April 4, 2012

Spending Less: Defining Needs & Wants

When I made it a goal in January to spend less this year, I knew  it wasn’t going to be easy. Why? Because I really like spending money and I really like buying things. When partnered, these two ‘really likes’ can be a lethal combination.

Today I am ready to admit that prior to setting my goal, I was in a very unhealthy pattern of buying things just because I could {meaning I had the money} and I wanted to. I did this without any thought or accountability.

I have thought a lot about how this behavior may have appeared to my children: irresponsible, selfish, thoughtless.  My Hubby and I are both concerned with teaching our children to be judicious in their spending, especially in a world where kids seem to think they’re entitled to any and everything they want.  But I was no different in my thinking.

Trying to spend less means that now I am trying to carefully weigh the reasons behind the purchases I make.  I literally ask myself, “Is this something I need?” or “Is this something that I just want?”  Now there are times, even still, that I have bought something I want. I’m human, people.  But I am finding myself more and more walking around a store with a ‘want’ item and then putting it back before heading to the checkout because I realized I just don’t need it. I don’t need another sweater. I don’t need another pillow. I don’t need more craft supplies. And I certainly don’t need another blasted candle!

Before, I bought many things simply because they were a great deal.  I have almost completely quit that habit.  The lure of the amazing sale is no longer a temptation to me.  I’ve learned that many times the items I bought at rock bottom prices ended up in a box heading to the Goodwill after a short period of time. Just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean I need it or will use it or even really like it that much.

I hope you understand that I don’t think there is anything wrong with buying yourself something just because you want it.  I think it’s healthy and many times well-deserved. My problem is that I was doing this on too frequent a basis.

This changed way of thinking – buying things on a need basis instead of a want basis – is blessing us in several ways.  It means more money goes into our savings, which is always a good thing. It means less junk coming into the house to clutter our lives and spirits. And it means that I am an example to my kids that I don’t get everything I want, I don’t have to have it all right now, and it’s okay.

Do you want to spend less? Defining needs versus wants and then focusing your efforts in this area is a great start. Here are a few of the questions I asked myself to determine if I really understood the difference between needs and wants:

  • How many items on your last Target receipt were needs?
  • How many items on your last Target receipt were wants or impulse buys?
  • How frequently do you donate toys, clothes or housewares to Goodwill or other charities?
  • If you shop with a list, do you stick to it?
  • Do you spend when you’re stressed?
  • Do you spend when you’re bored?
  • Do you find yourself buying something only to come home and find you already multiple versions of it or something like it?
  • Do you find yourself trying to justify a purchase to your spouse, partner or even yourself?
  • Do you hide purchases away for awhile so your spouse or partner won’t know about them?

Let me borrow from the 12-Step Programs for a minute and say that if you do a ‘searching and fearless inventory’ about your spending habits by asking these types of questions, it will really open your eyes! I did, and I needed to make some changes.

I took this picture of my blush yesterday because I thought it illustrated a great point:  I have a NEED for new blush.  My blush is almost completely gone and I am a pale, pale white woman. So I’ll be heading to the makeup aisle of Target to get some new blush. But I won’t be buying any new nail polish because I’ve already got 14 perfectly good half used bottles.

I need blush.  I want nail polish. Simple enough, right?


Apis Melliflora said...

Need is a term that can be stretched to encompass many things we don't actually need. I know that I'm very good at this neat mental trick.

Like you, I am working on reshaping the way I think and spend. It helps to know I'm in good company!

Aiketa said...

I should start asking me some of these questions on the list and change some things if I really want to spend less.

I think going to the supermarket with a list would be a nice thing to do for my wallet and also diet. I always end up buying things I don't need.

Tobi said...

The Army Man and I have sacrificed so long to annihilate all of our debt. Now that we actually have money to spend I'm like a kid in a candy store. But I frequently find myself returning home without buying a thing. I think I get overwhelmed so I don't know what to buy. Our only big purchase so far is my new Canon camera. I felt guilty about buying it for weeks! Being a good steward over money is tough.

The Queen Vee said...

Hip hip hooray for all of the above commentors and you too DF. Proud of all of you. After many years of shopping and always going for and wanting a good deal I find I've pretty much stopped doing it. Probably helps that I'm 8 miles away from the nearest real shopping area. So if you want to spend less move far away from all shopping :-).

Excellent post DF.

Anonymous said...

Add this to your list of questions:
-Have I spent enough on my older brother?