Control Your Inner Child: Needs Vs Wants

Brent Pittman —  10/03/2012
crying kid

I WANT IT! Can you control your inner child?                   Credit Vermin Inc

I was walking down the isle and there it was. Bright. Shiny. Got to have it now. The inner struggle began:

A “It’s not in the budget”

B “That’s O.K. I just won’t eat for a week.”

A “We don’t need X, it’s just a luxury.”

B “You’ve worked so hard though, you deserve to have something nice.”

The inner dialogue continues until either the child wins and you march to the front with the purchase in hand or the adult takes control and leaves the store without making an epic budgeting mistake.

Have you been there too?

Needs vs. Wants

This might seem like an elementary discussion to have, but in order to win financially you have to differentiate and prioritize needs and wants.

Let’s be honest, needs aren’t very sexy or fun, but they have to be taken care of. Utilities, rent/mortgages, groceries, gas, etc are part of life and must come first.

The four walls: If you’re in a financial crisis, these might be all you can afford to pay. Housing, food, transportation, and utility payments must be protected before other debts or wants are purchased.

Wants are the impulse buys at the checkout stand and the flowers given ‘just because’. Wants have a place in your budget, but they won’t keep you on track to achieving your financial goals if you give in to them too often.

Tame Your Wants

Your wants are like an elephant driven by a tiny rider. They can be controlled for a while, but when the elephant is ready to go somewhere–the rider only holds on for dear life.

Give the elephant a peanut.

Trick and tame your wants by having a set amount each month for “blow money” or “mad money.” In your budget plan for wants and impulse buys. .

By giving in to the elephant in small amounts, you’ll keep him on track doing the heavy lifting. Even $5 a month in your envelope system is enough to keep the wanting elephant from running rampant.

These peanuts won’t be small forever. As your income increases and debt decreases, you’ll be able to increase the amount of blow money.

Control your inner child and tame your wants–your financial goals will thank you.

How do you control wants? Do you incorporate blow money into your budget?  

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Brent Pittman

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Brent is a financial coach and writer looking for the perfect donut. He believes personal finance should be both fun and accessible to anyone willing to learn.
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  • Learning to avoiding impulse purchases takes practice. And discipline, like Barbara mentioned. Yes, I agree a little mad money is essential to helping anyone stick to their guns over the long term. In our family, I’m famous for enacting what I call “self-imposed poverty guidelines.” I’m good at sticking to a virtually no-spending plan, but it drives everyone else crazy, so I have to build in some fun money for them. 🙂

    Just last night I wrote about a simple phrase that I use to keep myself from spending money unnecessarily. http://www.whatmommydoes.com/five-words-that-will-save-you-thousands/

  • Practice and discipline. Like any habit, say no to yourself enough and it gets easy. (Just make sure not to go overboard and eliminate all treats 😉

    • I’m a big fan of of a little mad money each month.

  • When you have a plan (a budget) it helps you to change your internal conversation. When it’s right there on paper, staring you in the face, it forces you to make a decision as to whether or not to stay committed to your plan. Your plan helps you be more accountable by keeping that internal dialogue going instead of ignoring the financial situation altogether.

    I have a new post up today on the same subject. You have to let your higher frontal brain (the adult) win out over the more ancient part of the brain (the child). It’s entitled “Eliminating Your Debt Forever by Telling Yourself a Different Story”

    http://www.cfinancialfreedom.com/CFFwordpress/eliminate-debt-telling-story/

  • I have a wants category in my budget and a lot of it just continues to pile up. I guess I have become pretty good at saying no to the child inside me.

    • I saved months of my clothing envelope money for new shoes…2 years later that money is still sitting there. I think we both need permission to spend.

      • I could agree with that. It is a better problem to have then overspending though!

  • AverageJoe

    You and Roshawn Watson both used the term “blow money” in the last week…and it just sounds like you’re in a certain old Al Pachino movie….

    I have that going right now. There’s a certain thing that I want right now (I’m pretty sure I’ll rarely use it), and it’s only $20. I actually have this in my allowance, but even still, the “want” vs. “need” monster battle is raging. In cases like this I usually mentally fight over it for 24 hours. If I still want it the next day (which is RARE), I’ll go ahead and buy it if it’s in the allowance.

    • Let us know who wins out. Hey, if it’s in the budget I say go for it, unless you have better uses for the money.

  • krantcents

    Discipline helps! I grew up only getting what I needed and had to wait for some of my wants. I waited because I had to save for the wants. It had a material effect on me.