Convincing Yourself That a Want Is Really a Need – and How to Stop It

For my work purposes, I have a desktop computer and a laptop computer. The desktop computer is the central machine, with a big external hard drive attached to it to back up my files. My laptop is the machine I use when I’m not able to be in my office, and it just syncs all of the files I need with my desktop computer.

Both of these computers are PCs. I purchased them because the cost was substantially lower.

However, most of the software I use regularly functions much better on Macs, from image and video editing to the writing and programming environments. On top of that, my desktop machine has some ongoing hardware issues that cause the machine to crash once a day or so. I’ve thrown my hardware expertise at it and my conclusion is that the motherboard is at fault.

At this stage, it would be easy for me to convince myself that I needed to just migrate completely to a Mac-oriented setup. I have money set aside to pay for everything I would need for this migration, including hardware and software. I can make an incredibly powerful case for the switch when I lay everything out.

The truth is, though, that I don’t need it.

Right now, I’m constructing this post on my laptop without any problems. In a bit, I’ll do some basic photo editing on this very laptop, again without any real problems. I can access websites, update The Simple Dollar, and do all of my writing right here.

All of the key uses for a Mac setup revolve around things I might do, not things I need to do. That alone puts this move securely into the “want” camp instead of the “need” camp.

My cell phone? It addresses things I might do – make calls and texts on the go – instead of things I need to do. It’s a want, not a need.

Our television? It addresses things I might do – watching television programs or playing video games – instead of things I need to do. It’s a want, not a need.

In all of the cases I’ve mentioned above, I’m in a situation where I’ve convinced myself that something is a need when it’s really a want. That in itself isn’t a problem when I’m willing to recognize that these wants are keeping me from other financial goals.

The problem really is that so often, people in a financially tight position continue to believe that many of their wants are actually needs. They’ll drown in debt, but you’d better not even suggest that they lose their grip on their cell phone. They’ll go bankrupt, but they need that cable service. They can’t pay their credit cards, but they’re socially obligated to eat out three times a week.

Wants, not needs.

If you’re wanting to achieve a financial goal in your life, you have to be honest with yourself about what things in your life are needs and what things are merely wants. Are you able to eat? Do you have shelter? Do you have clothing to keep yourself warm? Are you able to get to work and accomplish your tasks there? At that point, your needs are met. Anything beyond them are wants.

“But life is boring without anything that I want!” If you’re willing to step back and look at what you’re actually desiring, you can find a lot of what you want for free or for extremely minimal cost. Hit the library and stock up on free DVDs, CDs, and books. Have potluck dinners with friends and family. Go out into your community and see what free things are actually going on (concerts, plays, talks, etc.) and what free things there are to explore (parks, trails, wandering walks).

Of course, I’m not saying you should never choose your wants. Instead, I’m merely suggesting that mindfulness about the abundance of things in your life that are there just to fulfill your wants can give you a powerful new perspective on how you choose to spend your money.

Just ask yourself if this thing you’re wanting to spend money on fulfills something you might do or something you genuinely need to do to survive. When you take that idea to heart, it becomes clear how deeply abundant our modern lives really are.

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