One of my first experiences with the conflicting idea of what I need versus what I want was introduced to me in the 5th grade during an activity at school. The teacher asked us to imagine we were stranded on an island, and could only choose 3 items from a large selection to use for survival. Everyone’s choices varied; mine included water, food, and a book (I figured if I was stranded I would want some good reading material to take up some time). As everyone settled with their items in their arms, our teacher began going through our objects, one student at a time. She’d ask, “Do you really need a Gameboy?” or, “Is it absolutely necessary to have a magazine while stranded?”
Her questions varied, but our responses were mostly the same: “No, but I want it.”
She told us that the island we were stranded on was called NeOrWa, also known as “Need Or Want”. The purpose of the exercise was to show us that some things we simply want in our lives, but we don’t need them. This lesson has stuck with me since then, and has influenced many of my spending habits. Sure, that dress is really cute, but do I absolutely need it? Yeah, those new sneakers look great, but my old ones are fine and aren’t in need of replacement.
Financial Author and Motivational Speaker, Dave Ramsey, once said, “Ask yourself if what you’re buying is a need or a want. There is a big difference.” It’s true, and at first weighing out needs and wants will prove to be difficult; once something becomes a habit, it’s tough to distinguish the good and the bad. With a little effort and conscious thinking when spending, the ability to decipher between compulsory wants from mandatory needs will become evident.
This doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be some treats every once in a while; go out to lunch with friends on Saturday, buy a new swimsuit for summer, upgrade to a new phone! The important thing to remember is to not treat yourself all the time. Starbucks every morning isn’t necessary to stay awake in English, and even though CREAM is really good, that doesn’t mean it should be the nightly dessert. Just like we were taught in health class to eat sweets in moderation, additional expenses outside of necessary spending should also come sparingly.
To decrease unnecessary spending, setting up a monthly budget at the beginning of each month is a great idea. Budgets help dictate where money goes, and how much of it is used. Setting aside a small portion of your budget for “wants” will help you to distinguish between what is imperative to life and what is superfluous (unnecessary).
If you need help with creating a budget or any other financial advice, Shelley Murphy, our Vice President of Lending, offers FREE Financial Advice and would be happy to help you! You may contact Shelley at (925) 335-3824.
Student Social Media Intern
1st Nor Cal Credit Union