- A home. The recession forced many people from their homes. Some people turned to the media to tell the world how losing their home was the end of the world, while others took their lives because they couldn't deal with the loss of their 'status' home. Here's some people who voluntarily do without homes and are all the more interesting (and apparently happier) for it: Family on Bikes, Female Nomad, Legal Nomads.
- A car. For most Americans, getting a car is a rite of passage. People could think of a lot of things to do without if they were really strapped for cash, but once a person has a car, they are loathe to ever part with it (even if it is drowning them in debt). There are, however, people who make a conscious choice to be car free: Car Free Family, Car Free Tribe, Car Free Bike Forum.
- Credit Cards. Un American! Blasphemy! You would think that people were issued credit cards at birth by the way most people are permanently attached to their cards, emotionally moved by their credit score, and traumatized by a cut in their credit limit or a jump in their interest rates. Again, there are plenty of people who live just fine, thank you, without credit: Dave Ramsey, Enemy of Debt, No Credit Needed.
Those are the biggies. Those are the things that keep people in perpetual debt. There are, however, many other things you can do without that will save you smaller, yet significant amounts of money over the long haul:
- Cable TV. Cutting the Coax--Living Without Cable
- Home phone service. Cutting the Cord
- The electrical grid. HSW Living off the Grid
- Cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, caffeine. Breaking addictions is a good thing--good for your health and good for your pocketbook.
The bottom line is that the less you need, in regards to material goods, the better off you will be, especially in a disaster situation. If you need an eye-opener about the minimum that people actually need to survive, go on a week long backpacking trip, taking everything you need to survive in a small bag on your back. Go to a third world country, in the slums or the very poor parts of the country, and see how little people can live on for entire lifetimes. Visit an Amish community and note how few modern conveniences people use yet still manage to live full, interesting lives.