Barely Necessities: The Benefits Of Abstaining From What You Think You 'Need'

by Mike Philson

In the last quarter-century, there seems to have been a monumental shift in the definition of the word “necessity.” After four years of college, and a lifelong exposure to the comforts of Earth’s wealthiest nation, we seem to have replaced lush, material desires with the basic tenets of survival.

Regardless of what two years on the trading floor at Goldman has taught you, monthly dinners at Luger’s and gratuitous sex with bottle hostesses are not really necessities. In fact, humanity has existed prior to the invention of first-class flights and Zagat guides.

I did not know what a “necessity” was until I experimented with removing each of my favorite worldly desires for a year. While a challenge at times, the benefits have been wondrous. Here’s what I learned by giving up what I thought I needed most:

Fast Money

Nothing like the slow grind of entrepreneurship can teach you the value of a hard-earned dollar. Whether you rake in cheddar from a lucrative finance position, or an epic streak in Vegas, an influx of cash in immature hands can facilitate an internal devaluation of money and an excessive, potentially hazardous, lifestyle.

Bereft of this influence, you may learn how to be a steward of every penny earned, and even begin to save. You’d be surprised how quickly pennies make change.


Besides not having to worry about pregnancy, STDs, or spending oodles of cash and energy in the pursuit of one-night glory, giving up the most amazing discovery ever might allow you to understand what you are looking for in an ideal mate, and develop sustainable standards for intimacy.

Sex clouds our judgment and often conceals true emotions, or temporarily magnifies less meaningful feelings. Watch how life, and your perspective on romance, evolves when the possibility of sex is eliminated.


We’re all victims of a society fueled by drugs. Whether it’s that Iced Pumpkin Coffee you “gotta have,” social and festive drinking, that “little bit of Molly” you did at Coachella, or even everyone’s best friend, Mary Jane, it’s pretty easy to unwittingly develop a chemical dependency.

Although it seems harrowing, abstaining from drugs may allow you to fully grasp the energy of the activities and people around you. Maybe you’ll actually listen to music in the club, appreciate and cultivate other cultural affinities, or tragically discover the pretty people in VIP are actually more insecure than you could ever imagine.

Abstaining from drugs can truly be enlightening. You might even realize that pursuing your deepest hopes and dreams is the best use of money and energy, and a more viable source of lasting gratification.

Living Alone

Lao Tzu once remarked, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”  The same ideology persists when it comes to housing. Moving in with friends, family, or that couple you met on Craigslist - provided they’re not completely insane - can provide a much-needed boost when your spirits are low.

On the same token, sharing your space with a friend in need, lover, pet, etc. allows you to learn the benefits of grace and mercy, two forces that tend to gravitate back, once released in the universe.

Top Photo Courtesy: Tumblr