Needs Versus Wants
Today I am posting about a very important topic. It is must for us to draw a line between needs & wants. Today’s post is guest post – Courtesy my dear friend Sundeep
We have heard and some of you might have read a lot on wants and needs. And still most of us keep struggling with how to distinguish between them. Before we go there let’s understand these two words:
Need :- Without meeting these, your survival can be in a jeopardy
Want :- Some desires lurking in once survival is taken care of
Definitions look simple and understood by everyone. However when people have to apply it in their life many people classify things in wrong category and mostly this mistake is one way. Most of the people tend to count wants in the need category. There is hardly any vice versa case. Why should it be this way?
The answer lies in human nature. Gimme more! is slogan of human life. Being a social animal(don’t get offended I am just reminding we are animals at all), we have learnt to follow social rules, behavior, etiquette’s. In the journey we eventually started following each other’s desires, ambitions, materialistic goals. No animal kills\eat once it is full stomach i.e. once survival is taken care of. Man is the only animal who has so many problems to take care of once survival is taken care of. Life style, social status, peer pressure, relationships, bank balance, real estate,….
Note: Wants and needs are not necessarily limited to monetary things. There are other needs like emotional, psychological, spiritual etc. however those are out of scope of this discussion.
Let’s understand wants and needs in detail
Q: What are the basic needs of life?
Ans: Food\water, clothes and shelter.
Let’s say we have 3 families. Family A which earns 5,000 Rs\month. Family B earns about 50,000 Rs\month and C where it is 5,00,000 Rs\month. Do you think basic needs of life changes for any of these families?
No they don’t. There can be 10 other things listed as auxiliary needs depending on which earning class a person belongs to. However the basic needs don’t change.
What changes is the affordability factor which opens up choices for meeting their needs. Family A buys grains from government rationing store. Family B buys it from wholesale grain store and maybe C buys it from malls or super market. But all they are ensuring is to have wheat flour, rice, sugar etc. available at home. Although the expenses will be different they are still going towards needs.
Now suppose family A thinks that they should have some sweet dish occasionally for dinner. Howsoever small wish it appears, it still falls under wants. The same sweet dish at the the end of meal could be frequent for family B & daily for family C. But for them it doesn’t fall under wants, because they can afford it without altering or disturbing financial priorities. Similarly, there can be some wishes and demands for family B and C which will fall under wants.
This small example can help you apply the need vs. want test on bigger things. For this, you have to be truly conscious about your actions, to be able to judge the difference. Sometimes the line seems so subtle and mind plays games on you in judging a want as a need.
Note that, occasionally going for a wanted thing is no crime and actually sometimes it is required to boost and energize family, show your love and appreciation. One must only be conscious about the decision.
Here are few more examples of wants as a thinking exercise for you. Note that the list will change significantly based family income group. Here I am considering middle and well to do class.
- You are hungry and decide to go for pizza house instead of healthy rice-plate
- You keep changing your mobile, motorbike frequently
- You only shop from branded stores and often shop extra clothes
- You just had a full stomach dinner, still walking past an ice-cream parlor you give into your temptation
- You own two flats and can be easily convinced that you need to buy another one since you have sufficient balance and/or recently got increment in office
- You like to change your house interior once in 5 years
- Sizes of your fridge, car, wardrobes, TV sets, ornaments(and even body) grow bigger and bigger
- You have a masters degree and it feels gratifying to go for a distant learning MBA, although it is not at all relevant to your job profile
- Your mutual fund is providing decent returns but you would like to switch to one with even more returns
- Your child is doing good in studies, you want him\her to do better and register him\her at another famous coaching class
- Your child is good at swimming, but you would like him\her to be good at dance and also play a musical instrument because many friend’s children do that.
- You go for weekly shopping at a mall and return with at least twice the number of items you had on your list and when you cross-check items with your list, you haven’t covered even the half of it.
- List can go on…
From all above examples you can see that, mistaking wants for needs is going to take toll on your budget and eventually you.
Once you know that you must choose consciously, and you keep practicing it, it is not that difficult. In case of doubt, ask three simple questions to yourself:
- Are you doing something just because you can afford to do it?
- Do you think you may ever regret doing it?
- Can you do without doing it?
Now let’s take first example in the list and try to apply these questions. For better fitment I will put an outside student studying in city in the role-play here.
You are hungry and decide to go for pizza house instead of healthy rice-plate option
Q: Are you doing something just because you can afford to do it?
Ans: Yes. It is start of the month and I have just received monthly pocket money from home.
Ans: Yes. At the end of month if I run out of money received from home, I may regret this overspending.
Ans: Yes. I can certainly have the rice plate and satiate my hunger.
All Yes means definitely you are falling for a want disguised as need. Revisit your decision. If all answers are No you can go ahead without any doubt. Even if occasionally you decide to go with your wants, make sure that a want remains on wants list. Don’t let your mind trick you into slowly converting a want into a need.
I would like to emphasize one thing at this point. One shouldn’t think that having to make this decision every time is sign of miserliness or deprivation, because it is not. Rather this practice may help you refraining from making some silly or inappropriate decisions which may hurt you over a long period of time.
Respect your needs and be smart with your wants, that’s it. You will surely be in control of your financial conditions and also be a happier family. It’s a winwin for sure.