Needs and Wants: Let’s Review the Critical Basics

by | Oct 23, 2020

Wants and Needs

Week 22: Needs and Wants: The Basics

Needs and Wants - Part 1

Things you must have to survive:

  • food
  • shelter
  • clothing
  • safety
  • healthcare
  • whatever else your family values determine
Needs and Wants - Part 2

Things you would like to have but do not need to survive:

  • everything else
  • these things are often still important for mental and emotional health
  • learning to differentiate is why families need to talk about it


Learning to differentiate between needs and wants can be very hard for both kids and adults. Too often we think of it as purely a financial lesson when we’re thinking about budgets. But there are also important nuances to consider in developing emotional intelligence as well.

There are a couple of scenarios where I see this as a really valuable family discussion.

  1. Before the frenzy of the holiday shopping season is upon us, take a moment to talk with your partner about how you want to approach things this year. Even in non-pandemic years, many parents struggle with wanting to buy ALL.THE.TOYS because in their minds that’s what must happen to have a happy Christmas.
    In a year when we’ve all been missing our usual comforts, it can be tempting to want to make up for it by going all-out during the holidays even if your budget isn’t that cushy. While yes, I believe presence is more valuable than presents, my goal in sharing this is not to shut down the economy or pooh-pooh your values. It’s simply to help you and your spouse/partner come to an understanding about purpose and intent way before crunch time.
  2. Needs and wants is not just a financial lesson. Savvy parents like you know that there are plenty of things like close friendships, alone time, a scum-free shower (me) that won’t outright kill you if you don’t have them, but are high-priority “wants” that need to be addressed.
    While in the strictest sense needs are universal to the human condition, classify things however you’re most comfortable. Talk about the important things in your life that you really NEED to have to feel good. Encourage your kids to do the same and reassess as everyone’s wants change over time.

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Somer Loomis

Somer is the Chief Content Officer at Raising Families living in Southern California with her husband and four-year-old son. She spent 10 years in the architecture field as a designer and medical planner and now applies her love of integrative thinking and big-picture planning to her family and career. Read full bio >>

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