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Talking Needs and Wants

Category: Activities: Home | Age Group: 14-16


Needs, wants, and managing money


6 items from your child’s bedroom selected by the child.


During the teen years there is a great deal of pressure as the adolescent develops his or her self image. During this impressionable time there are many influences that come to bear on them. One of these is a need for acceptance by peers. This influence can cause certain things to take on a greater significance far beyond their actual value. For this reason, it is important that young adults know about, and think about, the difference between a NEED and a WANT. This will help them to keep a proper perspective and be better able to develop a sense of self-importance by knowing who they are, what their needs and wants are – and factor this into the decisions they make about how they use their money.

  • At dinner or another convenient time, talk with your child about what the newest fads or hottest items are with their friends—and that everyone seems to want.
  • You can start to introduce the topic of needs and wants by saying something such as: “I just wish advertisers would focus more on things young people” need” rather than what they “want.” I think it would help young people make better decisions about what they do with their money “and you can ask: “How important do you think it really is for kids to buy (i.e.—iPad tablet, iPhone, designer clothes, etc.) to be accepted and part of the group? Do you think a lot of young people spend money on things they want in order to fit in—and as a result of advertising—than actually buying things they need?”
  • Your way of introducing the topic of needs and wants will obviously depend upon the natural relationship and interactions you have with your son or daughter.
  • Once you have introduced the topic of the difference between needs and wants, suggest the following as a game to get into this discussion a little more.
  • Ask them to go to their bedroom and select 6 items—3 which they believe are needs and 3 which they believe are wants.
  • Once they have done this, talk about each item and discuss what makes something a need or a want. Talk about whether their friends would all feel the same about the items selected. Talk about how needs and wants can be different for different people.
  • Talk with them about how thinking about whether something is a need or a want can affect their money decisions. Over the course of their lives, talk about how it will be important to have money for things that are needed—and then save, if necessary, to get things that are wanted. This can help with money decisions, planning, setting priorities, and managing money more effectively. Talk about how often people get in financial difficulty because they buy things they want before making sure they can cover the cost of things they need—and then they find they have to borrow to make ends meet—and this can lead to more and more debt—and sometimes too much debt to manage. This can lead to where a person may be spending so much of their available money to cover their past debts; they have little left to spend on anything.
  • Talk about the fact that wants are completely under your control—you don’t have to have them—whereas needs have to be met.
  • You could continue the discussion by introducing the idea of “Opportunity Cost”—that is, in choosing to buy a particular item you are also choosing not to do something else with the money. Always consider what your next best option is for that money before you make the purchase because this option will be a trade-off you make once the purchase is made.