Wants vs needs

Donna Willan Money cents

“What do we Want? What do we Need? Do we know the difference?” This was the topic of one of Simon’s ‘100 second tips’ a few months ago and it really hit home for me, so I thought I would re-visit the idea today. How often do I manage to convince myself that my wants are very real needs? And what does this cost me?

Yes, I sometimes convince myself that the ‘cherry on the top’, the thing I really want is actually a real need. Garden stuff is a real hook for me, I love my garden, I love gardening and so I am quite easily hooked into believing that I need more for my garden. In truth my huge cobalt blue flower pot is very beautiful and I am very lucky to have it – but let’s be honest, it’s a cherry on the top (despite telling myself I needed it because it would increase the marketability of my garden cottage).

The simple truth is I have loved that huge beautiful pot for ages. So I could have done three things: continue to shift my thinking and convince myself that my ‘wants’ are urgent ‘needs’ and then I could justify buying it; or recognize I don’t need it and move on; or recognize I love it and look at my finances to see when I might be able to buy myself that wonderful gift.

The interesting thing is that once I moved away from trying to pretend I really needed it, and instead recognised I just wanted it, then I began to think about treating myself. I re-framed my internal discussion and now I love my treat for what it is – a cherry on the top.

So it’s important to be honest with ourselves to enhance appreciation for the ‘gifts to oneself’. But in addition these wants disguised as needs often cost money, and often this is money we don’t have, a little extra is spent on the credit card, or the car repayment every month. Yes we can convince ourselves that an extra R300 a month is not really that much – but R300 a month for five years, or R300 a couple of times in a month, adds up to a lot of extra spending!! And this is often the culprit for the confusion about why the budget on paper never seems to add up to the actual monthly spend…

Let’s be honest about our wants versus needs, and then let’s reflect on the budget before we rush to satisfy the wants.

This has got me thinking about why we have so many wants, why do we want so much stuff? Where does it all go and does it really make us happy? I’ll pick this up in the next column.


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