We all have our own needs. Sometimes we say we need to go shopping and sometimes we say we need water to quench our thirst. But what actually is the difference between a need and a want. Let us look at the basic definition.
A need is something which is essential and you cannot do without. Like the basic human or survival needs- food, clothing and shelter. A want is something that is over and above your needs; something to fulfill your fantasy, desire and satiate your sense of luxury. A want is something that is inessential. Let us consider the first sentence when you say you need to go shopping. This can be a need and a want too. If you have nothing to wear for an occasion or ran out of decent clothing, then it is a need. However, if you wish to binge shop, get out of boredom or thinking of owning a piece of clothing from a particular brand despite not having the necessity for it, it is a want. Similarly, when you are thirsty, you ‘need’ water or you may ‘want’ to drink an aerated drink or a milkshake.
Need and want, though are used interchangeably, have subtle but significant difference. A need for a thing is defined as an object you need for your survival. Everything else that you ‘need’ to fulfill your desires or wishes, is a ‘want’. Some of the basic and common needs are food, clothing, shelter, electricity and safety to name a few. American psychologist Maslow states in his famous need hierarchy, the five things that are considered needs. Starting with the most necessity at the bottom to the least yet necessary thing at the top- physiological, safety, belonging, esteem and finally self-actualization. The basic needs hold the bottom of the pyramid.
Need is the necessity of an individual. It represents necessity and items essential for living. Such items remain constant over time and the non-fulfillment of the same may lead to life threatening diseases or even death. Such items are things which a human needs for survival.
Contrary to need, want is desire and not an inherent need to survive. The wants of an individual may be unlimited and is fuelled by wishes and desires. These change over time with availability of funds or services among few. Wants essentially differ from person to person. A particular item which is a need for someone can be a want for another.
Most of the times we fail to differentiate between our needs and wants. We fail to plan and thus end up prioritizing our wants over our needs. Sometimes, this leads to overspending. Be it in relationships or material objects, our desires take over control and we overlook the needs chasing for the things we want. For example, expecting our partner to take us out on a fancy dinner every alternate day is a want while staying loyal and loving is a need. Sometimes, we over-stress and underestimate the value of a relationship comparing ours with others and finding our ‘wants’ not being fulfilled. Similarly, for material things, we compare our stuff with others- clothes, luxury and possessions. In the process of doing so, we either overspend or stay disappointed. The first step to a decent financial planning to ensure you are fulfilling your needs, save up and the remaining goes to your wants. It is practical to think of meeting your needs before you splurge on your wants. Savings, also come in higher priority than your wants since any unfortunate event may lead to your non-fulfillment of needs as you have spent everything on your wants.
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You might have heard or read the phrase ‘You live one life’ or ‘live the moment’. These are strategies used to sell a product, to tap our weaknesses and use it to their benefit. Life is beyond just splurging on the moment; your relationships need more sentiments than mere show-offs and at the end when we fail either to fulfill our wants or go bankrupt, hell breaks loose. Take a practical approach and prioritize your needs over your wants. It not just makes you financially stable but also helps you be at peace.