As in “I need.”

What prompted this blog was watching an episode of Love it or List it on HGTV. The wife homeowner kept saying she “needed” a huge kitchen, and a much larger master bedroom, while the house was already over 3,000 square feet. The couple had one child and appeared to be at an age where more were unlikely.

She could have said, “it would be nice to have,” or “I really would like.” Instead to get what she “needed” the renovation budget was increased beyond what they said was already their maximum.

I have a car I dreamed about for literally fifty years beginning when I was eighteen. It took me until age 70 to obtain and I saved for ten years in a designated account. I have it, I am happy I have it, but I surely don’t need it. It’s a luxury and I treated its acquisition as such … after meeting other financial obligations and necessities.

The problem is when people can’t or don’t want to make a distinction among needs, wants and desires, necessity and non-necessity spending, immediate gratification and long-term goals.

Do we need to fill our shopping cart with soda and junk from the snack aisle, bakery or deli? Do we really need that new pair of shoes or any additional clothing driven by style and advertising? What about new golf clubs or an updated smartphone? A need?

Some people rationalize themselves into debt. Others are motivated by an unrealistic dream, like those who spend hundreds of dollars a year on lotteries. I’ve heard the rationalization that they do so because it’s fun, it’s enjoyable. Okay, maybe so, but at what cost? What are the tradeoffs these people come to regret?

2020 wasn’t much good as years go, but it was pretty great if you were an investor, even a little investor. If you had invested $1.00 in an S&P Index fund in January 2020, you would have $1.16 today. If you had invested $1.00 each month of the year, you would have even more.

2021 may be a good year to get those “needs” better defined, to reassess financial priorities, to get yourself into a pattern of saving and prudent spending for long-term goals – like more secure financial future.


  1. You’re taking a turn of phrase more seriously than it deserves. I recall my house hunting days (in 1994), and after being shown a dozen or so places by my real estate agent, I developed a mental list of personal criteria for whether I would seriously consider going way into debt to buy a place. One thing on my list was land — I didn’t want to be shown any more high-rise condo apartments. When I told my agent I needed land, I just meant that land was on my list. I didn’t mean that I would actually perish for want of land. If I couldn’t find a place I could afford with some land, I would have had to reluctantly revise my list of desiderata.

    In context, “need” for a house hunter means “need to be shown.”


    1. But you missed the point that in the example, they simply raised their spending level to get what was wanted but far from needed. I used the house example because Americans have the second largest homes in the world while family size has declined. A need or desire?


  2. You are swimming against the tide. I been preaching against Affluenza for years. The economy depends on consumer spending. Government policies and stimulus checks encourage consumer spending. Madison Ave advertisers market to you that your wants ARE your needs. Wall St is all to willing to sell stuff to you.

    Shows like Love It or List It don’t help. Those people want it all without paying for it. I need another 2000 sq ft on a $75K budget with all high end finishes, but we neglect basic maintenance and now our roof leaks and our HVAC system is shot. It also gets all done in a few weeks. It takes me a few weeks to get the permits and so you don’t change the plans or risk final the inspections because you didn’t revise the permits at a cost of another few weeks.

    I do tease my grandkids. Every time they get money for a gift, I offer to hold their money for a year. Give me that $10 for a year and I’ll give you $11 on your next birthday. Only the youngest (7 yr-old) has ever given it any serious thought. In the end, he kept his money.


    1. Instead of more toys we sometimes put money in a grandkids 529 plan. To let them know I made up a card saying what we did. One grandson age 5 told us he wanted a present not another coupon.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dick, you’re selling and positioning this all wrong. You should be making “gifts” by transferring assets to a Roth IRA account where the grandchild is the beneficiary. And, you should “present” (or market if you prefer) those gifts as ensuring the child will someday be a millionaire – assuming she/he learns about investing for the “long term”, recognizes the value of saving (assuming the past continues to be prologue), and that you have invested in their future (likely representing decades long after you are deceased).

        I’ll follow-up to explain.


    2. “The economy depends on consumer spending. …”

      Yes. But I’m not understanding what exactly you think the problem is, nor what you’d propose to do about it. Is our economy too strong? Would you like to reduce consumer spending and consequently weaken the economy? Is your remedy for Affluenza to limit affluence? Or maybe you’d like to make it illegal to spend on things you disapprove of.


      1. I’m not sure there is a solution to affluenza. However, it makes no sense for people to live beyond their means, to anticipate that the status quo will always remain in effect (my job will continue, my income will continue to increase, my employer will be successful, tax rates will remain unchanged (or decline), interest rates on debt will be less, my health will always be good, I won’t have significant medical expense, my children will be healthy and successful, etc.).

        We certainly got a wake up call in 2020 – the tens of millions of people who were unable to cope with the income and expense dislocation of the pandemic. Broke my heart to see people in cars lined up for food. And, the bailouts, the $1,000 and $600 checks, and the outsized unemployment benefits may allow many individuals to think they can continue the status quo – financial and spending habits unchanged assuming the vaccines are successful.

        That is, the “solution” some might seek may be a shift from “spending” to “investment” – building human and technological and physical and other capital, versus consumption. Such investments may enable a new, future cycle of spending/consumerism. People sometimes look at “investments in infrastructure” thinking that is what’s called for. However, too many times this is simply rent-seeking by individuals from government entities. You hear lots of people talk about “investing” in stuff, especially government bureaucrats, when all they are really talking about is increasing spending (“investing” in children, “investing” in climate change, etc.) a form of government consumerism.

        President Obama kind of missed the reality of it all when he told all of us in the private sector that we were not responsible for our efforts and outcomes – “you didn’t build that” – What he failed to note was that the investment those individuals made the risks they took (whether in dollars, innovations, effort, whatever), generated the revenues that not only made them successful, but created the tax revenues the government then used to build those roads, bridges, pay for defense, etc. That is, they may not have built that road with their own hands, but their taxes paid for it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s