We all want. We all need. The concept of want vs. needs has roots in the dawn of civilization. Early man ‘wanted’ food, shelter, and matches to light the grill. However, since backyard bar-b-que-ing wasn’t invented yet, early man resorted to ‘needing’ to create fire first. Thus, born out of human desire to evolve we have hence forth carried the burden of want vs. need.
A child may want the latest over-priced, over-marketed, over-inflated tennis shoes to wear. Utterly convinced life as they know it will cease to exist, and the new girl won’t notice them if they don’t show up at school sporting a pair. Yes, parents have fought the battle of want vs. need against raging juvenile tantrums for generations. Assuring their thirteen-year-old the world won’t end if they don a pair of New Balance instead of Reebok. Except, as far as their awkward teen is concerned, it just did. Thus, begins the struggling misguided relevance of want vs. need.
Children want practically every new toy they see advertised on television. It’s brightly packaged, does amazing things at the touch of a button and even glows in the dark. Who wouldn’t want one? Dickens, I simply wanted a Ken doll because my Barbie doll needed a date. Never got one, so Barbie dated my brother’s GI Joe. (It only lasted till Joe wanted a new Barbie. Go figure.)
Then as my daughter grew up I repeatedly explained the difference between want and need. She, like so many of her peers, wanted everything she saw marketed in flashy ad campaigns. I hated to break it to her but our name wasn’t Rockefeller, or Kennedy, or any other name ending in a string of zeros. We lived on what we needed: food, clothing, shelter. Not what we wanted, a new Jaguar, a mansion in Beverly Hills, and a checkbook with enough room for ten digits. Oh wait…that was me. She wanted Mall Madness (shopping spree game), Polly Pocket and Barbie’s pink Corvette. (Basically, the same things.)
Thusly, as kids mature, the gap of discerning between what they want, and what they need, grows concurrently. Perpetuating the confusion. Not surprisingly, as adults, driven by desire, we understandably purchase things we don’t need. Straining our budgets, maxing out our credit cards and remortgaging our homes just to own shiny objects with lots of buttons that glow in the dark. Sound familiar? It should.
Because, unless a discretionary income stream like Bill Gate’s does the purchasing, we, non-Gaters, end up with what we don’t WANT…bills…we NEED to pay for all the things we thought we needed just because we wanted them. Ah…the gray area where ‘want’ is confused with ‘need.’ It’s also the place we, as children, defended our desire. “But mommy, I NEED it!” we pleaded as we shamelessly begged for the collectible Alf doll. Hey, don’t laugh. I have an Alf doll. Not sure why I wanted it, but at the time I totally needed one.
Suffices to say, at some point in life it’s easy to succumb to the old familiar peer pressure of: our best friend has one, the neighbor down the street got a new one and we just received a raise, which means…we can get one now, too! Sadly though, as we pile on more things we want we lose sight of the basics (food, shelter, love, family) we need in the first place. A danger zone known only too well in bankruptcy and divorce courts.
Yet, if we strive to overcome our marketing induced childhood and purchase with the discipline of a mature, healthy, functional adult it’s easy to distinguish between necessary items we need, and all the items we simply want. Let’s face it, we all want things we don’t need. Exactly why, to keep myself focused I live by the mantra: I want a million in small bills. Um…I mean, I need a million in small bills.
“Can you imagine”…what Alf is worth today?
Smile, I know you want to!