sure you’ve helped many people live a much better life.

  2. EcoCatLady

    What a fabulous story about cutting the electricity so she could have cable. I mean, on some level the logic is sound but…

    Anyhow, I’ve always lived on very little money by choice. I just have so little tolerance for the whole BS game of the working world. For me, it doesn’t feel like sacrifice because I get a kick out of outsmarting the system. Maybe that’s an angle you could use with your clients.

    1. treerabold Post author

      Thanks for the suggestion! The idea of forging a path different from the rest of society can be quite appealing I think.
      I’m glad you took time to comment.

  3. Midwestern Plant Girl

    This is a lesson for EVERYONE!
    We downsized from cable to Netflix, now there is time for other pursuits. I try to save everywhere (I’m a squirrel!) Choose a different elec & gas provider, eat in, consolidate vet visits.. Yes, I still have wants. I put them on a wipey board and see how bad I want it next week. . And the next week. I look for sales. If the item doesn’t get wiped off for lack of interest in a month, then I buy it, but only after I’m sure I’ve found it for the best price.
    I really envy your job! I’m looking to get into the non-profit sector. Maybe after your challenge, you could share a post about how you stumbled into this job? ☺

    1. treerabold Post author

      Wow! I love your idea of the “wipey” board!
      It really is a lesson for everyone (even the teacher!) We all seem to be consumed with consumerism.
      My friend (the guy with the big phlox!) is a minimalist. I really admire his ability to live with so few material things. I strive for it…..but just like my students it is a learning process.
      I have spent my entire adult life in the non-profit sector. I would love to share how all that happened (after this challenge). Thanks for asking.

    2. roweeee

      What great advice! Delayed gratification is an important life skill that I am yet to master. Actually, I’m not too bad. Just have my moments of going overboard which undermine my usual frugality.

      1. Midwestern Plant Girl

        I’m pretty good, as I know how much I have to work for it and don’t usually want to put in the effort! 😉

  4. roweeee

    Tree, love that story about the Cable TV and the electricity bill. While the issues there are more obvious, many of us are making similar choices. I just wrote about my weakness for Op Shop as my O post here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/04/17/obsessed-by-my-second-hand-quest/
    I think I’ll put a link to your post at the end of mine. I defintiely needed that reminder abut needs versus wants. My trouble comes when I’m feeling upset, angry or let down and then I tend to go a bit crazy and think: “What the @#$%?!!!” but at least I’m usually only buying up at the op shop not like I used to at the designer label shops. Retail therapy does work. I stopped seeing my psychologist as I don’t really need to go anymore and she has a $40.00 gap so as long as the op shop spend comes in under that, I’m ahead. Actually, I just remembered that I have been seeing a psychologist through Carers for free and yes she does help along with my friend Sharon from the op shop. She’s what I call a “motivational listener”. Great therapist and if I end up spending a bit, well, it’s money well spent and…it’s saving lives. The op shop raises money for Lineline, a suicide prevention service.
    xx Rowena

  5. Pingback: Obsessed by My Second-Hand Quest | beyondtheflow

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