Monday, March 19, 2012

The Battle: Need vs. Want

As I’ve mentioned in this blog many times before, most of my adult life, I have grappled with a serious spending problem. Part of that problem arose from the fact that I had a hard time distinguishing between what I needed and what I wanted.

I was very good at blurring the line between the two. If I really wanted something, I could convince myself that I didn’t just want it but I truly needed it. Of course, I needed that specific pair of black shoes because the almost identical pair I had were practically worn out (actually they had a scuff mark). The books and CDs I bought were necessary because they were on sale and I wouldn’t get that deal later. I needed to make that purchase now while it was practical.

I could do the same thing about weight loss. If my body was craving something then on some level my body must need it. Besides, I had worked out that day, right?

When I lost my job, the definition between needs and wants went from being some blurry, nebulous concept to something that was in stark and clear focus. I didn’t need that extra pair of shoes because it was extra and extra wasn’t a need, it was a want.

I stopped thinking in terms of what I ‘deserved’ and began thinking about what I could afford. Sure, it was frustrating because the things I couldn’t afford were things I felt I truly did deserve but I really couldn’t afford them and what I could afford became the priority.

As I began to apply this concept to my money and my purchases, I also started applying it to other areas of my life.

  • I didn’t need a slice of red velvet cake, I wanted it and I could do without it.
  • I didn’t need a new computer, I needed to take better care and do some maintenance on the one I had.
  • I didn’t need to visit my friends in another city, I wanted to see them but for now, I could make more of an attempt to call and email them more often.

When I could afford something I wanted, I realized that I put a lot more thought into it. My decisions were no longer based on an emotional reaction or an impulse. Sure, occasionally, I do act emotionally or impulsively but those instances are becoming a lot less frequent. They are definitely not habitual or routine anymore.

I’ve learned that in many cases my wants can wait.


Marlin Page said...

I can definitely identify with the "need vs. want." When I left my corporate job to become an entrepreneur I didn't change my spending habits. That decision came with severe consequences, but instead of changing my ways, I used my predicament as an excuse to stay stuck. I can now say that I loved the pity party! When I decided to get serious about life and reaching my definition of success, I won the battle of "need vs want." Great blog...thanks for sharing!

Karyn L Beach said...

Marlin, that pity party can be a lot of fun! Yet, every party has to end and when it does we can get down to the business of really solving our problems!