Discerning Wants Vs. Needs
A great way to start saving money is learning to decipher what you need in life, versus what you want in life. When I first started getting out of debt, and reducing my spending, I had a lot of “needs”. I needed to get my hair done every six weeks. I needed to go to yoga once a week. I needed to spend money on my wardrobe. I needed to buy as much of my food as possible from the local farmer’s market. With all of these needs, I was finding it really hard to find enough money in my budget to pay my upcoming student loan payments.
Eventually, just to get the numbers to balance, I had to resign myself to the fact that I was going to have to say goodbye to a lot of these needs. Once I’d stopped going to yoga, and stopped getting my hair cut so frequently, I realized that these things weren’t in fact needs at all. I wasn’t indulging in them anymore, but I was fine. Nope, those things were wants, masquerading as needs.
Beware the Want in Need’s Clothing
This happens a lot, people have needs, that aren’t in fact needs at all. This is what needs are: Food, shelter, heat, transportation, and enough clothing and personal care to keep you from losing your job. That’s pretty much it! Everything else is a want.
There’s nothing wrong with wants. Wanting things, and indulging in things that aren’t a necessity are what makes life worth living. Let’s just call a spade a spade here. The worst want, is the want that is pretending to be a need. I came up against this issue recently.
I take my coffee to work with me every day. I take it with me in a reusable coffee mug that my fiance got me for my birthday last year. When he first got it for me, it was absolutely perfect. It kept my coffee hot for hours and was completely leak proof, allowing me to throw it into my bag along with my electronics without having to worry about ruining anything.
Over time though, the mug has become … well used. Honestly, it’s starting to make my coffee taste gross. I blame the construction. There’s plastic on the inside of the container, instead of stainless steal. I can’t complain, the thing was made to hold tea, not it’s much more potent cousin. I’ve been considering kinda replacing it, but not really.
Until this week. This week it’s really gotten into my head that I need a new coffee mug. So much so that I even started browsing online for one (!). I found a suitable replacement for around $20. Before I hit “add to cart”, I paused for a moment.
Why was I suddenly interested in getting a new coffee mug?
My mug had been tasting gross for awhile, why the sudden uptick in interest?
It wasn’t because I needed one.
It wasn’t because it was time to replace my old mug.
It was because I’d been in a store, seen something I’d liked, and that image had swum around in the depths of my consciousness and emerged as the idea that I needed to replace my current coffee mug.
So I didn’t.
I closed the browser, and decided to go through another month or two of slightly stale tasting coffee before replacing my mug.
I didn’t need that new, tall, shiny, mug, I wanted it. I’d almost successfully fooled myself into thinking I needed it, but I caught myself just in time.
A lot of your are probably thinking “what’s the big deal? Just buy the damn mug!”. Well yes, that would make sense if I had plenty of cash to pay for it. The truth is though, I have better things to do with my money, like building up my chequing account buffer, and paying off a pesky bit of credit card debt that has somehow jumped onto my back. Until those things are taken care of, I’ll deal with my stale tasting coffee mug.
Once I’ve accomplished those few things on my check list, I’ll indulge my want, guilt free. I’ll do that because while little sacrifices like this can make the difference between getting out of debt and staying on the credit treadmill forever, it’s also little indulgences like a new coffee mug that can be the difference between sticking to the plan and total frugality induced insanity.
What “wants” do you have that are probably really “needs”? Don’t feel guilty about them, indulging in wants is what makes life interesting!