The Ultimate Difference Between “Want” & “Need” (And My Caffeine-Free Challenge)

The moment of the truth

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard and said this countless times. You’ve heard people saying they need ‘that something’ in their lives. Chances are that you and I say and said that too.

As I’m writing this it’s the day after the Black Friday 2015, and I don’t know about you but yesterday my inbox was full of e-mails which had the words ‘sale’ and ‘free’. I consider myself a half-nerd of newsletters. I do like to receive updates from websites I follow but I don’t subscribe to every mailing list I can. That being said, yesterday I had received 39 e-mails throughout the day and I counted 28 of them being about sales.

We all know that events like Black Friday are, at least nowadays, special occasions for companies to increase their sales. It’s no surprise that companies actually exist because they want your money, especially on Black Friday. How do they get your money?

By simply confusing you and blurring the line between what you want and what you need. Or, what you want and what you think you need. Points of view.

Let me stop and clarify one point: I don’t go hard against sales and companies, and neither am I that kind of guy who wants to go or claims to go against the system like “let’s riot and burn the government down” and all that jazz. I’m far from this. My relationship with capitalism is pretty straight-forward: companies do their job as I do my job. Whenever one of the two has to get something in their lives, we team up and do the business (notice that I used the verb ‘has to’).

Now, the content of those 28 e-mails was pretty much the same one: save money by taking advantage of our (insert percentage) off sale on our products. The concept of spending money to actually save them is pretty funny to me, although sometimes it can be true. But only SOMETIMES.

How do you know when it’s “sometimes” time?

When you decide to take your wallet or credit card because there’s something you need/want. Notice that here “need” and “want” are basically the same thing. You might need to buy a new jumper as well as you might want to buy it. The bottom line is that you spend money to get that jumper.

And here is where companies are trying to push, the fact that you need something when you actually only want it.

But how do you tell the difference? Let’s simply things up.

Tell me how many times you’ve heard or said this sentence:

I need coffee in the morning to wake up.

Boy, I hear that all the time. Also, I myself drink coffee every single morning. I might also put myself in a dangerous place when I say that it’s the first thing I do after getting up.

Deep inside me, I also think that I need coffee in the morning BUT the only and ultimate truth is that I want coffee in the morning.

There have been mornings in which I went to the kitchen and realised I had ran out of coffee. That moment my day on the horizon started to appear as a horrible and meaningless day, full of bothersome tasks that suddenly had a different light. The dark light of having to do something without being properly geared up to do it and having the weight of the whole world on my shoulders. Some of these sentence might be slightly over the top, but all of this was because I hadn’t coffee. Was my day catastrophic or apocalyptic? No. Was that a day to remember because of an experience as humanly close as possible to the kingdom come? Not even close. What happened is that, even without coffee, I made it through the day in a completely normal way, except for the I-AM-DOING-THIS-WITHOUT-MY-MORNING-COFFEE buzz.

This leads me to my ultimate theory. I don’t need coffee in the morning. I WANT coffee in the morning, which is completely different.

I need a new jumper or a new iThing and, oh, it’s sales time. Dear goodness what a coincidence, companies must be reading my mind.

Not really. You actually want the new jumper or the new iThing. You need legs, you need food and water, you need enough clothes not to go around bare naked. These are things that you actually need. However, we don’t need (and I said, need) to be that extreme and think that we only need survival things.

Has your jumper torn apart? Did your phone just break down? Can you substitute it in a way that it doesn’t really make a difference? If the answer is ‘no’, then you need the new jumper or the new phone. Any other scenario is just you making an excuse to say that you need it.

Now, is it wrong to treat yourself and buy something because you want it and you know that? No, at all. Is it wrong to do something only because you want it and you know that? Heck no, I still drink coffee every morning. (Obviously if you want to kill your colleague and throw his dead body in a dump and inheritate his bank account, you might wanna re-consider your actions.)

Yesterday I bought myself two things: a cover for my iPad and a new electric shaver. Did I need these two guys? Nope, I wanted them. I can use my iPad without the cover and guess what, it’s still my iPad — for the record, I don’t even really need an iPad. I could had saved money and continued to use my old electric shaver. Let’s see my old shaver. I bought it 6 or 7 years ago, the battery is so damaged that I have to charge it after every time I use it, and the clippers broke down a long time ago and they now wander peacefully in Plastic Heaven. However, I used it a couple of mornings ago with no problem.

I just wanted a new one because basically I want to give myself permission to forget to recharge it and not to find myself with long facial hair and dead battery.

This is the bottom line and how to know when you need something and when you want something.

  • NEED — is when there’s something in your life that has been damaged for good and you can’t replace it. Your only phone, your only pan, your only car, and so on.
  • WANT — is when the idea and the desire to have that all shiny brand new thing is itching you all over the place, so heavily that you start daydreaming about ways to use it and what you can do with it, until you give in to that inner voice telling you GIVE YOUR BLOODY MONEY AWAY AND GET THE THINGY and you go on purchasing it… you get the idea!

Market relies on that. It’s no mystery, it’s almost a given. The important part that will ACTUALLY make you save money without spending it is knowing the difference between “need” and “want”. Now, like I said, it’s no boo-shame to buy things only because you want it. But you have to be aware of that!

Once you know the difference, there will be countless times when you will stop yourself from buying something because you realise that you don’t really need it and so you can save that money. Other times you’ll be like Oh screw that, I’m buying it this time around! and you won’t buy the next thing that you want because you know you already treated yourself recently.

Now, I’m challenging myself. Here’s the deal.

For an entire week — from Monday morning to Sunday night — I’ll be 100% caffeine free. That means no coffee or tea at all during the day.

I’ll write short notes on how I feel and how it is to live without coffee, and the next week I’ll paste them here and write some considerations about this experiment.

Now I’m heading off because I need to go to toilet, otherwise I’ll piss in my pants. And I don’t want to.

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