"Needs" That Are Actually Just Wants

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Our finances can often get out of whack because we often (especially in the U.S.) mistake wants for needs. Like children, we think we need that orange ball from the store or we will fall over and die instantly. As you are able to discern your true wants and needs, you will be able to manage your finances better. To help with that, here are 10 wants that are often confused with needs. 

1. Eating Out            

Of this list of 10, eating out is probably the most popular, and therefore most dangerous, want that is often considered a need.  Its danger comes from a combination of factors.  It is closely tied to a real need, it is often intertwined with social activity, and the individual costs are fairly low.

"I have to eat anyway, so eating out is not costing me much more than I would have to spend on groceries anyway."
"My friends are always going out to eat and I don't want to be left out."
"I only go out to eat once or twice a week and it doesn't cost that much."

These 3 thoughts combined often lead to a busted budget, if one ever existed.  While it is true that eating is obviously a need, eating out is not.  The few extra dollars spent ever time one eats out easily adds up to hundreds and in some cases thousands of dollars a year.  Do the math for yourself - how much do you spend on eating out in a month? a year?  While eating out is often a social activity, there are ways to have the fun, but cut the costs.

- Eat something small from home before going out and share an appetizer or entree with a few people
- Pig out on free bread/chips at the restaurant and then just share a meal - Eat your meal at home before going out and just order a drink or a small dessert
- Catch up with friends for whatever activity follows eating out

2. Cable T.V.

Everyone needs to have hundreds of channels (many of which are a waste of airtime), right?  I hate to break it to you, but I will - oftentimes T.V. is a waste of your time.  There, I said it.  Not only are you bombarded by advertisements for garbage, but rarely is there a long-lasting positive effect from watching T.V.  When was the last time you walked away from a couple hours of watching T.V. feeling refreshed, engaged or productive?

After working all day I need to relax in front of the tube for a while and chill."  

Instead of watching T.V. try picking up a book, taking a walk, talking to your spouse and/or children, meditating, or napping for a week and see if you still feel like the T.V. is the best way to unwind.

3. Credit Cards

In today's society, credit cards are very close to being needs.  However, the fact that it is very close to being a need does not actually make it one.  Sorry.  If you can not seem to keep that plastic in your pocket, you are not alone.  It is widely known that if a consumer (you) carries around credit cards instead of cash, you will spend more money.  So if your credit card is causing you trouble, cut it up.  

"They are so convenient, besides I need a credit card for emergencies."

You can always get a debit card for things that require plastic like renting cars or hotel rooms.  If you want to have a card in case of emergencies, keep it in a plastic bag and put it into the bottom of a drawer.

4. Name Brand Anything

Don't get me wrong, name brand stuff is usually nice.  It helps you keep up with the "Joneses".  In fact, if you want to keep up with the imaginary "Joneses", then name brand stuff is necessary.  The problem with that is the fact that trying to keep up with anyone else is not only a waste of time, but can actually be harmful.  Comparing yourself to other people can leave you bitter and unhappy.

Name brand stuff is better quality and lasts longer than no-name stuff."

Ask yourself this question before buying name brand.  Would I buy this item if there were no outward indication of its name brand?  Am I willing to make this purchase even if I am the only person who ever knows what the brand is?  

5.  Coffee/Expresso/Latte

Starbucks and any other company that sells these drinks really want everyone to believe that they absolutely must have one (or more) of these to make it through the work day.  That is called advertising.

Without my morning coffee I might as well not even bother getting out of bed, I would be so tired all day."  

The fact that you would be tired during the day without coffee is an indication that you are missing out on a true need.  Is that need coffee?  Nope.  That would be what we call "sleep".  Get enough of that and your "need" for a morning pick-me-up will vanish.  

6.  Expensive haircuts

I will grant the fact that many people should have professionally done haircuts.  The do-it-yourself look could hurt their chances of getting a job or a date.  But haircuts where the tip is more than the complete haircut at other places should be considered the luxury that they are.  

I need to look perfect for a party on Friday."    

Sorry, it's not actually a need.  Pick up a good dance move or two and make sure you shower and shave beforehand and you'll be fine.

7.  Fast/junk food

I myself have fallen victim to this phantom need on occasion.  This one is deceptive in many of the same ways that eating out can be.  We have to eat anyway so why not just save time and stop by Wendy's?  

I'm hungry and way too tired to make dinner.  We need to go out and get some food."

This is a tough one because the way many Americans live their lives eating out is practically a necessity.  
However, with proper planning fast food can be properly categorized as a want.  Options can include:
- Making extra at dinner and freezing it for leftovers
- Being flexible on what is considered a meal.  A couple pieces of fruit are easy to carry around and are healthier than a cheeseburger anyway.
- Plan your day better so that you do not have to be on the road during meal time

8.  Bottled Water

Like "needing" to eat out and have junk food, drinking bottled water can seem so much like a need because of its proximity to a real need.

"I am constantly on the go and I know I should stay hydrated so I need to buy bottled water."

While having water is of course a true need, bottled water really is a want and in many cases is not even a wise one.  In most places tap water is actually better for you than bottled water.  Surprised?  Not only does government regulation keep tap water as safe as bottled water, but since fluoride is added to it, it can be better than bottled.  Throw in the fact that bottled water costs so much more than tap water and this is one that can easily be categorized as a want.

9.  Having the Thermostat set at 78 degrees during the summer and/or 68 degrees during the winter

Those numbers are often thrown out there to encourage people to save energy during the year, but people have gotten so accustomed to them that now they often feel like needs.  In reality, most people could get by with setting their thermostat several degrees higher in the summer and several lower in the winter.  

"It's too hot during the summer."
"It's too cold during the winter."

During the summer, take off most of your clothing while you are inside.  No reason to be fully clothed while you lounge around the house.  For all the husbands out there, get your wife to buy into this one and you'll never crank that air conditioning up again.  At night, turn on a fan and open up some windows.  Obviously during the winter, adding layers is the answer.

10.  New Clothes Before Old Ones are Worn Out

If you are reading this, I am going to bet that you could go an entire year without buying any new clothes.  

"I need to buy new clothes every year to keep up with the latest fashions."

Don't be fooled by advertising that easily.  If you are constantly buying new clothes to keep up with the current fashion, you should consider watching less T.V. and think on your own for a little while.  Wear your clothes until they are worn out.  Not pretend worn out, but actually worn out.  You'll be amazed at how much you save and besides, if you wait long enough everything comes back into fashion anyway.