Understanding the Difference Between Needs and Wants

If you look at the current economic condition of the world, it is obvious that very few people have an understanding of the difference between needs and wants. It seems that most of us skipped on the basics of Economics 101 which says a thriving economy is based on both needs and wants, in that particular order. When a country, or a family – begins putting their wants above their needs – they run into the problem of scarcity. Scarcity, refers to a condition where there is an unlimited amount of needs and wants and only a limited resource to provide them. Probably worse than scarcity itself, is the attitude that most of us have when we feel our ‘needs’ are not being met.

While that may seem confusing, the bottom line is that many of us have become distorted into thinking that we need things, when the reality is we just want them. This constant wanting, the driving of the human soul to never feel satisfied, to never feel like we have enough – is not only an unhealthy way to live, but is also detrimental to the welfare of our society and world economies.

The word need is described as “a necessary obligation, or requirement for life.” The word want is described as “the feeling of need, a wish, or craving.” As you can see from the definitions, wants you can live without. Needs on the other hand are things that you need require for your ultimate survival. For families, the things that we feel we need, have blurred into the category of wants. We think we need the bigger house. We need the new clothes. We need the carpet redone in the living room. We need to go get that coffee creamer at the store the minute we find out the old bottle is empty. And since we feel like we ‘need’ all of these things, we feel dissatisfied when we don’t get them. Or worse, we set aside our real needs, to get them.

For many people, this means that we are spending our lives feeling like we are not getting what we deserve, not feeling grateful for what we do have, and simply constantly living behind the eight ball of life, wishing things were constantly better. The reality is that it isn’t the quality of our lives that is bad, but rather the quality of our mindsets that have become so full of unnecessary wants, that it is impossible to be satisfied.

So how does this pertain to you?

Be honest. You are guilty of using the word need every time you want something. If your car is getting older, you honestly believe that you need a new one to get buy. If you don’t have any clothes to wear to a party next week, you say, “I need new clothes!” And then you justify buying them with the fact that you ‘need’ them. The reality is you don’t need them. The new clothes or the new car, ARE NOT going to make the difference in whether you live or die.

What you do need is this. Oxygen. You need shelter, first and foremost. You also need food and water. (Realize I didn’t say expensive coffee, brand named Sodas or Orange Juice). You also need enough clothes and shoes to provide your body with protection. In cold climates, you also need some source of heating to keep your body warm. You also need the money to supply these things for yourself (although that too is questionable). Everything above and beyond this list, is quite simply a want.

The problem occurs however, when we start believing that our needs are conditional. Sure, you need shelter…but this affordable house with only one bathroom just won’t do. Yes, you need food, but you cannot live on vegetables and fruit alone and need prime rib for dinner. And you need clothes, but they cannot be from Wal-Mart, or the Dollar Store – they have to be fancy and expensive clothes.

Suddenly, you are in trouble and have completely disassociated the difference between needs and wants.

Right now, take a minute to feel gratitude for everything that you have above and beyond the five basic necessities of life. The raw truth is that the juxtaposition of needs and wants, is not nearly as close as you might think.

By remaining grateful, and by asking yourself every day whether you really need something, or just ‘want’ it not only can you save a ton of money, but you can also simplify life. Learning to live minimally, an art form for many people – removes so many of the stressors associated with modern life.

It’s also a good way to raise children. Far too many kids today believe that they ‘need’ a flat screen television, a computer in their room, a certain brand of shoes, – and they don’t appreciate any of what they have. Sadly, it’s hard to blame them. The bar in life has been set so high, that very few of us are actually to achieve enough to feel satisfied. We are constantly reaching for more, using more, and wasting more!

Ponder this quote for just a moment….

“The concept of more imprisons all of humanity with the never ending, never fulfilling promise of betterment. It stains our thoughts and very beings with its fear driven seeking, the kind of seeking that never allows you to once and for all, find.” -Author Unknown

It is not without reason that our economy over the last few years has been as troubled as it is today. The majority of people are funding our wants, by stealing from our needs – and retarding our futures by over indulging in our present.

Ask yourself, what do you really need? Before you buy your next whim item, try to decide if it is really going to add to your life. There is nothing wrong with having needs, but there is a problem when people stop realizing that there is a boundary between wants and needs.



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