New Year’s Resolution: Understanding the Difference Between Wants and Needs

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On December 31, 2014, Posted by , In Money Matters,Our Voice, With No Comments

When people ask me what my New Year’s Resolution is going to be this year, a lot of things come to mind. I think about putting away my rent money so that I can’t spend it before its due, spending less money on lattes and trying to save a little more over the course of each month. To do those things, though, I need to understand (and be reminded daily about) the difference between wants and needs.

Needs: Things you need to pay for in order to have food, shelter and security.

Basic right? A first grader could tell you that definition. Realistically, the things that I need to pay for right now include (nutritious) food, rent, utilities and my retirement savings (which is the ‘security’ part). Also, someday I’d like to get a car. If I spend my car savings each month on concert tickets, I’ll be a permanent pedestrian. Needs always come first. Then I can start thinking about my wants.

Wants: Things you don’t need for survival, but that are really nice to have or be able to do.

No one ‘needs’ a pumpkin spiced latte. There has never been a ‘need’ to Uber when you can walk. But there’s no need to deny myself those things in moderation. As long as my needs are paid first, (and I’m paying attention to my spending) there’s no risk of spending my water bill money at Starbucks.

Anyone who has ever dieted can tell me that resisting my wants can be harder than it sounds. I just have to keep reminding myself everyday: It’s ok to spend on my wants, as long as my needs are already paid.


Laura is a recent graduate of Boston University with degrees in Marketing and Psychology. She has worked with College CFO since its inception, helping to build the website and coming up with initial strategy. She now manages day to day operations and marketing. As someone who’s travels abroad have often pushed her budget past the limit, she understands the value of financial literacy well. She hopes that her work with College CFO will empower other college students to become their own chief financial officers.



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