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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wants versus Needs

I was reading How to Survive Without a Salary when I came across something Charles Long said about needs. He said needs are defined differently depending on who you are. It was kind of an aha moment for me. For some reason this explanation really hit home. Often times we come at things from such different mindsets. Some of the biggest problems in marriages arise from money disagreements. What if we could find a way to communicate wants and needs better?
Now, real true needs are of course food, clothing, and shelter but then there are all the other things that are needs for one person and not for the next. For example: a car. One person living far away from their work, may need a car in order to get to their place of employment, while the next person(maybe someone living in a big city with high parking rates and efficient public transportation)may not see a vehicle as a need. When you are building your spending plan your needs and wants both come into play. Many things we consider needs, may actually be wants, but if you listen to our language....I need that flat screen 52" TV....maybe want is the correct term here?
How often does my language convince me to spend more??? I guess it comes down to our goals which can be a starting point to work backwards from. If our goal is big and important enough to us then we can probably be convinced to postpone some of our wants. Then again, we may also decide that some of our wants are so important that we just make allowances in our spending plan for them.
 The book Uncommon Cents is one of my favorites. I have read through it many times. It is a simple, clear plan for money management. A quote from the book is Buy now-Want later! To avoid this situation there are some great ideas. One way to distinguish your wants and needs is this nicely categorized chart below. It is something you(and your spouse if you have one)can use as a tool for communication and clarity. Even if you are single it is still a great tool to show you where your priorities lie. Suddenly, you see in black and white your financial priorities.
The first step is to fill out the badly scanned form(you can click on the forms to enlarge them) at the bottom of this post(seems scanning a book is harder than it looks) On the form put 10 things you wish to purchase between now and the next couple of years.
 After you are done, go back and fill in the Priority column with either A-Vital, B-Important, C-Nice, or D-Worthless. Then using the chart at the left of this page plug in the shopping list into the right column, ABCD and Present or Future.
Having things clearly spelled out this way is very helpful when a big impulse buy comes along. A quick look at the charts of YOUR spending window, shows where your priorities are. If a couple takes time to do this it can provide a lot of topics for discussion. There is only a limited amount of money, so where should it go? Can you imagine if it wasn't a mystery and your money did what you told it to. Every one's spending window looks different as every one's priorities are different. But wouldn't it be great for your family to have your priorities clearly spelled out? I hope you take the time to try it, who knows maybe it will be the first step to your financial peace?????