Money and Family: Part 1- Want vs. Need A He-Says Commentary

As the main breadwinner, I’ve been thinking a lot about finances and the role they play for the whole family. What came of all that thinking are three blogs about money and family that I’d like to share with you, our loyal readers. Here’s part 1:

What is a Need? What is a want?Finance1-NeedVsWant

Primal human needs include food, water, air, shelter. To that, I would add love, chocolate and coffee. For my modern day, middle class American children, “Needs” include: the latest phone and fashions, a longboard, going to first run movies with friends, eating out frequently, high speed internet, etc. Don’t get me wrong, my children are great, but their understanding of needs and wants needs work!

I blame myself for setting high expectations when times were flush and the kids were younger. Back then, I was willing and able to pay for plenty of WANT stuff. Not really spoiling the children, but not hesitating to pay for many optional expenses and occasional splurges. We always tried to live within a modest budget and stretch every buck buying clothes at discounters and thrift stores, taking low-key vacation trips, using coupon offers, etc. With this thrifty system in place, I rarely HAD to say “No”.

Things have changed. For one, the babies grew up! As the kids hit their teens, their expectations have  included some very pricey “wants” and needs. I say “No” a lot now. No, I can’t buy you new jeans. No, I can’t pay for you and your friends to see a movie in IMAX 3D. No, I can’t pay for you to play paintball with your friends. No. No. No. Quite honestly, and it kills my pride to admit this, just covering the basics is hard enough. Times are leaner, so our spending is closer to the “Primal” needs list than ever!

But what about seemingly frivolous yet pricey activities like travels to see a family member in another state? One grandparent lives in another state and never travels here due to health problems. With their health steadily declining, spending time together creating new memories is more than a frivolous “Want.” Here’s where Need vs. Want becomes a family values conversation. What is most important to us? How do we want to allocate our limited resources? Is eating out more important than saving money to travel for a visit with grandma? Or saving for a rainy day? At one time, we thought we could have it all. But no longer. A new reality has set in.

Bottom line: teaching our kids about Need vs. Want is really about defining values. Stay tuned for part 2 next week.

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