The Difference Between Needs And Wants

We are inundated with messages telling us about all the great things we need. The conditioning starts very young. Television commercials tell our children what kind of cereal they need and later about the toys, cell phones and cars they have to have. Magazine ads are no better. And let’s not underestimate the power of the internet when it comes to advertising.

Every day we see hundreds of advertisements telling us how our lives will be better if only we…you can fill in the blanks. The fact of the matter is we really don’t need most of the things we think we do. For anyone who has studied psychology or marketing, you will be familiar with the concept called Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Abraham Mazlow was a professor of psychology who founded humanistic psychology. He developed this hierarchy to explain human development and growth and it goes something like this.

On the most basic of levels, human beings need their physiological needs met. These are the things necessary for us to survive: air, food, water, sleep. We also need clothing and shelter to protect us from the elements. Once we have met these needs, our need for safety comes next. Personal security, financial security, health and well-being and some measure of protection against accidents and injury are part of this need level.

Once our basic physiological and safety needs are met, we seek a sense of belonging. Family, friendship and intimacy are the things we require. From here, things like esteem and self-actualization come into play.

How we fulfill this needs is where many of become confused. Yes we need food but it doesn’t have to be filet mignon. We need shelter but we don’t have to live on a golf course or a penthouse apartment. Our need to belong can lead us to join clubs we might be able to afford, to make purchases so we can fit in with others we respect or admire.

Meeting your needs should not cause financial hardship. And the occasional indulgence in luxury items is good for morale. When indulgences become the way of life and cause trouble in the budget, then something has gone wrong.

Take a look at your own views on wants and needs. How are you handling them? What are you teaching your children about the differences between wants and needs?