Balancing priorities: The battle between needs and wants

By Jane Babirye
On 4 October 2023 at 02:53

Many times, we tend to confuse wants with needs, and vice-versa. This has not only seen people, especially young adults get into depression as a result of failure to satisfy their desires, but also, many have become bankrupt from living beyond their means, just to please ‘onlookers’.

Let’s get an understanding of what is a ‘need’ and a ‘want’.

Needs are things we can’t live without. They are important for one’s survival; for instance; food, water, air, shelter, clothes.

On the other hand, wants are the things we desire to have but can live without, such as cars, phones, laptops, and more.

Over time, these lists have evolved, blurring the lines between wants and needs.

I will explain; ordinarily, it was a ‘rule of a thumb’ to have three meals a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Present day, one will voluntarily skip a meal, if not two, because they want to lose weight.

Others will even go to extremes of just having fruits and water, not forgetting those who fast ‘dry’, as a way to draw near to God.

The same applies to the list of wants. Gone are the days when mobile phones were a luxury, presently, life rotates around them.

Additionally, wants and needs vary from individual to individual; what you can live without, another person sees it as a necessity and a ‘must have’.

For Instance, there’s a recurring debate on social media that has never been resolved. The debate of whether to own/buy a car before you build a house or build a house and then buy a car.

This debate makes its way to the debate room whenever the rainy season kicks in; with those who own cars mocking their counterparts with houses on whether they’re going to use the houses and go to work amidst the heavy rains.

From a short survey I conducted, the majority preferred to build houses prior to buying cars, citing reasons such as: ’a car is expensive to maintain,’ ’I plan on having a family, and they won’t sleep in a car, instead in a house,’ ’a house can be sold for much more than what was used to build it, while the same doesn’t apply to the car,’ and so on and so forth.

Those in support of owning a car first and not the house also had reasons to justify their choice: ’need to get to work on time,’ ’I travel a lot, and it would be costly if I don’t own a car,’ ’all my friends have cars, and so should I.’

A few didn’t have a definite answer: ’If I get money to buy a car first, I will do that and vice-versa,’ ’It will depend on the need, what I need most at that particular moment, and my ability to get it.’

Financial experts’ take

Kacie Goff, in an article published by Bankrate says one’s decision to own either property should depend on their financial status as both are expensive.

“The answer depends on your specific financial situation since both houses and cars cost a significant chunk of change. You’ll need to weigh your options carefully.”

“Cars generally depreciate over the years, while the value of real estates tends to rise,” stressed Kati Wishneff a realtor at William Means Real Estate, adding that “although housing markets move in cycles, houses will almost always appreciate to some degree over time.”

She however says that if one needs a car particularly for work, they should go for that first.

“If you need a car particularly for work, I’d advise going with that first. You can’t build wealth without employment.”

Furthermore, individuals are urged to put into consideration the urgency of acquiring one over the other while making the ‘big’ decision. This is to mean, the longterm and shortterm implications.

According to Michael Gifford, CEO-Splitero, a company that helps homeowners get the best outcome when it’s time to sell a house “potential home buyers should consider long-term scenarios like a change in employment status or income and the property’s resale and rental potential”.

"When you buy a home, you really need to think about the big picture but a car purchase doesn’t require the same level of forward thinking,” he states.

“Home ownership is the foundation of almost all wealth creation, your home is not only your egg nest, but the emotional foundation to grow and extend your wealth outside the home into other assets,” says Curtis Wood, CEO Florida mortgage app wood.

A house or a car can be either a necessity or a desire; just make sure to place them in the appropriate category after careful analysis to avoid future regrets.

Needs are things people can’t live without while wants are the things desired to have but one can live without them.