ICFE eNEWS #15-25 - Aug 6th 2015
View this eNEWS online
Wants Vs. Needs: 5 False Beliefs
By Jim Garnett, a/k/a Ask Mr.G, a member of the ICFE's Board of Educational Advisors
I recently heard a teenager asked how she had become 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
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 claim to have all the answers, but I think an answer to the
problem lies 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 we 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. We tell ourselves, "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."
Or "Our shampoo is a bit more expensive, but you deserve the very best
for your hair! You are worth it!" Or "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." Or
"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
certainly one of the main reasons why so many of our wants appear as
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 purchase.
One suggestion to parents might be to allow the child to contribute to
the more expensive items. A personal investment by the child has a way
of helping the child to identify whether it is a want or a need.
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. 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
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
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 we can 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 Debt Doctor
AskMrG Consulting, LLC
2216 SW 35th Street
Ankeny, IA 50023
ICFE eNEWS is available FREE upon request by visiting the ICFE's
and filling out the contact form, selecting "Yes" for "Add to Mailing List."
Please pass this eNEWS on to your peers and interested others and
invite them to subscribe for free. Also, visit the ICFE's new Web site:
President - Executive Director
Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE)
ICFE - Institute of Consumer Financial Education -