What’s the Difference Between Needs and Wants?

The pandemic has thrown families everywhere a real curveball to say the least. But social distancing doesn’t only present challenges. For example, a primary benefit of all the extra together-time, is the opportunity to talk with your children about money. If you only do this for 10 minutes a night for one week, your family will be able to exit the pandemic with money-smarter kids.

You don’t need to be an expert, or download an App. You only have to take some of the time you are already spending together – and make sure that your children are in possession of some simple facts. We promise, this can’t help but help them have a greater respect for your family’s hard-earned income. Do you have Grade School kids at home with you right now? At dinner tonight, consider discussing the difference between needs and wants.

At Gifting Sense, we spend a lot of time discussing money with children and parents. We know from experience that there are as many ways to spend as there are families. We know that everyone buys items they want on occasion (versus only items they need). And as long as a family isn’t putting themselves into oppressive debt, there is nothing wrong with that. The trick is to be able to know the difference between needs and wants and try only to buy the latter when they are within your family’s budget. Well now, even if a want is within your means, you may not be able to buy it, because only essential goods and services are readily available.

It’s never going to be easier to have the needs versus wants conversation; even the algorithms at online retailers are placing purchases into the “wants” category…You can order something online, but delivery schedules are being built around ensuring that essential goods get delivered first!

You know that kids can live without wants, so therefore their purchase can safely be delayed – but do your kids?

What have you missed most since the onset of social distancing? Did you used to eat dinner out once a week? Pick up prepared meals on your way home from work? Enjoy regular haircuts? Take exercise classes? Get some of your clothes dry-cleaned? What do the kids miss the most? Egg and Cheese Bagels after baseball practice? Nachos at the movie theatre? New running shoes? Those are often purchased in the Spring.

Discussing what everyone misses makes quick work of categorizing regular purchases into needs or wants. In fact everything that has changed about how we live our daily lives is highlighting the difference between wants and needs. That may seem obvious to adults, but it may be less so to children. So just talk about it.

Are your kids moaning about having spaghetti again, instead of “Friday Night Pizza”? Casually respond with the fact that you ordered pepperoni and mozzarella cheese from your online grocer, but the order couldn’t be filled. Describe how surprised you were that there weren’t even bananas during your once-a-week-allowed trip to the store – adding that you know your son or daughter loves bananas, and you already have them on the list for next week’s trip. And when you are talking about how you can’t even get all the groceries you want, the elephant in the room will be the fact that stores selling non-essential items, like earrings and basketball shorts, aren’t even open. In some small way, the pandemic is the ultimate free pass for parents because you can’t be labelled mean or cheap for denying requests right now. You’re being a responsible citizen for following the recommended Social Distancing practices. Take it and run – all the way to the proverbial bank.

The sole purpose of the needs versus wants dinner is to make sure your children understand that because you can live without the latter – their purchase can safely be delayed. Hang onto hope everyone. Let’s get through this thing, if nothing else, with money-smarter kids.

If you are interested in how children research the full value of a request or purchase (before they make it) at one of our in-classroom workshops, please click on the Green or Pink Buttons below. Of course, they can also do this at home!


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