Differentiating wants and needs is really easy. Needs are something we must have to survive (food and shelter aren’t exceptions to that rule). Wants are something we’d like to have but aren’t really needed (like those glitter or rhinestone-crusted heels for you ladies or that luxury car).
But being frugal and building wealth takes much, much more than that.
There’s a huge reason why post people turn from middle class to dirt poor in a matter of seconds. Don’t just blame government. Don’t just blame their workplaces downsizing staff to save money. Tell them to blame themselves.
Our society is a want-focused society. We need basic things that we must survive, but there are wants that are fancier versions of needs. Take clothing, for instance. We have to wear some sort of top to keep modest, warm, and/or presentable, and simply a T-shirt would do. But a top with all the bells and whistles (like a camisole with studs and rhinestones) is something we can do without.
What’s even worse is that it’s not even news to us.
Back in the 90’s, lines of stationary, binders, and smarm that girls would buy designed by commercial artist Lisa Frank (that’s right, Lisa Frank) were popular. Consumers would bring their trapper keepers, pencils, and notebooks from the line to school. You may be asking what were the teachers thinking when they saw them.
Sure, we all know school supplies are needs – we’d fail our classes if they weren’t for pencils, backpacks, and paper, right? But Frank turned them into wants. Girls whose families often had low incomes or good incomes but tight-ape budgets begged parents to buy them, even though they refused.
Photo by Enokson
Other needs that became their counterparts in wants in history were pens. We all need something to write with to prove the teachers we needed something, remind people about important dates, and express how we feel daily in journals. No longer were they just red, blue, or black, but in the early 2000’s gel pens were hits with schoolchildren.
Gel pens were problematic those days. A lot of the then-popular ones have colorful ink that makes writing illegible, even if the students had good penmanship. Try writing an essay in bright blue or apple green. You’d likely have to retake the whole class!
But illegible writing was only the tip of the iceberg. Kids with low income or tight budget-families were less likely to purchase the colorful pens than those who are more affluent. They’d wish that they had large collections of those motley pens, but their parents were probably too busy saving the money they would have bought with them for college or bills. (Actually, that was a good thing, for they were gradually getting wealthy even if their kids missed the gel-pen bandwagon.)
Youth fads in your children’s schools – unless you homeschool them or have them go to schools that are really strict on supplies and fashions – are things that would make you understand wants and needs. Most children of tightwad parents often are envious of what their richer peers buy or use. That’s why schools consider or enforce uniform dress codes or something similar to that. That’s also why they hand out school supply lists that list the same materials needed for each child.
And perhaps you should really set your own standard when it comes to going from want-focused to need-focused.
You really want that designer dress right now, but you have debt to pay. Well, wait a few days and think it over and ask if that’s necessary. If it’s right for you, use EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) for that amount of time. Tap on the impulse to buy it, tap on what would you do to curtail that enthusiasm and focus on the needs, and tap on choosing to do so.
Alternatively, buy a dress from the thrift store and a few notions from the craft store and make your own designer outfit.
I know it sounds really childish, but make three piggy banks. One would be for savings, one would be for small purchases (like that dress), and one would be for a big (long term) purchase like an anniversary vacation. If desired, you can make another for donations for charity.
There are so many things you really want in the world, but though you can’t get them all, at least be thankful. Focusing on what really matters – your needs – really helps you to build wealth and get richer – at least in mind.