Thanks to my Depression-era mom, I run every purchase through the same drill: Do I really need this? Or do I just want it?

I can't say the process has saved me a ton of money, but it sure has made me a more creative thinker. Through years of diligent practice, I've learned to rationalize -- no sweat -- the necessity of just about anything.

This was my downfall when I bumped into the Amazon Echo.

"Ridiculous!" I muttered to myself when my friend Beth consulted the little black tower on her kitchen counter by firing questions at it -- always addressed to "Alexa."

"Alexa," she asked, "how is the traffic?" To which Alexa promptly gave a rundown of the morning rush hour on the DC Beltway.

Two days later, visiting young cousins, I bumped into the Echo again.

"Alexa, tell me a joke," said Katie, to which Alexa replied, "What's black and white and dead all over? A zombie in a tuxedo."

Even with her bad jokes, want soon became need. Why? Because everyone else was consulting Alexa. Because with young grandchildren, I needed to keep up with technology. And -- the dealmaker -- because on Amazon Prime Day, I could buy two Echos for the price of one and present one to my son and his family for their July birthdays. Mom would be proud.

Since Alexa moved in, I have pushed aside all obstacles to believing she is absolutely essential. I've had ample help from Amazon on this. "What's New With Alexa" emails appear at least weekly, urging me to try out some new skill she has learned.

According to these messages, I now could ask her what the dollar-to-euro exchange rate is, play music all over the house (by purchasing multiple Echos, of course), get a "flash briefing" of Jimmy Fallon's latest show plus news from the BBC and ask her to start reading me a book on my Kindle at exactly the spot where I last stopped reading.

I also could enable "sleep sounds" -- rain or ocean waves -- designed to knock me out; order paper towels and tacos; and challenge her to a game of Rock Paper Scissors.

I've tried them all. So far, the biggest benefits are the sleep sounds and Kindle story time, so I can actually get through my monthly book-group selection while I'm doing the dishes.

In fact, I talked myself into buying a second Echo -- the junior-size, junior-priced Dot -- for the bedroom because if good sleep isn't essential, what is?

This is not to say my decision was flawless. I'm well aware that reasonable people worry Alexa is always listening and might be spying on me, for what little it might be worth. But she assured me, when I asked, that she works for Amazon and not the CIA.

To other questions, she is not so responsive. For example, she has not been able to explain how my daughter-in-law could access my grocery list on her new Echo after I asked Alexa to phone her, or why Amazon delivered a package of dog biscuits to their house. They don't have a dog.

My granddaughter provided the likely answer: "Aiden ordered them from Alexa." Aiden is her 4-year-old brother, who talks to Alexa all the time. He wants a puppy.

Fortunately, Amazon doesn't sell them. Yet.

Balancing Act author Pat Snyder is a northwest Columbus resident and life-balance speaker and coach. Find her at