From young children shouting “I want” to grown-up “I wants”, wanting has a bad reputation. But has it earned that reputation? It’s true that buying everything we want mindlessly can get us into trouble, but wanting itself is not actually bad. It’s human nature.
Nevertheless, people still feel bad when they want something — practical or frivolous, although the differentiation between the two may vary from person to person. Do not feel guilty because you want things. That is not the problem. It is our response to our wants that matters. This is why I’ve taught my daughters to learn how to respond properly to their wants, rather than respond emotionally or mindlessly to them.
First, we need to define what constitutes a “want”. Merriam Webster defines wants as:
The truth is wanting isn’t the problem – how we respond to our wants is what gets most of us into trouble.
Wants are normal but left unchecked, they can also lead to substantial debt. Here are a few reasons why we succumb to our wants.
Facebook feeds have become synonymous with brag pages. Filled with updates from friends, family members and co-workers who share pictures from their latest vacation or shopping spree. We don’t want to miss out or be outdone, so we spend money to “keep up” and update our friends with all the exciting things we do and buy.
Spending money increases endorphins in many of us. When we have a tough day or experience a set back, we spend money to feel better and/or reward ourselves. We tell ourselves that we “earned” it or “deserve” it to justifying buying wants.
It’s easy to spend mindlessly when our money doesn’t have purpose. Knowing what we truly want, makes it so much easier to identify those emotional wants that can lead us to significant debt when we get in the habit of always fulfilling them.
It’s easy to believe that wants are evil or bad and dismiss them, but again, wanting is normal. And I would argue necessary.
I see things that I like or want every day as does everyone. So trying to never want anything is an exercise of immense frustration and ultimately failure. And it’s unnecessary. Wants help us identify the things that matter, so don’t dismiss your wants as being superficial or a failure on your part to be frugal. If we don’t know what we want or what matters – how can we create that life? Or make decisions that help us achieve our best life? We can’t.
Wants play a powerful role in creating the life you want for yourself, which is why we must learn how to respond properly to our wants. And fear, guilt or shame is not the best response. It is very difficult to truly build a healthy relationship with money when you have so much fear and guilt associated with money.
I was taught money was a gift and want you to see it the same way. To eliminate those fears and doubts around your wants and replace those emotions with confidence and clarity.
There is nothing wrong with wanting. I repeat – there is nothing wrong with wanting. Do not judge yourself (or others) poorly for wanting something. There is nothing wrong with you. The trick is being able to tell the difference between a true want and an emotional or temporary want that can lead you to spend money unnecessarily. The best way to differentiate is to ask yourself, “Do I really want this or am I feeding an emotion?”
You must be 100% honest with yourself and do not feel ashamed or bad if the answer is feeding an emotion. Instead be proud that you caught yourself before you spent your money mindlessly on an emotional want. Many of us have been conditioned to satisfy our emotions through spending. You are breaking the habit, which is something to celebrate, rather than mentally berating yourself for wanting something.
We live in a world where we have the ability to instantly gratify our wants and doing so has become increasingly common. We adopt a YOLO mindset and live in the moment. We forget to consider how or if these wants fit in with our other goals first, which is our mistake with wants. We need to have a proper plan to assess our wants to truly determine whether it’s worth your hard-earned money.
It begins with setting goals to use as your measuring stick or barometer against wants. When you do find a new want, slow down, then compare it against your goals. How does it fit in against your other goals? Perhaps, after careful consideration, you realize it is such a low-priority want that you move on without regret. Or maybe you decide it is something you really value, even above some of your previously set goals, now you can prioritize it appropriately and save for it.
One reason people mistrust their wants so deeply is because they worry about falling back into old habits and going back into debt. Just as you will always find things you want, money mistakes will still happen. I don’t say this to make you feel badly, but to alleviate a bit of pressure off of you. We don’t always realize how our past money mistakes affect our financial confidence.
Some second-guess or doubt their ability to make good decisions, especially with wants. They almost give themselves a complex over them. Please don’t. Mistakes will happen. What matters again is your response. Don’t allow yourself to wallow or berate yourself for your mistakes, but take immediate action to correct your mistake and move forward.
When you have a healthy relationship with money, you realize you can’t stop wanting things but you can control your response. And most importantly – you trust yourself to respond properly.
How do you respond when you find something you want?
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When we live our lives on a wing and a prayer we may tend to buy whatever catches our eye, whether we need it or not, and whether we even end up using it or not.
When we have a plan or goals for different areas of our lives we will question ourselves before buying something we want, and if it doesn't fit in well with our plans then there is no good reason to buy it.
I used to buy a lot of things out of impulse and it used to get me into debt, but now I just wait 24 hours and realize maybe that pogo stick is not a good purchase.
I avoid those "I deserve it" phrases because you're right it only feeds into the bad kind of wants. And like most of us here, I can get lost in Pinterest looking at all the things I want!
If there is something I truly want I think about it and see if it's something that would be useful I can justify buying it. But if there's no reason for wanting it other than just because, I just don't buy it.
Great post and tips Shannon! Happy Tuesday!