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Repeat after me: I have everything I need.
I know at first glance of this post title, it seems rather silly. They all say, “of course I know the difference between wants and needs. I don’t need a blog post on some random website to tell me that.” And maybe you don’t. But there are people who do. People who are struggling with credit card debt but they just bought a pair of shoes using their credit card because it was on sale. And people who don’t have enough money for gas to get through the work week but choose to purchase a bag of potato chips while grocery shopping.
The truth is determining a want versus need really isn’t all that easy. Everyone has different needs. Sure, we all need shelter, food, water and clothing. But what about those things that simply help us function in society? That’s where the line gets a bit blurry. For example, your survival doesn’t depend on having a car but your ability to keep a job does. So you march yourself down to the dealership and you find a nice reliable car that allows you to get to and from work. The problem comes in when people go from buying a safe, basic car to a fancy car they THINK they can afford. Sure, you need a car to get to work but you certainly don’t need a Jaguar with leather seats to get there on time.
Or what about when you go grocery shopping because you NEED food so you buy the extra salty potato chips because they are on sale? Or how about when you buy clothes for your baby boy but you buy the little sailor sweater that’s in his size because he would look so cute in it, even though he already has 15 other sweaters. After all, your baby boy NEEDS to wear clothes.
Sure, you try to buy only needs but the slip ups in differentiating aren’t always your fault. It’s not easy when you’re constantly seeing advertisements for things you just need to have right now. Not to mention those sales with dramatic discounts making seemingly necessary items even more enticing. That’s why people always have major slip ups on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
So what’s a girl to do when she’s got student loan debt to payoff, a job interview to prepare for with nothing to wear and a one day sale at Macy’s calling her name?
She gets real honest about the situation. How? By asking these simple questions.
Does this product enrich my life or Does this help me function in society?
Is it urgent?
Is in in the budget?
Take my above example for instance. Let’s take a look at shopping for clothes for my little prince. Just a few days ago I was shopping in Burlington Coat Factory for something I do need – a bra – because all of my bras just don’t fit as well since having Little Prince. Naturally, I find myself wandering over to the baby section. There I find several things, but set my eyes on a pair of boots because my Little Prince will need boots to go with a specific outfit.
So I ask myself, Will these boots help my son function in society?
Answer: Yes. These boots will help him function because they protect him from the environment and may keep him from falling and hurting himself.
Is it urgent?
Answer: No. It’s not urgent because he already has boots that he wears and fits. These boots are a size bigger so he will grow into them.
Is it in the budget?
Answer: No. I came to the store to buy a bra so I did not budget for this purchase. Plus, I still haven’t made that extra payment on my student loan.
Based on the answers to these questions, I shouldn’t have purchased the boots for my son, because it really wasn’t a need. And I wish I could tell you I didn’t buy them, but I did. I bought them because I got blinded by the great sale of $8.99 and I wasn’t making a conscience effort to figure out if it was a want or a need. If only I had asked myself those three questions while I was in the store with shoes in hand I would have recognized the purchase wasn’t necessary. Instead, I wasn’t honest with myself and rationalized it was something I needed to have based on the aesthetics and price.
The truth is if we bothered to make conscience decisions while shopping and only asked ourselves this one question, “Does this help me function in society?” we’d realize that most of what we own and purchase are wants. Start with that one question. And be honest with yourself. That means no roundabout stories trying to convince yourself that you just need to have the white jacket that Megan Markle wore in her engagement shoot because you are having a royal themed wedding so it only makes sense to have her coat.
If you are honest with the answers to “Does this help me function in society?” or “Does this item enrich in my life?” everything will be clear. Unless, the answer to either of those is “yes” (most of the time it won’t be) then you won’t even need to ask yourself the other two questions about urgency and budget. You’ll most likely have no reason to break your wallet out at all because it won’ t be a need.
Now that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life. By all means, if it’s not deterring you from your dreams and done in moderation, buy the cookies. There’s nothing wrong with having dessert or a sweet snack from time to time. Or go ahead and buy the knockoff Markle Sparkle coat. Splurge on that daily exfoliator. But be honest with yourself when you do it. Take a look at where you are in life and if your wants, needs, goals and budgets are in alignment, got for it! Just don’t lie to yourself and make yourself believe something is a need when it really isn’t. Sometimes it only does more harm than good.
Are you good at determining needs?
TERRIfic Quip: When you love what you have, you have everything you need.