How do you know if what you’re spending is a Need or Want?

Do you find yourself acquiring ‘stuff’ or spending money on other people and activities because you think you should rather than because you need to?

“O Reason, not the need.” says King Lear to his daughters when they take his Knights and Servants.  He doesn’t need them but ‘a King’ must have these things of course – for the reason not the need.  

To put a modern spin on it.  “I must have the designer tailored suit”, says the lawyer, “What will my clients think if I have an off the rack one”?

Or, the friend who always picks up the tab when you go out for a meal, whether they can afford it or not.

One way or another, either from pressure we put on ourselves or a perceived view of what we ‘should’ be doing, the line between a need or want is very blurred.

I was having a conversation with one of my coaching clients about this exact topic.  Was buying designer clothes for client meetings a need or a want?  We were having a great discussion trying to decide where the divide was.  We both got into full on justification mode about why we really needed to dress and look a certain way because of the roles  and the market that we worked in. So of course designer clothes were a need!

Then we took a step back, and looked at needs and wants as a continuum.  Using our clothing example, at one end of the scale was the chain store cheap and cheerful clothing and at the other end was the top designer label clothing.  Where on the continuum does a need become a want?

In a business role, you do need to take into account your market and client perception.  They are after all the ones who are going to hire you, so that will impact on the need or a want decision and may well push the need line a bit higher up the scale.

If on the other hand you were looking at gardening clothes to wear around home, then the need line would probably be more towards the cheap and cheerful end of scale.

Once you know where the decision sits on the needs and wants scale.  You can then factor in how much you are prepared to pay to meet that need, this may move the scale again. Yes, you do need to be your own devils advocate.  If you find yourself in full on justification mode, then you are more than likely trying to convince yourself that a want is a need.

There are of course going to be times when it doesn’t matter what your rational thinking says, you are just going to want something.  That is the time to count to 10, walk away and see if you still really want it tomorrow.

I am not suggesting that you use the scale for every single purchase that you make, but it is a good process to use when you are assessing what you are spending, and whether you can make better choices with the money that you have.

If you would like more information on how to decide about your own needs and wants then send us an email, we are happy to help.