UNITED STATES—This is an ongoing debate I have with people all the time and it all connects to finances. Anyone who has ever taken a psychology or sociology course are well aware of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It’s like the food pyramid, but prioritizes the most important things in life compared to the not so important things.

With that being said, as Americans were are psychologically driven to always want something. It’s engrained in our blood; it’s engrained in our psyche. Some of you might be saying exactly what do I mean by that. If you work, by nature you are going to want to purchase things and rightfully so as you worked hard to earn the money that is in your possession. However, this is where you run into slippery slopes. As adults we are all aware that we have responsibilities that we have to take care of. The car note, the mortgage, the gas bill, the electric bill, etc.

I’m a firm believer that you really want to take care of your responsibilities or at least have those funds stored away so when the time comes for those bills to be paid, you’re not fretting or panicking about what needs to be done versus what you want to be done. This goes back to the argument of priority. I really hate doing this, but I feel like it’s something I HAVE TO DO, in order to bluntly put things into perspective for readers.

A NEED is something you MUST HAVE in order to survive. A WANT is something that makes you feel better. It’s very straightforward, but the constant hiccup is so many of us confuse a WANT as a NEED and that is not the case. Let me give you an example that is well-defined. A family member of mine recently moved, and as many of you know moving is no easy chore, sometimes you leave things behind and in other cases you WANT to purchase new things. With that being said, you have to be aware of what your NEED versus what you WANT.

Prime example being a microwave or a vacuum; one is used to clean the house (specifically carpet), while the other is used to cook food. So it seems like a simple choice right? You go with the microwave because you need it to eat, you cannot eat a vacuum. However, what happens if you’re in a situation where you can’t purchase both items right away, and one is significantly cheaper (let’s say you found it on sale), but it’s not a want. What do you do in that situation? It seems easy, you save the money for the item that is a NEED to survive versus spending that money on the item you WANT.

I tried to explain this at length to this family member, but what I was saying went in one ear and out the other. It frustrated me to the core and I’m not joking. It’s like moving into a new house where I have a fridge and a stove. I’m going to load up the fridge before I go spending money on decorations. Why? I can eat food, I cannot eat decorations.

When it comes to NEEDS over WANTS its common sense, but as Americans many of us lack common sense and we do stupid things not fully aware of the financial binds and predicaments we sometimes put ourselves in. Focusing your finances on needs over wants is very important because temptation surrounds us 24/7. I was recently out and about at the mall just paying off some bills. I was thinking about purchasing some food because I wanted something to eat, but it just dawned on me: you just went to the grocery store where you spent a load on food. Go home and cook something and save that money for something else.

It’s easier said than done, but it requires discipline to actually make this happen. The more that you tell yourself I can resist, the easier it becomes as time moves along. There is a reason I’m really trying to hammer this logic into people’s heads because it will help you better control your finances and place yourself in a situation where you have that rainy fund if you need it.

I’m a firm believer of always wanting to have at least a month of my expenses prepared in advance (I know the goal is 3-6 months) because you never know what might transpire. However, I look at it from the perspective that not everyone can be that disciplined to implement such a plan or strategy. So if you can do at least 1 month, it’s a starting point.

The biggest piece of advice I can give is that a JOB stands for ‘Just On Bills.’ Once you have paid all your bills and the things that you need, you are ALLOWED to take whatever is left over to treat yourself with a WANT. Should you save a bit along the way? Of course, and this might be the most important thing I share with you. Delayed gratification is a great thing. You don’t have to be an impulse buyer.

That item that you want so desperately is NOT going anywhere, the retail market loves to make you think that and as a result you buy without hesitation and sometimes put yourself in a financial bind. If you wait just a little bit, you might get what you WANT at a much cheaper rate and still have money for something else.