Necessity vs Luxury: Research Shows That The Economy Shapes Our Perspective

by Debt Destroyer on April 28, 2009

Quick question:  Do you think a microwave is a necessity or a luxury?

I ask because the other day NPR ran a story about a Pew Research Center study that asked these types of questions.

According to the findings Americans are paring down on what they consider necessities.  For example, in 2006 68% of people called the microwave a “necessity”.  In 2009 only 47% now feel that way.

Here is a chart showing how some other items fared as well.


It’s interesting to see that a shaky economy has people viewing less items as necessities.  But it totally makes sense.  When money is a little tight, it’s amazing what you can make do with.

I was curious how the DD household would compare with the survey’s findings, so I quizzed my wife tonight at dinner and here are our results:

Necessity Survey (Item, nationwide Yes%, DD, Mrs. DD)

Is this item a necessity?

  1. Car  – 88% – Yes – Yes
  2. Landline phone  – 68% – Yes – Yes
  3. Clothes Dryer – 66% – Yes – Yes
  4. Home air conditioning  – 54%  – Yes – No
  5. TV set  – 52% – No – No
  6. Home Computer 50% – No – Yes
  7. Cell Phone  – 49% – No – No
  8. Microwave  – 47% – Yes – No
  9. High Speed Internet  – 31% – No – Yes
  10. Cable/Satellite TV – 23% – No – No
  11. Dishwasher – 21% – No – No
  12. Flat Screen TV  – 8% – No – No
  13. iPod – 4% – No – No

The only ones my wife & I really disagreed on were Home AC and the Microwave.  I said yes to both.  I get miserably hot really easy, so I feel I “need” AC.  Upon reflection, I guess I could go without a microwave, but when I first thought about it I instantly said yes.

**My wife said “yes” to Computer & High Speed Internet because she works from home and uses these for her job.  She said if it wasn’t for that, she’d had said “no”**

So what about you? Do you think any of those items are necessities?

Looking forward to your answers.

Until next time,


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

The Happy Rock April 28, 2009 at 11:42 pm

A computer with internet would be the only must have since we could both rides bikes to work if we needed too. With that said here is the stuff I wouldn’t want to give up because it is so integral to our lives. A yes vote means I ‘need’ it.

1. Car – – Yes
2. Landline phone – Yes
3. Clothes Dryer – Yes, but only because we live in a condo
4. Home air conditioning – No
5. TV set – No
6. Home Computer 50% – Yes for side businesses
7. Cell Phone – No
8. Microwave – No, we don’t even have one
9. High Speed Internet – Yes, see #6
10. Cable/Satellite TV – No
11. Dishwasher – No
12. Flat Screen TV – No, don’t have one
13. iPod – 4% – No, just got our first two weeks ago


Discover April 29, 2009 at 11:52 am

Take away one of the phones and I would have to say yes to the first 9 and no to the last 4. Wouldn’t want to be without a microwave, but that is probably the first thing I would give up on the YES list.


Kristy @ Master Your Card April 29, 2009 at 11:01 pm

Oh goodie, I love these questions! It’s always fun to compare answers!

1. Car – Yes
2. Landline phone – No
3. Clothes Dryer – No
4. A/C – Yes…I live in Texas
5. TV – No
6. Home PC – Yes, work; school; personal writing career
7. Cell phone – Yes…no other phones for me, but I don’t need the iPhone
8. Microwave – No, but making popcorn on the stove sucks!
9. High speed internet – Yes…same as #6
10. Cable/Satellite – No…don’t have it now
11. Dishwasher – No
12. Flat Screen – No
13. iPod – No…I still use an MP3 player

I don’t really need a whole lot. I’d have said no to the computer and high speed if I didn’t really on it for work and school. I don’t see the point in paying for two phones, so the landline isn’t something I use, which is why it’s on the luxury list…though, some people would disagree in the case of an emergency. But, in the meantime, my cell phone works just fine.

Fun stuff!


The Happy Rock April 30, 2009 at 10:29 am

@Kristy – I love making popcorn on the stove. Since we don’t have a nuker, I had to learn.

Buy a big jar of kernels.

In a big pot pour a enough oil to lightly cover the bottom and put the flame on high, throw in 3-4 kernels and put the lid on. When they pop turn the burner down to medium and you are ready to dump in the rest. Shake gently to avoid burning and in about 60 seconds you have popcorn. I usually flavor at the end with garlic powder and a little salt and usually just skip the butter. The salt is really what flavors the popcorn. Hope that helps.


Holiday April 30, 2009 at 10:46 am

1. Car – No
2. Landline phone – No
3. Clothes Dryer – No
4. Home air conditioning – No
5. TV set – Yes, Why not?
6. Home Computer – Yes ! It is important.
7. Cell Phone – Yes ! Such a convenient device!
8. Microwave – No
9. High Speed Internet – Yes ! Extremely useful.
10. Cable/Satellite TV – No
11. Dishwasher – No
12. Flat Screen TV – No
13. iPod – No – Why is it here? I use an ordinary mp3 player…


John April 30, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Ipod————-no, no and no


Debt Destroyer April 30, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Thanks for the comments.

It’s fun to see everybody’s answers. Actually, I’m seeing more “yes” answers than I thought there would be. Goes to show what I know.

On the popcorn front we use a hand-me-down “Air Popper” that use to belong to my Grandparents. It does a great job!

Just this past weekend, I noticed that Target sells them. Which is good to know, because I think it’ll need replacing soon.


Avistew May 5, 2009 at 2:42 pm

Answers for Me, then my husband

1. Car – No – No (We don’t have one)
2. Landline phone – No – Yes
3. Clothes Dryer – No – No (We don’t have one)
4. Home air conditioning – No – No (Again, don’t have one)
5. TV set – No – No (I’d say “yes” to this one more easily, for video games. However I do consider it a luxury, and we barely ever use ours)
6. Home Computer – Yes – Yes
7. Cell Phone – No – No (don’t have any)
8. Microwave – No – No (can’t remember last time I used ours)
9. High Speed Internet – Yes – Yes
10. Cable/Satellite TV – No – No (don’t have it)
11. Dishwasher – No – No (Don’t have one. It’s a luxury I could do with, though)
12. Flat Screen TV – No way – No
13. iPod – No (Yes if it includes all MP3 players) – No

Keep in mind we use our computer to watch DVDs and as a primary mean of communication, which might make our answers make more sense to you.
Also, I’m agoraphobic, and listening to music when I’m out allows me to control my panic attacks, which is why a MP3 players is for me, personally, a need rather than a luxury (keep in mind a walkman or a discman would do the trick too, though.)

I think it is always interesting to see the difference between people. For instance, neither my husband (Canadian) nor myself (French) have a driver’s license, or ever owned a car. I can’t think of any time in my life I have thought “I wish I could drive/ I had a car”.
But with half our family living on the other side of the world, the Internet isn’t something either of us could do without happily or comfortably. To me, it would mean losing daily contact with my family and friends, as well as the closest thing I have to a job.


wench May 5, 2009 at 8:33 pm

Car – yes, I have to drive to buy groceries.
Landline phone – yes, I need some sort of phone.
Clothes Dryer – no, it’s pretty dry here and clothes will dry on the line.
Home air conditioning – yes, I live in a desert. I’d die.
TV set – no, long as there’s a computer I’m ok.
Home Computer – yes. I need this to talk to friends, file taxes, etc.
Cell Phone – no. Barely use it as is.
Microwave – no, I’ve learned to use a stove.
High Speed Internet – yes. I live in the middle of nowhere.
Cable/Satellite TV – no. Barely watch TV.
Dishwasher – no, I’ve scrubbed dishes before, I could do it again.
Flat Screen TV – no. Barely watch TV.
iPod – yes/no. Yes because I get miserable on airplanes and I spend a LOT of time traveling, where I really need an iPod; but I wouldn’t actually die without it. I would, however, scrimp and save pennies to keep one; it means a lot to me.


Mandy May 18, 2009 at 9:44 am

1. Car – Yes
2. Landline phone – No
3. Clothes Dryer – No (We don’t have one)
4. Home air conditioning – No (Again, don’t have one)
5. TV set – Yes (I watch DVD’s, don’t need cable)
6. Home Computer – Yes
7. Cell Phone – Yes (Don’t need the land line)
8. Microwave – No (But I have one so why not keep it, it’s very handy)
9. High Speed Internet – Yes (I work from home)
10. Cable/Satellite TV – No
11. Dishwasher – No (again, I have an old one so I’ll keep it but not replace it)
12. Flat Screen TV – No
13. iPod – No

I’d have to say that the most important items besides a home are the car (just a run around) and the cell phone, I have a simple prepaid Tracfone which doesn’t cost more than $15 per month and it gives me security and the ability to do business from anywhere. I can make long distance and international calls for the same price as a local call which is why it is more important than the land line; the reception is also great.


Kris July 22, 2009 at 11:07 pm

My votes:
1. Car YES
2. Landline phone NO
3. Clothes Dryer YES
4. Home air conditioning YES (Chicago!)
5. TV set NO
6. Home Computer YES
7. Cell Phone Yes
8. Microwave NO
9. High Speed Internet YES
10. Cable/Satellite TV NO
11. Dishwasher NO
12. Flat Screen TV NO
13. iPod NO


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