Living Like Little Town on the Prairie: Wants vs Needs

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“Laura?” “Yes, Pa?” “You want some of these new-fangled name cards, don’t you?” Pa asked. “I was just thinking the same thing, Charles,” said Ma. “Well, yes, I do want them,” Laura admitted. “But I don’t need them.” ~ Little Town in the Prairie p. 195 

I almost feel like I don’t need to add anything to this paragraph. It’s a great though and one of my favorite standards to live by. There will always be something I may really want but I don’t really need it.

I think the biggest thing here is actually knowing the difference between a want and a need. Sometimes we can get so caught up in wanting something we start to feel more and more like we need it until we decide that we just can’t live without it. Then in our minds it becomes a need…a fake need.

I try pretty hard to keep all my wants to a minimum. Yes, there are things I could buy that might make life easier but do I really need those things? Do they provide me with shelter, nourishment, or warmth? Most of my wants do not.

My needs are the things that make our lives keep going. I need shelter so I need to have a roof over my head. I may want a fancier roof but this one will do. I need nourishment so I can live so I grow food by buying seeds and I grocery shop for the things I cannot grow. I may want goodies or easy made meals from the store, but I don’t need them to live. I need warmth and covering so I must buy clothes or fabric to take care of that need. I may need a winter coat to keep me warm on these below 0 degree days but do I need a $200 jacket with a good label. No.

When you get in that mindset and remind yourself of your real needs, those very basic needs that we have, that can help you separate a want from a need if you get to a spot where you are having trouble. Just remember though, in this paragraph, we read that Laura knew this wasn’t a need, it was a want, but she got it anyways. We are more at danger to start giving in to all our wants if we don’t treat ourselves every once in a while with a small want, or maybe even save up for a big want!

Can you always tell the difference between a need and a want? What wants are hardest for you to keep from turning into a need?

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  1. Merissa – I agree 100%. I’ve gotten sucked into the worldly thinking of what I want is a need. I’m trying to change my mindset. I just love your site! Also, can you tell me the name of that sewing book you put on your top 10 list for Christmas gifts for a woman…I think it was something about turning clothes from the consignment shop into clothes for youself? Thanks!

  2. I need to do better with my mind set and I have been trying. I was wondering if anyone has a used set of little house books I could purchase. First of all I do not want to buy them new as they are expensive to me. Second if I use the right mindset I should ask for them used! So if you know of any deals please let me know thanks.

  3. Right now I’m in the process of planning my wedding. Everything comes down to a want versus a need. I WANT to buy a fancy, expensive dress, but I don’t NEED it. So instead of spending $1000, I spent $100 on silk and I’m sewing my own.

  4. Thanks, for your wonderful site! May we learn to live simpler, more thankful lives…appreciating things that money can not buy..also, realizing work can be a, we might enjoy the Fruit of Our Labor…” When we work hatd and achieve goals.. we truly are mote grateful..And a sense of purpose and stisfaction is felt in ourselves..and in the work of others. “Godliness, with Contentment is Great Gain”…Let us find joy in giving to others.. Sharing with them.. And giving a word of encouragement, in a very hard world..with many challenges. , As well as joys..Community has been lost to an extent..and the gifts and crafts of our parents..grandparents..others..Let us try to cultivate one.mote appreciation for one another and deprndancr on one another’s talents., where we live,,as well as through your site …Lots of Lovr.,Kiss’ Your’s Truly, Heidi

  5. Does anyone think wanting my own place for my husband and I is too much to ask? I want honesty here… I know our hearts need to be in the right place, which can be very hard, but living with in-laws is hard. They don’t live the way I want to raise children someday. And as long as there’s good food, my husband seems content. Any tips for how to find an RV to live in, and how to do it on a single, low-income budget?

    1. Kayla, watch Craigslist for deals on RVs, finding one used will be the best price. Go check out several and figure out what style you would feel comfortable in. Everyone deserves to live their dream, whether that’s living on your own, or building your own, or whatever it is you want to do. Figure out how much you can afford to pay monthly for an rv and then figure out the price range you need to be in. You can do it!

    2. We had to live with my inlaws for a month and a half in a two bedroom trailor. It was not ideal at all but financially we had to get out of our 800 plus utilities a month apartment to be able to save up first and last for a new place.t
      No I don’t think it is selfish to want a place just for your husband and you but you have to be realistic in what you can afford and the reason you are staying with your in-laws. We ended up getting a really nice apartment in a small town where we could afford to have me stay at home. The downside was my husband had to stay at work during the week and come home on the weekend. Have a talk with your husband and decide what is important to the both of you.

  6. As a personal finance blogger, this is a topic that comes up quite often. Sometimes the wants vs. needs can get fuzzy, like in the instance of a cell phone; some will maintain it’s want, others maintain it’s a need. I think it depends on the person and circumstances.

    For me, since I left my full-time job last year to start my own business, I’ve had to do a lot of thinking about wants and needs. We definitely have enough to take care of our needs but our wants have been a limited. I have learned to control a lot of my wants by earnestly looking for deals and learning many DIY skills (sewing, for instance). This way, if I want something, I can just make it myself.

    On another note, I’ve recently started my own pioneer living type project (I’m calling it The Townhouse Pioneer) and found your site while I was researching for it. You have been such an inspiration to me!

  7. I have becoming more of a minimalist all the time! Why do I want stuff my mind thinks would be great? I have been getting rid of more because it really makes me unhappy to have the clutter and so why not have the time for me instead of cleaning all the time and being unhappy! I can do things that do make me happy growing organic and gardening! Have a wonderfull uncluterd life!

  8. When I go into a store I pretend to myself that I can afford EVERYTHING in there, but I Choose not to have it.
    It works most days!
    Love your site 🙂

  9. The Amish have a great way of making sure they don’t buy something out of desire or impulse.
    They ask 3 questions before they buy something.
    1. Do I really need it.
    2. Will I use it all the time
    3. Will it help me in my work.
    I ask myself these same 3 questions when I see something I like, and I have to say, it has saved me money. Try it yourself.
    Julie from the land of oz