Thursday, September 15, 2011

SSF: Needs Vs. Wants

Want{via pinterest}

I started this spending freeze to give my bank account a chance to recuperate, and I hoped that maybe, along the way, I'd learn a thing or two about the way I spend.  I'm two weeks into the freeze, and I'm already starting to do some heavy reflecting.  I'm learning a lot about the who, what, when, where, and why of my spending.  This freeze has got my brain wheels turning, and regardless of how much I save this month, I'm grateful for the amount of time its forced me to reflect on my spending.  "Forced" may seem like a strong word, but it's true.  Not buying, not going out, not really does leave me with a lot of time to notice what's different.

One of the biggest thoughts that has been resurfacing in my mind the past week is about needs versus wants.  Needs are non-negotiables.  You can't live without them; you gotta spend for them.  Wants are obviously the extras, the icing on the cake, the things I should buy in small doses.  Needs and wants...they're very different, yet somewhere along the way, I've gotten them terribly confused.  And what's worse, is that even when I can identity something as a "want," I still find myself traipsing to the store to snag what I've been coveting.  Somewhere along the way, I got entilted, thinking, "If I want it, I should get it.  Even more shameful, somewhere along the way, I started thinking, "I deserve it, I'm gonna get it."

Even though I'm on this spending freeze, I still find myself creating an "I want" list.  A fuchsia blazer, a pair of mustard pants, and a pair of perfect black flats.  A rust colored chunky knit, an emerald silk blouse, and a hot pink statement necklace.  I think these things would be perfect additions to round out my fall closet.  But you know what?  I don't need them, I won't go naked without them, and I won't even be un-fashionable without them.  Do I want them?  Yes.  But since when did wanting something give me the go ahead to whip out my American Express and make it mine?  When did wanting something turn into buying something, no matter what my brain or my bank account told me?

I wish I could peg down where this blur between needs and wants happened.  I wish I could identify the spot where things went awry.  I have a few hypotheses, but none seem to stick quite as they should.  Before the freeze, I think I would have looked back and thought "Ehh I should probably do better about this."  But something about the freeze has magnified this issue in a major way for me.  I'm not just thinking back to my old ways, I'm thinking back and realizing how ashamed I am.  Ashamed that I wasn't more thoughtful and ashamed that I've watched Matt and I's money drain away because I wanted the perfect polka dot scarf or the perfect fitted blazer.  Those things weren't needs, those were wants.  And I let myself believe they had to be mine.

Though I'm embarrassed by my blurred spending, I'm also incredibly inspired.  Inspired because I see the error of my ways and realize just how backwards my thinking was.  Inspired because I know better now and can choose something different.  I'm inspired because I am choosing something different.

So for all you readers out there, how do you handle needs vs. wants?  What trips  you up?


JR said...

Oh gosh, I struggle with this so much myself. I just did a post about habits, and one of my "bad habits" was compulsive and impulsive spending. Mine always happened to be on clothes, accessories, and beauty products. I thought back on how much money I've likely wasted over the years on this stuff, and it made me so ashamed too.

What trips me up the most is my keen ability to rationalize and justify all of my superfluous purchases. "Well, my other blazer has that tiny hole in the pocket that no one can see, so really I need a replacement." Or "Well I saved money last weekend by not going out, so really if I buy this sweater, I'm breaking even."

There's also the "rush" I get from buying new clothes. It is definitely short-term happiness, but eventually the guilt sets in.

Anonymous said...

First off, I LOVE your blog! I've been a friend of Matt's for quite some time and think the world of you two. But I had the same problem. When I first got married, I had a very hard time recognizing the wants/needs realm. It took my own special realization at my own time to see the debt mess I had got us into and see how patient my husband was to help me learn everything on my own. Once I did, I found myself creating my own little competition with myself to see how little I could spend! There are SO many (easy) ways to save money. If I find myself wanting something, I shop for it online and put it in a cart. Then I take the money out of my bank account and put it in a savings account. I'll come back a month later and if I still want the thing in my shopping cart, I'll get it. But 99% of the time I recognize that I lived without it, the desire for it is gone, AND my savings account is SO much bigger!!

Even in the needs category I shop around A LOT for the best deal! It's shopping at it's best! I get the needs and STILL get to put money in the bank rather than put it on my credit card.

It's a lesson we have to learn on our own and most people go a lifetime not learning. You're amazing for recognizing it!

Deviled Megs said...

I can so relate to this post and feel the same way. I think what often trips me up is setting up "treats" like a new lip gloss or a purse as "rewards" for getting through tough situations (usually work related)

Anonymous said...

I admire this post quite a bit and can identify with it a lot. I think our culture often sends us the message that because we've been through something hard, that we "deserve" to be rewarded - whether we can afford it or not. My husband & I went to an all cash budget. We cut up the cards and have cash for everything. We have envelopes for "fun," "gas," "groceries," "gifts" etc... but after the cash is gone, we can't spend anymore. It made me so much more mindful of how I spend my money - it was great!
Also, we did it the year that we as a couple made half of what we made the year before, but we still paid off our debt and felt like we had more money than ever! It was great. (We read some Dave Ramsey stuff - it really helped us out!)

LaLa's in the Land of Enchantment said...

I handle my trips with a lot of strength and that is because when I was going through my own needs vs. wants it created a terrible rift in my relationship/marriage that I really had to fix. It's like coming off of an addiction and it can be hard. Sometimes I have to make a purchase just once in a while to keep myself in the right and I have gone from spending all the time to hardly spending at all. My husband helped me A LOT when I went through my 'rehab' stage of spending and we learned to work together on one budget and to consult each other before we spend anything. I am a completely different spender today than I was before I met him, and I am glad you didn't run into the same wall that I did. :)

Miranda from PSS said...

AMAZING blog post, Allison. Maybe, my favorite ever! Perhaps, it's because I feel the exact same way, and for these exact reasons, I didn't commit to the SFF (Hello, Honesty!).

The comment about feeling like you (I) "deserve" the stuff we want really hit home. And, I'm embarrassed that I've fooled myself into that! I really admire you. Awesome post, buddy! Keep up the (spending) restraint! ;)

Luisa said...

This issue is so tough! And there are so many messages everywhere of "spend, spend, spend!" Last year I moved abroad and could take only three suitcases with me. I found that while I was living in Costa Rica, I was not tempted to buy many things, because I knew that I would not be able to take new things with me when I moved back to the US. So now, when I see something I want, I ask myself, "Self, if I had to move in a few months and could take only 3 suitcases with me, would ____ be something I would want to save space for?" If the answer is no (and it virtually always is), I don't buy it. That key question has helped me a lot.

Ashley Stone said...

it's so hard to see the difference between our needs and wants sometimes! Lately I've been trying to scale down on my spending too. I'm still shopping, but I'm trying to show with a "purpose." I don't buy something for my house unless it has a specific spot to go, and I don't buy clothes unless I LOVE it and know I'll wear it. ; )

Anu said...

Hi Alison,
Wow, this is an amazing post!! I can very well relate to everything you have said. I have been a fan of your blog and love the fact you talk about real issues.

Ever since I have started reading blogs, I have noticed my shopping urges has been through the roof! ThoughI have learnt a lot about styling from blogs, on the downside its constantly encouraging consumption . I am glad to see that bloggers like you are real people with real budget...

Would love to see pictures of how you are restyling your outfits

Jamie said...

I'm in love with your post! Since doing the SFF, needs versus wants has put drastically into perspective. I'm not sure when I decided that my wants turned into my needs, but it has been a big eye opener since doing the spending freeze. I don't go over board, and am not the shopper maniac, but like buying things that I want. It's so encouraging to read your post while doing the spending freeze, thank you!

Jamie said...

Thank you SO much for this beautiful and raw post! Since doing the SFF, my eyes have been opened to how much my wants have become "needs" in my mind. I don't know where it was when I decided that it was okay to buy so many things that I want before putting it into perspective. Your post is a true encouragement while doing the spending freeze!