How to Tell the Difference Between Wants and Needs: A Lesson for Today’s Adults

learning the difference between wants and needs

In this age of neverending consumerism, one question I hear over and over again is how our family of 12 manages to live on one incomeI’m going to tell you that it’s not easy, but it isn’t impossible.

I can’t begin to count how many times someone has expressed to me how much they’d love to stay home with their kids to homeschool but simply can’t afford it. I honestly think that most of their concerns are an illusion brought on by a society that highlights possessions over “less glamorous” things, like family. 

It wasn’t too far in the distant past that one-income households were the norm. They weren’t considered inconvenient; that was simply the way it was, and families were better for it.

1950s families ideal

Fast forward to 2017, and family dynamics have completely changed. Two-income households are now considered to be not only ideal, but necessary. Children are brought up by daycares so that both parents can work to support their family.

Some people are completely okay with this, but lately more and more women are stating their desire to stay home with their children. Unfortunately, our consumer-driven society has brainwashed them into believing that they could never afford it.

Very, very often, this isn’t the case.

One important lesson parents try to teach their children is how to tell the difference between wants and needs. Originally, it used to be food, clothing, and shelter, but our technological and materialistic world has altered that into a distorted image of what it once was.

It’s time we get back to basics and take a look at:

10 Things You Think Are Necessities But Really Aren’t

1. Having two or more cars.

(Keep in mind that I’m referring to families who either are or would like to be single income households.)

It just isn’t necessary. It isn’t hard to figure out how to run errands when the working parent is home. In cases of doctor’s appointments or other activities that can’t be missed, driving the parent to and from work is an option, and so is asking family or friends for a ride. Most will be happy to help.

I’ve heard many people say that since both of their cars are already paid for, keeping both of them isn’t an added expense. Really? I think filling up two gas tanks and paying insurance and maintenance for two cars most assuredly counts as an expense- and a large one at that.

2. Having a brand new car

I know many will say that new cars are more reliable, but there are many, many quality used cars available that can be purchased outright in order to avoid one more bill every month.

3. Going on vacation

vacations aren't a necessity

You might be surprised to hear that some people consider vacations necessities, but it’s true. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say they were behind on their mortgages because they’d been paying on their upcoming yearly cruise/vacation. I understand that we all would like to get away sometimes, but it certainly isn’t necessary for survival. I mean, come on.

4. Expensive extracurricular activities

In this era of overscheduling our kids, children who don’t have a myriad of sports practices and clubs to attend day after day are definitely in the minority. Sure, it’s nice to provide dance classes and karate lessons for our kids, but if it comes at the expense of a parent needing to work just to pay for them, it’s time to consider what the real cost is, and it isn’t just monetary.

5. Owning endless piles of clothing

expensive clothing not a necessity

Yes, I know- clothing is a necessity. But 136 shirts, 51 pairs of shoes, and 9 Fendi bags are going a little overboard. I’m going to admit, this used to be a difficult area for me. As a teenager, I was obsessed with fashion (my kids would laugh at me saying that as I sit here in an old sweatshirt and leggings…), but, thankfully, it didn’t take me long once I became a parent to realize that these things don’t come first.

I’m amazed at the number of Christian websites I come across that focus solely on fashion. It’s nice to look attractive for our husbands, but it shouldn’t be our main goal in life.

6. Eating out

Fast food restaurants have become a staple of the American family. They’re perfect for stopping for a quick bite between practices and games. Add it all up, though, and they are hugely expensive. Restaurants also take a nice chunk out of the wallet.

If you’re truly committed to living frugally, expenses like this have to be drastically cut down or omitted completely. And face it. It’s healthier.

7. Cable TV

Not only is cable extremely expensive, but most of the stuff they put on it is garbage. I’m not sure why so many people who are trying to cut costs insist upon having it.

8. Cell phones

This may shock you, but people have lived centuries without having a phone glued to their ear.

I’m serious!

Cell phones are very convenient to have, but they are by no means a necessity. And to be honest, wouldn’t it be nice to get out of the house and have some actual peace and quiet sometimes?

9. Large, expensive houses

keeping up with the Joneses

Again, it’s all about consumerism and wanting to keep up with the Joneses. If you buy or rent a house you can actually afford, that’s more money in your bank account. And remember- the bigger the house, the more your utilities and taxes cost.

It’s that simple.

10. Credit cards

Credit card debt is such a huge problem for so many people. Always keep this principle in mind-

If you can’t afford to pay for it now, don’t buy it.

You can’t miss what you never had, can you?


So remember:

Just because society tells you that living on a single income is hard, doesn’t mean it is. It’s simply a matter of shifting your mindset to focus on family, rather than things. It may take a while, but I guarantee you, it is so worth it.

Family always has to come first. Always. Remember that one thing, and you’ll be rich in ways you never thought possible.







Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

14 thoughts on “How to Tell the Difference Between Wants and Needs: A Lesson for Today’s Adults”

  1. All those are very true. I believe people should be honest about what they do want, that’s all of it. We forget it boils down to choices. Where to live, what to eat, what to do, how to get around, and in the end, what is it you really want.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Excellent points, Shelly. We have always been a one-income family (25-years now). Off and on, we have gotten by with one car, we have bought used cars, and we never buy new furniture or take vacations unless we have the money upfront. We’ve stayed out of debt except for our mortgage and my husband’s student loans which he was paying off when we first married, and reasonable car payments. We’re now debt free with the exception of our mortgage and we have savings to boot. The key is to live within one’s means.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I see this so much…. ads and what other people have do not ever determine what we need. I see so many people confused by this… It is amazing what we can do without… even things that are considered necessities by most people. Thank you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We could probably find a way to live with one car, but it would be a struggle. Hubby’s work is nearly an hour away and we live in the country. If I homeschooled it would be possible. Otherwise, I certainly agree with this list! People don’t like it when you tell them you avoid extras in order to stay home. I’m not sure why it offends them (I make those choices for myself, not them) but that’s the world we live in!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Such true advice! So many things considered essential are just a waste of money. We’ve been a single income family for almost 25 years. We did try only 1 car but found with distances where we live it wasn’t practical but, until recently, always purchased second hand. We’ve managed to pay off our home and raise 6 children (the last 2 still homeschooling) while never feeling we were missing out. Our children have enjoyed Scouting, music lessons and tae kwon do instead of i-pads and playstations. It’s all about identifying what is important to you and sticking with it. For those not sure if they could really survive, try banking all of 1 income and pretending for a while. Yes, you’ll need to take into account the added costs associated with employment but just go for it! Also consider what your profit margin from employment is. A friend once realised all her income went on cigarettes for her and hubby. They decided to quit smoking and she was able to quit paid work. Not only was their health better but so was family life. It’s all a matter of deciding what is most important to your family.

    Liked by 1 person

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