Our society almost conditions us to redefine our wants as needs. That’s the power of advertising and store displays. Life is a walking infomercial. How many times have you walked into the store to buy one simple thing and walked out with a cart full of things you “needed”? And with all of our available credit, it so much easier to buy more and more. It’s up to us to distinguish between wants and needs—and to fight the intense power of instant gratification.
Here are some simple tips on how to do this:
- Leverage the power of the Amazon Prime Cart. The only store I really go into now is the grocery store. I buy most of my non-grocery items on Amazon Prime. Toiletries, household supplies, gifts, books, you can find everything on Amazon. If I think of something I “need”—either because I just used the last of it or because it just popped into my head, I put it in my Amazon Prime cart—and I wait. If, a few days later, I still feel the need for it, then I will buy it. As a special bonus of this process, I save time and money. You can even set-up (and earn a discount on) “subscriptions” for certain goods you restock frequently—saving even more time and money.
- Invest time in planning—so you know what you really need. Whether at work or at home, investing the proper time in planning will save you time and money in the long run. When you don’t have a plan, it’s a lot harder to avoid unnecessary purchases. You buy extra things for what “may” happen instead of buying specific things that will help you get to your end-goal. Whether you are planning for a family vacation or a specifically-themed team retreat, if you know what you’re doing and where you’re going, you can buy items that specifically align with that purpose.
- Take a picture—it lasts longer. I learned this tip from a friend who says that his wife takes pictures of things she wants—and that satisfies the needs of wanting those things. It really works–especially with kids! It’s amazing. When my kids start begging me for something that they see, I take a picture and tell them that when it is their birthday, a holiday, or another special occasion, they can look through all the pictures and pick the items they want the most. They have even learned to ask me to take a picture of something instead of whining and begging. This tip has another magical effect—the act of taking the picture often serves as the instant gratification of the want itself. To-date, my kids have never asked me again for any of the things we took pictures of.
These three simple tips are easy to implement, and yield big savings in time and money. Try them for a month, and let me know if they help you better distinguish the difference between want and need. And if you have any other tips—please share!