Saturday, January 12, 2008

Need vs. Want

Or The Great Boot Debate

I went and worked out this morning. That makes 5 workouts this week! And while I didn’t work out last night, I still got a workout moving all the machines and cleaning.

After working out I went to Walmart to pick up some things I need. I came home with: new gloves (the little inexpensive ones that look like they barely fit a three year old hanging on the rack--$1.42); Sunsilk hair stuff (anti-flat); face wash (something new by Garnier—cheaper than Olay); a couple different feminine hygiene products; a shower foo (net washing thing); a pack of pens; a new wallet; a card for Annie. I picked up several other items and set them all down.

I spent some time in the boot section. I wish I knew what switch flipped in my pea brain that made me think I want boots. I’ve never owned a pair of dress boots. Snow boots, yes. Functional and ugly. Today I saw a really sharp and practical pair of black suede knee high boots that were reduced down to $13. I tried them on. They were cute. I stood there looking in the mirror trying to substantiate the expenditure. I went through a list of things that I could wear them with and then I decided that I just didn’t need them and what I really wanted was a pair of brown boots.

I walked away from the black boots out into the main isle where sitting right in front of me was a size 8.5 pair of brown boots for only $9. I stood there thinking through the list of things I could wear with them. I was so close to stepping away from the boot display with the boots under my arm but I talked myself right out of them. I didn’t need to spend the money.

I headed to the check out, stopping only to wish that a very cute and soft coral colored sweater was in my size because it would be perfect with one of my skirts that I only have a summer sweater to wear with so I have to put it away for winter. I split my items into two orders: first, what I was going to use family funds for and then what I felt I should use my allowance for. I walked out to my car and proceeded to engage in a spiritual discussion over want and need.

Honestly, I didn’t need anything I bought today. At the checkout my divided items were “sort of” divided between what I could almost justify as need and therefore use family funds on and what I wanted and spent my allowance on. I don’t have any idea where I got the idea I wanted a pair of boots. I have never owned any or ever (even when they were killer popular years ago) wanted any. Today was actually the very first time I even tried a pair on and I’m 50!

(Now at this point I must confess something. I came home and told Beth about the boots. She has to get some things later at Walmart and I told her right where to find both pairs. She’s got instructions that if she thinks either would pass the “What Not to Wear” test to pick them up and I’ll pay her back. I figured she’d be objective over whether they were a “good” buy.)

What do I need? To this day I have the nineteen cent comb that I got when I went to jail. Some folks won’t keep anything from jail, superstitiously believing that if you keep something you’ll end up going back. I kept mine to remind myself how little I really need. That comb and a travel size bottle of no-name shampoo were the extent of my hair care products. I can get by on a lot less than what’s taking up shelf space in my bathroom.

What do I need? I was talking to someone the other day about the summers I worked and lived at Cedar Point. Those summers taught me how to live on PBJ and cup-of-soup. Do I need to indulge at the nearby coffee café or even to buy fancy flavored coffees at the grocery? Nope. Most of what is in my cupboards and fridge is not about need.

Then I started thinking about what I want. Most of the time, I can’t even answer that question. The choices for everything are so vast that I don’t know where to start. When Nelson asked me what I wanted for Christmas last month I had no answer. I think it’s the first year I didn’t have a list. And oddly, it was the very best Christmas ever. I so treasured everything I got because I knew the givers put so much thought into each gift.

What do I want? What do I need? I wandered through the aisles at Walmart looking at so much stuff and for once I came out pretty much close to only having what was on my list going in. I may just tell Beth to forget to look at the boots…I don’t have to have this all worked out today, do I?


Saija said...

that's a good post ... makes a person think! most of what we say we "need" really are only wants ... i'm not much of a shopper - yet i certainly have way more stuff than i feel comfortable with! ...

yup, you've brought out all kinds of good questions to ask ourselves if we really want to be honest!

blessings on ya!

HeyJules said...

I do this all the time. I'll be in Target or WalMart and I'll be filling my cart up with things I "need" and the next thing I know I'm putting half of them back on the shelf.

It's interesting to me how thinking about it from a want/need perspective changes how I spend money as compared to the "can I really afford this" perspective. It's the difference between listening to the angel or the devil on your shoulder, isn't it?

daisyaday said...

That is absolutely the worst thing for me about going to Walmart. What I came there for and what wants to jump off the shelf into my cart are two whole separate lists.

I usually find that I can do without the wants that whack me in the face when I'm there, but sometimes I feel so dissatisfied when I buy only what I went in for.

Very good post about wants and needs. Thought provoking for me today!

The Momma said...

Another great post.
I really do enjoy your blog.