Wants vs. Needs: Prioritizing Your Budget for Balance

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Often times we can get caught up in our spending by confusing our wants and needs. What we’d like to do with our money and what we need to do with our money can sometimes be put into the same category. Sure, it would be great to shop whenever there is a sale, or go out to eat with friends after a stressful week at work, but what does it really cost? Our bills continue to pile up but when we look at our income, it seems as though everything should be taken care of.

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Our budget is not just a tool to keep an eye on what we earn but also what we spend. This is where a Spending Diary can help you understand where, when, and how much you tend to spend. Having a few drinks vs. not being able to pay your mortgage seems like an obvious issue, but is it really? Since much of our shopping can be impulsive and driven by emotion, we might not pay close attention. My initial response to emotional spending or retail therapy was to simply stop doing it! I would feel like I deserved a treat with all of my hard work to earn the money. It can’t all go to bills; I have to be able to enjoy my income right? No! This must end, I thought. I have to get a hold of this spending now or else I will be in a lot of debt! I know! I’ll just stop spending out of my emotions all together – if I do not need clothes, I won’t buy any just because there is a sale. If I am hungry, I will prepare meals to take with me – no need for bars or restaurants when it is much cheaper to eat and drink at home…right?

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After about a month of not spending outside of my essentials, I became angry and felt like I was missing out on something. People were shopping sales and bragging about the nice meals they had at lunch while I stuck to my brown bag all month. Sure I was saving money but at what cost? This is why I determined that my budget was essential to my balance in finances. My budget included the essentials to my household but nothing was attributed to my ‘wants’. Although this is extremely fiscally responsible, this is not a long term solution. If you are working a full time job and only spending on basic essentials and nothing else, you miss the joy of your labor. Just like everything else in life, a balance is necessary to make sure you are being responsible but enjoying your income as well.

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Since I was in a lot of debt (student loans, car payments, credit cards, etc.) a one point, going on such an extreme change with my spending for a month was actually a good thing! I would recommend it as an exercise from time to time in order to get your finances under control. I was able to catch up on some bills and really hone in on what was becoming an addiction for me. According to my Spending Diary, I ate fast food almost every day but spent the most on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. I also saw from my notes that I would often eat out after shopping for a long period of time, even after buying groceries! With this information I was able to note my behaviors and adjust. Instead of eating out so often during the week, I would pick 1 day a week (this later became 3 times a month) to go out and invite friends and/or co-workers. That way I’d have something to look forward to and could indulge with company – making it seem longer.  As far as sales, I would maintain a list of items I needed for a couple weeks in anticipation of a sale (there’s always a sale) and then go shopping for everything on the list.

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You can do similar activities in order to get yourself in financial shape! I urge Moms to be on the look out for their household behaviors and adjust as needed, a little tweaking could go a long way! You may be able to set an allowance for weekly or monthly spending. You may see an area where you’d like to invest into a way bring more money into the home just for retail therapy so you don’t touch household expenses. Maybe you have a business and are spending too much out of your own pocket to keep it running – have you sought out business financing? How did your Spending Diary help you adjust your budget for the better? I’d love your comments and feedback!

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ladiSims is a Workforce Consultant with 6+ years of extensive experience in social services, workforce development, small business development, recruiting and case management. She serves a variety of job seekers, including veterans and disabled adults, with finding employment and adjusting to career changes. Many of her clients seek to transition into new careers with financial and educational barriers hindering their success. ladiSims also shares resources, teaches Employment Readiness, and provides solutions for small businesses in her community. Born and raised in Chicago, IL, ladiSims has a passion for helping people progress towards their career, family, and entrepreneurial goals – she is also an advocate for education. Her BA degree is in English with a minor in African America Studies from SIUC where she also studied creative writing, journalism, and education. She also has a Master’s in Urban Planning and Policy (MUPP) with a concentration in Community Development from UIC. Her ‘why’ includes her daughter Charlotte, 2 moms, 2 dads, numerous siblings, faith in Christ, and the youth of ChiCity. Among her peers, she is known for simplifying complex issues, offering conflict resolution, and being able to connect with individuals of various socioeconomic statuses, cultures, skill sets, & educational backgrounds. ladiSims uses her ability to create and maintain strategic partnerships to influence both rural and urban communities. Find ladiSims on Instagram, Twitter, and Periscope for more of her shenanigans!


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