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Spending when you owe…


There’s a fine line between some necessities and wants – for example a personal computer.

Our computer was devoured by viruses and is so old it practically runs on original UNIX. When it starts up, it sounds like an 18-wheeler!

My husband and I both received an extra paycheck this month and are contemplating purchasing a desktop computer. My employer generously offered to pay for 25% of the total cost.

I’m struggling with this purchase because it’s several hundred dollars – several hundred dollars that could take a chunk out of our debt. BUT, do I say no to a very generous offer? An offer I may never get again? Do I try to survive without a computer?

We decided to purchase a mid-line computer but the real question is…

what would you have done? Is a computer a ‘want’ or a ‘need’?


  • Reply Dollar Bill |

    In my line of work it’s a need (I take work home and work evenings and weekends). Desktops are a bit archaic nowadays….why not look at laptops? They are smaller, portable, and sometimes cheaper. Also, if you really want to save money, look into a second hand computer. A friend of mine got a MacBook Pro (a $2000 computer) for only $500 on ebay.

  • Reply Mysti |

    In our house, a computer would be a need. However, if we had to replace the computer, it would be a fairly barebones model.

    We currently have a desktop, and our next one will be a laptop.

  • Reply Wren |

    I think nowadays, it’s more of a necessity than anything, especially if used for work. While it’s not an absolute, it goes beyond a simple want. Now, a newer computer, when you already have a perfectly fine working one, is more of a want. 🙂 But in your case, I think it’s justifiable. To keep costs down, also be sure to check things like factory refurbished models through Dell, Apple or HP. Lappie or desktop, you should be able to find refurbished models on their sites that are less than brand-new ones, yet should be just as good. eBay is also good, if you can find someone selling a gently used one. Good luck!

  • Reply Mrs. Smith |

    I went through this in June when my pc died on me. I tried to do without for a few weeks and survived for the most part. We just went to the Library to check banking & for the kids to play their favorite games. It worked for a few weeks, but since I work from home I had to get one. Wish my boss offered 25%- That’s great!!

  • Reply Cynthia |

    We consider it a need in our family. But it’s probably more of a want. I do have internet access factored into my bare bones budget when I calculated our emergency fund needs.

    That said, when we purchased a new computer earlier this year (late last year?, early last year? I can’t remember now) we got a refurbished model off Ubid.com. It was only $350 with shipping for a great computer. We got a desktop since we already had the monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc. And I can use my work laptop at home if necessary to do late night work. Anyway, check out Ubid if you’re looking for an inexpensive computer purchase!

  • Reply Mark Roberts |

    For myself (and I suspect for most people these days) it’s a need. I work in IT and occasionally I am on call after-hours and need my computer to connect to the work network. Also, I like to game as one of my main hobbies…sure with that part I *could* go without but if I can afford it with my budget then why bother?

  • Reply Jean |

    Definitely a need. I can’t live without my laptop. Well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But it really makes things much easier to pay bills (saving stamp money) and to search for the best price on something I am looking to purchase (again saving more money) versus driving from store to store. I think too, today’s computers are much more energy efficient – so you might see a savings there too. Personally, I like the portability of my laptop – but desktops do tend to be less expensive.

  • Reply Gay B |

    Something to think about when trying to decide between a laptop and a desktop: desktops are much easier (and cheaper) to repair or expand than laptops. We recently bought a new computer. My husband insisted on a desktop because you can expand memory and work on it much easier than with a laptop.

  • Reply Brandi |

    It’s a want.. If both of my computers died today, I’d be okay for quite a while as the soon-to-be-husband is doing a Computer Science PhD right now and he has several. However, after about a month or two he’d get annoyed enough at me to kick me off and make me buy my own, heh.

  • Reply Maggie |

    I hear you. There are so many things that are so much easier to hit the internet for. In my life a computer is a necessity, but Hubby and I both have work laptops we bring hime. I also have school age kids who get homeowrk assignments to do on the internet. So In my case, a computer my kids can use to get to the internet is very important to their education. Having said that, We have 2 desktops that vintage 2001, they are working, but I am budgeting about $300 for a new computer as a family Chirstmas present.

  • Reply Joy Smith |

    With my work being online, my computer/laptop is a need. Eventually, I’ll need to replace mine because it’s on its last techno breath, but until then, I’ll keep using the one I have.

  • Reply L |

    Definite NEED. And if you know what you need, and what features are really just marketing, you can get a good deal! Don’t shop until you know exactly what you want and need.

  • Reply Nicole |

    In this day and age a computer is a NEED not a want. I would take advantage of the money your company will put towards it. My husband bought one through his company and two months later they discontinued the program. We made it just under the wire and you should too!

  • Reply ihatedebtsomuch |

    I do everything on my computer so I would have bought the computer with no guilt. I agree … this day and age a computer is pretty much a need and not a want if you work from home or want to get stuff done around the house.

  • Reply Sarah |

    In my house it is a definite want! I am a full-time student and my campus if full of available computers for me to use if need be. Everything else I do at home on my computer could be replaced by simply going to the library and using their computers. And I really would only need to go once a week. My kids have access to computers at school if they should need them. That being said, I don’t live this way but if I were finacially forced to I could. Also, I rather give up cable than internet!

  • Reply canadian kate |

    I sort of agree that a computer is a NEED. But a new computer is a WANT. Don’t think you have to have the latest and greatest.

    Due to stimulus business tax incentives in Canada, our company will be buying my dh a new computer this year (we own our own company.) He doesn’t need a new computer but we’ll be able to write it off completely this year as opposed to amortizing it and within a year he’ll need a new computer so we’ll bite the bullet and do it now.

    His old laptop is 4 years old. It has a 60 gig hard drive. It has 2 gig of memory. It has only one processor. With this “dinosaur”, he develops high end software solutions for mulitnational corporations. He is paid big, big, bucks for his work (when he works, we went 10 months with no customers just recently due to the downturn.)

    I’ll stress he has no need for a new computer, this one meets all the requirements for his leading edge development.

    Therefore, I feel that anyone can get by with a used computer just fine, unless you are doing video production (that does need lots of processor power and storage.)But as a regular, high-tech family, there is no computer in this house under 3 years old. And they all work extremely well.

    Define what you need the computer to do and then look for a used computer that fits your needs.

    My son works for a computer store that sells refurbished computers and he gets a lot of really old computers brought into the recycling part of the business. Rather than send those to landfill, he salvages them and then uses them as loaners when people bring their main computer in for upgrade or repair. Because he recognizes that people NEED a computer, even if theirs is just in the shop. But they don’t need a new one just to surf the internet or check email.

    Used is as good, or better, than new because you can get better quality components and you know those components are working well with each other.

  • Reply Lisa |

    I would say in this day and age a computer is a need. I would take advantage of your employer’s generosity and get a new one that has enough space and features to last you for the near future.

  • Reply Bobby |

    I’d say in your case that a new computer is a need. Given your employer’s one-time offer and the extra pay-checks, you can choose to buy during these optimum circumstances. Let’s face it, the computer can/will fail when you are probably not facing such fortuitous financial conditions. Call it a pre-emptive strike;-).

  • Reply Jen |

    These days, it’s a need especially when you’re paying off debt. Whenever I’m stressed about debt I read pf blogs. When I search for new freelancing opportunities, I do it online. Also, when I feel like it’ll never be over, I go onto my bank’s website and check out my cc statements from the days of yore. Let’s just say that computers can do a lot for you. These days you can get an extremely decent laptop new for under $400 or even a netbook for $200.

  • Reply David @ DINKS Finance |

    A reasonably price desktop computer is a need. A $2,000 high-end laptop is a want. As long as it is reasonably priced, and you do not have a computer that is working properly, it is definitely a need. Try to function in this world without a computer at home. It’s pretty much impossible.

    Especially the fact that you have this blog you update (which could turn into a side business or is one already) I would say a working computer is a definite necessity.


So, what do you think ?