So it’s official. Just in time for summer, neither of our cars has working air conditioning. We got an estimate last weekend to fix the air conditioning in our primary car. $1,500 minimum. Thanks to our recent $900 repair of our secondary vehicle, we really can’t part with the money right now, unless it is a life or death emergency. My first reaction was to completely flip out. My mind filled with images of being completely house bound during the hot months to protect my newborn from dangerously high temperatures. (We don’t have a garage so our cars bake in the sun all day, every day). I immediately began wishing I could return to work, not just because of this issue but because this is a symptom of a larger problem: we do have trouble making ends meet and have very little to save for the future until we have paid off our sizable student loan debt.

After I finished my little freak out I tried to look at the issue more logically. As my husband reminded me, air conditioning is a luxury that was not available to most people just a few decades ago. The house I grew up in had one wall unit air conditioner in one room. The rest of the house was cooled by a large attic fan. So hot summer nights were a bit difficult at times but we all survived. I then tried to remind myself how grateful I am to live somewhere in the country, the northeast) that the temperatures really only get into the 80’s and 90’s for three to four months of the year. I am going to have to be cautious about covering my children’s car seats with blankets to keep the buckles from burning them as well as keeping the windows cracked to help some of the heat escape. But I do think we will survive. I may not like it, but we will survive. Long trips will be rough because I hate the sound of highway noise for long periods of time, but we aren’t likely to take a road trip this summer anyway.

Sometimes certain luxuries have been part of our lives for so long that we begin to see them as needs. Do we need Netflix, a cell phone, air conditioning? I guess that depends on your individual life circumstances. We use Netflix periodically and I try to limit my daughter’s access she so doesn’t become too used to it. We have a cell phone but a basic pay-as-you-go model. But if our debt was suddenly paid off and our income suddenly increased, we probably would each get our own nicer phones. We have window units in our house. One unit cools the downstairs decently, but it probably is too small for the space. Two of our upstairs bedrooms have window units as well and we just leave the doors open to cool the hallway and small bedroom. If our financial situation were different I would be buying a nice big 12,000 BTU unit for the downstairs and relocating the other units accordingly; perhaps we would even price the cost of adding central air. But if it really came down to living off credit cards versus our giving up our basic cell phone and Netflix, you can bet they would be the first to go along with less usage of our air conditioners to lower the summer electric bill.

What luxuries in your life have morphed into “necessities”? Have you ever had to learn to live without them?