Distinguishing Wants from Needs

One of the most difficult aspects of living in a market-driven, consumption-oriented society is knowing when what you already have is good enough. After all, you’re bombarded with messages everyday telling you the thing with which you thought you were satisfied has been replaced by something ending with the suffix “-er”.

Whether bigger, better, faster, prettier or even smaller, we’re continually being told what we have isn’t good enough. This can make distinguishing wants from needs tough to do.

Needs and Wants Defined

On the face of it, the difference between needs and wants is pretty simple.

A need is something you must have to survive, while a want only makes your existence more pleasant. For example, you might well need a car to get back and forth to work to earn an income to help you survive. But you want that car to be a Porsche or a Cadillac—even though a Volkswagen or a Chevrolet will do.

When it comes right down to it, all you need to survive is nutritious food and water, competent health care, clothes, shelter, and an income to help you acquire those things. Desiring anything beyond the basic version of those things transforms the need into a want.

Mind the Questions You Ask

Marketers routinely plant thoughts in our heads to elevate wants into needs.

“Why throw good money after bad? Rather than fixing that toaster, just get a new one with more modern features.” (Because it will cost more.)

“Why settle for a HDTV, when Ultra HDTV is coming soon and will make HDTV obsolete?” (It doesn’t.)

“I’m already spending $20,000 to get the car, why not spend another thousand to get it in silver?” (Even though white is included in the base price.)

Succumbing to these rationalizations inevitably cause us to spend more money than we really should, just to satisfy an artificial “need”.

Stop and Take a Good Look

Getting caught up in delusional “needs” is very easy to do. In order to break the cycle, we have to step back, take a look at what we have and realize it’s so much better than good enough. When our brains convince us, we need something outside of our price range, we tend to focus on that thing to the detriment of the similar item we already have.

If we aren’t careful, this desire can become an obsession, rendering us incapable of appreciating the things we already own. This can push us to a relentless pursuit of “new and better.” In a society like ours, it’s all too easy to convince ourselves we’re being deprived, when the fact of the matter is we’re light-years away from deprivation.

Breaking the Cycle

With all of that said though, how much fun would life be if we just fulfilled our needs and never indulged our wants?

Pretty dull—right?

Maybe, but we must also be careful to avoid overindulging.

This is one of the reasons most Americans are in debt. To break the cycle, stop living from paycheck to paycheck and get out of debt, taking note of these impulses is a good first step.

Meanwhile, if the situation has progressed past your ability to make ends meet, it might be useful to contract the services of a company like Freedom Debt Relief. Firms like this can help you reduce your debts to a more manageable level, so you can pay them off and get back on solid financial footing.

Keep in mind; nobody’s saying you shouldn’t have nice things. We’re put on this earth to thrive, not merely to survive. However, learning to distinguish your wants from your needs will make it easier to enjoy those wants when you get them. Otherwise, you’ll always be seeking the next new thing, when the reality is what you already have is good enough.

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