18 September 2012

Needs vs Wants

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I'm a little spooked by a conversation I've been having with myself a lot lately. It consists of one sentence, "Is it a NEED or is it just a WANT?" When you really start applying this question to your life, it can play havoc with just about everything. Most important to me are how I spend money and how I spend my time. Very interestingly the two are very intimately connected.

I've been looking around my life, trying to analyze my belongings and my purchases and asking myself if things are needs or wants. Sadly, and I think it would be this way for most of us, the answer is 80-90% wants and 10-20% needs. But how often we mistaken the two. It reminds me of the saying, "this is a first world problem."

For instance, how often will we make a clothing impulse buy: shoes, a bag, or jacket. When what we really needed was a skirt or pair of pants. So we have more of what we didn't NEED and still have a gaping hole in our wardrobe.

I often laugh when I hear on a TV show that a family NEEDS a new home with more bedrooms because they are having a second child. My grandparents lived in a very small two-bedroom house with four children until they could afford to build a larger house. Many people live in very small homes and do just fine. Every child does not need their own palatial bedroom. This, my friends, would be a WANT. We rarely NEED a bigger and bigger home.

I have also been thinking about how I spend my time. Will I play around on the computer for a useless, waste of an hour, rather than doing something I really want to do that would make me super happy? Yes, I am guilty of this. Must change that immediately. I think we all have plenty of time to live the lives we want if we cut out wasted time and less important activities that we may have ourselves convinced are MUSTS or NEEDS. I often catch myself saying "I need _____." When really what I am saying is "I want ____." There is a massive difference but it's amazing how we can in our minds, language and expectations seriously distort the two. 

There are other things we NEED but often go without. I am now realizing that this is often because we've used up our precious resources on things we WANT. For instance, (this is a purely made up example) if a person were to stop the $50-100 weekly browsing trips to their favorite department stores, bookstores or sporting good stores what kind of awesome vacation could they take every year using that money? What home improvement projects could they do? How many less hours per week could they work and still live within their budget? What else could they be doing that would feed a need for quiet, peace and recharging of one's batteries, an opportunity to see the world or learn new things and have adventures that so many people crave?

How many of our NEEDS could we satisfy and easily afford for if we simply said no more often to our WANTS? It's a little spooky. Have you asked yourself that question? How did that conversation go? Do you feel sick just thinking about this question or have you reaped the rewards of focusing more on NEEDS than WANTS? Please share in the comments below.

Here are links to a few archive posts on this topic:
How Little Do We Really Need To Be Happy?
Simplifying: Safe, Sane and Happy
Finding & Maintaining A Happy Life
Mexico: Living Simply

1 comment:

elisa said...

this is an excellent thing to think about. what i find the most telling is how creative i get when i cannot simply buy what i want - and how deeply satisfied i am by making only what i truly love and need. it is a tricky balance and as you observed, profoundly cultural. xx

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