Winning With Money Part 4: Needs vs. Wants

Purchased Latte vs. Coffee Brewed at Home

22 Aug Winning With Money Part 4: Needs vs. Wants


This is part four of a 5-part series on how to start winning with money. These 5 posts will become part of an e-book I’m writing but I wanted to make the info available ahead of time. Partially because I needed something to blog about,but mostly to share the stuff with you,our readers, so you didn’t have to wait.
Women holding a cup of coffee

$5 Store Latte or Brew at Home?

“Happiness is not having what you want. It’s wanting what you have.” – Unknown

This is the area that brings out the worst in us: the little three-year-old throwing a fit in the store because we want something, and we want it now! Think about this for a second. We lived for centuries without cable tv or smart phones. That means you won’t die if you give them up for a few months while you get out of debt.

A little contentment goes a long way in securing your financial future and winning with money. The lifestyle you enjoyed growing up is not necessarily a reflection of your needs. If your parents took you on vacation every summer, that doesn’t mean you need to go on vacation every summer. If your parents owned a boat, camper, or lake home, that doesn’t mean you have to have those things.

It took our parents 15-20 years or longer to reach that lifestyle. It’s a little unrealistic for us to expect the same quality of life as soon as we enter the real world as adults. Yet many of us do exactly that – we expect the best of everything and we expect it to happen quickly & without work.

Unfortunately, that which comes easily leaves a void that we try to fill with more stuff, which leaves another void. It’s a vicious cycle that pushes us ever deeper into the abyss of spending money and not being happy. You can’t find happiness in stuff (stuff is a technical term for material things).

So if you want to win with money, it’s time to start being honest with yourself. Do you really need a $400 phone or the sports package with more channels than you can watch in a week? Or do you just want it really bad and you have a problem saying no to yourself? Here’s a hint: If you can’t pay your bills, maybe you need to be out working instead of watching that $200 per month cable package.

How about your car? Do you really have to pay $35,000 for a new car, just because your old one wasn’t reliable enough? Or could you get by with a $5,000 to $10,000 dependable car? I know the new car smells nicer, but do you really want to spend way more than you could afford for the privilege of driving something that’s losing value in an effort to impress a complete stranger at a stop light? Don’t buy new when used is perfectly fine.

I know what you’re thinking. “But what about food and clothing? Aren’t those necessities?”

Yes, they are. But don’t use that as an excuse to overspend. Do you really need to buy lunch at a restaurant every day, or are you just too lazy to bring in leftovers or a sack lunch? Will you lose your job for not wearing designer clothes or are the less expensive brands just fine? Is the name brand food really better than the generic? In some cases yes, but in many cases, it’s just the same thing with a different label.

And what about our daily latte addictions? Or our priority to keep the fridge stocked with beer? Or our expensive hobbies and collections? The truth is none of these are necessities. There are so many ways we can cut back on spending for a short time to improve our financial situation. But giving up these things is inconvenient. Giving them up means we’ll feel the pain of correcting our poor decisions. Decisions we made because we weren’t willing to exercise discipline a little at a time.

At the base level, necessities are food, clothing, shelter, transportation and health. If we have those things, we can survive. Please don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying you should cut everything out of your life for good. I’m just saying a little sacrifice and contentment with the things you have will go a long way.

The really cool thing is once you cut back a little, you find you really didn’t need some of those luxury items. You learn to enjoy the things you have. You stop focusing on the next big thing that will bring you happiness, and you start finding happiness in things other than your possessions.

Even if you don’t want to sacrifice some material things to get out of debt, I’ll challenge you to give up cable for six months so you can give that money to charity instead. See what a difference your $100 a month can make in someone else’s life instead of keeping you stuck to your couch.

11 Comments
  • krantcents
    Posted at 14:26h, 22 August

    I remember my parents always saying to me that I will get what I need. At the time, I didn’t really understand what they meant. I always saved for what I wanted which made me choose carefully. I think there is a good lesson from that.

    • Matt Wegner
      Posted at 14:48h, 22 August

      My parents reinforced a similar theme. We only bought what we needed, and few wants as I was growing up. Later I realized their sacrifices were positioning us for a better lifestyle.

  • Doctor Stock
    Posted at 18:53h, 22 August

    It’s extremely difficult to learn contentment, particularly in a society that strives on having more and more. Good article. The only really solution to selfish gain is generous living.

    • Matt Wegner
      Posted at 19:25h, 22 August

      Exactly. The more we give, the less selfish we become. I just wish more people would give generous giving a try.

  • Travis @DebtChronicles
    Posted at 21:01h, 22 August

    It’s amazing what we feel entitled to, isn’t it? The simplest example I can think of is eating out. When I was a kid, stopping by McDonalds on a Sunday after church was a huge treat. I honestly don’t ever remember my parents taking my brother and I to a sit down restaurant.

    Now, eating out is simply a part of every day life.

    • Matt Wegner
      Posted at 21:34h, 22 August

      You hit the nail on the head Travis. Eating out was a rare treat for us growing up as well. It’s interesting to see how extras become necessities once we get used to having them around.

  • Andy Hough
    Posted at 12:08h, 24 August

    I will second the eating out comment. Going out to eat was a big deal when I was a kid. Now I eat out often and the teenagers in the family feel like we should eat out even more.

    • Matt Wegner
      Posted at 12:47h, 24 August

      Right on the mark, Andy.

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