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How to Differentiate Needs from Wants

At first, one would think that it’s very easy to distinguish what a person needs from what he wants.  A need is something that is necessary for a person’s survival, while a want is merely what a person desires to have.  It sounds so simple, but that is not always the case.  Sometimes, the line between a need and a want can appear to be so blurred that some people may find it difficult to differentiate one from the other.

Let’s take the 3 most basic human needs: food, shelter and clothing.  It goes without saying that these are absolute necessities for human survival.  But when we apply specific preferences for these things, the needs can give way to the wants.  Sure, we need food to live, but we don’t just eat anything; each of us has a particular type of food that we want to eat.  When we go grocery shopping, there are certain brands of food that we always buy; if you feel like dining out, you can eat at either your favorite fast food outlet or, if you can afford it, at some expensive restaurant.  In the case of clothing, most of us would probably rather wear designer clothes than hand-me-downs.  And then, there are those who dream of living in a luxurious, palatial manor of their very own.

Another important human need is the need for communication.  In this day and age, mobile phones are considered as necessities, and practically every person owns one.  But if you think about it, having a cellphone is one of those instances when the line between a need and a want isn’t always clearly defined.  While it can be seen as a need, there are still some people who can actually get by without using a cellphone.  Also, there are those who own cellphones not strictly for the sake of communication, but simply because it is the in thing, in which case it becomes a want.  You may also include there the various games and apps loaded into their phones which do not serve any particularly vital function, but are just cool to have.

A car is arguably a need to help get us to where we want to go as quickly as possible.  While you can always walk or commute to your destination, it is deemed much more efficient to have your own transportation.  But while you may buy a car because you need it, the type of car you decide to buy is sometimes dictated by your wants.  Not just any car would do; it has to be some sleek, expensive model that you can show off on the road.

It can get so hard to tell needs from wants, so much so that one ends up spending so much on things that they don’t really need, but justify it by saying that they do.  Now, it isn’t always a bad thing to want expensive things, as long as you can afford it.  But it becomes wrong when you put your wants over your needs, like when you wantonly spend on insignificant things during a time that you need to be frugal with your money.  If you can help it, put your necessities first; control your impulse to spend on your wants if you have no vital need for it, or at the very least try to find less costly options.  Always be wise with your money, and perhaps someday you may have saved enough to allow you to indulge in your wants.

Image Credit: http://blog.lib.umn.edu/nich0185/myblog2/blog-2-group-b/2012/02/

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First Metro Asset Management Inc