Too Thrifty Chicks


Mindset Reset: Needs vs. Wants


We recently had a conversation about delineating the line between needs and wants and came to the conclusion that real needs — food, water, clothing, shelter and love — are just the basic, bare minimums that most any human must have to survive. Everything else is truly extra.

But the why and the how of  obtaining these basics is about more than surviving and strikes at the heart of what we value as really living.  You can choose to eat at home or eat out. You can choose to drink only bottled water or straight from the tap. You can choose to only shop at thrift stores, big box retailers or high end department stores. You can choose to share a space or live alone. All are choices that provide you varying levels of the four basic things that you need. The value in which choice you make  is completely personal and the only thing that truly matters is the honest truth of why you make the choices that you make.

Anyone who knows us knows that we like to eat out, spend time with our friends and travel near and far. We like to run races and we like to buy the latest thing that our heart desires. But when we embarked on Operation Do Better we discovered that what we really value above all the stuff that we might own or ultimately obtain  is experience. We also realized that we can’t have the kinds of experiences that we truly desire until we changed our mindsets about what what we truly need and want, and what we were willing to do to about both. We are constantly talking, grappling. wrestling with and pressing the evolution and transformation of our mindset. Here’s a cleaned up excerpt of a conversation we had about needs and wants.

The Conversation…

Ricks: We’ve been eating beans and anything else we have lots of every day, until its gone for 78 days. That means we’ve had to plan meals and make sure what we are cooking are things we like to eat regularly because we’re going to eat them  MULTIPLE times in a week, often times back to back. Because we’re good cooks, eating our own leftovers is not such a chore. But if we do get bored we cook something else and keep eating it until its GONE. If we want the social aspect of going out, we invite friends over. We have made these choices because there are things that we truly NEED to see happen in our lives if we’re ever going to know financial freedom in our lifetime. We have big dreams and sometimes those kinds of dreams come with just a little bit of self sacrifice.

Reese: As a person who used to say “I don’t like leftovers,” I came to a place where I realized that wasn’t the case. It’s just that I wasn’t that great of a cook and I didn’t like eating MY leftovers! LOL. Once I invested time and creativity into cooking, I started eating more leftovers. I think I’ve discovered that this whole process requires a level of honesty that overcomes the rationalizations we used to make for not cooking after a long day, or buying our lunch because we forgot our lunch or don’t want to eat the leftovers we brought. It really comes down to the mindset we decided we would have and how much we were willing to stretch to change our old “spend it now, spend it all” mindset.

Ricks:  If nothing more, this process has solidified my ability to identify what is a need and a want. If I’m not going to die without something it’s not a true need. If I believe that it’s something that adds to the value to my life, it’s still not a need, but a highly valued want. I’ve learned that if I’m going to indulge in a want, even a high value one, I need to call it what it is — it’s a want.  It’s not a need and I shouldn’t call it that. I have to say to myself, “I’m making a conscious decision to spend on this thing that I want. I know the consequence might mean extra money might not go where it should go. I can rationalize that buying this want makes my life easier, more fun, more beautiful and that might be true. But it is still a want and I’m OK with that.”  But I have to acknowledge that I made the decision to indulge in that want and not play mind games with myself about what are my true needs and what are my true wants.

I’ll freely admit that the fact that I have a credit card bill that is the living, breathing, life sucking embodiment of my WANTS,  means that whether to eat the same thing every day or not spend money eating out is not a trivial matter for me. It’s simply NOT an option because of something that I want more than another dinner that I didn’t cook.  I WANT to be free of this debt — like yesterday.

Reese: I personally try to steer clear of the phrase “I can’t.” I think putting out energy about what “you can’t do,” illustrates a mindset that says  1) other people can’t question me or hold me  accountable because I’ve said I can’t live without this thing, and 2) it’s OK to fall short of growth or goals because I’ve said I’m not able to do a certain thing. On top of all of that, I think there’s an implicit assumption that if I say what I can’t live without something then I’m honestly engaging in this process because I’m telling people what I can’t do. Maybe you are being honest, but maybe you are not. Maybe you want something bad and haven’t really thought deeply about what it means to let that desire go or to question  if you really need it.

A starting place…

We pretty much have conversations like this on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. After this conversation we thought about a helpful way to draw the line between needs and wants. Try making “I” statements like the ones that follow.

I need to live without fear…

I need to stop digging my own financial grave…

I need an emergency fund because it’s going to rain…

I need to break this generational curse over finances in my family…

I need to DO BETTER.

I want to be free of my debt more than I want to eat out…

I want the financial freedom to help my family and help myself…

I want to have options that allow me to make the best decision for my future rather than only being able to make the best decision for right now…

I want to DO BETTER.

9 thoughts on “Mindset Reset: Needs vs. Wants

  1. I’ll be in DC this Thursday through Saturday.

    Do you have any dinner plans for Friday?


    • Aww, we already have plans for Friday evening. Do you have any other spare time in your schedule say to meet up at a coffee spot before you head back to the A?


  2. This is sooooo awesome…Tay and I eat leftovers if we have any…and we eat them until they are gone!!! I used to throw them away after the 2nd day…but now…I take them for lunch until they are gone!!! My boss also wanted to go to lunch today, but I kindly informed her that I wasn’t able to do so…because I brought my lunch. ODB!!!!


    • Yay for you and Tay, and for keeping it real with the boss. When our mindset shifts to the priorities that really matter, we DO BETTER!


  3. Great thought exchange! You’ll be glad to know that I’ve already arrived in such space, years ago. And that applies to gifting and receiving gifts on birthdays, silly holidays and the shopping sprees I simply don’t enjoy any longer…..I don’t NEED anything else, not living INXS. I’ve been able to pay off all of my debt, paired down life and living to the barest of essentials and I enjoy my space and being able to breathe without knowing that I HAVE to jump on the hamster wheel to pay a bill. My real goal is to live life like the Japanese, only living in a home with the things that you need, no excess, no clutter. Real freedom! Still working on it!


    • Thanks! Your comment inspires me. I’m feeling more and more inclined to pare down on stuff. It seems like every week I’m taking something out of my closet or throwing something away. I don’t have an “ideal” amount of stuff in my mind, but I believe my spirit will know when I’ve reached equilibrium. We’re both working hard to pay off the debts we have, b/c like you, I’m not into spinnin’ wheels! lol Love this honest effort toward living simply…and it’s particularly nice to be in conversations like this with other women of color.


      • And finding that balance is so important. When I lived alone I’d probably swung the pendulum a little too far in the direction of bare essentials, but I was recovering from a place of excess. Now I’m trying to find that happy medium and I believe it’s a place that allows me with minimal effort to pick up my life and move it when the time comes for me to do so. That doesn’t mean I have to live like with no creature comforts. Just means I don’t need a lot of creature comforts. 🙂


  4. I am all for streamlining my life…and I am doing that as we speak. As stated…after satisfying the food, clothing, shelter trifecta…everything else is a series of wants. I want a larger home (lack of a formal dining room, no garage, larger bathrooms), but I’m not homeless and I have enough space in my house. I hardly am in my living room. Clothes, we’ll discuss that later…;-), food is my weakness…i enjoy various flavors and sometimes the convenience of not having to cook. However, I have to make myself do more cooking…from a health standpoint and a financial standpoint. The bibimbap that I had was a want…not a need.

    George Carlin had a really funny routine about people’s fascination with acquiring more things (he didn’t use that word)…but you get what i’m saying. You spend all of these years complaining about how you need more stuff, you get it, now you don’t have enough space for it, you don’t want to part with it because its yours…and so on and so forth. Its a horrible cycle.


    • True story. I keep seeing these commercials for storage rentals and we occasionally watch Storage Wars at the Thrifty Palace, and I am always left wondering “If you need to put it in storage long term, do you really NEED it?” Now if you’re moving to another place, cross country or to another country, then storage makes sense. I think about military members who are often in this position. But the average American still probably lives in the same state/region that they were born in. It’s time for a Great American Yard Sale/Giveaway. Nobody would be without basics like clothes and furnishings if we did this.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s