I’ve been doing some reflecting lately on needs and wants. In the past, I’ve looked at our monthly income statements and felt like the “Housing” and “Groceries” categories were needs, and categories like “Shopping” (for us a catch-all for much), and “Travel” were wants. But I’m becoming more and more convinced that there’s a continuum between needs and wants and pretty much everything in life falls somewhere along the continuum, and in the fairly luxurious lives that Mr PoP and I lead, a lot more on the want end of the spectrum.
What Are Our Needs?
The short answer. Not much.
Our true needs are quite simple. Basic shelter and basic food & water for us and Kitty PoP (we agreed to care for him forever, and we shall!). We could accomplish both of these on far less money than we currently spend on “Housing”, much less on “Housing” + “Food” or “Housing” + “Groceries”.
Instead of operating these categories at the level of basic needs, we’ve upsized these categories. And that’s okay. I don’t feel any moral victory in living with the absolute bare minimum.
Instead, I feel like life is chock-full of wants being satisfied left and right.
What Are Our Wants?
Savings is a want. Fancy food is a want. Nice clothes are a want. Our awesome bikes are a want. Sure, we’ve become accustomed to many of these niceties and might want (haha!) to call them needs, but the truth is that they’re not life sustaining.
With a seemingly unlimited pile of wants, and a limited supply of income, we make choices. We make choices about how much we prioritize different spending over adding an equivalent amount of money to our investment account. Do I want this iPad more than I want $500 in the bank? Do we want to go out and share a lovely dinner out with friends more than we want $80? Do I want dried figs more than I want $2? Yes. Yes. And Yes. This month, at least, though the iPad was debated for a few weeks.
Does Mr PoP want an NSX more than he wants $35K? Not right now, but probably someday. Same answer for an Eames chair and $5K. Do I want a cute sweater that I spot while waiting for an Rx at Target more than I want $20? No. At least not that specific cute sweater and not today.
Time And Effort Play A Role
Lots of our wants take time and effort to execute, and sometimes that’s the bigger deterrent to fulfilling that want more than anything else. Do I want the platonic ideal of a new pair of shoes more than I want $40? Yes! But I have no desire to spend a ton of time trying to find that platonic ideal shoe, so instead I wait and keep wanting.
Do I want a kitchen and floor remodel more than I want ~$20K? Well… yeah. Now that you mention it… I do. And Mr PoP kindof does… well, he wants me to love the kitchen since I’m spending a lot more time in it than either of us ever thought I would. But this kind of project is not only expensive, it’s going to take a lot of time and effort on both of our parts.
Tackling Our Cookie Problem
And over the next 12-18 months, we’ll be getting a new kitchen and floors. It’s a really big want – in fact, we’ve called it our cookie problem for just about as long as we’ve lived in the house. (Those who have read “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie” will understand.) But just because we’ve been calling it a “problem” doesn’t mean we need to start thinking of it as a need.
This kitchen project is going to be about satisfying wants, lots of wants. Big wants, little wants, wants we’ve wanted since day 1 of moving in and wants we’re trying to anticipate years into the future. And, yes, I know that’s a lot of wanting.
But to me, that’s okay. As long as we keep reminding ourselves that these are wants and not needs, we’ll keep a good perspective on the project and continue to feel grateful for everything we’re putting into it. After all, life might get a little boring and painful if we never got anything we wanted.
Like we did with the garage project from last year, we’ll share thoughts, plans, and progress along the way to DIY-ing our dream kitchen. So we apologize in advance if there’s going to be a lot of “wanting” going on on the blog the next year or so…
How do you distinguish between wants and needs and keep things in perspective? What kind of wants are you satisfying soon?