Needs vs Wants: What the Coronavirus Crisis has Taught Me

(I wrote this article back in March or April but I have edited it a bit to add some more reflections to it)

Italy (like many other countries) has been on complete lockdown for the first time in its history.

Between March and May all bars, all restaurants, all fast-food restaurants and many other non-essential businesses were closed.

Even if you were willing to pay 100€ for a cup of espresso you couldn’t find any open bar and if you were willing to pay 1000€ for a pizza there was no way to find an open pizzeria.

For the first time in decades I have been forced to bring my coffee thermos from home and give up my habit of going to a bar up to 3 or 4 times a day to order an espresso, because there was nowhere to go.

And for the very first time in my life I have had to settle for a “Roman holiday”, since going elsewhere was rather complicated and subject to a lot of restrictions.

Roman Holiday…by the lake

This situation has caused me to reflect a little bit on how much money I could actually have saved up if, when I was younger, I had adopted the habit of bringing my own coffee to work, instead of always going to a bar and splashing unnecessary money.

Going to a bar 3 or 4 times a day means (here in Italy) spending 3-4€ a day, which multiplied by 7 days per week, 30 days per month and 365 days per year means a lot of money, money that I have been unconsciously spending on non-essentials.

Had I conquered this habit 25 years ago, or, better yet, had I never adopted this habit, I would, by now, have a lot more money in the bank.

This Coronavirus thing is making it plainly obvious that consistently spending money on non-essentials is absolutely foolish and it also making it obvious that we don’t really need to go to a bar or a restaurant to be happy.

Between March and May, my wife and I had an amazing time together despite the fact that were unable to go anywhere for a date.

And our “Roman holiday” that has consisted of merely going to the closest lakes has given me the opportunity, for the first time in my life, to return to work refreshed and with the feeling that I have truly had some “rest” (sometimes travelling, and everything that goes with it, can turn out to be more tiring than a full-time job).

From now on I will always bring my coffee thermos to work and my wife and I are considering the possibility of cutting back rather drastically on our habit of eating out.

As for parting with the habit of travelling….well, I am not too sure (but sometimes not going anywhere can be more refreshing than travelling, as my “Roman holiday” has shown me).

12 years from now I should be able to retire (provided that there will still be such thing as a pension check in Italy): if I really manage to ditch this bad habit of spending money on unnecessary cups of espresso for good I should be able to have good extra money in my bank account…..hopefully.

A passage of the New Testament written by Paul of Tarsus says that we should be content with having nourishment and clothing (and a house….and some wine, beer, an internet connection, books to read……. I guess): it seems like he was right.

There is a lot of stuff we don’t really need…

7 thoughts on “Needs vs Wants: What the Coronavirus Crisis has Taught Me

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