Defining Needs vs. Wants In Your Budget {FREE Printable!}

What a weird, amazing time to be alive in the world! Never in a million years did I think groceries being delivered to my house would be a thing. Or the fact that I can order just about anything from Amazon and have it delivered in 2 days or less. I mean seriously, if I decide to purchase from another company besides Amazon, I get a little pouty at the fact that I have to wait 5…FIVE!…whole days for a package! The nerve! In a world of instant gratification, we are finding ourselves at a level of personal debt never, ever seen before in this country. But why? I think this idea of defining your needs vs. wants in your budget and with your spending is becoming more and more important. Even though you CAN have an item show up at your door in 2 days or less for $6 cheaper than a competitor doesn’t make the purchase that much better if you can’t afford it in the first place. Let’s talk about your financial goals and how defining an absolute need vs. a want, or nice to have, can save your family budget! 

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Defining Needs In Your Budget

How do you define a need in your budget? A need would be any purchase absolutely necessary for you to survive. Shelter, food and water. In today’s world, because the majority of people NEED to work to survive, we can also put anything that allows us to work in the need category as well. This includes items in your budget such as transportation, daycare if you have children, and internet. Hello work from home life!!

Examples of needs in your budget:

  • Food and water from the grocery store
  • Gas
  • Mortgage or rent
  • Cell phone
  • Internet
  • Daycare
  • Insurance- Including Car, Life, Medical Insurances
  • Pet food

Defining Wants In Your Budget

How do you define a want in your budget? Well, wants would be anything outside of being considered absolutely necessary to live and survive. It would be any item, purchase, or payment that wouldn’t normally be part of a BARE BONES budget. If it doesn’t fall under the category of work, sleep, eat, or water, then it would be considered a want. And the excuse of I NEEEEEED that RV for my mental health definitely doesn’t count as an absolute need!! Sorry Charlie!!!

Here are some examples of a want:

  • Boat or RV
  • Secondary residence (if it isn’t EARNING you $ when you’re not there)
  • New clothes or shoes
  • Home décor
  • Small kitchen appliances such as an Instapot or a Kitchenaid Mixer
  • Eating out at a restaurant
  • Alcohol and cigarettes (yup! I said it!)
  • TV including all the subscriptions

Blurring The Lines Between Wants and Needs

Examples:

  • New tires for your vehicle
  • Pre-made meals from the grocery store
  • Clothes or shoes
  • A house
  • A car

When does your need actually become a want?

Your house and car are great examples of when your needs really, truly can become a want. There is a huge difference between buying a used, older $10,000 vehicle and a brand new $50,000 Lexus to get around and go to work. So often, we justify these purchases in our head by saying the more expensive vehicle has this feature and that feature and will be more reliable over the less expensive vehicle. And for that we are willing to pay $500 a month on a vehicle loan to buy it. We do that over and over with our purchases which lands us in debt. No matter what, if you can’t afford it, it’s a want, NOT a need. The vehicle is the need, NOT the luxury vehicle. On the other hand, if you can afford it (and know your budget numbers inside and out) you do you and go for it… but that still puts that purchase in the category of a want. The same goes for a luxury house. What you should be asking yourself is “Do I REALLY need this? Or can I survive with less?”

Groceries are another huge expense during the month. Personally, I have seen it first-hand myself and with others that this is the biggest category of purchases that get instantly justified. It can also get instantly out of hand $ wise throughout the month. Let me explain. A family trying to eat in more to save some money will justify the $10 pre-made dinner in a bag from the grocery store. The frozen isle is chock full of these meals. The to-go section of the store is also FULL of yummy, delicious heat and go meals. *I’m looking at you Wegmans!! You delicious meal money sabbotager you! * While you may be saving money per meal, per person, you certainly aren’t winning the eat at home, save more money game. Buy the fresh green beans, make home made mac n cheese, and grill up some chicken and save yourself a couple bucks.

When does your want actually become a need?

On the opposite end of the spectrum you will have times when your wants BECOME your need. What do I mean by that? Well, consider you have a truck that gets you to and from work. It would be nice to get new rims and tires to make it look pretty. But is it a need? NOPE! Over time, your tire tread will get low. So maybe now it’s time to replace your tires with new for safety reasons. In my book, this purchase of tires becomes a need. Of course you may have to budget for this purchase, but if you are aware they are getting worn out, you may be able to sock away the money over a month or two. This would avoid going into any kind of debt to make the purchase.

How about new clothes? On a random Saturday afternoon if you happen to be going to the mall and find a pretty blouse on sale, this purchase probably doesn’t warrant being labeled a need. (Even as much you say “I NEEEED to have it!). However, if the last time you bought socks was 6 years ago and your toes are popping out the front of them….it MAYYY be time for some new socks. Dude, just go and buy yourself some dang socks! I’m going to go ahead and label that purchase as an absolute need.

How To Use the Needs vs. Wants Budget Worksheet

Giving yourself time in between seeing an item and purchasing that item is the best way to fend off any purchases that you will regret later. Use this FREE downloadable PDF Needs vs. Wants Budgeting Worksheet to keep track of all the items you have your eye on! Write in the item, cost, date you saw it, and if you consider it a need or a want.

7 Days –> 7 days is the magic number. If you see an item you want to purchase, wait 7 days. If the urge is still strong think about whether the purchase is an absolute need. Or is it a want? Will the idea of spending the money make you happy? Will the item make you happy? Are you interested in the item because you can get it for a great “limited time” deal? If any of these questions rings true, you may want to hold out another couple weeks.

30 Days –> At 30 days, evaluate your feelings (and don’t forget your budget!) about the purchase. Are you still thinking about it? Dreaming about it? Do you think you may regret your purchase or just don’t have the moolah right now? See if you can hold off another 60 days. Not only does it give you more time to mull over the purchase, but it will give you time to save for it if you want. Your investing your time and your budget into this item- your placing value on it.

90 Days –> At 90 days after initially seeing the item, do you need it or want it? Have you saved for it? Does your budget allow for it? If you still want the item, have budgeted and saved for it, then go for it. I mean CLEARLY you have your heart set on it and will value your purchase! No room for regret here! Great job holding out and sticking true to your money goals!

At the end of 7, 30 or 90 days, you may find you don’t need or want that item anymore. Consider that an ultimate win! At the end of your Needs. Vs. Wants Budget Worksheet, add up the cost of the items you didn’t purchase. You just saved yourself that $ by not buying into impulse buying! THIS is the way you stick to your budget!

Steps For Budgeting Wants and Needs

  1. Create a budget for each month or paycheck. Check this one out! <Insert etsy store listing>
  2. Download the wants vs. needs budget worksheet and stick in a prime location so you can see it often.
  3. Fill in the worksheet with items you would like to purchase as they come up. Categorize them as needs or wants.
  4. Wait at least 7 days before making the purchase.
  5. Wait 7, 30, or 90 days- evaluate the purchase at each stage of the game to see if you have changed your mind.
  6. If you still feel strongly about the purchase, budget for it in your budget spreadsheet to make sure you aren’t going into debt if you buy it.
  7. Total up all the items you ended up not purchasing over the course of your Needs vs. Wants spreadsheet.
  8. Celebrate your budgeting wins!!!

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