HTSMC: Hard Choices, Part 2

In Hard Choices Part 1, I listed my family’s current want/need list:

1) Dental Work (Both) – $500 to $2,000

2) iPad or Tablet (Kids, Me) – $600

3) Organic foam mattress or topper (Both, more me) – $1,000 – $2,200

4) Airplane ticket to home country (Spouse) – $1,300+

5) Semi-professional camera (Spouse) – $1,800 +

6) Car #1 Repairs (Spouse) – $1,000

7) Car #2 Maintenance (Me) – $200 to $500

Organic Mattress

Doesn’t this look nice and restful? I deserve it.

How would you prioritize the above needs/wants if that was all the information you had? Now I’m adding in details or justifications (in red) for these wants/needs. Does this change your original answer?

1) Dental Work (Both) – $500 to $2,000 – Have been delaying this for 2 years.  These are not cosmetic needs.

2) iPad or Tablet (Kids, Me) – $600 –  An excellent speech therapy program for Autistic kids is only available on the iPad.  That program costs $200, too! Recommended by kid’s therapist who have described incredible communication gains with other clients.

3) Organic foam mattress or topper (Both, more me) – $1,000 – $2,200 – Had current mattress for over 10 years. It feels OK, but we often wake up with sore backs. Yes, we can settle for a non-organic mattress that would be cheaper..

4) Airplane ticket to home country (Spouse) – $1,300+ – Spouse wants to see his aging parents plus some old friends he hasn’t seen in years. Has not been home in 4 years.

I don't know much about cameras but this one looks semi-pro.

I don’t know much about cameras but this one looks semi-pro.

5) Semi-professional camera (Spouse) – $1,800 + – We own a consumer camera that is so-so. Spouse is very passionate about photography and wants to make this hobby into a career. He has actually been paid for photography jobs twice.

6) Car #1 Repairs (Spouse) – $1,000 – Have been putting this off for months. Check Engine light keeps coming on. This is the primary family car.

7) Car #2 Maintenance (Me) – $200 to $500 – Check brakes and make sure car is in kept in good shape. This car has more miles (over 100,000) than Car #1. This is primarily used for my commute to work.

Do the “justifications” above make you change your mind in terms of priority? Or do you stick to your original answer?  I’ll detail our decisions in another post.


This is one in a series of tips/ideas to help you stay middle-class (HTSMC).  Whether you consider yourself on the lower- or higher-end of the spectrum, you can probably find some useful tips to help you stay there and find save more for retirement even as wages stay stagnant.

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9 thoughts on “HTSMC: Hard Choices, Part 2

  1. I’d do the dental work ASAP, they have repayment system. Also, if you live within 1 hour drive of a dental school, they can do it for 1/3 of cost. If you go through hardship that’s even cheaper.

    Ipad – when I was still doing side hustle buying and selling phone on craigslist, I can get a decent ipad for 200$, see if program work on android, and buy a samsung galaxy.

    My MR doesn’t like to use used items, but I lived in poverty for so many years, anything is luxurious to me. 🙂

    These are hard choices, Goodluck to you and your family.

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  2. If I were you I’d do the dental work ASAP. Your health is very important.

    I would look to see if I could get a used Ipad to save some money. This is the same for DSLR. I have a side photography business shooting weddings and portraits and all my gear are 2nd hand. I saved a lot of money buying used.

    I would also look into getting a new mattress. Having a good night of sleep is very important to your overall health.

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  3. 1,2,6,7 (unless you can easily live with just one car, then 6 or 7 but delay the other after other preferences), 3 but a new mattress is more important than an organic mattress, then let spouse pick the order of 4 and 5.

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    • Thank you for your input. We can’t easily live with one car but we could probably manage for a while, so could possibly stagger the repairs. I also like letting spouse pick the order of 4 and 5, although I think he needs to visit his folks and country first.

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  4. 1 (agree with looking into dental schools to cut the price some) then either 6 or 7 (agree with staggering). 2—find used, older version and get the software if it was recommended by a trusted professional. 3—good mattress for back support is key but why do you need organic? and then 4—visiting family (aging parents?) is essential. 5 is not essential and shouldn’t be considered until the rest are done!

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