Ask Yourself: Do I Need This?

A recent post by John Frainee discussed the affordability of the new iPhone. Stay with me as I continue his line of thinking.

My oldest son visited one evening this week for his younger brother’s birthday celebration. He came to our home from the Verizon store where he picked up his new smart phone—provided by his employer. Loving gadgets the way I do, I had to see and play with it. He said it cost several hundred dollars. I have to admit, that for a split second (and only a split second) I wished I could get one. But then I pulled my “smartest, non-smart phone you can buy” out of my pocket to change his phone number on my contacts list and decided that I really don’t need to watch streaming videos, run credit cards, or print documents from the field on my office printer. I’m glad I could walk away and say, “I don’t need this.”

I’ve owned my laptop for about two years. It’s developed quite a few quirks and I have spent the last few months looking at new ones. I do have the money set aside for this expense as without the computer I’ve lost my way to earn a living. However, the more I look at computers, the more I’m willing to put up with my flickering screen and period key that only works when it wants to. I just can’t bring myself to spend the money only because I’m inconvenienced.

Evaluating our needs

Where am I going with this? Evaluating our needs from our wants. The newest, best, shiniest, fastest, and costliest, will always tempt us. But is that what we need? And do the extra features warrant spending the extra money?

Several years ago, we needed a new washing machine. We had bought several used machines that lasted only a year or two; but with the volume of laundry that a large family produces, it really wasn’t a wise use of our funds. We needed a brand new machine that could take the burden of running several loads a day. And, considering that we live in a draught-stricken land with a well that frequently runs low, we decided we did need a water-saving machine. Of course, they cost more than machines like my mother would buy; but that is what our family needed. We did not make our purchase hastily, however. We first evaluated the need. Then we shopped several times without buying and asked many questions of the salesmen in several different stores, comparing various models and prices. Then we waited until what we wanted went on sale for what we could afford.

Proverbs 30: 7-9 says:

Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die:

Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:

Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? Or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.

I believe if we keep this scripture in mind, and trust God for just enough in our lives, than the temptation of buying more than what we truly need will lessen. And I’m not just addressing large expenditures, either. Actually, it is all the little things that add up and drain our reserves.

I want to be able to ask myself, “Do I need new curtains, or am I just tired of the ones I have?” Or “Do I need red pumps to go with my red dress or will my black ones do?” I want my children to learn to ask themselves the same things, “Do I need a new bicycle, or can I get by with a new chain and tires?”

But you are thinking that it is okay to buy things that you don’t need if you can afford it, right? Well, maybe. Have you prayed about your expenditures? Are you giving to those with less? Or are you spending your surplus on yourself? Is that what God would have you do?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Please share with us in the comments.

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  1. Nate

    I think you have made a great point. I too have been hit at times with the temptations of having the top line item just as you felt with your son’s phone, but in the end, it’s important for us to evaluate our needs and what’s important. We’d all be a lot better off if we asked ourselves the question posed here.

  2. Joan

    We use the 24 hour rule. If husband or I want something when shopping, we learned don’t buy it. Go home and think about it for 24 hours. Then if we really need it go back the next day. (Or wait for it to go on sale as with the washing machine above) Most of the time, we didn’t really need that shirt or earrings or DVD.

    • Carol J. Alexander

      Great point, Joan. I think I would need more than 24 hours, though. 🙂

  3. michelle

    You should listen to this song! It is my new anthem. Based on the verses you listed 🙂

    • ST from Lansdowne,PA

      Amazing song and great words to listen to everyday. It just seems to make sense.

    • Carol J. Alexander

      Michelle, I listen to Third World Symphony every single day! This song is definitely one of my favs!

  4. barter411

    Sometimes “yes” I need this and “no” I don’t have the money right now. God is either saying “wait” or “you really DON’T need that”. I know from experience all the times I convinced myself some new gadget was going to improve my life. But then I look in the chimney cupboard at all the ones that didn’t live up to my expectations. I’ll keep my cheap Tracfone and get another on eBay when it finally dies.

  5. Evangeline

    I think you’ve made some splendid points, Carol! I think your last sentence sums it up, perfectly!

  6. Sherri

    My husband & I are getting ready to teach a Christian Financial class to our young adult class. We’ve “been there” in wanting everything new & fancy & discovered that we can make do with a lot of things that we would have replaced “just because we could.” I see so many in debt because they keep replacing things because it’s a newer version. It’s a “throw-a-way society” anymore. My husband & I have matured in these areas as we get older & have read & studied the Bible & many books on Christian finance. It is my desire to help these younger ones learn about debt and about the joy of giving.

    • Carol J. Alexander

      Thanks for sharing, Sherri. I hope you can find materials for you class right here on ChristianPF.

    • Sherri

      I have found a lot on here to share – have saved many newsletters for printing to share and lots of voices here to share with the class. A grreat site for sharing and am much appreciative.

  7. Miranda K

    I think this a great post. It is great to get a reminder of the questions I should be asking myself BEFORE I purchase something. I admit I have a habit of impulse shopping that I regret later. I realize that more and more as I go through my 21 month old daughter’s old clothes. Eek! I thank you for this post. I just need to condition myself into new way of shopping.

  8. Matt Jabs

    From 2004-2010 I had a smart phone that I thought I “needed.” In October of 2010 I canceled my contract and left mobile phones behind. I planned to do it for 30 days, to see if I could go without, I ended up loving it and still go without any mobile phone now today. I used Google Voice as a free phone service over my computer, I supplement with Skype, and it works great for me. Figured this was worth sharing. God bless.

    • ST from Lansdowne,PA

      Do you have a landline at home ?
      What happens if you have an emergency and your computer is down ?
      I’m asking because I do not use my computer on Sunday. It is the only day the computer is off-limits. I catch up with people during the week.
      Thanks for sharing about being off cell phones. It is great to hear from others that are not following the mainstream hype. I do not own a TV so I understand the relief you feel.

    • Carol J. Alexander

      Good for you, Matt. We only purchased our first cell phones when our teenagers started to drive because we live in a very rural area and a vehicle breakdown out in the middle of nowhere for a child is a scary thought. However, we use Straighttalk and have basic phones that do not have many more features than “talk.”

      ST…I also keep the computer off on Sundays and we do not have a TV. I want my kids to LIVE their lives, not watch it pass by on a screen.

  9. Mary

    You described my aging laptop perfectly (except mine’s a sticking enter key and a worn mousepad!)

    My husband and I have turned your question into a fun game. The game has real cash prizes (extra money in our pockets) when we play it well!! Every time we figure out how to do something without the latest shiny thing, we feel really pumped! It feels good not be held hostage by the stores and the ads. It also frees our money for the things we really do want and need as you pointed out with your washing machine purchase.

  10. Kelly Sehorn

    Great post do we really need all our “stuff” as full time oversea’s missionaries in Papua New Guinea (family of 6)we are always evaluating what “stuff” do we need, some of our supporters don’t even have a car and for some we have more than they do and certainly the people we are working with they see us as millionaires compared to them. I just had a reality check the yesterday one of the Security guards that we work with, wife passed away during child birth(I am pretty sure the whole family are not believers) and her burial was yesterday it was unlike we the Western world has ever seen. I would love to drag the western world believers over here to see what it is like to see a family in such grief knowing that when that coffin goes in the ground that is the last time they will ever see their loved one again they have no hope as they face a Christ less eternity. After that event I had to stop and ask myself what “stuff” do I really need to live over here? and it does grieve me to see such needs over here in PNG on every level and yet when I look at the Western society and see the driven desire to have the latest…………… (you fill in the blank) rather than for the things of God. Now before I strung up for saying this let me say I love my creature comforts and what ever gadget I can get a hold of. Now these things in of themselves are not evil but when the desire to have things is greater than our passion to look beyond our noses and see a world that we can have an impact on then we have a problem, as believers are we really asking the Lord “how do you want me to spend your money” on a daily basis or even on a hourly basis. I am as guilty as the rest and my prayer is that the Lord would make me more sensitive to his leading each day. You know there nothing wrong with wealth, toys, gadgets etc. but we MUST put them is their proper place and we MUST also put God in His proper place every day in our lives.
    Thanks John for a challenging post

    • Carol J. Alexander

      Hi Kelly,
      Thanks for sharing. My son is a missionary in Haiti. When the cholera epidemic started, my husband asked him if he wasn’t afraid of getting sick (he has had Malaria three times). He responded with, “I’m more afraid of coming home and getting sucked back into shopping at Walmart than I am of getting sick in Haiti.”
      God bless you,

  11. ST from Lansdowne,PA

    “…I also keep the computer off on Sundays and we do not have a TV. I want my kids to LIVE their lives, not watch it pass by on a screen.”

    Wow, it’s amazing.
    And I thought I was the only one. It’s great to know I am not alone in my thinking. Have your children ever watched TV? I am curious. I live by myself so, I don’t have to worry about what anyone else in the house is thinking.
    Thank you for a thought provoking article.

  12. Jesse Skinner

    Great post, though it seems a little one sided. If you will allow me to hit the other side with honor and respecting your points. I won’t be super thorough but maybe bring up some ideas:

    Is God motivated by need? If God was always moved by need then the poorest countries in the world would be the most joyful places in the world (ps. 16, “in the presence of the Lord is the fullness of joy…”). God is moved by faith. What do you have faith for? Do you have faith that God will only provide what you need, or do you have faith that God likes and loves you so much that He wants to get you what you WANT? To the level of one’s faith let it be to him. I told God that I wanted the new iPad 2 about six months ago but I knew I didn’t have enough use for it to buy it out of our savings as my wife and I are ministry students and don’t have jobs. a week later I had a dream that someone bought be an iPad 2. I didn’t pray anymore after that, just believed that God might want to get me an iPad 2. Four weeks later someone at the school who didn’t know what i asked God for took me to best buy and bought me a $700 64GB iPad 2. It was actually above and beyond what I would have bought myself! Just because I have an iPad 2 that I didn’t NEED, doesn’t mean God can’t bless Haiti, let it be unto him according to His faith. If you have faith for a limited God with limited resources, then don’t be surprised you get.

    I think there is wisdom in not buying whatever you want. I don’t have debt and have learned to spend wisely. It’s a balance but don’t ever let fear dictate how you spend or what you ask God for. But at that same time, it is a poverty mentality that thinks God can’t give you both what you need and want. If I get just want I need from God, then there is nothing for me to give away to others. God “overfills” our cup! Maybe He want’s to overfill every part of our lives, including our desires. It’s God’s nature to go above and beyond what I need, I married wife that is far more than I needed, her beauty and personality and love is far above what I needed, I’m very very very glad that God doesn’t stop at what I needed. Oh how abundant my God is, he causes me to laugh and sing daily at His goodness!!!! Ps 16:11

    I hope this causes people to ask questions about their relationship with God. I don’t pretend to be the authority on this subject, I just think we need to be careful how we use our faith in every area of our life. You would be amazed what changing your expectations can do for your life.

    Blessings and abundant love!

    • Carol J. Alexander

      Thank you for sharing. I think what you shared at the end is the point of the matter…our expectations. And obviously, because you have adjusted what you expect from God, He has given you more.
      I, too, have a story to share. I wanted a Bosch mixer. They cost $400+. I could never have afforded it at that time. I didn’t “need” one. I could continue to knead my bread by hand, but having one would have made my job of homemaker a lot easier. My husband asked me if I had prayed for one and I confessed that I hadn’t. (Personally, I do struggle with praying for things.) So we prayed. The very next day, I found one in a thrift store with all the attachments for $8. I was really excited, but my husband was unemployed and I didn’t have $8 to spare. So, he asked the manager if it didn’t work at kneading the dough (a real strain on the motor) could we return it. She said that if we paid $2, we could have it and call it sold. I really didn’t understand and had to have her clarify that I could have this mixer for $2. Then my husband shared with her how we had prayed for a this exact mixer the day before. This woman got so excited she had to hug us and everyone else in the store over our answer to prayer.
      I don’t believe that God is “only” interested in our needs lest we wouldn’t have anything to give away or have testimonies such as ours to bring glory to Him. But I believe He is concerned with our heart and why we might want certain things. Or else we wouldn’t have the 10th commandment.

  13. Karen Lange

    Good post. These tips can act as checkpoints for assessing what we really need. Thanks Carol!

  14. Sherri

    I have found recently God supplying when I have not purchased an item and used the money for another. There have been several incidences where I didn’t buy particular clothes or shoes and given the money to someone. The very next week or new I was supplied with the same style of clothing (with the tags still on) by my sister. She had no idea what had transpired over the clothing. This has happened with other items and I am always amazed to know that God cares about something so insignificant in comparison to the world. I know that He does, but it still amazes me.

    • Carol J. Alexander

      Thanks for sharing, Sherri. Sometimes we don’t give God the opportunity to provide for us because we are too busy providing for ourselves! 🙂

  15. barter411

    I was just adding minutes to my Tracfone online and noticed they now offer a very modern phone with a keyboard for texting. They also offer triple minutes for life, which is new. They only had a double minutes offer in the past. Finally, I see a very nice touch screen telephone – a big improvement from the dismal phone choices of the past! It is going to be very hard to resist saying “yes” to these new Tracfones!