Needs vs. Wants

Needs and Wants

When it comes to funding all these somedays I have, I really wish I was independently wealthy. It sure would make it easier to go out and do or buy some of the things I want. But the reality is that I am not independently wealthy. I have to plan and save for these things.

There are so many temptations out there. All these daily deal sites that want me to buy their deal because, well, it’s a deal! I could save a lot of money if only I would buy something from them. And sure, many of these are truly great deals. For instance, I love books and so does BabyGirl. So when Groupon had the recent Barnes & Noble deal I got in on it.  I wanted it. I was saving 50%!

But did I need it.  Need it as in it is required for my daily living. I didn’t need to buy the Groupon deal. I wanted to. I wanted to save money that I knew I would end up having to spend. And it’s not often that a deal for a bookstore comes up. Clearly a want, not a need. And, sure I don’t need an iPhone. But because it makes doing business and keep connected with CycleGuy, I have one. For me, the convenience factor is a tradeoff with the cost factor.

I need heat and electricity and internet and food and gas for the car. But I don’t need to go out to eat when I know that it is cheaper and often more healthful to eat at home. Dining out is definitely a want. For me and my family. And even though heat is a need, I’ve decided that with an extra blanket and sweater I could avoid turning the heat on. I need to be comfortable in my home and I’ve found a way to do that without having to turn on the heat. It’s not for everyone, but it works for me an my family.

Budgeting is one way to look at Needs and Wants, and so is finding balance in your life.

We need clothing. We don’t need high-end couture fashion. It’s a matter of choice as to how need is defined when it comes to clothes. For some families, it’s acceptable to purchase pre-owned items. For others, thrift and consignment stores don’t even enter the picture. It’s another example of how need is defined differently for each family.

My friend Heather, whom you met yesterday if you read my Budget Date Night guest post, started a No Spend Month program for the month of February. Heather is already very frugal. She’s a work at home mom to three girls and her husband works in the tech field as well as at home doing the back-end work for Heather’s many websites. With 3 kids, all of whom have food allergies, she’s keenly aware of how wants and needs vary from family to family. Her food budget is seen as high by some, although she has to account for special foods that often don’t go on sale or have coupons. Safe foods are a need for every family. It’s just that for some family those safe foods are very expensive.

In talking with friends and looking at my family budget from last year, I realized that CycleGuy and I have a pretty good grasp on our family budget and overall spending. His living in another state makes things a bit more challenging. For example, coming back to Phoenix is a need for him. And while I miss him dearly, sometimes I see it as a want (especially when I see the airfare). I’ve examined some of my wants and reevaluated them so that we can fit his travel into our budget. We need to make it work for our family.

Schooling is another big category that is part want and part need. Again, it’s a very personal choice for a family to choose private school and say it is a need. Many may disagree, but none of this is for other people to judge. I choose to homeschool. With that comes different expenses and costs than if BabyGirl went to public school. We also see violin and french lessons as a need for her education. The money must come from somewhere, though.

It’s easy to say everything is a need. What it comes down to though is making hard choices. I’m not a music fanatic. CycleGuy is. For me new music from iTunes is a want. For him it’s a need. So we need to come together and find a balance. Heather talks about this, too. Which makes me feel good, because I know it’s not something I deal with alone.

Most, if not all, the things on my Someday List are wants. I’d have to look really closely to find a true need. It doesn’t mean they aren’t important. Each and every one is meaningful in some way to me. But a girl can’t live on needs alone!

Have you taken a close look at where you spend your money? What are your needs and wants?


Consequences Of Our Choices

Vibrato II
photo credit: fdecomite

Newton’s law of motion says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. That works great in physics but when it comes to real life it doesn’t always work that way in real life. Or in money management.

In real life the reaction of our action isn’t always equal nor opposite. We get curve balls, underhanded pitches, things way over our heads and of course those things that blindside us. Ugh! And in money management and budgeting, how many times have you had to outlay more money than what seemed reasonable?

But one thing that is consistent is that for every choice there is a consequence. Some consequences are better than others. For others, well, we’d like to call a do-over. Hindsight is the most awesome thing ever invented! I wish there was some way to make hindsight foresight. Except then I’d be clairvoyant and that could be freaky.

So back to this whole idea of our choices having consequences. If you’re a parent you talk about this all the time with the kids. You probably remember being asked ‘are you sure?’. This is code for ‘if you make this choice something is going to happen that you might not like but you’ll be stuck with it so you might want to really, really, really think about your choice and whatever you are going to choose then you should choose the opposite’.

I’m constantly teaching this concept to BabyGirl. I want her to know that if she decides to do something that it will have an effect on something else. Because rarely is a choice without consequence. I want her to think about making choices and know that they don’t exist in a vacuum.  Things like if you don’t brush your teeth then you’ll have bad breath or yucky teeth or dental problems. I don’t want her making some cosmic leap like, if I don’t brush my teeth all my teeth will have to be pulled out and I’ll have no teeth’. But I do want to teach her to think beyond the NOW.

I read so many blogs and posts about how people are trying to get out of debt. The current economic problems came about because many felt that they needed stuff NOW or because professionals failed to outline the real consequences of the choices being made. We are consumers with conspicuous consumption. And we don’t like to wait and we’ve been told for years that we can have all these things for just dollars a day. Our friends buy stuff and go on fabulous trips and drive great cars. And we want that too!

And we want it without having to think about the consequences. We don’t want to be reminded that the credit card bill will be here next month. Who cares if that great skirt needs to be dry cleaned to the tune of $10+ each wear. And really, it would be best not to be reminded that we don’t really need 296 channels plus HD when it costs more than we can really afford.

The reality of life, though, is that there are consequences for our choices. Some will be small or even insignificant. But it’s those more significant consequences that should make us think twice. Except who really wants to think about consequences when something seems so perfect.

What are the consequences of my choices?

1. Do I need this or do I want this?

2. Can I afford this now or will I need to finance it? Is financing this a good option?

3. Is there a more practical (financially or otherwise) option?

4. Are there better alternatives?

5. Do I want this because it will make people like me more?

6. Am I teaching my child a good lesson?

7. What would really happen if I buy it/don’t buy it?

8. Am I buying/getting this for emotional reasons? Am I trying to satisfy some other need?

9. Why do I want this?

10. If I don’t get/do this, what will happen?

We’ve all made decisions that have proven not to be the best. Emotions often drive us to make decisions without thinking it through. Maybe in the future, we’ll stop and think twice. Or three time or even four. We can’t be paralyzed by the various consequences, but we can be informed. Right?