Get what you need, not what you want 14

After 18 years of cellphone ownership I finally did it: I broke mine. Well not so much broke it but more like drowned it; took a swim with it. It didn’t take it that well.

I tried the rice thing, hoping it would suck the moisture out and it would miraculously turn back on. Alas, it didn’t. It was all done for, before I took it out of my pocket. My soaked in lake water pocket that is.

Now before I continue I have to disclaim, I used to be one that got what I wanted instead of what I really needed. In my defense I was making between 150K and 200K a year and had a fully funded emergency fund. Also, when I wanted something I would look for the right bargain and kept the luxury in moderation.

Those days are over. 2 years in retirement on a shoestring budget, now puts me squarely in the, what you need, not what you want, consumer category.


So a new phone it is, I just left our wireless provider’s site and put in an order for a new one. So many choices. Actually, in my case not that many. Our son will hopefully soon receive his Dexcom G5 glucose monitor to keep his Type 1 Diabetes in check and its software will only run on Apple devices. Lucky me, I get to choose an iPhone again.

Oh, still so many choices. Whatever device I choose, I can choose for monthly payments, Retail price or another 2-Year contract. Hmm, the monthly payment adds up to the retail price but, at retails prices all exceeding $500, I’m going with the new 2 year contract. We’ve been with our provider for over 6 years and have no complaints.

So what iPhone to choose? An iPhone 6s Plus which without a doubt won’t fit in any of my pockets (at least I won’t dive in the water with it again)? Starting price $299.99. That’s too costly and then there is the pocket thing. But it’s so big!!

The iPhone 6s then? Starting price $199.99, not cheap, but wait, 12 MP, with 16 GB at $199.99 I’ll be able to take 12 pictures before it’s full. I would have to get the 64 GB (at least) which now puts it at $299.99 again. But I really want it!!! Do I need it though?

My current(ly drowned) phone only has 16 GB and I manage. I have Dropbox installed and every night it faithfully uploads all of the day’s photos, so I can make room for more the next. I want more, but I really only need 16 GB. At $199.99 it’s still more than what I’m willing to pay. Oh, work again already you dang 5s! Why can’t you handle a little water (for only 15 minutes)?

Well look at that, the Apple iPhone SE. It looks identical to my 5s. Do I want a phone that looks exactly like the one I had for 2 years? Hmm, not really. This doesn’t come easy for me but it’s really all I need. Price for that one: $0.99! That’s right only 99 cents (That was until I checked out and found a $40 upgrade fee (seriously??) oh and taxes of course.


I’m pissed at myself for breaking my iPhone. What a waste. Still, I’m feeling a little victorious right now, picking the least charming, yet just as functional iPhone SE. Is it so big it won’t fit in my pockets? no. Does it have an A9 instead of  A8 chip? No, but really, I just fried an A6 chip (for what it’s worth).

I fought temptation and didn’t get what I wanted, I got what I needed. Next time you buy something, get what you need, not what you want.

Now, if only I had made a backup of my old phone before I drowned it. Can’t win them all.

Good luck reaching your financial goals

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About Maarten van Lier

Maarten came to this country with a suitcase and a diploma. He created a financial plan and goal to become a millionaire in 10 years. He successfully turned his financial goals into reality, wrote a book about it and now blogs actively in hope of inspiring other to do the same.

14 thoughts on “Get what you need, not what you want

  • Mark Eastwood

    This delimma is all too common. .. thanks for sharing. The reason phone manufacturers and auto manufacturers advertise is to hit on the emotional want…. they stay in business because of want not need. Good for you and I hope your kids learn the lessons.

    • Maarten van Lier Post author

      Indeed, the funny thing is I will feel emotionally better for longer, having beat the want and chosen the need. Had I given in to the want the high would be much more fleeting (generally followed by remorse).

  • Elsie @ gundomoney

    I’m doing this this year with my upgrade. I generally upgrade every two years and get the latest and greatest phone. This time I waited three years to get the phone I want for free. It’s not what everyone else thinks is “the best” but since when do I care what society thinks I should buy?

    • Maarten van Lier Post author

      Excellent constraint. Also, you make the excellent point that many of us get the greatest and latest to impress others or to just not get scorned by your peers (real and/or perceived). Screw what everyone else thinks!!

  • Pete Seigman

    A good lesson for me to always check your pockets before diving into the deep end (that is, into the water or an investment!).

    You use Dropbox – the free or paid version? How do you manage all those photos on your phone. Most people including myself take lots of pictures and they live and die on my phone.

    • Maarten van Lier Post author

      Yes, lesson learned (I hope). The Dropbox I use is free and comes with I believe 3 gig of cloudspace. On my phone it automatically uploads my photos (settings in Dropbox) to the cloud (whenever in reach if WIFI). My PC which also has Dropbox installed automatically downloads them. Once every to weeks I move the files from the Dropbox folder to some other folder on the computer (to release space in the cloud).

  • Mrs Groovy

    I’ve heard of the rice thing but thanks for informing us it doesn’t work! Some people would use this as an excuse to buy the latest and greatest shiny object. Good for you that you were sensible!

    You know what really bugs me about all the new and improved versions of everything from moisturizer to iPhones? It’s like the producer’s are saying one of two things: “We didn’t have the knowledge at our fingertips to give you the best version the first time around”. (FALSE). “We were holding back on giving you the knowledge and expertise we already had so that we could sucker you into buying more products at a later date”. (TRUE).

    • Maarten van Lier Post author

      So true. As for the rice thing, a little research shows there is a small chance it works when you are able to turn off the phone when wet. I was under water so long, something fried long before I was able to turn it off. Maybe next time 😉

  • James

    Absolutely understand the ‘buy what you need, not what you want approach.’ I think in most cases it will serve individuals well. However, I also like occasionally buying what I want, particularly as it relates to certain purchases.

    Interesting that you note that you were more apt to buy what you want when your income was higher, in the $150k – $200k range. The difference between our current income (~ $210k) and what I plan for in retirement is one of the things I’m constantly evaluating. A couple of years ago we tracked ALL of our expenses for the entire year; they came to $85,000. When I back our current (annual) mortgage payment out of that – about $24,000 – since the house will be paid for before we retire, I’m left with ~ $60,000.

    My plan thus far is to work toward being in a position to draw double that amount – $120,000 – in retirement for two reasons. First, I assume that something negative, beyond my control, will impact one or more of my sources of retirement income; better to plan for more and not need it than to plan for exactly what you need and seriously jeopardize the retirement should a couple bad things happen. Second, even in retirement, I still want to be able to buy what I want without giving it a lot of thought or spending a crazy amount of time weighing pros and cons.

    • Maarten van Lier Post author

      wow, being able to withdraw 120K from your retirement annually is awesome. When I retired I figured I had every tool I needed.

      We’re withdrawing $60,000 and that barely makes us meet our needs. With our new recurring medical expenses I may actually get in trouble. In all fairness, if I had retired a little later I would have been in much better shape. As it happened I couldn’t postpone it as work was getting to my health.

      Should I find a job opportunity that would truly excite me, I might jump on that simply to have some extra spending cash. For now that is still in the realm of being a choice, so I still consider myself retired.

      • James

        The wife and I are fortunate in that we will draw somewhere between $75,000 – $80,000 between three defined benefit plans (pensions). While we currently receive one of them, the other two don’t become a reality until age 60. As I noted in one of my blog posts a while back, for better or worse, we are kind of locked into working in our present jobs until at least age 60 … at least if we want those pensions or want them without penalties. When you throw in two Social Security pensions – which we plan to start drawing in our mid 60s – I’m confident in the number of retirement income streams. The plan is for our defined contribution plans (401ks and IRAs) to serve as backups. We may draw a little from them between 60 to say 65 or 66, but once we start drawing Social Security, I don’t planning of drawing anything from them until mandated by RMD at 70½.

  • MrBee

    Whenever I want to buy something (silly) ms. Bee always asks me “do you really need it?”.

    When I was younger I wanted to have it all: expensive car, big house, impressive PC, big tv, surround sets, cinema room in the house, etc. However, when I got older and earned more then enough money to buy all those things, the desire to get them just faded. When I had less money I bought an expensive, top-end phone, and now that I have a lot more money I bought a cheap phone that just works and fits in my pocket. Our 32″tv is big enough and we’re fine with the default tv sound and don’t want a surround set anymore.

    Maybe we’ve gotten wiser, maybe it’s related to our goal of financial independence, maybe it’s something else. What we want but don’t need, isn’t something we really want anymore. That really makes it a lot easier not to get those things!

    • Maarten van Lier Post author

      Thx, great insight. I think having financial goals has a lot to do with it. Once you change your mindset about money and start seeing as an asset that can do so much more, the perceived value of all other trinkets drops and you end up breaking the cycle so many of us are trapped in.

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