Monday, 25 July 2011

Needs and wants

Needs and wants frequently get confused. I need a television. No you don’t, you want a television. A television is a luxury even if it is a ubiquitous one. I need new trainers despite the fact the old ones are still perfectly useable. That is a want not a need. You need new trainers when your old ones are worn out. Problem is where do you draw the line on wants and needs?
Children have no clue where to draw the line. Mine don’t.
They need sweets. They need a Nintendo. They need the latest trainers. No they don’t they want them. I try to correct them: “You want it,” I say, “You don’t need it.” I get looked at blankly and I realise that we talk totally different languages.
They have more toys and general stuff than you can imagine or least more than I ever imagined when I was their age and I swear I start sounding old even to myself when I voice those thoughts.
But whose fault is it? Mine.
I am not strong enough to say no, not organised enough to co-ordinate grandparents and godparents and friends and other relations at Birthdays and Christmas so that my boys get things they really need and sometimes even want.
And then I take a closer look at myself. I give into my wants far more than I realised. It has got so bad I didn’t really notice. Me wanting becomes me needing. No wonder my boys looked at me blankly.
The most commonplace want and need confusion happens when I am doing the weekly shopping. It’s OK if I plan my weekly meals in advance, which I was want to do, but now it is almost as if I see something I must have it. I disguise this from myself as a “treat” but how can something be a treat if I buy it week in and week out and in fact on the days in between as well? The boys get crisps virtually every day and almost always get a sweet or something from the shops when I do as well. We don’t need the stuff and it becomes commonplace after a while so the whole “treat” thing loses its savour. And it’s not just food…
Clothes, shoes, bits and pieces for the house, books, CDs, DVDs, it all adds up to a frightening amount over the year.
So how on earth do I start to explain that we need to stop? That the needs and wants malaise is far more widespread than I originally thought?
I almost wish that rationing was still available. I would appreciate my needs more and it would focus me on my wants. Saving up for something would give it that extra specialness that I know I have forgotten and that my children do not even know.


Rob-bear said...

Sorting needs from wants is a trick for all of us. I need to get ink for my printer, because I cannot print without ink. But do I need a printer?
And so it goes.

Sally said...

This is something my family struggles with too! (I have 2 boys - 7 and 4 yrs.)

For the food, my 2 boys can each choose one food treat for us each week, like going out for ice cream in the afternoon or stopping for a purchased snack in the middle of running errands. Other than those two times we have to pack our own snacks (my responsiblity) or wait until we get home. The boys know that I only get to buy one fancy coffee a week and I talk a lot about it so they realize I have to follow rules too. Plus, we get to eat out at a restaurant for dinner as a family only once a week. Talking about where we are going to go each week has been more fun than I thought it would be.

As for the other wants, it seems like including them in the decision making works the best. I tend to spend/budget with a weekly schedule, so I can show or tell them how much money I have available after bills and groceries are taken care of. Sometimes I take out the rest as cash so the little one can unserstand better. I let them see me spend it with lots of discussions. "I only have $60 left (we're American!) so I CAN get you each a book, but if I do then we can't buy new sandals this week." This doesn't always work though because I do a lot of my shopping online or use the bank card. Also, they always choose the immediate, fun option so I have to buy the less interesting things like clothes and haircuts before letting them see what money is left.

We're still working on it, but the key seems to be letting them see that the funds are finite and talking about our choices. It seems like we're always talking about money choices (and healthy food choices - another of our struggles.) It's kind of exhausting, but it seems to be helping.

Good luck!

Tattie Weasle said...

Rob-bear - so true wher is teh line drawn and how often do we let it bulge a bit!
Sally - really good ideas here I just need to get a bit more organised!

Spencer Park said...

I think that is a lesson all of us in the West could do with learning.

Trish @ Mum's Gone To ... said...

I'm no good at saving up treats and yes, my boy gets crisps and sweets regularly too. Thankfully what he does have is a sense of value instead so that if we're looking at clothes he will actually say "I only need this not the other" and "I don't need an expensive one". I think his dad's Scottish genes may have something to do with this!

Tattie Weasle said...

Spencer Park - still think it will take a lifetime to learn!
Trish - I am hoping that the boys (8 and 5) will get the idea sooner or later or heaven help me!

Go on you know you want to...


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