A fun way to frame the “want” versus “need” debate

by Nick on February 16, 2012

Back in the day I talked about wants versus needs as part of our “best advice ever” series.  Living in Hoboken, New Jersey and working in NYC I’m around my fair share of “fancy folks,” which probably doesn’t come as a surprise.  So pretty much on a daily basis I hear something stupid like:

  • You can’t send your kids to public schools! Really, why the eff is that?  I went to public schools.  “Why you so fancy?  If the schools are too dangerous, move.  If they’re terrible, move.  If you can’t afford to move, how the heck will you afford private school fancy pants?!?!  Don’t get me started on private schools (too late… here I go…) Stop obsessing with private schools!  First of all, they’re not always better than public schools.  Second, you can probably do more good for your kids after school and the weekends by actually parenting than a private school can do Monday through Friday from 7 to 3.  So try reading a freakin’ book with your kid after school instead of letting him play video games online and you… might… just… make… a… difference… (Don’t get me started on parenting… (too late… here I go…)  I’m not perfect for sure.  But don’t blame the poor teachers for your kids being brats!  They have them a few hours a day and need to watch like 20 or 30 of them.  You have them the rest of the time and only need to worry about yours!);
  • My kids need to go to “sleep away camp” in the summer.  What else are they going to do?  Um…… I don’t know, read a freakin’ book maybe!  (See a theme?)  It’s funny, the first time I heard the phrase “sleep away camp” was in NYC and I had no idea what it was… When I wasn’t in school I went to work with my parents and slept on a stainless steel shelf using a bag of potatoes as a pillow (seriously) or watched whatever channels would come in on a 13-inch TV using bunny ears..  Oooorrr… get this… I helped them work!  And I turned out just fine, thank you very much.  I’m sure your kids would survive without sleep away camp.

And my favorite, which I heard a while back in the office from someone who is probably too sexy for a renter when I mentioned that I’m looking to buy a simple house:

  • That’s not fair to your kids!  You need to get a nice house and should get the biggest house with the biggest mortgage you can possibly afford because you have a larger asset growing and your kids won’t want to bring friends over if you don’t have a nice house because they’ll be embarrassed or made fun of.  Wait, what?!?!  Really!?  Not fair?!  To my KIDS!?!?! Where do I start?  I only “need” a place for my family to be safe and call home.  I’d like for it to be “nice” but there’s no way my definition of “nice” is the same as yours fancy pants!  And one more thing.  If your kid is too embarrassed because your family lives in a regular freakin’ house then you raised a brat!  That’s a parenting breakdown.  Your kid didn’t learn what’s important.  Geez…

Wow… this post got angry haha!  Anyhow, it was precipitated by a Facebook status update I saw yesterday that got me heading down this path of anger…. specifically with respect to people’s warped sense of wants versus needsAnyhow, the status update seemed like a really fun perpective on the wants versus needs debate.  So I figured I’d post it here because I thought it might make you think twice next time you’re pulling out the ol’ Amex to buy those shoes with the red soles (ladies… you know what I’m talking about…) or that new set of Clevelands (right guys?)! 

If they don’t sell it at Walmart you don’t need it!

What do you think?  It’s not perfect but it makes a few good points and sticks in your brain a bit.  (As you can tell by the name of this blog I like “silly” but “sticky” phrases that point you in the right direction.) 

You might need clothes, but you don’t need Armani.  You might need food, but you don’t need Kobe steak.  And along the same line of thinking, even though they don’t actually sell them at Walmart, you might need a car (maybe not), but you don’t need a Lexus. 

It’s not supposed to be perfect!  You don’t “need” freakin’ video games, big screen TVs and things like that, which Walmart sells.  And you need a place to live which Walmart doesn’t sell (yet?). 

So don’t take it too technically and have some fun with it for what it is – a nice simple way to double check if you’re being too fancy…

How about you?
How do you tell if you’re wasting money by buying “too much” or “too fancy” of something, or just something you don’t “need”?  I’m pretty cheap, so my problem is I usually buy something to crappy and end up having to replace it too soon.  I need to work on that…

Until next time, put your credit card down and slowly step away from the mall!

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Image: David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Suter February 16, 2012 at 6:18 pm

Oh man, you definitely need to change place or people you work with.


I Am 1 Percent February 16, 2012 at 8:57 pm

Funny post! I am in the 1% of income earners in America, but didn't go away to summer camp and attended public school. I wholehardely agree with the theme in your comments…parents should think about parenting rather than push the reponsibility to a camp leader or a private school teacher.
My recent post The Road to 1%: My Story of How I Got Here


Kooz February 16, 2012 at 11:04 pm

Sleep-away camp is a weird phenomenon, and largely a New York thing. It's bizarre.
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Modest Money February 19, 2012 at 12:08 am

I would get quite frustrated hearing that kind of talk all the time too. Some people are out of touch with reality regarding what they really need. I guess that happens living in a big city associating with other people with a lot of money. They get into a certain way of thinking regarding money and how things work. I admit I used to be more that way with some unnecessary purchases, but I am working at improving that and have really cut back on my spending.
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JonRhodes February 19, 2012 at 11:04 am

Fully agree! We work more and more hours than ever before despite the fact that we are told that our economy is always improving over time. Why is this? I think it is because we are all increasingly conditioned into buying things we don't need, plus we also pay for things that used to be free or cheap. I used to be able to watch all the sport I wanted on TV for free, now it is also subscriptions with pay per view on top of that. People buy bottled water when in truth the water from the tap in most well developed countries is superior.

It is difficult now to afford the modern life of mobile phones, laptops,computer games, summer vacations etc. on 1 wage. We are working more hours and not parenting our kids because usually both parents work full time. We are sacrificing our lives for cash we don't need, all to help the big businesses thrive.
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Nick February 20, 2012 at 4:18 am

Haha, Suter! I have way too much fun blogging about them to quit… :)


Nick February 20, 2012 at 4:19 am

Thanks Iam1. Good to see how you rocked it the right way!


Nick February 20, 2012 at 4:20 am

I got some hate tweets about sleepaway camp! Also and e-mail… This is brewing into a pretty fun debate – I'm told there is going to be an I "heart" sleepaway camp post on a pretty popular blog next week. I'll be sure to highlight it here.


Nick February 20, 2012 at 4:22 am

Haha! I hear ya MM. I could always start a "stuff" my my coworkers say blog, too… Yep. There are lots of people making money around here, but also a lot of keeping up with the Joneses? Anyone know what the Joneses are up to lately?

Good to see you taking control of your money. It's amazing the difference a little focus can make.


Nick February 20, 2012 at 4:30 am

Ha! Thanks Jon! We're fortunate to live off of one income and have my wife home with our kids (although I work an average of 60 hours per week, so it's like having at least 1.5 jobs compared to back in the day, I guess). I know a few people, though, who want a bunch of fancy crap and vacations on one income. Sometimes you have to make choices and live by them! You know…. having cake and eating it too… mmm… cake…

Isn't it crazy how many products and services are "must haves" now that didn't exist 15 years ago? Apple is a great example of creating products and services that people blindly purchase. I better stop before I'm up yelling until 4am! :)


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