The new "necessities" for consumers


Who knew that the list of "necessities" for consumers would be an ever-expanding laundry list of things? Back in the day, food, clothing, and shelter were considered necessities. Things like transportation ran close behind, but if all else failed, people walked lots of places. Apparently, as our society has evolved, there are more and more things that we just can't live without.

Now included on the list of necessities: premium cable, manicures, a latte a day, and cell phones. When the economy was better and people felt that they had more discretionary income, it was natural to spend money on things like this. High-speed internet access, the latest high-tech gadgets, and premium grocery store items are probably pretty high on the list too. If you wanted it, then you must have really needed it, right?

If you can really afford to pay for these things and you want to have them, then I say go right ahead. But consumers shouldn't feel entitled to these things just because they're available. People need to first pay their rent, feed their children, and pay their bills. Extras come later.

I think that the concept of what we can "afford" in today's society has become really warped. Consumers say they can't afford groceries.... but they're saying it from their computer using a high-speed internet connection. They complain about gas prices and suggest they might not be able to afford to get to work, but they're busy talking on a cellphone. Sorry, needs and wants need to be a little better defined, and consumers have to be prepared for a little more delayed gratification if they want to really live within their means. And living within their means is the real necessity.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.