separating needs from wants

Wanted a House (Cinema 1914)

Image by New York Public Library via Flickr

lately i’ve been thinking a great deal about the difference of needs and wants.

i’d like to say i’ve made it to the point in life where i am easily able to separate one from the other, focusing on my needs more than my wants, but i must confess i have a long way to go.

this weekend, for example: i had to wants come across my mind’s radar and i gave in to one and passed on the other

i purchased a set of lego (or boxed-therapy as i like to call it) on saturday afternoon.  i spent the better part of the afternoon building this really cool set that i had had my eye on for a while – and i had a lot of fun building it.  of course, when the building was done, i found myself playing with the model for a short time before putting it on my shelf with the other models i have built in the past.

today i went to an electronics store to look at a pair of headphones that i’ve had my eye on for a little while.  imagine my surprise when i saw that they were 30% off.  i wandered around the store for a little bit, considering if i really needed the purchase or not.  in the end, i decided against purchasing them for now because i really don’t need them.  i have a pair of headphones that get me by for my purposes, and i convinced myself to be ok with that for now.

i realize that both examples that i’ve given both fall in to the category of wants.  in reality, i can survive without those items.  i guess what i wonder about is how do you separate your needs from your wants?  what tools have you used to help you determine what you really need and what you really don’t?

traveling mercies,


2 thoughts on “separating needs from wants

  1. I’ve been considering the same thing lately in the context of love languages. I’ve always considered my primary love language as gift giving. I really enjoy giving and receiving gifts. But then I started thinking, so I really feel “loved” when I get a gift or is it just something I want? And the fact that I couldn’t answer the question concretely makes me wonder.

  2. I have two categories of needs. One might, perhaps, be called a “need need”. These are the obvious needs- food, shelter, affirmation, basic clothing, etc. Then there is the other category of needs… these are things that I “need” (and I do, I really do) to help me feel human and vibrant and living: good food, strong coffee, colorful things, handmade objects, organized art supplies of every type, good books, deep handpainted mugs, etc. So the wants and needs overlap in this way- I suppose the second category isn’t a true “need” to a purist, but for me I need some level of these things to function at my best. I think that’s why you picked the legos and not the headphones- you do the same thing as I do. It’s in striking the balance in too much accumulation of the second need (and not sabotaging the budget) where it makes the difference.

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