That’s Not a Need… This is a Need.

(bonus points to whoever can tell me what movie quote the title is a rip-off from)

If you were tuned in yesterday, you learned that there is a big difference between NEEDS and WANTS.  I even gave a couple examples yesterday, but I’ll be giving a lot more today. I think it’s extremely important to discuss needs and wants, and to be honest about the difference. Far too often, I hear people use the phrase: “I really needed that…” or “You need to…” And usually they are referring to something that is most certainly not a need.  There are somethings that fall into a difficult to define category between needs and wants and those must be individually discerned, for the most part though, I think we can reach a general consensus about things that are needs, and things that are wants.

I would like for this to be a discussion, feel free to disagree with me, or add to these lists. I’ll make a brief list of things I think are Needs and then a list of things that are Wants, as well as brief explanations for each. These are not exhaustive lists.

(As I was writing this NEEDS list, I felt it need to be clarified what the end goal these ‘Needs’ are for is. I am not merely talking about the basics we need to stay physically alive, I’m trying to focus on what it would take to be a healthy functioning member of society)


  • Shelter- Some form of ‘home,’ though in some places, cultures, and climates a simple tent would suffice, I think it’s fair to expect to live in a four walled structure of some kind in this country.
  • Clothing- The amount is debatable, but one should expect to have proper clothing for their society and climate.
  • Food- You need food to survive, not gourmet, but healthy proper sustenance.
  • Utilities- I think it’s appropriate to have running water and electricity. How much electricity and water is debatable.
  • Transportation- Depending on your job/station in life one might ‘need’ a car, others might only need a bike, others simply public transit, but I do think some form of transportation is important.
  • Communication- Maybe a cellphone, land line, or internet access, but some form of communication with the rest of the world is acceptable.
  • Personal Hygiene- toothpaste, shampoo, etc.
  • Health Care- Medicine, doctor’s visits, etc.
  • Appropriate attire for your profession- For some it’s suits, others a uniform, others just t-shirt and jeans.
  • Child Care items- diapers, bottles, diaper cream, bed, etc.

My Needs categories don’t go much beyond that.  Anything you think needs to be added? Also, within these categories, I’m not saying you need to buy new items, nor are you free to buy the most expensive and fancy of anything that falls in these categories.

WANTS are things we don’t need to survive or function in society. This list could be miles long, but I’ll hit on ones that have come up in our budget choices or conversation with others.


  •  Fast Food, Junk Food, Eating Out
  • Cell Phone plans with lot’s of bonus features
  • Brand name clothes and new outfits
  • Brand new vehicles or houses
  • Technology Gadgets (mp3 players, laptop, DVDs, video games, car adapters, computer mouse, stereo, etc)
  • Books (you could use your library card), movies, entertainment, magazines, etc.

Anything else we should add to the list? Or, do you disagree with some of my category choices? I believe these are things we can discuss and probably come to a reasonable consensus, though on some we might not be able to figure out.

6 thoughts on “That’s Not a Need… This is a Need.”

  1. @Aaron: Excellent question. I definitely think tithing/giving is a ‘need’ for us to participate in. Tithing is a value, like respect, being honest, fighting injustice, etc.
    Your right though, it should probably be included in our budget. However, my goal in talking about a budget is to decide how much we ‘need’ to live on, so that you can pretty much give the majority of the rest of it away. So, the amount you give varies greatly.

  2. I like the question about the tithe. In my opinion, tithe is a need whereas offering/giving is a want. In this case, I feel that wants are only to be satisfied after all needs are taken care of and then even after further evaluation of what wants should be fulfilled.

    What about education? For children through adults?

  3. @Dawn: Well said on the tithe and wants.
    As for education, that is a unique item that doesn’t fit into a ‘monthly’ budget. I think education in general is a basic right (unfortunately many in the world don’t have it). Some school system’s are so poor, there is a need for better education, which some can only do through pulling their kids out and homeschooling or sending to private school. This one is a long, case by case, discussion. The reason I didn’t add it is because I don’t think it fits in this budget breakdown, though you might be paying for your schooling monthly and thus would add it to your budget.

  4. As always, Ariah, your posts are fascinating and refreshing discussions on practical key justice issues. Much appreciated.

    I have a couple to add:
    WANTS: – cable/sattelite TV subscription
    – car, car insurance, gas
    (In some cases, like if you live in the country, or if your job requires it, a car may be a need. But in most cases, a car is a luxury that could be replaced with a bike or a transit pass. No, its not as convenient, but it’s environmentally and economically responsible).
    Check out the demotorize your soul campaign for stories of people who decided that a car is a want, not a need.

  5. @Jac: Thanks a bunch for your encouragement. I agree with you about the vehicle, however, I think it’s such a difficult one for people to even consider in our culture. Big fan of Geez here though.

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