NEEDS vs WANTS
By Ramona Creel
How often do the
words "I need" come out of your mouth? If you're like my
husband, probably every five seconds! "I need a Coke" -- "I need
a new VCR" -- "I need a raise." But did you ever stop to think
how many of those requests are actually needs, and how many are
WHAT IS A NEED?
Let's start by defining "need." In the strictest sense of the
word, a "need" is something that you have to have to get by in
this world -- a NECESSITY. You need food, shelter, clothing,
medical care -- the basics. You will probably experience
physical suffering of some sort if you don't have your needs
A want, on the other hand, is something that you desire --
something you would like to have. But by no means will you
suffer in any way (except perhaps mental anguish!) if you don't
get the thing you want. "Wants" quite often fall into the
category of LUXURIES -- nice to have, but the world won't end
MAKING THE DISTINCTION
The hard part comes when you live in a prosperous capitalistic
society, like ours. The "western" standard of living is so high
that even many of our poor tend to live above the level of basic
needs. In 1998, 97% of "poor" Americans (as defined by the
Census Bureau) owned a television -- something that could
definitely be considered a luxury. In many third-world
countries, less than 30% of the population even has access to
electricity -- which most westerners would consider an absolute
necessity. My intention is not to make anyone feel guilty --
it's simply to point out that the distinction between want and
need is often RELATIVE. It depends on the area in which you
live, the company you keep, the lifestyle you choose, and the
expectations of the society around you.
THE POWER OF ADVERTISING
We are influenced, every day, by the popular culture around us.
Television, magazines, movies, and advertising have all done a
splendid job of programming us to think that we need a lot of
excess consumable goods. Pretend that you are watching TV or
flipping through your favorite magazine and see an ad for
something fabulous. Suddenly, your heart speeds up, and you get
a tingly feeling in your gut. It's perfect -- how had you ever
lived without it before? You rush right to the store -- what?!
You don't have any left in stock?! Your heart sinks and you feel
a rush of disappointment. You spend the rest of the day moping
because you couldn't find it anywhere.
Now, this might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it's not far
off the mark for some people. How often have you learned of a
new product and were certain that you absolutely had to have it?
What if you had never seen the ad? Would your life be any worse
off? It's as if the knowledge that something exists causes the
need for it.
KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES
And, of course, we have peer pressure! But with the advent of
the "global society," the Joneses are not just the people next
door anymore. They include movie stars and billionaires and
imaginary people on TV that don't even really exist. But we hold
these folks up as the standard against which we should measure
our own lives. Just because Bill Gates has a multi-million
dollar house, we think ours is too small. And since the cast of
Ally McBeal dress so cool and hip, maybe we need a new wardrobe.
THE HIGH COST OF NEEDS
So why is any of this a problem? Let me ask you a confidential
question -- how much debt are you carrying? Do you have several
thousand (or tens of thousands!) dollars of past credit card
purchases that you are still trying to pay off? Are you saddled
with a mortgage that is more than you can really afford because
you just had to have the bigger house? How does your financial
future look? Are you able to save for a rainy day? Your kid's
education? Your own retirement?When your spending priorities are
out of whack, you tend to experience stress, guilt, and anxiety
-- it can even affect your health. And just think about how many
personal relationships are strained (even broken) over money
issues. Is that really how you want to live your life?
BALANCING NEEDS AND WANTS
Certainly, no one is suggesting that you give away everything
you own and become a monk! But it is important that you strike a
balance between those things that you have to have and the
things that you would like to have. And it's important that you
be able to PRIORITIZE your spending. The goal is to focus on
those things that will really improve your quality of life --
rather than just look flashy.
Here's a perfect example of prioritizing between two "wants."
Wouldn't it be nice to retire early -- not have to work, spend
your time doing what you want? And let's say that while you are
thinking about retiring early, you are also looking to buy a
house. You could choose choose the $500,000 home with 10
bedrooms, or you could choose the smaller, less-expensive house
that meets all of your basic needs. If you choose the expensive
home, you can probably kiss retiring early goodbye. But, if you
decide that retiring early would improve your QUALITY OF LIFE
more than having a huge flashy house, your choice is simple!
SO WHAT DO I DO NEXT?
Start by making a list of all your wants and needs. Try to be
brutally honest about which category they fall into. Then, take
a look at the items in your want list. First, ask yourself how
much each purchase will improve your quality of life. Rate them
with an "A" for a large improvement down to a "C" for a
negligible improvement (and if it will actively detract from
your quality of life, cross it off the list!) At this point,
don't even worry about the "B's" and "C's" -- if we get you to a
point where you can have all of your "A" wants, then you can
think about the rest.
Now, take a look at your "A's" -- try to decide if there is some
way you can balance between your high-priority wants and your
needs. What are you willing to give up? Where are you able to
compromise? Perhaps you can forego the cup of coffee and a
newspaper each morning in order to pay for that vacation to
Europe you've always wanted to take. Or buy your designer
clothes at the consignment store so you'll have enough left over
for those skis you've been dying to get. If you make these
decisions based on how the purchase will improve your life --
based on your own personal priorities (instead of someone
else's!)-- you shouldn't go wrong.
Ramona Creel is a Professional Organizer and the founder of OnlineOrganizing.com -- offering "a world of organizing solutions!" Visit Online Organizing.com
for organizing products, free tips, a speakers bureau -- and even get a referral for a Professional Organizer near you. And if you are interested in becoming a Professional Organizer, we have all the tools you need to succeed. (Copyright Ramona Creel)
Barry J. Farber
is president of Farber Training Systems, Inc.,
and co-author of Breakthrough Selling
Brian Tracy's 24 Techniques for Closing the Sale
Show Stress who's the Boss!™