Distinguishing between “Wants” vs “Needs” is so easy, even a 9-year-old can do it

Distinguishing between Wants vs Need

“Hey pa, I got a perfect score!” my son proudly exclaims while greeting me as I come in the kitchen door next to my garage. I just got home from my long commute from work.

“Great job! I’m so proud of you.” I replied, barely looking into the piece of paper he was eagerly handing to me. I’m not really in the reading mood when I’m hungry. All I needed was food in my tummy, and probably some relaxation time. I also wanted to eat a piece of that leftover pumpkin pie my wife bought at Costco.

It was only after dinner while sorting through some stuff did I notice what the test was all about. And I was pleasantly surprised– it was to rate my third-graders’ ability to distinguish his wants versus needs.

This led me to think of the following…

If a nine-year-old can perfectly tell the difference between needs and wants, how come many people are still living paycheck to paycheck?

It’s easy to blame Corporate America and the media. Every day, we are bombarded with advertisements that make us want more and more of what we don’t really need. This coupled with the abundance of credit made available to North American consumers fuels what already is a strong desire to consume more.

But we have only ourselves to blame for letting ourselves succumb to spending money we don’t have. It’s one thing to desire more than what we need– that’s human nature. It’s another thing to buy that thing on credit just so we can keep up with the Joneses.

Instead of buying that $400 laptop required for college, we end up spending three or four times as much just so we get something that has a fruit logo. We end up financing a brand new mini-van when a baby is on the way when all we needed is a dependable car seat. We end up going to expensive vacations just so we can impress friends on social media.

Don’t get me wrong, being accepted socially is also a need. The problem is when you try to fill this need ahead of others that are more important. If you ever studied Abraham Maslow’s well-accepted “Hierarchy of Needs” theory in high school, you’ve learned that the need for “belonging” is only third in line.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Vector illustration credit: vecteezy.com

The physiological need of having nutritious food to eat, clean water to drink, enjoyable sex, and perhaps a decent toilet to poop into, which are all vital to survival, naturally comes first. One’s safety and security, including being healthy and having a stable income or employment, and sound overall finances are second.

And the only way to get to the very top tier of “self-realization” (so one can fulfill one’s own potential) is to satisfy every tier, starting from the very bottom– in that particular order!

The perversion of this hierarchy, resulting in messed-up priorities, is the root cause of many people’s money problems today.  Straightening these priorities can fix most problems.

Start by learning how to distinguish your needs from your wants. If my nine-year-old can, so can you.


Maslov’s placement of “sex” at the bottom of the pyramid would seem to justify prostitution or at least the cost of prostitution. I have also read articles that by placing security of body above sex in the hierarchy of needs, Maslov is justifying rape.

Great post but I (and many others) disagree with Maslow on sex being in the bottom line. You can continue to live – and happily – without sex in life, and that’s not just for the monks in a monastery, although they do it. The other things on the bottom line will literally kill you if you lack them, Lack of sex will not.

You definitely have a point there. It’s probably because humans are by nature sexual beings. Sure, you can live without having sex with another person. But still, you may need to satisfy that urge through masturbation (or other means???). There are studies that conclude that people who are sexually active (either with a partner or solo) are healthier. Men who masturbate often have a lower risk of having prostate cancer, for example. Women who delivered at least one child have a lower risk of having ovarian cancer. So one can argue that the need doesn’t really go away.

If enough people do not have sex, the human race will go extinct. At least it would have in the days before test tube babies. In Maslov’s time, sex was a necessity for survival of the human species.

“You can continue to live – and happily – without sex in life…” If that is the case, then why don’t more people abstain from sex? There is a strong instinctual need for sex to perpetuate the species. It wasn’t Maslov but another sociologist who I cannot recall that characterized human instincts as “the Four F’s” – feeding, fleeing, fighting and sexual reproduction (sometimes politely referred to fornication).

I think it is fair to say that without sex for an entire lifetime, most human beings would be driven to distraction to the point where they are not happy. I was joking in my earlier post but prostitution is not called the “world’s oldest profession” for no reason.

Where I am on Long Island it is crazy how many people confuse this very simple topic! The car thing is probably the biggest money suck for most people


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