Wants Versus Needs

A lot of what our family budgets and saves for comes down to what we want and what we need. Categorizing your purchases into these two groups will make your budgeting easier.

Needs are things that are essential. Items, products or services you require to function:

  • We need to pay our bills
  • We need to clothe, feed and provide for Baby Bird
  • We need to eat

Wants are the extras, the things that enhance our way of life, the icing on the cake:

  • We want a new barbecue
  • We want to take a trip this fall
  • Mama wants a new pair of Serengetis

I treat my needs and my wants differently when I am shopping for them and when I am saving for them.

The easiest to shop for are the wants. Why? Because the urgency isn’t there. You don’t need it today, and you aren’t under pressure to get it at any cost. If you can demonstrate patience and wait, you will get most (if not all) of your wants on sale.

Case in point. We ‘wanted’ RockBand 2 for our Wii, but it is $195. Since it is something we don’t ‘need’ to play to live, we waited and watched the flyers. It went on sale at Best Buy for $145 a couple of weekends ago and we took the flyer in to Future Shop. They price matched it and gave us an additional 5% off, so we walked away with it for $140. Now we have also been saving our spare change for a treat and we decided to cash it in on this. We had $100 in change saved up, so we paid $40 out of our account for it. Our band has been rocking the world ever since!

Assess your wants on a regular basis so you can make sure you can find a good deal on it before it becomes a need, thus turning the tables on you. Our barbecue is nearing the end of it’s days. It probably has another year to it, and we are reading the flyers every week for the one that we ‘want’ to go on sale. We are mostly paying attention to Canadian Tire because we have just over $100 in Canadian Tire money saved, so when it does go on sale, we can take an additional $100 off. If it went on us tomorrow, it would become a ‘need’ for us as 80% of our summer meals are barbecue.

Now to the needs. To me, my needs are our utility bills, our mortgage, our transportation, and our food and supplies. Some of this doesn’t go on sale so it is important to find your wants on sale or to delay them until your needs are met.

Your food and supplies can usually be bought on sale and/or with coupons. This is where it is important to collect and organize your coupons. Make sure you know what coupons you have when you go grocery shopping. Match your store sales with coupons you have to get the most out of your savings, and if an item is on at a good deal and you don’t think you will get that deal again before you will need to replace your item, then buy enough for a couple of uses (if you have the money to).

Here’s an example. For our daughter, a jumbo pack of diapers costs about $39.99 on regular price. These usually go on sale every few weeks. Last time, London Drugs had them on sale for $28.99, and I was able to stack $8 worth of coupons. I ended up paying $20.99 with a savings of $19. I already had some diapers on hand for her, but I knew I wouldn’t have gotten them for cheaper before I needed them again. Had I had two sets of $8 off coupons, I would have bought two jumbo packs.

So when you want to make a purchase, ask yourself if it is a want or a need. If it is something you want, ask yourself if you are happy paying what you are paying and if your needs are all taken care of first. If you answer ‘no’ to either of those, then you may want to wait.

That’s how we roll!

Sheri Landry
Sheri publishes, and writes at This Bird’s Day where she shares all of the thoughts in her head without the voices. Sticking mainly with content for Canadians, Sheri shares family stories, product information and anything that fits into her (and her family’s) daily activities.
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