The biggest question when participating in a No/Low Spend Year becomes how to define a want versus a need. The basic needs tend to be pretty self-explanatory. You need to eat in order to survive. You need to be hydrated in order to survive. You need to be clothed in order to survive. You need to have a shelter to keep you safe from the elements in order to survive. These are legitimate needs and there is no room for debate.
Beyond that, things start to get a bit more grey. Yes, you need to eat and it’s important for your health to have balanced nutrients. Does picking up a tub of ice cream from the grocery store count as a need then? What about that chocolate bar you’re eyeing as you stand at the check-out? You don’t need those items in order to survive, even if you do need to eat. (Bonus, check out this post for some super helpful money-saving tips for grocery shopping!) You need to hydrate, but does that include juice, pop or alcohol? You need to be clothed, but does that include that supersupersuper cute sweater that you just found at your favourite store? You need to have shelter, but does that include that big fancy house that’s full of all the latest gizmos and gadgets? It’s no wonder that so many people struggle to define what is a true want and what is a true need. There is a fine line between the two, and it’s all too easy to step over it.
It can be difficult because we live in a consumeristic society. You can’t go anywhere without being blasted with advertisements, whether it’s on the cover of a magazine, a TV commercial, a billboard or even just someone passing by you while carrying a Starbucks cup. We are wired to notice and react to these advertisements.
While you’re being faced with these advertisements daily, you need to decide what you actually need. Do you need that chocolate bar, or do you need to pay off your debt? Do you need that cup of coffee, or do you need to save up for your dream vacation?
If you are focused on paying off debt and have decided to allow zero unnecessary expenses, then you must ask yourself “can I survive without this?“. That’s a yes or no question with no grey area. I’m not talking about the feeling that you’re going to die without your morning coffee. As unbelievable as it may feel, you won’t. I’m talking about when your last pair of shoes is worn out beyond repair, is it necessary to get a new pair? I say yes. This doesn’t mean that you need a super fancy new pair of kicks, this means that you need shoes to protect your feet and really, to be allowed into basically any business. A coffee is a want, new shoes are a need.
I’ll have another post coming in the future that talks about priorities, but that’s really what wants and needs boil down to. Outside of the basic four, wants and needs are determined solely by yourself and will be different for every person out there, all depending on what your priorities are.
I don’t believe that there are steps or tips that can be given when determining your wants and needs, so this post is really just thoughts being put out there. My advice to you is don’t kid yourself. Don’t convince yourself that you need something when it doesn’t line up with your goals. It’s far too easy to become disillusioned by things that you “need”. Do allow yourself some of those wants from time to time, though. Life is short and has enough stresses, so allow yourself that treat once in awhile and don’t beat yourself up for it. Enjoy it, appreciate it, and then keep on moving towards that goal. One small allowance won’t undo all of the hard work you’ve put in.