The Difference Between Wants and Needs

It can be tough for kids to understand the difference between wants and needs. Even if you’re talking about money with someone mature and logical, it’s challenging to discuss it. Teaching your children the difference between “desire” and “need” when it comes to money might be even more difficult. Making the connection between the toys your youngster thinks they need and the electricity your home requires isn’t always straightforward.

Strictly speaking, saying “no” is essential to educating youngsters that they can’t have everything they desire (even when it’s reasonably priced). Kids need to know that you’ll take care of them. Their financial futures will be enhanced if they learn to distinguish between necessities and wants early in life.


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You must clearly understand what constitutes a need and what constitutes a wish before engaging in discussions with children. Distinguishing between necessities and desires has become increasingly difficult in the modern world. Study after study demonstrates how different we now define requirements from wants in the age of technology.

Do you, for instance, require a smartphone? The ability to contact for assistance in the event of an emergency, on the other hand, may make having a phone a necessity. And if you run a business that requires you to have a phone to make enough money to meet your basic needs, then you’ll need one. Many people can get by without a smartphone, however.

Needs vs. WANTS: A comparison

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A “desire” could be defined as anything other than food, shelter, and clothing to make things clearer. For example, Oreos are a type of food, yet they’re not necessary.

As a “need,” an RV can provide shelter, but many other options are less expensive and more practical. A $200 pair of pants is overkill for keeping warm and protected. This duality is difficult for children and teenagers to grasp at this stage of their lives. Explanations and exercises tailored to the student’s age group can be beneficial.

Discussions about the Shopping Cart

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Your child may be ready to learn more about the difference between “wants” and “needs” by the time she reaches kindergarten, assuming you didn’t address the issue when she was a toddler and kept asking for the things she saw in advertisements. This is a good exercise for your child if you routinely go to the grocery shop with them.

Let them handle the grocery list if they can read it and point out the items they need. Ask your youngster if the item is necessary or a desire as you shop.

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If something isn’t on the list, it’s a desire rather than a necessity. There’s a need for laundry detergent because it’s on the list. Ice cream is not on the list, so it’s a want. When they’re a little older, you can also discuss price points.

For instance, the vanilla ice cream is on sale, but the rocky road ice cream seems so good, but it isn’t. The vanilla flavor would have to be replaced with a rocky road. For example, if you’re saving up money for a rare item, you’ll teach your youngster about making sacrifices to receive it.

List It Out

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Using scissors, you can encourage your child to think about what they want vs. what they need. A stack of magazines and a piece of paper are all needed for this task.

Label one side “desire” and the other “need” on a paper divided by a horizontal line. Talk about the items your child has picked for each category once they’ve cut them out. Your kids will learn that adults, like children, have desires they can’t always fulfill.

Expenditure Analysis

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When your youngster has mastered the fundamentals of addition and subtraction, you can work together to create a fictitious home budget. Fake money and an expense list for needs and wants are given to the participants.

Rent ($500—it’s only an exercise!), groceries ($50), gas ($20), and the cost of a car payment ($200) could all be on the list, as well as things like video games, cable TV, a smartphone, and fashionable clothing. This will show them that it is impossible to get everything you want when necessities have been covered.

Affording their Desires

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By allowing your older children and teens to pay for their wishes, you may teach them the fundamentals of what they need versus what they want. Reward good behavior by giving a small weekly reward for work well done. Permit your adolescent to purchase anything they desire that is not a need. The cost of new clothing, a movie ticket, and a pizza party with friends should be paid for entirely by them.

To learn about budgeting, your youngster will need your help. Identify the things they’ll want during the year—like a prom dress, spending money for a family vacation, and new basketball sneakers—before starting this project. Set a goal for how much they need to save each week to be prepared for such expenses.

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Afterward, let them decide what else they want to spend their money on. Don’t give them any additional money if they make the mistake of spending it all on the day they get it. In the future, they’ll remember that they missed out on an outing with friends or were unable to make an impulse purchase.

Make sure they understand that it’s a want and that she’s perfectly capable of living without it. In addition, she’ll get useful financial knowledge that she can use for the rest of her life.

Don’t be afraid to say “no.”

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It’s difficult to say no to your child’s requests, but giving in to their every whim will not benefit them in the long run. Overindulging your youngster may lead to materialism, which has been linked to lower happiness levels and depression in adults.

Sometimes answering “no” to their requests will help them realize that they don’t need the stuff they’re asking for. Children who understand the distinction between desires and necessities are happier and less likely to complain about their circumstances. You’ll also have a better chance of raising a child that grows up happy and financially responsible.

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