Needs versus Wants is a life lesson we all learned and need to revisit almost daily.  It’s something we try to explain to our children at the grocery store check out next to all the gum and candy.  It’s something we say in our heads right before we purchase that additional piece of clothing online that looks exactly like something in hanging in our closet.

As an adult we know a need versus a want, but how can we remind ourselves this when setting our budget, making purchases and fighting all that we see online and through social media.


Let’s go back to the basics.  A need is something that you must absolutely have in order to survive.  This includes:

  • Housing
  • Utilities
  • Food

The list is not longer.  These are the basic things you need to live.  You don’t “need” a car, you don’t “need” a cell phone and you don’t “need” to eat out.  While these things are all nice and make your life better, they are not needs.

Some will say you “need” a car and probably in some parts of the country that lack public transportation you do need reliable transportation.  However, be honest, a junk car that runs covers that need versus checking out the new car lot and taking on payments is a want.  We all want a new car, but it’s not a need.


The list of wants is forever long.  I want a new house, I want a new shirt, I want to go out to eat, I want to go on vacation.  Wants are anything beyond our basic needs.

Our brains are constantly under attack through advertising and social media with messages trying to turn wants into needs.  We are pressured to buy the next new thing, upgrade our living standard and spend beyond our means.  A great book about the pressures of social media and the comparison trap is Love Your Life Not Theirs by Rachel Cruz.

As you prepare you budget it’s important to include some of those wants, but you need to be intentional.  What wants are most important?  Do you enjoy cable television and use it every day or would rather go on an annual vacation?

It’s okay to have wants, but ensure you are in control of the decision making.  Resist marketing and social media to influence your decision and make sure that want fits into your long term financial plan.

Continue the conversation with us at our podcast where we talk to Melanie Lockert of