sign pointing in different directions for needs and wants

Need vs Want Relationships | Do You Really Need It?

Let’s be honest here, we’ve all gone into a store and said to ourselves “I need that.” The question is do you really need it? Like really really need it? Need vs want relationships are constantly pulling us in different directions and our mind has to make a decision.

In all likelihood you just want it. The best way to pull the trigger on the purchase is by convincing yourself you need it when really you just want it.

Need vs Want Psychology

If you left the store without it would you get home and say “shoot I really needed that! I gotta go back to get it!” Or would you forget about it and not look back?

What about the brand? Is it a factor? Do you need to spend a lot of money on a plain t-shirt when there is an alternative at a fraction of the price?

There are many questions to be asked when assessing our mindset towards a purchase, but the reality is that to give up our money for a product we must convince ourselves that we would be better off with it… whether we need it or just want it.

Let’s Think About This

There’s a big difference between “needs” and “wants.” Think of your last five purchases. For some that may have been yesterday in one Amazon order and for others it could be a few months worth of transactions. Consider what you bought that you really needed, like couldn’t live without. Do any fit the criteria?

two teenagers shopping with bags in hand on the street considering needs vs wants

Needs Vs Wants

The need for something is built off the idea that we can’t live without it or we are hindered by not having it. A need is essential.

To want something is the desire to have it in your possession or be part of your experience. An item, experience, or possession a human may want can be something that may make your task easier and/or life more enjoyable… at least for a moment.

Let’s be real, we all want a week on the beach. The debate is how badly we really need it.

person's feet in the sand on the beach waterfront with beautiful view

Next time you make a purchase run this thought through your head. Do I have a real purpose for this item or is the desire to buy taking over? If you are on a budget or looking to save money, this question has real value and is important to your end goal.

Which One is It?

When evaluating whether something is a need or a want, basic human necessities are less debatable. However, there is a context to each situation. Food may be an obvious choice as a “need” but there are still desires to be conquered.

Unfortunately it’s not always that easy to resist the desire. Food is vital for survival, but are we talking chips from the grocery store or sandwich meat for lunch? I’d argue one is a need and the other a want.

Here’s another teen scenario. You end up at the mall because you have holes in your socks and mom gave you money. The decision is, are you buying warm socks for school because it’s supposed to rain and it’s cold, or do you get your 5th pair of basketball socks? Needs and wants will battle it out here.

You need shades because it’s sunny, do they have to be Gucci? Eye protection versus style, shouldn’t be a debate but it will be…

Nike Jordan’s or generic walking shoes. Ok, sometimes you gotta give in to the wants too. Just within reason. You get the point.

What’s the Purpose of Your Visit?

grocery store buggy full with fruits and vegetables deciding needs vs wants

The intrinsic battle will pursue and how you prepare for it may decide your outcome. Having a plan and sticking to it will help you resist the urge to spend money on something you want but don’t need.

Having a purpose prior to entering the store or website will not only help you from deviating off your original path but will also help you stay focused on what you really need. Hanging out at the mall is fun but keep in mind it’s a place where people spend money… often for fun.

If you’re going to the store to hang out you may fall victim to the desire to leave with something, and the item on sale becomes a lot more attractive. If you’re looking to purchase something without intent, there’s a good chance you want it and could live without it.

Needs vs Wants Financial Literacy

With the goal of saving, “wants” can be trouble. If you’re looking to save money it’s important to not give in to these internal messages driving us to spend unnecessarily. If you create the habit of spending it can escalate on you quickly.

We all want things, it’s human nature, but where do we stop it? Wants can start with small things then gradually get to bigger things, and then bigger and then there can be no end.

Spending money is not complicated and with access to the internet, we no longer need to leave our homes. 95% of teens admit they participate in retail therapy, a form of spending money to get a positive feeling. That positive feeling comes at a cost to your savings. Consider free options such as exercise for good feelings.

two teenagers sitting on bench looking through bags at purchases

There will be many things you want and lots of ways to turn over your hard-earned money, or gift money quite frankly. Becoming financially literate and having a goal or savings plan will help you understand the impact of spending on “wants.”

Resist the Urge

Come up with a plan to resist the urge and try not to get yourself into a situation where you may spend unnecessarily. There are many ways to save money as a teen, but the internal battle to keep your money in your pocket can get very tough. Especially if everybody else is doing something.

Need vs want relationships will often pull you back and forth in your thoughts. Ask yourself, will the product you are purchasing make more of a difference in your life than the invested dollar?

6 Want and Need Quotes to Remember

Sometimes we all need a quote or two to motivate us. Here are a few want and need quotes to remind us of where we should place our priorities

1. “I was rich, for there was nothing else that I needed or wanted.”
― Mark Warren

2. “Teach yourself to be impatient for your needs and teach yourself to be patient for your wants”
 P.S. Jagadeesh Kumar

3. “Pray for your needs, not your greed.”
― Matshona Dhliwayo

4. “Discipline yourself to do the things you need to do when you need to do them, and the day will come when you will be able to do the things you want to do when you want to do them!” — Zig Ziglar

5. “Your goals are yours. Never allow the actions of others to detract from your goals. And never piggyback your wants and needs on someone else’s.” – Michael Dolce

6. “The moment you learn to separate your wants from your needs, your vision becomes clearer.” – Kemi Sogunle

Make the Decision

The question of do you need it or want will often be debatable and needs vs. wants thoughts may start running through your mind consistently. Decide whether you need it, find your motivation, and stay focused on whatever you set as your long-term goal.

By: Robert Puharich| Updated December 27, 2021 |