ICFE eNEWS #13-10 - September 9th 2013

5 Beliefs That Will Transform Our Wants Into Needs

The teenager was asked how she had became a successful entrepreneur at such a young age. She replied, "I learned when I was very young the difference between wants and needs."

What a discerning philosophy for a teenager! A philosophy that eludes many adults today, and might be the reason so many of us have a pattern of financial difficulties.

Have you ever given this subject any thought? Have you ever wondered why it is so difficult for so many people to distinguish between a "want" and a "need"?

I do not have all the answers, but I think I may have one answer to the problem. I believe an answer may lie in a very subtle false belief system. False beliefs are so hard to identify because they "feel right" at the time. But, as you know, good sounding reasons are not always good sound reasons.

Consider these five false beliefs and see if you don't agree that they contribute to the problem of distinguishing between wants and needs.

Belief 1: "If I can get it, I need it." Let's suppose on your daily walk, you found two $100 bills caught in a bush by your path. As you celebrate your good fortune, you begin to construct a mental list of things you "need" to buy with that $200.

Isn't it funny that five minutes before you found the money in the bush, everything on your list of needs were just "wants." Why? What made the difference? How did those "wants" become transformed into "needs?"

The transformation took place the moment we realized were able to actually get the things we had been wanting. Once we have access to get what we want, we tend to call it a need.

Belief 2: "If I deserve it, I need it." Similarly, once we convince ourselves that we "deserve" to have something, the want often magically transforms into a need.

"You work hard, and you deserve to play hard! This boat will help you relax on the weekend and get your mind off the stress of your work."

"Our shampoo is a bit more expensive, but you deserve the very best for your hair! You are worth it!"

"You have earned the right to eat out at a nice restaurant once in a while. You are just as deserving as your neighbors, and they are always eating out at nice restaurants."

"You have given to others all your life, and now it is time to give to yourself! You deserve to have a timeshare in a warm climate."

On-and-on it goes, the constant bombardment of people with products telling us how much we deserve to have what they are selling.

And with our present society of people who think they are entitled to have what everyone else has, the "hook" is set and the fish is reeled in.

Be careful. This "I deserve" thinking is very subtle, and it is one of the main reasons so many of our wants are changed to needs.

Belief 3: "If it makes me more important in the eyes of others, I need it." This is especially dangerous for parents who are buying for their kids. The kids have a certain brand they want based on the "cool factor" among their peers.

We all fall prey to this thinking to some degree, because we all want to be liked and accepted. But this thinking can lead us to purchase things far beyond our ability to pay for.

One suggestion to parents might be to allow the child to contribute to the more expensive items. For some reason, a personal investment by the child has a way of helping to identify whether the child needs it or just wants it.

Belief 4: "If I am accustomed to having it, I need it." When we saw a number of old classic cars on the highway the other day, I commented to my wife, "You know, none of those cars had air conditioning originally, but they all do now. It was seen as a need in their restoration."

Then I thought of the 1954 Ford, the 1957 Chevy (wish I had it now!), the 1962 Volkswagen Bug, and the 1966 Chevy BelAire I had owned in my early years. None of them had air conditioning, and further more, I did not miss it! I had never had it, was not accustomed to it in my cars or in my home, so it was not a need.

But how did we carry on conversations with the car windows down? How could we hear the radio? How did we keep our hair (I had it then) combed? I do not know, but we never gave it a thought!

But now we would not think of buying a car without air conditioning. It is an absolute need! We have grown accustomed to it, and when that happens, wants become needs.

My point is not that we ought to have only the bare necessities of life, but that it is extremely difficult to be honest with ourselves when assessing needs from wants.

Belief 5: If it is a good bargain, I need it. Let me use the custom of couponing as an example. Couponing is a good thing, but it can become a hindrance if we allow the coupons to determine what we "need" to purchase.

For instance, if I have a coupon that will save me $.10 on a bottle of ketchup, that does not necessarily mean I need to purchase a bottle of ketchup, especially if I have nine bottles of ketchup in the pantry already.

Another example would be going to garage sales. We can end up buying all kinds of things that we do not need just because we successfully negotiated the price down. It can become more about "the game" than the need.

Bargain hunting is good however it is done, but be careful - it can transform wants into needs. This is not a big deal if we are talking about ketchup or a $5 golf bag, but if we are talking about bargains on big-ticket items, we can easily spend more than afford.

If we are honest with ourselves, most of us use one or more of these beliefs to give ourselves permission to buy what we "want" under the guise of calling it a "need?"

Supplying some of our wants is fine, but if you begin to view most of your wants as needs, one or more of these five false beliefs are responsible.

© Jim Garnett
The information in this message should be understood to be a general discussion of the subject matter and DOES NOT constitute a legal opinion about the situation. For further information please consult a qualified attorney.

Ask Mr. G
© Jim Garnett, The Debt Doctor
AskMrG Consulting, LLC
2216 SW 35th Street
Ankeny, IA 50023

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Sent by:

Paul Richard
President - Executive Director
Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE)

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