According the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a “want” is defined as having a strong desire for something. The word “need” is defined as lack of the means of subsistence (food, medicine, water, shelter etc…). In every arena of life, the two concepts are opposing elements.
Studies have shown that about 90% of environmental unhappiness comes from confusing the two. This article is a great brief discussion on how to improve our happiness substantially & to focus on what is important in life!
I think our society has lost sight of the true meaning between wants and needs. I vividly recall my light bulb moment when I realized how much excess I had been purchasing. I had just moved out of state to go to PA school, I knew I was unable to work for 2 years while going to school and was living off of student loans. I didn’t know anyone and had not yet made any friends. I remember wanting to get out of the house so I headed to the store to go shopping. After 2 hours of walking around the store the cart was filled half way with random things. I was headed to the register when I started feeling guilty. I did the math, for every item in my cart-maybe it was only $10-but I would be using my student loan to pay for it, interest and all. I looked at my cart and decided I didn’t reallyneed those candles, I went and put them back on the shelf. I didn’t really need the picture frames, lip gloss, candy, yoga pants, birdfeeder, etc. Gradually, one by one I put everything in the cart back and walked out of the store 3 hours after I walked in with absolutely nothing.
If you consider the true difference between wants and needs, window shopping and browsing while shopping should not be in your vocabulary if you are in debt. When in debt, you should not be purchasing any items other than needs. Create a list of what youneed before going to the store and if it isn’t on the list don’t buy it.
Just because it is on sale also does not mean that you need it! So many people that I talk with tell me they have clothes in their closets with tags on them. When asked why they bought them, most people will say because it was on sale. If you don’t need it than any price you pay is wasted money no matter how great of a deal it might seem. There are times to splurge and buy things you want but when you are in debt you should not buy any wants, not even one.
I recommend teaching your children at a young age the difference between wants and needs. When kids ask for a new toy or candy so often they will end with “but I need it”. Parents need to use this opportunity to say no you don’t need it, you want it. We need to be teaching our children this difference at the earliest age as possible.