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29 July, 2016

THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN WANTS AND NEEDS

It has been said that the most basic concept of economics is want vs. need. 

Just to be clear:  A need is something you have to have -- something you cannot do without in order to survive.  On the other hand, a want is something you would like to have but it is not necessary for survival.

One day, some time ago, a husband and wife were shopping in a department store, simply browsing and admiring all the pretty, shiny and sparkling things on display. As they looked through the glass cabinet at a diamond bracelet, a very elegant man behind the counter, asked if the woman would like to try it on. She immediately said to him: "Oh no thanks, I certainly don't need anything like this."

The man's instant reply came as a surprise to the couple: "Madam, this is not about 'need,' this is all about 'want'."

He was right, and in that moment the salesman gave her a distinction she had never thought about -- the difference between "need" and "want."

Our basic needs: air, food, water, shelter, security are obviously the most important human requirements and essential to life. But, what about everything else?

Some examples:

-- You want to eat cheesecake, red velvet cupcakes, macadamia nut chocolate chip cookies and gobs of pasta. Unfortunately, you may be gluten and sugar sensitive, so you need to eat healthy foods. The choice is up to you. Your "wants" can hurt you.

-- You want to drive the big, expensive Tesla sedan, but you work from home and only need a very small car with which to get around town.

-- You enjoy a good bottle of wine but you don't need to have one every day, nor to drink all of it in one sitting...Re-cork the bottle and finish it up another day when you may want/enjoy it more. 

Now, does that mean you can't ever have your "wants?"

No, of course not, but knowing the difference is very useful when making decisions (and, you can indulge that sweet tooth every now and then, but limit your treat to a few small bites).  It is not a matter of depriving yourself of the pleasures of life, it is more a matter of recognizing when the choice is necessary to your survival and having the wisdom to govern yourself accordingly.

It's often hard to discern between a want and a need. One way to do it is to ask yourself the following question: "Will this want/need contribute to my long-term well being?" If this answer is yes, then you would do well to put it in the "need" category.

Quite honestly, I think that if you were to ask both my wife and I what we wanted most in life, we would simultaneously and impulsively answer: "To win a million dollars!"  But in retrospect, what good would that amount of money do us if we did not have the physical health sufficient to enjoy it?  We'll go on living without it anyway! Truth be known, we can't afford to gamble.

I have spent at lot of time recently contemplating the way in which my life has unfolded in the twilight years. It has not been an altogether happy exercise because certain present conditions are not what I would have wanted in a perfect world.

I have learned over the years, however, that the more I let go of my "wants" and get comfortable and committed to handling my "needs" knowing that I always have sufficient to get by, makes my life easier, more acceptable and certainly more peaceful.

We would all do ourselves a favor in making a distinction between what we need, what we need in certain conditions, and what we want.

1 comment:

climan Transportation said...
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