Advertising makes you feel like you need one of everything! The key to controlling your money is knowing the difference between need and want. Use these tricks to tell the difference and watch your money grow!
I read a chapter from Little House on the Prairie to my daughter like we do most nights, when there’s a little extra time before bed. In the book, Pa was recovering from malaria. Since he couldn’t get out to work, he decided to hand make a rocking chair for Ma. It was just a fun side project for the Ingalls family.
Aside from the fact that Pa’s skills were pretty amazing, I’m often struck by the stark contrast between wants and needs in the “Laura books”. Most of us stop by the store if we run out of salad dressing. Pa didn’t even go when he ran out of nails for building the house! He just made pegs from wood and worked a little slower. On their shelter. Even the most frugal people I know would put “shelter” on their short list of needs.
In many ways, it’s tough to make a comparison between our lives and those that lived in the 19th century. I often wonder how different pioneers would have been if they’d had access to a 7+Eleven every five miles on their journey. Or if they could text their buddies back east for the latest news.
Their definition of wants and needs looked different from ours. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t examine ourselves to learn more about the things we don’t need.
How to Tell the Difference Between Need and Want
Wants vs Needs
Determining wants vs needs isn’t always simple (like food and water). So when you’re trying to decide if this object is something that a person needs, try to see it from many angles.
Ancestors. How would people from other times look at the item I’d like to buy? Would my relatives from the depression era think it was frivolous spending? Would my immigrant ancestors find it ridiculous to buy something they could make themselves instead?
Life in the Now. Next I consider how life is different today. For instance, between work and school, the internet leans more towards a need for us. Until the cost outweighs the advantages of a paycheck, it’s something I’ll purchase despite the fact that it would baffle my great great grandparents.
Dealing With Wants. Then there are the “wants” that just improve the quality of life. I might not need a coffee pot, but everyone around me wants me to have one!
Sleep On It
It’s common advice, but it’s still good advice. Our #yearofno meant sleeping on a lot of purchases. We’ve practiced not buying for a long time now, and it’s something we’re getting better at all the time.
I won’t tell you that I don’t have a list of things I’m ready to buy once we make the last debt payment. But it’s surprising how many things you can do without for a long time.
In fact, I totally forget that I even wanted [insert thing I desperately wanted for 12 hours] until it comes back to mind several months later. Then I have to chuckle at the thought that I wanted something so badly…yet managed to forget all about.
Let’s be honest, here. Most of us already have far too much. Why do you want to buy more?
Are you trying to organize what you already own? I’ve seen some beautiful ways to display or cover up a collection of items. But after a while, I realized that most of the things I wanted to put into a drawer or on a shelf were actually just clutter. I didn’t use them often, if at all.
In fact, some of the organizing ideas I saw made me feel like I needed to own MORE things so I could display them neatly on a shelf. Why does a family need an entire binder system to keep it together? You can probably store most of that in one binder…or even keep digital copies with a back up in the cloud.
Does this gadget really make life easier? Some kitchen items take more time to clean than they saved you in cooking. Is that a good trade off?
I’ve decluttered at least half of my kitchen items over the past 3 years. Even while feeding a family of 7, I don’t miss any of it. In fact, I love spending time in the kitchen now more than ever! It’s less stressful without extra things you don’t need.
If you find something that honestly improves your quality of life (and you can afford to pay cash!), I say go for it! I didn’t own a smartphone until about a year ago when I decided it would help me as a blogger to own one. Even then, I didn’t see any reason to invest in a top of the line model (that will be outdated in a few months anyway).
The Difference Between Need and Want Is Your Wealth
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Mostly, we overestimate the joy we’ll get out of buying things. If you routinely buy things you don’t really need, the thrill will fade and you’ll have to buy more and more to get the same excitement.
Besides, how much time do you want to spend cleaning and organizing?
When you discover the truth about things you genuinely need versus want, you’ll be rich. Whether that’s because you’ve regained time (which is priceless) or because (in a more literal way) you invest the money you didn’t spend on more stuff, you won’t believe what a difference this can make in your life.
When you want to buy something, give it some time.
Just in the past couple of months, I’ve avoided or put off until later buying a dresser, shoes, sheets, pillows, and lots more! Give it a try and see how much you save.
These crazy ideas helped us learn how to get out of debt fast!
How do you decide which things you don’t need?