What Is The Main Distinction Between Wants and Necessities?

What Is The Main Distinction Between Wants and Necessities?

Gaining command of your finances requires, first and foremost, an awareness of your spending.

When you are making a monthly budget, one of the most crucial steps you need to take is classifying your spending as either a “need” or a “desire.” Doing so can help you allocate your money more effectively.

It is also one of the most difficult tasks because different people have different definitions of what constitutes a need versus what constitutes a want. It is also easy to confuse wants with necessities if you have grown so accustomed to having them that it is difficult to imagine life without them.

Find out how to make a better budget by putting your spending into two groups: “needs” and “wants.”

Key Takeaways

The items that one absolutely needs in order to function properly, such as a roof over one’s head and food on the table, are referred to as needs.

Things like entertainment and gym memberships are examples of wants rather than necessities because they are lovely to have but can be done without.

Some of the items you buy may appear to be necessities, but in reality, you are simply satisfying your desire to have more than what is required.

When creating a budget using the 50/30/20 technique, you leave room for not just your needs but also your wants, in addition to your savings.

When Compared to Needs, What are Wants?

Filling out a worksheet for budgeting requires you to assign each purchase you make to one of two categories: needs or wants. This puts your spending into two groups: those that you need for your health and well-being (needs) and those that you want but doesn’t need for your health or well-being (wants).

You might also hear “necessary” or “fixed” spending used to describe necessities, whereas “discretionary” or “variable” expenses are more likely to be used to describe wants.

Some Instances of Need

Your necessities, the things that are important for maintaining your health, and the things that are important for you to be able to do your job are all examples of needs. These might include:

  • Rent or mortgage?
  • The cost of utilities
  • Medical attention and treatment
  • Medication
  • food
  • Dress code at work.
  • Commuting

Wants Examples

Things that you choose to buy but that you could get by without include things like:

  • Entertainment
  • Dining out
  • Purchases of real estate
  • Travel
  • Electronics
  • Memberships or subscriptions that are paid on a monthly basis are
  • Streaming services for music or television.
  • brand-new garments

Wants are not always bad in and of themselves. They are enjoyable, and they frequently make it easier to achieve key goals, such as remaining in touch with loved ones, having fun, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, neither your survival nor your well-being is dependent on their presence.

So-Called “Needs” That Are Actually “Wants”

The line that divides wants from needs can be difficult to discern at times, which can make it challenging to determine which kinds of expenditures belong to which category. There are end number of possible explanations for this.


How and why you utilize something is a big factor in determining if an expense is a need or a want for you. If you run a business out of your house, you probably need to have internet access at home. On the other hand, having internet access at home is a want rather than a need if you solely use it for leisure purposes, such as checking social media or playing video games.

Split Expenses

A portion of the cost can be regarded as a must, whereas another portion might be regarded as a luxury item. The urge to eat creates a necessity to pay the grocery bill. However, if you also buy things like chips and soda in addition to your vegetables, protein, and whole grains, then some of the things you buy fall into the category of wants rather than requirements.

What Course of Action Will did You Take?

Sometimes the category of the expense is a necessity, but the exact option that you choose within that category is a want. This happens when you have a choice between two options. 

For instance, having some form of the phone so that you can talk to your family or coworkers, place an order for your prescription, or get in touch with your landlord is probably a requirement for you.

On the other hand, all of those things are possible with a flip phone that costs twenty dollars. If you decide to get a new smartphone for several hundred dollars, then that additional expenditure is immediately a wish.

It is not necessarily a poor decision to go with the alternative that satisfies a desire rather than a requirement. One example would be making the decision to spend more money on organic food because you believe it to be the morally superior option.

But there is a choice involved. If you have a better understanding of which costs are optional and which are not, you will be better able to construct a budget for your home.

Is it a need or a want to save money?

If your finances are tight, it may be tempting to cease contributing to your savings account or other long-term financial goals, such as the following:

  • Reserves for unexpected events
  • Getting rid of debt
  • Retirement funds
  • Insurance on one’s life
  • Disability insurance

This purchase is not something that can be considered an imminent necessity, it feels more like a want. Even if you don’t save any money for the future or build up an emergency fund, you should be able to make it through this month.

However, you should also consider saving money and getting out of debt to be needed because these are investments in your long-term financial and personal well-being.

It’s possible that you don’t require certain things right now, such as life insurance, for instance. However, if something unexpected happens to you and you die suddenly, it will undoubtedly be necessary for your family to pay for your funeral or provide for your children.

Reducing one’s debt and increasing one’s savings should be regarded as necessities. Planning for your long-term well-being should be prioritized alongside the payment of other necessary expenses, regardless of the amount of money that you put away each month—whether it be $10 or $10,000.

If you want to be motivated to achieve your financial goals, some financial gurus suggest that you put off less important needs like rent and food until after you have saved enough money and paid off all of your debt. This concept is commonly referred to as “paying yourself first.” 

The Rule of 50/20/20 for Budgeting

Your spending will be broken down as follows if you employ the 50/30/20 budgeting system:

  • Your requirements should be met with 50% of your after-tax income.
  • About 30% of expenses go toward gratifying wants.
  • Twenty percent is set aside for financial planning and debt repayment.

Due to the fact that expenses are being split out in this manner, purchasing expensive bread and milk or signing up for a Netflix subscription is perfectly acceptable. The 50-30-20 budgeting rule of thumb states that you should spend 30% of your after-tax income on things that bring you joy.

If you give each of your desires a monetary value, you can avoid going into debt due to overspending and keep your spending in check.

Becoming more conscious of how money is being spent is essential to successfully manage a budget. This gives you the ability to spend within your means while also ensuring that your spending is in line with your beliefs and the things that are most important to you.

Changing How Much You Spend on Wants

When you need to reduce your spending in order to save money, the easiest and most obvious place to start making changes is with the things that you want. 

For instance, you might decide to cancel your membership at the gym and instead start jogging around the neighborhood as a form of exercise. However, the fact that something is required does not necessarily mean that the cost cannot be negotiated.

For instance, if your monthly rent comes to $1,700, you can cut costs in a number of ways, including the following:

  • Relocating to a more compact flat
  • Taking in a boarder or lodger
  • Moving to live with family for a short period of time

Or, you might have a daily commute that requires you to get to work, but rather than spending money on parking and petrol, you could save money by doing one of the following:

  • Walking
  • Taking public transit
  • Sharing a ride to and from work with a fellow employee or a neighbor
  • Biking

Your needs will most likely consume the largest share of your financial resources, particularly if you adhere to the 50/30/20 rule. By reevaluating the nature of your requirements, you can frequently make the most significant adjustment to your monthly spending.

Questions That Are Typically Asked (FAQs)

What exactly is a budget?

A strategy for your expenditures over a specific time frame is what’s known as a budget. Your income should serve as the foundation for your budget, and it should be designed to help you spend less money than you get in. 

A significant number of people include other objectives, such as reducing their debt and saving for retirement, in their budgets. You can create a budget using either paper, a spreadsheet, or a budgeting tool on your smartphone or tablet.

What exactly is a budget that starts from zero?

In a budget with a zero-based starting point, all of your revenue is allocated to cover your expenses. It is designed to make sure that every dollar you earn goes toward a certain goal, such as reducing your debt or putting money away for the future. 

People who use a budget based on zeros will divide their savings into distinct categories, such as money set aside for unexpected expenses, veterinary bills, home repairs, auto repairs, vacations, and so on. This will eliminate the need for a general savings category.

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