Needs vs. Wants and the Gray areas

needs_and_wantsDo you know the difference between your “needs” and your “wants”? What are your priorities? Do you make sure your families “needs” are met before going after your “wants”? Everyone knows of the basic needs, such as food/water, shelter, and clothing. I am going to go a little more in-depth about what “needs” actually are and compare them to some of the extra stuff that people “want”.  This article will help you understand Needs vs. Wants and the Gray areas.


basic_needsFood/water – The main thing to keep in mind when meeting the basic food and water need is that you do not require pricey brand name items. This means don’t waste your money on brand name bottled water when you can drink filtered water or the off brand of bottled water. I understand that no one wants to live on Mac n’ cheese, hot dogs, beans, and Ramen noodles – but if you are on a limited budget, don’t blow your monthly food budget on steaks for one or two meals. Learn to budget your money to last all month so that you do not feel the need to purchase all the food at one time, which can lead to part of the food going bad before you get to eat it.  (Need help living on a food budget?  Check out the articles at Living Fat in a Skinny World for some great tips!)

Shelter – The shelter need is more than just having a roof over your head. This need includes being able to pay the utility bills (water, electric, and gas) and any repairs that the building may need. Find a house or apartment that fits into your budget. This does not mean you have to live in a run-down shack but it also does not mean that you need to live in a large house that comes with a huge mortgage payment that exceeds your monthly income. Do your home work to figure out how much you can afford in rent/mortgage payments and then look for something within that price range.

Clothing – Unless you live in a nudist colony, you do need clothing to be allowed out in a public place. One easy place for most people to cut cost for living on a budget is buying clothing and shoes. Find clothing to fit your lifestyle without worrying about having the best stuff or wearing only the name brands or latest styles. What good does it do to have a closet full of stylish clothing that you maxed out your credit cards to purchase but you never wear? I understand that most people have certain clothes to wear for work and other clothes for play time BUT if you are not the type to go clubbing or bar hopping every weekend, it makes no sense to have a bunch of clubbing/partying clothes. Also, DO NOT buy clothes just because it is what is “in” for the moment!! Make sure the clothes you buy look good on you and it is something that you will wear in public. It is a waste of money to buy clothes that you won’t wear.  (For some tips on what not to wear – check out the article on Popular Fashions – what not to wear!)

shoesShoes – This is more of a sub-category for clothing needs but I feel that it requires special attention. Unless you are a model, you do not need more than a dozen pairs of shoes. Some people think they have to have a closet just for their shoe collection but who really wears that many pairs of shoes?!?! I know some people that will buy a pair of shoes just because the shoes look cool or are a certain color. I know other people that will only buy brand name shoes because the off name brands are not what the poplar people wear. Find two or three good pairs of shoes that fit and are comfortable that you can wear for work and play.

Bathroom needs – This category of needs include basic bathroom care needs such as shampoo/conditioner, deodorant, toilet paper, feminine products, etc. While some people seem to consider soap and deodorant as optional, they are not!!

Health needs – This category of needs include basic health needs such as vitamins, prescription medicine, doctor visits, and dental care. Also included in this category is mental health needs, such as counseling and medicine for temporary or long-term mental issues. These needs are often over looked, especially by those having to live on a limited budget.

Wants: Most cases of “want” can be chalked up to wanting to “keep up with the Joneses”

wantsEntertainment – Unless you are rich and have a lot of money to waste, your entertainment budget should be less than 1/8 of your monthly income. Once you have met the “needs” of yourself and your family, then you can think about your “wants”. Having a big flat-screen television is a want. Having the newest gaming system is a want. If you are having trouble paying your basic utility bills, you shouldn’t add more bills like renting/buying movies or games. Cable or satellite television is also not a need when you are unable to pay your other bills on time.

Food – I know that food is a “basic need”, but it can also fall under the “want” category. If you are living on a budget and your family is at home eating stuff like hot dogs and Ramen noodles, then you do not need to go out to fast food or bar type restaurants on a daily basis – especially without your family. A perfect example of this is the dad who goes out to eat lunch at places like “Hooter’s” several times a week and then expects his wife/girlfriend and children to live on monthly food budget of $300.00 or less. It is nice to be able to go out to eat at a nice restaurant once in a while, but this should be limited to no more than once a week and it should be as a family.

Transportation – I understand that everyone needs a car of some sort to be able to get back and forth to work/school and to shop to meet your basic needs. Transportation becomes a “want” when you reach the point of one person having more than one mode of transportation. A perfect example of this is the dad who has a truck, a motorcycle, and still wants another truck or SUV, while mom is stuck driving a beat up car/van/SUV that barely runs.

The Grey areas:

needs_wantsInternet – For most people, having internet access has become a “need” rather than a “want”. A large number of people use the internet to keep in contact with family members and friends. Many business professionals are required to have access to email and company web sites at all times, which includes the hours spent out of the office. For anyone trying to run their own business, the internet is a must have or the business will never make any money.

Cell Phones – Cell phones are another item that falls under “needs” and “wants” due to the number of people who depend on their phones. Having a cell phone is considered a safety item so that the person can call for help if they have car trouble, get attacked, are in an accident, or become sick and no one is around to help. Cell phones also fall under the “want” category due to most people feeling like they have to have the newest and best phone on the market. Unless you can afford your basic needs, you do not need the top dollar phones with the unlimited everything plan. You can survive with a basic phone and a basic plan until you can afford the “bigger and better”.

Addictions – There is a super fine line between “want” and “need” for this category. Items such as tobacco products, alcohol, prescription drugs, and illegal drugs are considered “want” items by everyone but the people addicted to them. Often times, the addiction started out as a “want” for the item and the person abuse the item so often that their body now “needs” the item. Some people are so addicted that they cannot live without the product they are addicted to, which makes the addiction a “need”. When the person is able to go for a week or two without the item, and then decides to return to the addiction, then it is a “want” and not a “need”. Prescription drugs are meant to be taken for short periods of time, such as recovering from a surgery, but the person becomes too dependent on the medicine and the doctor keeps refilling the prescription rather than weaning the person off of the medicine. There are a large number of programs available to help a person overcome an addiction. If the addict cares about themselves and the people around them, they will seek help.

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