How to Distinguish Between Wants and Needs

How to Distinguish Between Wants and Needs

Maybe one of the most underrated skills in our world today is the ability to distinguish between wants and needs. Think about it: When was the last time you sat down to actually distinguish between the two?

I’m not even sure most of us could accomplish it if we tried.

Learning to be content living with just the things we need is even more difficult, but I’m not even talking about that. I’m just talking about even being able to distinguish the difference.

Some of this difficulty, no doubt, is human nature. Hedonic Adaptation is a good example of how quickly we can conflate needs and wants—not just as individuals but as a society.

To make it even harder, the distinction between want and need becomes even more difficult in a world where advertisements constantly blur the lines. Many products we consider needs today were luxuries not that long ago. In fact, this seems to be the progression of most new products on the market. At first, they appear as luxuries. But through marketing, they slowly become wants and then eventually needs.

The distinction becomes more and more difficult.

My goal here is not to diminish the fact that our human-ingrained drive to improve our existence has led to some pretty amazing inventions along the way. Ambition, in the right places, is a worthy pursuit.

But there are some wonderful benefits available to those who can hone the skill of distinguishing between want and need.

This ability would free us up in many ways. It would save us stress and worry. Contentment would be easier to discover. The skill would help us more clearly identify when we are about to potentially waste money. It would help us clear clutter from our home. And perhaps, most importantly, it would enable us to devote more of our time, energy, and money on what truly matters.

Understanding the difference between wants and needs frees us from unnecessary burdens and begins to align our lives with more lasting fulfillment.

I think there is great benefit in owning only what we need as it allows us to more fully enjoy the benefits above. But I also think there is benefit to be found in just knowing the difference.

For example, consider this list of just a few everyday expenditures and how identifying the difference between want and need could dramatically impact your life and bank account:

Transportation: You need a car, but you don’t NEED a $650/month car payment.

Shelter: You need a place to live, but you don’t NEED 2,522 square feet.

Dining: You need to eat, but you don’t NEED to spend $250/month eating out.

Clothing: You need clothes to wear, but you don’t NEED to own 150 different articles of clothing — especially considering we only wear half of them.

Technology: You need a way to communicate with others, but you don’t NEED to upgrade your phone every three years.

Travel: Vacations can be helpful, but you don’t NEED to spend $10,000/year on travel.

Furniture: You need a place to sit at home, but you don’t NEED to spend $31,000 furnishing your home.

It is true of course that some people’s income is barely enough to cover legitimate needs. But for a large majority of us, we feel financially underwater because we’ve begun to confuse our needs with our wants and have overspent in the process.

Taking a step back to evaluate our lives, spending, and expectations is a powerfully helpful exercise.

To help, here are a series of self-reflective questions to evaluate our expectations and spending and ultimately better distinguish our needs from wants.

1. Are there other people living joyful lives with less than I have?

Observing those who thrive with less can inspire us to reevaluate our own definitions of necessity. If someone is living a joy-filled life (maybe even more joyful than mine) with less, this should immediately help us redefine our understanding of need.

2. What exactly are the minimum requirements for a purposeful life in my context?

Understanding what is essential in your own life, in your unique circumstance (family size, career, living area) can help clarify your needs.

3. What could I give up today that wouldn’t affect my daily life?

This question helps us identify some of the non-essentials that currently clutter our lives.

4. Where do my current spending habits not reflect my core values?

Quickly identifying those areas of life where our spending doesn’t align with our values can be a good indication that we’re mistaking wants for needs.

5. Am I discontent with what I have because I truly need more, or because I desire what someone else possesses?

Envy often disguises itself as need.

6. If I had to move tomorrow, what would I choose to not take with me?

This helpful question can help us identify objects and items in our home that really aren’t needed.

7. What is the emotional drive behind most of my purchases?

Understanding the emotional motivations (such as joy, security, or status) can help reveal whether an item is a true need or simply a want.

8. Is this purchase to replace a necessity, or is it an upgrade I can do without?

Differentiating between replacing worn-out essentials and upgrading for the sake of newness can clarify needs versus wants.

9. Is there a less expensive alternative that would serve the same function?

Identifying more cost-effective alternatives can help fulfill a need without indulgence in expensive wants.

10. Does this purchase bring me closer to the person I aspire to be?

Items that align with your personal or professional growth are likely needs.

It doesn’t look like our consumeristic society is going to change any time soon. Because of that, the ability to distinguish between wants and needs will continue to get more and more difficult.

But it is an important skill. Not only is it likely a financial imperative in your life (or may become one in your future), knowing the difference helps pave the way for greater peace, joy, meaning, and purpose.

By regularly questioning our motives and the necessity of our purchases, we create space and margin in our lives for those pursuits and purchases that truly enrich us.

Because of that, we would all be wise to sit down occasionally and reevaluate the difference between wants and needs.

You need to live a meaningful life, but you DON’T need to spend a lot of money to achieve it.

Source link


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *