Economics of Needs and Wants

An important part of economics, as we learned in lecture halls, is the distribution of scarce resources so that needs are met. The application of the economic principles however, unravel way before the theoretical lessons are received. Growing up in an Asian culture, financial support from parents is a given for many children. In my personal experience, being able to access all the desired amenities, the distinction between needs and wants got blurred. Life seemed so easy from the outset that the idea of having to measure cost of items translated into hours of work was not anticipated. However, moving abroad for studies taught me some lessons and the learning continues as the life goes on…

The thought of forgetting these lessons, if not penned down pushed me to the idea of writing this blog.

1: Change your attitude: Living in the part of the world I come from, a condescending attitude from society for youngsters trying to earn some extra bucks through part time jobs can be observed commonly. Creepy stares at girls serving in McDonalds, insulting remarks for waiters for being late in fetching water, rude treatment of sales persons for unmet price expectations are common examples of such attitude. However, while we are indulged in such behavior, we completely ignore the repercussions of our attitude. We completely overlook what the other person might be going through since we forget to put ourselves in their shoes. Where in reality, it might be the case that the tuition fee of someone remains unpaid because of quitting, the electricity bill might get over due and the medical bills for poor parents become un-affordable. Therefore this attitude needs to be changed if we want our future generations to evolve into independent, self-confident entities.

I remember working in a homeless shelter during my exchange program in United States as a community service project. That was the first time we served food and collected dishes to be washed in a public gathering. Even though community service was a regular practice at my university in Pakistan, serving food in a public setting was the first experience which made me think in this direction. The smiles and thank you’s I got from the tenants made me reflect how a similar demeanor from our part can make others feel good. The influence of derogation we throw upon others became accentuated.

2: Do it yourself: Try to get involved in situations, jobs and experiences which bring you out of your comfort zone and teach new things. Don’t let the negative setbacks push you into inferior thoughts since inferior thoughts are crippling and stand in the way of self-growth.

After I moved to Norway, I always wanted to try working in a coffee house. I think of it as an after effect of watching too much ‘Friends’. I was lucky enough to find a part time job at a Kiosk after I arrived. As skeptic as I was, I considered it a great opportunity to learn Norwegian as well as explore how the dynamics of being on your own work. The experience I got in terms of meeting inspiring people every day and learning things which I’d have never learnt otherwise is life-long. The fact which I loved about living in Norway and working part time was that everyone took pride in working. I met people who had their parents in ministries and were proudly working in restaurants and shopping centers. My take away from these encounters was that if we learn to respect all kinds of jobs and take the judgmental shades off our eyes, we will reach epitome of progress.

3: Learn Economics of Needs and Wants: Most of the time we fail to appreciate the difference between needs and wants and become too focused on short term pleasures at the stake of the ones that are long term. Even though this is about subjective preferences and not something to generalize, I feel it is important that we differentiate between these two. Only through learning this difference can we adapt ourselves to do something for others’ needs giving up our wants. As angelic as it sounds, it doesn’t necessarily need to be a big sacrifice in terms of money or resources. It can be a small act like reaching out to a friend to lend moral support if needed, a nice small talk with the exhausted cashier at counter or leaving some extra tip for a waiter who served you for hours.

The social equality and lack of pretentiousness in Norwegian culture have reinforced this lesson. Contrary to stereotypes I hear about Norwegian society, I believe Norwegians are one of the most modest people I have come cross. I have experienced several incidents where I was left dumbfounded by their generosity and thoughtfulness at work place and private sphere. The lesson I learnt from living here is to refrain from over indulging in things that are necessarily not needed but acquired for purposes other than pursuit of own happiness i.e. public image. One could argue the importance of later but the point here is to maintain a balance between needs and wants.

4: Learn self-discipline: Learning self-discipline is a lesson that every parent tries to teach their kids. However, the real trial of self-discipline occurs when you enter the adult-hood and become responsible for yourself. Getting up for 8 am classes was always a pain and I am still grateful to my college roommate for bearing with my alarm snoozed several times in the morning, for 3 years. However, it became apparent that life teaches self-discipline through several ways and college is just a prep for the real test. As you grow up, you automatically adapt to the changing demands of life situations you are in. The lesson I learnt is that if self-discipline is learnt from the early stages of life, the transition to practical life becomes easier and less abrasive. That’s what I see in the lives of those who manage work, studies and extra-curricular without having to juggle.

5: Invest in yourself: We always think that we need enough before we invest anything. However, ‘if we do not know how to invest 50$, we cannot learn how to invest 500$’. Dreaming to pursue your goals is one thing, but having the audacity to do whatever it takes is another. Often times we misjudge the importance of investing in our own self and tend to be overly risk averse. However, what I’ve observed from people my age who have inspired me is to be tough enough to make important decisions about investing in yourself today. That might mean having to payback student loans for a long time or to work extra shifts throughout study period to pay the rent. However, ‘the worst failure is when you talk yourself out of becoming something amazing’ by giving in to the risks involved. You are at the helm of doing your own calculations here.

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