Needs and Wants

The Rolling Stones wrote a song:

“You can’t always get what you want (but you get what you need)”.

They weren’t singing about consumer debt at the time, but if they had been, it probably would have gone something like this:

“You can’t often tell what you need (but you get what you want)”

Why is it so important to know what you need, what you want and the difference between the two?

Well, we at All Money Matters believe that knowing your own personal needs and wants and being able to recognise the differences between the two is at the core of the cure for credit card cancer, financial mis-management and sabotage.

First, we must get a feel for what “needs” are and “wants” are. According to Pia Melody, a leading expert in the area of co-dependence and addiction management, needs are what one must have to survive and be healthy.

They include:

1. healthy and nutritious food

2. adequate and appropriate clothing

3. comfortable and pleasant shelter

4. physical nurturing (including touch & hugs)

5. emotional nurturing (including good friends, being able to share without fear of judgement or criticism, being validated for being real, not wanting others to “fix” you or your life).

6. dental and medical attention

7. sexual information and guidance

8. financial information, education and guidance – YES this is a recognised NEED and how often is this one met?

So let us now look at “wants”. Well there are little wants and big wants (desires).

Little wants are preferences – we don’t need those things to survive, but when we choose to include them in our life, they bring us that extra joy.

Wants are the cream, the icing on the cake. For example, “I want to eat out at a good restaurant”, or “I want a new Armani suit”.

Big wants or desires, give our lives direction and focus and result in a sense of fulfilment and achievement. For example “I want to be a Doctor” or “We want to start a family”, “I want to write a book”.

Where to from here?

We invite you to take the first step.

1. Identify your needs in some detail using the list here. Take the time to write them down and sit with them. Revisit, review and revise them over the ensuing months.

2. Identify your wants in some detail. Go through the same process as with your needs.

Keep those two lists readily available. When you next feel like spending, first look at them and ask “Will this spending fill a need or a want?” STOP! THINK! Is spending that money really necessary and/or appropriate? CHOOSE your actions rather than reacting automatically!

Incorporating this process into your day-to-day money management will help you maintain balance and bring joy and fulfilment into your life.


Jon Paul Miller is a Director and full-time coach with All Money Matters. Jon Paul does 1:1 consulting as well as facilitating Groups. For more information contact or visit