During the past couple of weeks, I've read stories and conducted an interview or two that involved advice on how people need to prioritize their needs if they suddenly are faced with a job loss.
Combine those tales with the discovery that my dog apparently suffers from a thyroid problem, and here comes the topic of the week: Priorities, or what do we really need?
There was no doubt that little P.J. would get her medicine, no matter the cost. We made the commitment to this little dog when she was a rescue pup and the ensuing five years have sealed her fate as a part of the household. And so, like some short, flat-coated, pointy nosed kid who doesn't talk much but is smarter than all of us, she gets the care and feeding she needs, no matter what.
And yes, I was happy to find out that doggie thyroid pills aren't all that costly and, hopefully, if they put her back into a thicker coat, better eyesight and the active ways of a little dog, then it's all good.
So, living being equals priority. OK. I get that one.
Now come the not-so-sure priorities.
I recently bought the discount iPhone. I recently bought an all-American-made, all-American-designed consisting of all-American-metal case for it. And it's fantastic, cool, groovy, baby. But it replaced a perfectly functional phone whose only fault was that it was a little wonky in design because of its Windows-based operating system. And it had a tiny screen that my fat fingers had a hard time using. But it works just fine. Its only fault really was that it wasn't an iPhone. Necessary? Not so sure.
I've got a set of custom wheels for Enrico the Cruiser thanks to my brother-in-law and sister. I also picked up a big hunk of rebar in one of the low-profile tires on those wheels last summer. A replacement tire is not too bad, but really, is $150 or $175 for a custom low-profile tire really necessary? The car is on the road on its stock Chrysler rims and doing just fine. It isn't all custom looking right now, that's all. Necessary expense? Probably not.
The Boss has said that, even after all the great food, a day of absolutely kingly treatment for Father's Day, I have a clothing shopping spree coming. OK. I get it. Some of my casual clothes are pretty ratty.
Some are just too darned big from the weight I've dropped in the last year or two. And I've only got two functional pairs of jeans left that I'd wear in public. A couple of dress shirts might be nice. But I have stuff to wear to work. I have clothes to wear to go out after work. And I have clothes to schlupp around the house. So, do I need clothes or just want 'em? Or is it the chore of The Boss to revamp my wardrobe every few years?
(My sister seems to do that every time I get to Denver. Something about not liking me wearing all these grays and blacks and dark browns. Hey, Home Office in Aurora, I got a bright purple tie for Christmas and I wear it all the time. Contrasts nicely with grays, blacks and dark browns. How's that for out of character?)
So, necessary expense or not?
When I talk to people struggling to get jobs, to pay bills, or to get back on their feet after a medical disaster, I get to feeling just a little guilty. Of course, if that person then drives away with a boat behind their $50,000 pickup truck I feel a lot less guilty. If they've got a brand-new $600 tattoo, I start wondering what the priorities are? (And yes, there are a lot of unemployed tattooed people in America. Maybe everybody's an OSU player. Thanks goodness I didn't make the team.)
Point is, there was a big lesson to the recession/depression/whatever it was that started in 2008 and continues for a lot of families.
The financial experts say the day one loses a job, they have to start assessing just what is necessary expense and what is something they don't really need but it's nice to have. Sure, 199 channels of cable, the fastest home Internet and a new cell phone are nice. But they're not food, shelter and safety. Or a tattoo. Or a boat.
If we can afford all that stuff, great. But what do we really need?
(Giannamore, a resident of Toronto, is business editor of the Herald-Star. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.)