Moneyfesto: Want vs. Need

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My oldest said, “You really need to try new foods,” which is very true, and something Grandma always said, but not the topic du jour.

I refocused them. “Kids, Honey Nut Cheerios®: luxury or necessity?”

“Well, is it the bag or the box?” my middle son asked (the bag would be the store brand).

“It’s the box, they were on sale.”

“Then it’s a necessity.”

“Hmmm, are you sure? They are pre-sweetened. Isn’t it a luxury to have someone else put the sugar on your cereal, when I could be buying plain oat rings and we have a sugar bowl right here?”

“Mom, is this what that list is all about?” My oldest asked

“Yeah, basically.”

“Well, about that list. Mom,” my middle son interjected. “You gotta take haircuts out of the want column –- I need haircuts, and I need to go to a professional.”

(Ultimately I moved it, even though I really do think I could recreate his buzz cut with the Conair® clipper set we have tucked away, and not wanting to get too far into the economic theory of specialization, given that I am already their chief cook and bottle-washer, should I be expected to be their hairdresser, too?)

My oldest asked, “Yeah, on the list you put "car" in the need column. Is a car really a need?”

“For us it is, but it wouldn’t be in a city. I lived in Boston for five years with no car. We had the T. There is no public transportation here, so how would you get to football practice?” (Wait 'til he is old enough to drive ... I thought. I am sure he wouldn’t doubt the need for a car then!)

We continued our conversation as we -– they had come into the kitchen to help me unearth the latest wants and needs from the shopping bags –- put the groceries away. We talked about how many people’s needs are others’ wants and vice versa, and how it isn’t up to us to make that decision for them; and how some people wouldn’t want or need some of the things we want/need, like vegetarians, who don’t need or want chicken tenderloins, chicken nuggets, or any kind of chicken at all, never mind beef jerky. We remembered that it’s important to be grateful for what you have, otherwise you’ll constantly be focused on what you don’t have. We agreed that it’s okay to want more but not to expect it to be handed to you: The world doesn’t owe you a living. I informed them that parents aren’t obligated to provide more than food, clothing, and shelter for their kids with the caveat that hopefully parents want to, and hopefully kids will appreciate it. I inferred, with my holey sneakers squeaking as I danced around the plastic bags strewn across the kitchen floor, that sometimes parents put their own needs aside for their kids needs or wants.

“Ooh, you got Fenway Fudge ice cream –- can we have some?”

“Luxury or necessity,” I asked.

“Luxury,” my older two shouted.


Caroline B. Poser <><

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