What Are The Differences Between Needs And Wants?


My mentor, Karen McCall, says, “A need sustains you and a want entertains you.” This is one of the most important distinctions I have learned in my own financial recovery. This piece of financial education is essential to aligning your values with your bank account.


to strengthen physically or mentally, help, support, encourage, assist, hearten, preserve and nurture


to provide with amusement, feed, divert, delight, cheer, charm, occupy, play, please and absorb

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I think you get the idea. And, your personal list may look vastly different from mine and it’s okay if you disagree with my categorization. Some people’s wants are other people’s needs. What does matter is that you are aware of your own habits and tendencies around spending so that you can have peace of mind and experience integrity with yourself, your partner, and your bank account.

I encourage my clients to envision their ideal lifestyle and I am all for abundance. Money coaching is about teaching people how to remain connected to their long-term goals and their daily finances at the same time. We want you to be clear about your intentions when you do shop, invest, loan money or make other financial commitments. It’s important to maintain an ongoing list of needs and wants for your life at home and at work. This way, if you feel flush, have time to shop, receive any form of sudden money (reimbursement, gift, bonus, inheritance, etc.) you can review your lists and see what you truly need to take care of in order to sustain yourself.

Each month, when we plan and adjust your monthly and annual spending plans, I remind my clients to prioritize and ensure their needs are met first and when appropriate, to sprinkle a few wants in there too. Some people even plan for certain sums of discretionary or frivolous money to spend each month. The bottom line is that awareness and accountability are paramount to experiencing truly guilt-free spending, having a healthy relationship to money, and preventing (gulp), “I shouldn’t have.” Next time you see, read or remember something that grabs your attention and screams, “Buy Me!” I invite you to pause and ask yourself, “Is this a need or a want?”

This is a post by NY Money Coach, Carrie Birgbauer. Carrie is a member of Moven’s Financial Wellness Community.

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