Thought Tuesday

Adulting 101 – Want vs. Need

Money.  Having money.  Spending money.  Money is on the mind of all the teens I know.  The purpose of money is to provide for needs and wants, for myself and for others, now and in the future.  It comes down to simple economics.  One of the most basic concepts of economics is want vs. need.  The difference between a need and a want is fairly simple.

Want vs Need (1)

A need is something you HAVE TO HAVE, something you can’t do with out.  You might be surprised what does NOT make this list.  What DOES make the list would include food.  If you don’t eat, you won’t live long. Simple.

A want is something you would LIKE TO HAVE.  It is not absolutely necessary, but it’s nice to have.  Simple.

Sometimes the lines seem to blur.  Not simple.


Death by Chocolate ice cream is a food, so you might mark it as a need.  Food is a need, ice cream is not.  Some grocery spending falls under “want” and not “need.”  A pair of designer jeans fits perfectly.  Need?  People need clothes, right?  Shouldn’t it count as a need?  Clothes are a need, designer clothes are not.

Do we need the internet?  I see it’s value.  However, in the short term of actual survival, it is not a need.  Do we need hobbies?  Actually, no.  Life would be a bummer without them, but they are not necessary for survival.

Let’s be honest here.  There are only four things NEEDED to survive:

  • A roof over your head, including basic utilities
  • Food and water to maintain health
  • Basic health care and hygiene products
  • Clothing to remain comfortable and appropriately dressed for the situation (i.e. job or the weather)

Anything beyond these basic needs – a bigger house, brand named clothes, a new car, a second car, eating at restaurants, fancy food, a cell phone, internet access, hobbies, toys, books, vacations, etc. are all wants.

I admit… I too, blur the lines between want and need.  Do we really NEED  more than 1 car?  Technically, I can walk around my town to get where I need to be.  My husband works over an hour away.  He needs a car.  Having more than one car is clearly a matter of convenience.

Life is simple.  Yet, we are constantly bombarded with suggestions that we “need” a lot of things to lead a normal life.

I’m not saying you should only buy your needs.  Life is meant to be lived, not merely survived.  I am saying, you need to take care of needs and THEN, as you can afford them, buy a few wants.  When you can’t afford them, don’t go into debt to get more wants.  Decide what’s actually is important to you, and go for it.  Save up!  Come up with a plan and work the plan.  Even if you take you  really long time, working toward the goal is empowering… and you will appreciate what you worked for more!  Working for your wants makes you feel capable, not deprived.

Take time to reflect on your blessings.  We are so rich.  So blessed.  Most of you who will read my blog will do so on a personal computer with high-speed internet in the comfort of your warm, dry home with a full belly.  Having our NEEDS met is rarely on our radar.  Keep an attitude of gratitude.  Wants seem less important when you realize that we live in a world where half of the population lives on $2 a day.

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