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The Difference Between Wants & Needs

The Difference Between Wants & Needs

It happens to the best of us – you see something in a store window and you just have to have it. It’s on sale, it looks awesome, you want it and you deserve it. Right?

I know, I’ve been there more times than once. As hard as it is, I often turn down many amazing purchases just because the item I wanted to buy was a WANT and not a NEED.

Now, I don’t think you should deprive yourself. If you WANT something, you should be able to get it. However, you first need to save for it. Impulse purchases are bad – and you will regret them later.

The Definition of “Want”

Let’s say the item in question is a new pair of shoes.

Do you already have a pair of shoes?
Do your current shoes work just fine?
Are your current shoes in good shape?
Can you wear your current shoes anywhere (work, school, out on the town)?

If you answered yes to all of those questions, those shoes are a want. You have a perfectly good pair (or two, or ten!) of shoes that work. Your feet are not bare and your shoes are not falling apart. That means you do not need any more shoes. You just want them.

The Definition of “Need”

This time, the item in question is a winter jacket.

Do you already have a winter jacket?
Does your current winter jacket keep you warm?
Is your current winter jacket in good shape?
Can you wear your current winter jacket anywhere (work, school, out on the town)

If you answered no to any of those questions, then you probably do need a new winter jacket. You still need to make sure you save for this item before you purchase it, but you can rest assured that it is something you actually need.

Distinguishing the difference between a want and a need is an important step when you’re out shopping. If you are always buying your want items, you won’t have enough money left for your needs.

Common Needs:

– Shelter
– Food
– Water
– Electricity
– Heat
– Clothing

Common Wants:

– Excessive Clothing
– Toys
– Vehicles
– Jewelry
– Electronics
– DVDs & CDs
– Vacations

The next time you are out shopping, before you purchase something, ask yourself the following question:

“Do I really need this item, or do I just want it?”

In most cases, the item in your hand will end up being a want and not a need.

Once you figure out how to differentiate between the two, your shopping purchases will be less costly.

Do you ask yourself the above question while out shopping?


  1. Alicia Blogs

    If I want something bad enough does it become a need, heh. Great post Cassie!

  2. Bette @ Frugal Mom X3

    I’m going to keep this in mind when I’m out garage saleing in the summer. I usually end up with a bunch of stuff I don’t need. Although I limit my $$ on an item they all add up at the end of summer and I’ve spent a couple hundred dollars and my house is full of knick knacks.

  3. MaricrisMas

    man…I always feel guilty buying stuff for myself…and when I do pick something up…I have my mother’s voice in the back of my head reminding me…”do you want it or do you need it?”…since there is a big difference…when we went Florida…I know I could buy stuff cheaper than at home…I needed new running shoes since my Nike air bubbles were squeaking in one shoe…annoying…but DH could always find me…$44.99 for a nice pair…but the wider version (which is better for my ugly feet) were $39.99…needed longer jogging pants (since I can’t get away with wearing capris in the winter as much as I would love to)…Champion pants (no camel toe…tmi) $10.00…really comfy and fit well…one pair of Tommy Denim pants (that fit…$19.99-15% off coupon DH found)…I hatttteeeeeeeeeeee buying clothes for myself…but have to…since most of my clothes don’t fit…since I lost some weight during my last pregancies…and I feel like buying clothes is a waste…since I fear I’m just going to gain all the weight back…but maybe it’s a goal to keep the weight off?!…argh…just babbling and venting now!…all in all…YES…THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A WANT AND A NEED!

    • Cassie Howard

      Ew, clothes shopping. I hate that too! Gotta do it sometimes though, unfortunetely. 🙁

  4. Lattelady

    great post, agree with you all the way 🙂

  5. Kelly

    I always ask myself this. I taught my boys this lesson when they were really young but also told them that once it awhile it was ok to get a want. It has served us well over the years. A great lesson all kids should get at a young age. 🙂

  6. Maureen Johnson

    MaricrisMas – I also have that little voice of my Mom’s in my head. It stopped me from buying a taupe seude purse at Gucci in Hawaii (to match a pair of taupe heels that I loved and couldn’t find a purse to match anywhere else). I’m still kicking myself for listening to her little voice.

  7. teachermum

    My Mum says that she heard if not daily, close to it from her mother, “You can live your whole life without that” and it is true about most everything!!! They really weren’t that hard off, through the war you just couldn’t get stuff no matter the money and her Dad had a good job throughout that time so it wasn’t that they couldn’t afford it, Grandma and Grandpa just lived a simple life. They just always spent less than they brought in.

    I was raised much the same way, though there wasn’t extra money. No one had that much stuff back then it seemed. I had one pair of “church/school shoes” and one pair of “runners”. In the winter you wore the boots over your shoes and on gym day you remembered to wear pants not a dress, and your runners. I usually had one “parka” and one dress coat (usually made by Mum). Often I didn’t have much more than 3 outfits at a time. Summer came and we had “good sandals” and thongs (yes, no flip-flops then!) and hopefully still fit into our old runners. Mum made most of our clothes. One major gift for birthday and for Christmas (like a doll or such) and perhaps some little thing or two. It really wasn’t that we were poor, people just didn’t spend what they didn’t have yet. Consequently, no one in my parents peer group are struggling in their retirement. Don’t think that will be able to be said about subsequent generations!

  8. Real Mommy

    It’s so hard for people to tell the difference because of the one little word you mentioned…deserve! Lots of people think that because they work hard they DESERVE a new car and DESERVE every piece of clothing they like!
    What these people really DESERVE from working so hard is to know the feeling of having money in the bank and being debt free! I can’t think of better reason you don’t need new stuff every week! 🙂

    • Cassie Howard

      I completely agree! 😀

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