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Financial Lesson Learned From “Half Broke Horses”

May 10, 2011 · 25 comments

in Life, Personal Finance

I recently read the book “Half Broke Horses” by Jeannette Walls (which is a book I highly recommend).

Half Broke Horses:  A Summary – But I Am Not Ruining The Book For You!

The book is about Lily Casey, who raises her family in various places in the southwest, mostly on ranches.  The book is ‘spoken’  in the first person by Lily, although she was actually long dead when the book was written.  The author is actually the granddaughter of Lily Casey, and wrote the book based on stories told to her by both Lily and her mother, Rosemary Walls.   The book is based in truth, but some creative liberties needed to be taken to fill in gaps. Therefore, the book is technically considered a work of fiction.

The book takes place over many years, including The Great Depression and The Great War (as it is called in the book).   Throughout the ‘biography’, Lily Casey grows up, marries, and experiences a variety of financial circumstances.  At one point, Lily even has indoor plumbing, complete with a toilet!  However, as life events change, her family finds themselves looking once again for work and a home.   The Casey family is reduced to the most basic of accommodations, and Lily is forced to use an outhouse once again.

Basic Finance From Half Broke Horses:  Wants Vs Needs

Now, you would expect that a person in such a situation would be angry and bitter.  Instead, Lily accepted her circumstances and actually stated that indoor plumbing was more a want than a need, and that she was just fine with having to use an outhouse again.

That thought process just smacked me right in the head.   Who could possibly consider indoor plumbing a want and not a need??

It made me think about my own life.  There are so many things I have now that were once a want, and I now deem a need.  For example, I consider a texting plan a need to a degree because it is an easy way to keep in touch with my kids.  Therefore, the cost is justified because it makes life easier.  However, do I NEED a texting plan?  Heck no, I want a texting plan.

The Evolution of Wants Into Needs

The list of wants that are truly needs could go on and on.  What may be a want for one person could be a need for someone else, based on the financial situation (or other circumstance) of each individual.  Growing up, air conditioning in the car was a want.  However, I consider air conditioning a need in any vehicle I purchase now.  I truly think so many things have evolved into ‘needs’ over the years that truly are ‘wants’.  We all lived for years without cell phones, internet access, Ipods, big screen TVs, and more.  Now, most of those items are the first thing people will buy when they hit adulthood, if not sooner.

Take Action and Think About Each Purchase You Make

I wish that we all could reset ourselves and get a new perspective on what is truly important.  So many people spend money on cars, homes, and electronics that they really can’t afford.  Many of these items are purchased because it is expected, it is just what you do.  However, if people stepped back and really got back down to basics, I bet so many things would be left on the shelf instead of ending up in shopping bags.

Next time you are on the fence about making a purchase, really, really think about it.  Do you truly NEED that item?  Is there a substitute that is less expensive?  Must you have that item right this minute?  Most importantly, if you lost your job, would you still be buying that item?

What do you think?  Have any of your wants evolved into needs over time?

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