Learn the Difference Between Needs and Wants
It can be difficult to learn the difference between needs and wants when you’re used to having a little flexibility in your shopping budget. When that flexibility disappears suddenly and you have to cut back your spending, identifying needs and wants becomes crucial. This is a great exercise for children and teens to do with you.
It’s true that frugal living can cut your shopping expenses dramatically, but the decision always lies with you, the frugal homemaker, to say what’s really needed. These easy questions can help get your mind discriminating as you distinguish needs vs. wants. Take this list with you to the grocery store (or during other types of shopping) to have a reminder of your temporary focus on need items.
11 Questions for Needs vs Wants Shopping
For Grocery Shopping
1. Would I put back the milk and get this for my family instead? If you answered yes, you must really NEED it! Milk is such a basic necessity and ingredient in most families that using this as a comparison will likely give you a Need vs. Want decision pretty easily.
2. Is this a healthy food? Healthy foods are needs. Junk foods, prepared foods, sugary desserts, and convenience foods are wants. Under this rule, fast food drive-thru will always make it to the want category.
3. Can this be used as an ingredient to cook a healthy meal? Doritos and diet soda, for example, may be items you want, but they won’t help you cook a casserole for dinner! If you can’t use an item as a healthy ingredient to prepare meals for your family, just say no.
4. Can I substitute something I already have in its place? Do you need to buy jarred sauce or could you make sauce from ingredients you already have? Do you need to buy sour cream for a recipe or could you substitute the plain yogurt you already have?
5. Is this something that can wait until later? Do I really need to buy a cake mix now for a birthday party that isn’t for three months? Probably not! Just because we’re thinking about something right now, doesn’t necessarily mean we need to buy it now.
6. If I go home without this, will things be okay?
For Non-Grocery Shopping
7. Can I substitute something I already have in its place?
8. Can I borrow it from a friend, family member, neighbor, or library? Things like books, magazines, and newspapers can be borrowed instead of purchased for huge savings. Find frugal friends who are willing to share and trade all kinds of things, even trading clothes outgrown by your kids.
9. Is buying this item brand new a need? Will buying it used still serve the same purpose? A thrift store, garage sale, or second-hand dealer may have just what you need at a fraction of the cost. (Example: Used sports equipment for kids can usually be found at a second hand sports store for cheap, then sold back at the end of the season.)
10. Do I have enough of these already? This works great for clothing shopping. If you have enough socks, jeans, or shirts, another one probably isn’t a need.
11. If I don’t buy this, will things be okay?
You may have noticed that #6 and #11 are very similar. The bottom line when determining needs vs. wants is simple: if everything will still be okay without the item, it’s probably not a need. Learning the difference between needs and wants is a skill that will serve adults and children alike in many different situations. Danelle Says: Make smart choices between needs and wants to save your money and control your budget!