Is it a need or a want; this is a question I now ask myself almost every item I pick up an item in a store. It seems like a simple question, but the human mind can be tricky dickey, especially if you REALLY want something badly. How does one actually determine a need from a want? If you are serious about living a more minimalist lifestyle and you are trying to be more mindful when shopping, there are a few questions you can ask yourself.
- Can I afford to buy this? I would define being able to afford something as having the actual cash either in hand or in your bank to pay for it now. Using your line of credit or a credit card, and not having the ability to pay it off straight away, means you cannot afford the item. If you buy this item will you have enough money to cover your groceries, power, rent/mortgage, car payment, or gas for your car? If you have factored all costs for the necessities of living, and you still have enough cash then maybe you can afford to buy whatever it is you want/need. Bottom line, if you don’t have the cash for it, you cannot afford it. Putting it on a credit card or using your line of credit is only going to create more debt.
- Why do I want to buy this? Do you have an actual use for the item? Are you caught up in the hype of some new gadget or something all of your friends have? Unfortunately, we live in a society where “keeping up with the Jones” has never been more prevalent. We are inundated with reality tv which is far from reality, where people are living luxurious lifestyles and the cost of anything is of no concern. Media and advertising has us convinced that more is better and we have become slaves to an idea that in order to be viewed as successful in life – you should own certain “things” which couldn’t be further from the truth. I now equate success with how happy you actually are in life. Having more money often means working a job with more responsibility which is more stressful, you often don’t leave your job at the office at the end of the day and you’re working longer hours, dealing with larger personalities (many not likable), having less time for friends and family, and not being around to even enjoy the fruits of your labor also known as “things” or “stuff”. So, why do you want to buy this? How will it benefit your life besides spending your hard earned money.
- Will I still have a burning desire to buy this in a week from now? My last blog was about impulse shopping and this question ties into this. If you can wait a week or a few days sometimes the desire you once felt for an object fades away after time, even in a week. If you do have the cash, don’t just waste your money, make sure you really want what you’re buying, even if it is a need. For example, if you are buying lets say a food processor and there is one on sale, but the brand isn’t the most reputable, you may want to save money right in that moment and buy the food processor, but it is the Cuisineart you really want and trust. You may regret your “deal” after it is purchased, and still want the Cusineart, causing you to spend even more money. Something I have been a sucker for in the past is buying tshirts while traveling to different countries, which then turn into PJ tshirts, because I am caught up in the moment of being in a foreign country and want a tangible memory to bring back with me, but the photos you take are enough. Trust me… I know what I am talking about!
- Lastly, if I don’t buy this, how will it impact me? I saved the best question for last. This one question will determine what is a true need and what is just a want. If you don’t buy the groceries, you will starve. If you don’t buy a toothbrush, you will have a disgusting mouth. If you don’t buy razors, you won’t be able to shave. If you don’t buy the latest iPhone, you may still have an iPhone, but you may not have all the features you want which are on the new one. If you don’t buy the food processor, you won’t be able to make certain recipes, but you won’t starve. If you don’t buy those heels you may be short, but you won’t die! See the difference? The answer is pretty clear.
If you don’t have debt and you have a few thousand dollars saved for an emergency, then determining what is a need or want may not even be on your radar. However, if you are trying to save for something, if you are trying to pay off debt, if you are trying to live a more minimalist lifestyle, or if you just merely don’t want to waste your hard earned money, when shopping ask yourself do I need this or do I want this. If you have the will power to stick to your guns, you will find your needs are met and you are not for want.