Credit Card Debt, Emotional Competence, Financial Literacy

How to Handle The “I Want’s”

How To Handle the I Wants | www.TheHeavyPurse.comA young child having a tantrum because their parents refused to cave to their “I wants” isn’t an unusual sight. But what about adults? Do we magically stop “wanting” once we become adults? I don’t think so. While we may have outgrown tantrums, we don’t always handle our grown-up “wants” much better than we did as kids.

As kids, we couldn’t wait to become an adult who couldn’t be overruled. We imagined a future where we never had to tell ourselves “no” and could buy ourselves whatever we wanted. Some of us outgrew those beliefs, while others of us learned the hard way that buying everything you want isn’t the right answer either. Let me show you a better way to handle the “I wants”.

It’s Normal to Want Things

Let me dispel a myth right away: A financially responsible person no longer wants things. Wrong. You are always going to find things you want and that is okay. Because some people believe that “wanting” is wrong, they react with guilt or shame, especially if what they want may be viewed as frivolous or unnecessary by others. Please don’t beat yourself up or make your kids feel guilty for wanting things either. There is nothing wrong with wanting things.

The truth is wanting something isn’t the real problem. It’s how you respond to wanting something that matters. How do you react? Apologize and feel ashamed? Buy it out of defiance? Or save for it and buy it with joy? What sort of an example are setting for your children?

Two Questions to Help You Manage Your Wants

To help you determine whether something that catches your fancy is something you truly want or momentary want, ask yourself the following two questions.

Are You Feeding an Emotion?

When you find something you want, the question you need to ask yourself is: “Do I really want this or am I feeding an emotion?” Money is emotional and fear, anger, frustration and boredom have caused many of us to make poor money decisions. As children, our emotions may have caused us to kick and scream when Mom and Dad said “no” to us, but as adults, we hand over our credit card and say “yes” to ourselves. In order to avoid this, you have to take a step back and assess your “want”. Is it truly something you want or a band-aid for something else?

If you are feeding an emotion, acknowledge whatever emotions you are feeling and figure out a more proactive way to handle them, putting you back in control, rather than your emotions. Now you can walk away from the item without regret. And if you are not feeding an emotion, then you know it’s something you truly want and can go onto the next step.

Where Does It Fit into Your Overall Goals and Priorities?

Sometimes an item is inexpensive and can be purchased with discretionary income. Other times you need to save for it and have to decide whether it’s worth saving for. To determine this, ask yourself: “Will this bring me closer to or further away from achieving my goals?” or “Is this worth delaying achievement of my goals?” or “What can I do to earn money for this?” – such as selling old items on Craigslist or eBay, having a garage sale or finding a side hustle. Your answers determine whether you save for it or walk away. It’s not often that I find something that is more important to me than my goals. But because I took the time to recognize the importance of my goals, I don’t feel deprived when I put the item back on the shelf.

“I Want” from Childhood to Adulthood

I would also encourage you when you find something you want when you are with your kids to not internalize this process but share it with them. Ask the questions out loud and answer them, then ask your children for their opinion. Let your children see that “wanting” is normal and see you honor your goals.

And remember—just because you find something you want or like doesn’t automatically make it a goal. Sometimes it’s enough to acknowledge you like something, but not enough to make it a priority. We admire and appreciate it, but don’t feel compelled to have it or feel deprived that others have it and we don’t. This is a great lesson to embrace as an adult and pass on to your children.

Shannon

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Comments

  1. Monday, October 28th, 2013
    Good post Shannon! I think sharing what you're thinking through is huge in terms of helping your kids. Not only does this help them begin to see what it's like to process these things they see that we all deal with what to do when we have a want. That said though, I think your point of how you respond is huge and so many miss that. If you respond with logically thinking through it and where it'll put you then you're likely going to be well ahead of the game, generally speaking.
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 28th, 2013
      Thanks, John! I agree it's so important to share with your kids your thought process instead of always internalizing it. Otherwise how we spend our money can seem really arbitrary or it may appear as thought we buy whatever we want. :) If we can respond to our wants with logic, rather than emotion, we are in a much better position.
  2. Monday, October 28th, 2013
    Sorry but this reminds me of this great Seinfeld bit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZWRPhdVFlY

    Like you say, it's only natural to want things. It's actually nice to want certain things. For me it's all about understanding our real long-term goals and then creating regular habits that conform to those goals and avoid the common situations that cause people to give in. That's all easier said than done though. Those spur of the moment wants still come up and it can take some work to re-focus and align that want within a bigger context.
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 28th, 2013
      LOL! I love it! It's too bad we don't have unlimited money the way we have unlimited appetites. :) I agree wants can be incredibly motivating when seen through the lens of goals, rather than satisfying an emotion or instantly gratifying a need. For me knowing what I truly want, makes it much easier to not give into the temptation of momentary wants!
  3. Monday, October 28th, 2013
    Excellent post, Shannon. I actually am dealing with a decision that really falls in line with this. I want the new Surface 2 tablet, but do I need it? I can't decide. I don't want to get it simply because it looks fun or cool, I want to get it because it will provide value in my life and make my life easier. I also want to make sure that it fits into my long-term goals. Wants never go away, but I do think they mature and thankfully we second-guess our wants a lot more as adults!
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 28th, 2013
      Wants definitely do mature, DC and financially savvy adults, like yourself, do take the time to make sure their wants are real and worth the investment. Tough call on the Surface 2. They do look nice! :) If it's for your blog or work, it's can be a business expense, right?
  4. Monday, October 28th, 2013
    I never thought we should stop wanting things or lose joy in our lives. Just as you wrote, asses your wants and see if it's really something you do want. If so, work towards it. Being responsible with money doesn't mean losing any joy, it means managing better your wants and the real needs.
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 28th, 2013
      I agree, Dojo! Being responsible with money means that you do spend your money joyfully because it's on the things that you truly want. A lot of people spend money on things that mean very little to them and they end up feeling guilty. But like you said, when you save for what you want, it feels good when you can buy it.
  5. Monday, October 28th, 2013
    We use to buy things we wanted without putting much thought into it. Nowadays we talk about items a lot more and try and figure out how they fit into our lives. We actually do a lot of research before buying big ticket items and make sure that we can afford them and that we will in fact get good use from the item instead of the novelty quickly wearing off and then it collects dust.
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 28th, 2013
      That's great, Sicorra! It's actually kind of fun to do some of that research since it's so much easier to do these days too. :) Sounds like you and your husband have made some real positive changes together and it probably makes buying those big-ticket items a lot easier, knowing that it's a good investment.
  6. Monday, October 28th, 2013
    This is a great reminder to be more "mindful" when you say "I want." It is amazing how much we can adjust behavior by just taking the time to think about why we are doing it. And having a conversation with our kids while we are having an "I want" moment is a great way to help us and them!
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 28th, 2013
      Absolutely, Shannon (great name, by the way!) So many times we do think unconsciously but when we are more mindful of our words and actions - it forces us to think about why we are doing something and hopefully make better choices. Showing our kids that we "want" things too and how to handle them is a powerful lesson. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
  7. Monday, October 28th, 2013
    I have the habit of being an emotional shopper but at least I recognize it in myself. Just yesterday I was in the brand new Dick's Sporting Goods here in my town and I was REALLY wanting to buy something. I looked at this dri-fit Nike sweatshirt that was AWESOME but the price tag of $75 shook me back to reality and I realized that this sweatshirt does not fit into ANY of my goals or priorities, especially since I have 2 like it at home already.
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 28th, 2013
      Most of us have emotional shopping triggers and it's great that you recognize that you can be an emotional shopper. Shopping and/or spending money can feel like an addiction where you do get a powerful urge to spend. I'm glad that you can take a step back and assess before you buy something you don't need or maybe already have! :)
  8. Monday, October 28th, 2013
    This sentence really hit home: "A financially responsible person no longer wants things. Wrong." It kind of seems like Buddhism in a way, in that someone who practices isn't uncaring or doesn't feel emotion, but just processes it differently. In a way, controlling the wants is just a different way of thinking and assessing the value/priority, rather than just buying without thought. I admit it's something that's still a work in progress for me, but I think over time it will get easier (at least with the whole catching the emotions/assessing priorities process!).
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 28th, 2013
      Absolutely, Anna. I see a lot of guilt and shame in people who have overcome debt because they think they shouldn't "want" anymore. "Wanting" was never the problem but satisfying every "want" without thinking about where the "want" fits in their life is. This is a work in progress for most people. I have to watch myself too but it does get easier. :)
  9. Monday, October 28th, 2013
    I feel fairly fortunate because I just don't seem to want a lot. And, whenever I do want something, I usually find that I wouldn't want to take care of it anyway or that I don't really want to pay for it deep down.
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 28th, 2013
      That's definitely a good place to be in, Holly! So many others have the exact opposite problem. :) But you know who you are and what you want so you know when to say yes or no when something catches your attention.
  10. Monday, October 28th, 2013
    Hi Shannon,

    When our financial situation changed so did my mindset about buying things I wanted but it took some time to learn.

    Just because our financial situation changed didn't mean I stopped wanting things. Sometimes the urge comes even harder when I can't afford it. :)

    I learned how talk it out before I make a purchase. I ask myself do I really need it, is it worth spending money on. Before I know it, I'm empty-handed.

    Marisa will tell me "get it mom, you deserve it" but I explain what I'm doing and how I can use that money for other things we "need" and she gets it.

    Great post Shannon! Hope you're having a great Monday!
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 28th, 2013
      I love it, Corina! I find when you take that step back and really think through whether you want something, you often found out that you don't or you want something else more. I think it's wonderful that you're talking through it with your daughter too. The "I deserve it" mentality is something that gets so many of us in trouble and it's fantastic that you're helping her see a different and better way to look at how she uses her money.
    • Saturday, November 2nd, 2013
      If I paid attention to every time she told me I deserved something we'd be in a lot of trouble :). I'm glad Marisa is learning too. I always tell her I don't want her to make the mistakes I did.

      Hope you're having a great weekend Shannon! Thanks for sharing this with us!
    • Shannon
      Sunday, November 3rd, 2013
      LOL! I think we'd all be in a bit of trouble if we let our kids convince us to buy everything they or we needed! Although sometimes it would probably be fun, until the credit card bill arrives. :) It's fantastic that you and Marissa can have these talks and you are so open with her about your past mistakes. It definitely makes a difference! I hope you had a great weekend too, Corina!
  11. Monday, October 28th, 2013
    Spending to feed an emotion...that was my problem early on in my adult life. I would get upset and go spend to make myself feel better. It felt good in the moment...it didn't feel good when I received the monthly credit card bill.
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 28th, 2013
      You are not alone, Brian. So many people are emotional shoppers and don't even realize it. They spend because they think they "deserve it" or to fill some void but that high doesn't last long and often turns to regret when the credit card bill comes. I'm glad you're wiser now. :)
  12. Girl Meets Debt
    Monday, October 28th, 2013
    I could definately relate to this post! I used to have a very immature attitude towards my "wants" - basically I never said NO to myself. Now I know that as much as I want a new pair of boots this fall season, last year's pair will work just fine. :)
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 28th, 2013
      You've come a long way, GMD! Last year's boots will work magnificently and now you can keep watching your student debt disappear. :) I know you're doing a great job of balancing enjoying life with being responsible and it feels pretty darn good - I bet!
  13. Monday, October 28th, 2013
    I like the idea of wanting in front of a child but then saying that you have to save up the money first before so the child understands.
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 28th, 2013
      It's a powerful lesson, Mr. CBB. From a child's perspective, it can really look like we can buy ourselves whatever we want, when hopefully we are actually making very thoughtful purchases! This way they can see that Mom and Dad want things too but they figure out first if it's something they truly want and if it is - then they save for it. Now they have something to emulate.
  14. Monday, October 28th, 2013
    My wants these days all seem to be travel related. I want awesome experiences and stuff doesn't seem as important as it used to. I think I satisfied my I wants for so long that it kind of got old, and the price was to high. I'm sure there will be something I feel the need to have right away at some point. Hopefully, I can rationalize and decide if it's really something that justifies the cost.
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 28th, 2013
      I'm with you, Kim - most of my wants are travel-related too! We love to travel and experience new places and cultures. I do think after awhile "stuff" loses the allure it had when we were younger. I have no doubt that you'll find something that piques your interest but you'll know whether or not it's truly worth spending your money on.
  15. Monday, October 28th, 2013
    Well put Shannon! I'm so much better at waiting on buying things I want to make sure it's the right decision...and understand why I'm purchasing it. Not everything maybe, but the big stuff.
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 28th, 2013
      Thanks, Tonya! It feels good when we know that things we're spending our hard-earned money on are the things that we truly want. Glad you've gotten to that place. :)
  16. Tuesday, October 29th, 2013
    This is a really interesting perspective Shannon. I love the point about it being 'okay and normal' to want things even as adults. I don't want anywhere near as much as I used to but there are times when I feel a pang of the old 'I wants'! My daughter isn't quite there yet thankfully with this wanting stage but I'm sure it will come. It's good to know how to approach it!
    • Shannon
      Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
      Thanks, Hayley! "Wanting" is normal and some people feel very bad because they do still want things. I agree that as we mature our wants mature and lessen as well. We tend to prefer experiences over material things, but even then, we still need to save before we say "yes". I'm glad you'll be able to show our daughter how to handle her "I wants" when she gets to that stage.
  17. Tuesday, October 29th, 2013
    Great post!

    I have had to train myself to CALMLY WAIT whenever I find myself wanting a purchase.. If I continue to rationalize why I need to have something after a week or so, and I can find a way to fit it into my budget.. Then I go for it.

    But you would be surprised how often waiting a few days can just cause the urge to spend to pass.
    • Shannon
      Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
      Thanks, Jefferson! Isn't it amazing how sometimes giving yourself a little time and distance can make that urge to spend disappear? It happens to me too. I agree that if it's truly something I want, I will figure out a way to fit into my budget too and feel good about buying it.
  18. Tuesday, October 29th, 2013
    I really want a nice long sleeved running shirt to wear for the marathon on Sunday. I've been justifying it to myself by saying I DESERVE it (cause I'm running 26.2 miles) and I really NEED it (cause the weather is really getting chilly). So far I've managed to quell my desire.
    • Shannon
      Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
      Those "I deserve it's" are tough. We deserve to live a great life but believing we "deserve" everything we think need or want can actually prevent us from living that great life. It can be hard to separate the two at times. :) It's great that you've been able to quell that desire since you probably have something else that will work in its place or can borrow something from a friend. Good luck on your marathon, Stefanie!
  19. Tuesday, October 29th, 2013
    Great post! I think it's important to share with our kids what we are thinking and wanting. I also find myself telling my kids that each person has different "wants" when I see them telling each other not to "waste their money" on certain things. We all have different goals, and different wants!
    • Shannon
      Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
      Very true, Leah! We have to respect that fact that what may not be important to us and thus a waste of OUR money, may actually be quite important to someone else and good use of their money. The only we can focus on is ourselves and our goals.
  20. Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
    "When you find something you want, the question you need to ask yourself is: “Do I really want this or am I feeding an emotion?”

    You are right Shannon. I am someone who has overcome emotional shopping, and it's not easy. I wish this question had been floating in my head when I was in the throes of this.

    Great post Shannon :)
    • Shannon
      Thursday, October 31st, 2013
      It's definitely not easy overcoming emotional shopping. Most people don't even realize they do it and those temporary highs feels good. I'm glad you recognize those tendencies in yourself and taken back control. :)
  21. Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
    Another spot on post here Shannon.

    I don't want for much anymore and as you know I don't have children to have to worry about these issues. I've never been someone who was always in style with my clothes or had the latest gadgets. I'm so behind the times it's not funny.

    I see commercials for the latest new gadgets but those things aren't something that I feel I have to have in order to do things everyday so they aren't important to me. What I have works just fine.

    I don't even want to travel a lot anymore. Maybe at one time in my life but I don't know. I think I'm just so settled and comfortable. Guess that's a good thing right!

    ~Adrienne
    • Shannon
      Thursday, October 31st, 2013
      Thanks, Adrienne! It's great that you who you are and spend your money in manner that reflects that. Many people aren't comfortable in their own skin and spend a lot money trying to become they person they think they should be. Just like it's okay to want and save for those things, it's equally okay to not really want anything either. :)
  22. Thursday, October 31st, 2013
    Shannon, I just love how you said that sometimes we feel guilty for wanting stuff. I struggle with that SO much!! It's getting better now, but it can be a very damaging emotion to deal with. Thanks for an awesome post.
    • Shannon
      Thursday, October 31st, 2013
      Thanks, Laurie! I see a lot of guilt in people who are overcoming debt because they still want things. Guilt is a crippling emotion, in my opinion and people working hard to eliminate debt don't need that distraction! Wanting never goes away (and honestly figuring out your true wants can also be very motivational) but it's our response that matters most - to our pocketbook and the example we set for our kids.
  23. Friday, November 1st, 2013
    I think my mindset really changed when I got tired of the clutter. I realized one day that we had so much "stuff". Things put back in closets/cabinets/drawers, that we never used. Things I forgot we even had. So I don't generally buy things just because I want them (except, shoes - LOL) anymore. If I see something I think I want, I'll wait for awhile, and really think about it. Sometimes I realize the want is really strong, if so, I'll go back in a few weeks or so and get it. More often than not, though, the "want" I felt when I first saw it has left. :) Great post!
  24. Friday, November 1st, 2013
    Very true – "just because you find something you want or like doesn't automatically make it a goal". You need to make it a priority or really want to want it :) When you start listing and planning out your wants, at least I find, that there are some wants that you deemed to be important, that aren't really that important at all. Great article!
    • Shannon
      Friday, November 1st, 2013
      I agree, Anthony! Some things that catch my eye don't seem very important after I consider my other goals. It's still nice but not goal worthy! :)
  25. Friday, November 1st, 2013
    I like including your kids in your thought process. I think if I asked those questions out loud to myself I'd buy less of the things I want so I can focus on what I need to do ...like paying down my credit cards :/ Great tips!
    • Shannon
      Friday, November 1st, 2013
      Thanks, Arelis! I think it's so important to let kids see your thought process. Otherwise from their perspective it looks like we buy whatever we want, when hopefully we actually making mindful choices. This process has definitely prevented me from making emotional decisions.
  26. Susan Neal
    Friday, November 1st, 2013
    The trouble is, clever marketing is all built on the fact that we buy things with our hearts, not with our heads - so we need to be equally smart in the way we respond to it. It's a challenge!
    • Shannon
      Friday, November 1st, 2013
      Agreed, Susan! They spend a lot of time figuring out how to get us to respond to their marketing efforts. We need to make doubly sure that we're buying things because it's something we truly want, rather than our emotions overruling our good sense.
  27. Friday, November 1st, 2013
    If we can teach this to our kids it will help them throughout their lives. A very important lesson!
    • Shannon
      Sunday, November 3rd, 2013
      Agreed, Maggie! The earlier we learn how to handle our "wants" the better off we will be. Those wants get so many people in trouble. It's an important lesson to teach kids (and adults) and can make huge difference in their financial well-being.
  28. Sunday, November 3rd, 2013
    Oh yes, the "I want" syndrome! Especially tough with kids around - there's always an "I want" in the house. Most times when I see something that is an "I want" and not an "I need" or isn't on my shopping list, I will make note of it, and then walk away for at least a day, longer if it's a big ticket item. That has saved me from lots of unnecessary purchases - by the time I get home (or go back online the next day) I get my head wrapped around why I wanted that item, and do I really "need" it. This has saved me quite often from those impromptu purchases. Except at the grocery store! Gotta stop grocery shopping when I'm hungry.
    • Shannon
      Sunday, November 3rd, 2013
      It always surprises how much a little distance and time can take a "want" from a must-have to something we no longer need. Instant gratification or impromptu purchases feel so good at the moment but more often than not, we later regret the money we spent. It's great that you have a system in place to help curb those desires! And yes, grocery shopping when hungry always means a few extra items end up my cart too. :) I guess a hungry belly trumps everything. LOL!
Shannon Ryan SHANNON RYAN, CFP®
  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan
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