Are you able to distinguish between wants and needs

What amazes me very often is what people think as ‘basic necessities’. For the sake of this post – let me analyse three spends of people that people claim are ‘needs’ and I wonder why:

  • Spend on Personal Transportation.
  • Spend on Anniversaries/Celebrations.
  • Spend on Latest Smartphones/tablets.

Personal Transportation: Going by a Black cab in London, a Taxi in Manhattan or an Auto in Madras – all are now considered ‘basic necessities’. Mind you, these are not the well-heeled socialites shuttling between appointments, these are normal people (just like you and me) going about their day to day life. Looking deeper there is a sense of entitlement in these seemingly “practical”, “every body does it” type of day to day activities.

Undoubtedly, there are a variety of situations when taxis make absolute sense – where not using taxis is false economy or is outright foolish/dangerous. The real question is how often are these situations? Is there an option to take a combination of walk, bike, share-a-ride or take a cheaper public transport that was clearly written off in the name of comfort?

This underlying argument can be used on all ‘premium modes’ of transportation – air, train or taxis equally. The underlying characteristic is picking an expensive transport option and justifying when there are other trade-offs available.

If a need for a taxi (or a premium mode of transport) is frequent or the norm, rather than the exception it probably means only one thing – the sense of entitlement is too strong.

Anniversary/Celebrations: This is clearly another scenario where emotion hijacks reason… and the difference between ‘basic necessities’ and excesses blur.

When people spend when they are happy, there is a marked tendency to over spend. You have seen the splurges all too often before marriages or maternity. The sense of optimism generated by the happiness or the occasion tends to make people stretch far beyond their reach. I am not questioning this tendency to stretch during genuine happiness/anticipation; what I am referring to here is our ability to create shallow “Anniversaries/Celebrations” too often.

One can commonly see justifications like – This is my 5th Anniversary, I need to book a seaside resort vacation in Maldives or this is my daughter’s 9th birthday, I need to give her an iPad!

Clearly, these events give us an impression of things ‘happening’ in our life. New photos, status updates – It happens to all others and we see that in Facebook, don’t we?  It costs a bit, but surely, we are entitled to these..!

Latest Smartphones: The marketing guys in phone companies must be laughing their way to the banks! Interestingly for them, smart phones are now used by everyone – the rich, the poor, the old, the young, the employed, yet-to-be-employed, the toddlers, the infirm – everyone.

Any problems? Absolutely not, they do satisfy people’s needs! However the real question is should you upgrade a smartphone every time (or nearly every time) a new model is available?

There may be many reasons to change the current phone – it is slow, scratched at the edges, has low memory/slow processor, has low end camera – but it still works doesn’t it? And it is probably better than your previous phone by a mile! So why should you still upgrade? The real reason you want to upgrade is not probably any problem with the old phone or any cool feature about the new phone – it is to get the “visible sense of upgrading something” in your life. You are after all entitled to good things in life right? Of course, upgrading anything else in a lot of hard work, so why bother?!

Okay, picked a few random expenses and have said that they are all due to sense of entitlement, so what?

Well, if there is a confusion between ‘basic necessities’ or ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ – it is probably because of your heightened sense of entitlement! Animals are smart enough not to assume anything, they go about their life meeting their needs as best as their surroundings allow. If you want to clearly see the difference between a ‘need’ and a ‘want’ – try challenging the belief that the world owes you something :)

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