Teaching Needs vs Wants

In our culture today it can be hard to teach true needs versus wants. So often, even if families have financial difficulties, most Americans still have the means to supply all basic needs. (And usually a few wants as well.)

When I compare our lot to those living in underdeveloped nations, my heart aches. I’ve spent some time serving in some of the poorest parts of our hemisphere and the differences in basic living accommodations is stark. That experience transformed the way I view the world and hopefully how I use the resources provided to me so easily living in our country.

More than anything, I want to hand on a piece of that experience to my children. My desire is to someday go serve as a family some of the poorest of the poor. But until God makes that a clear call and path for us, I have to do my best modeling and teaching needs versus wants and living with a perpetual spirit of gratitude regardless of what life throws at us.

Before I share my game plan, I feel I need to give a full disclosure here… I’m not perfect at this by any means as you can see from a text I recently sent my husband (in my defense I’m 31 weeks pregnant).


But here’s what I’m implementing – a simple sheet to hang on the fridge for all to see where we can list things we “need” (free download at the bottom of this post). When someone says we need something, we’re going to take a minute and really get to the nitty gritty and decide if it’s a true need or just a want that can wait a little longer. Then write it on the list accordingly.

It seems obvious, but it’s harder than it seems. I’ve noticed far too often how my husband and I say we need something and act as if it’s a true need, only to later realize yeah… it was just a frivolous want.

I’m hoping if this is a regular part of our home, it will teach my kids by default to logically sort out desires of their hearts when it comes to material goods. I especially hope it teaches them to pause and consider our brothers and sisters throughout the world before jumping into caring about themselves only. Obviously, this will take deliberate moments of conversation and prayer on our parts as parents, but it’s simple and solid starting place.

(I should note too that it’s important to not compare family needs to destitution. As taught in the Catechism, the Church has a preferential love for the poor. All Christians are called to live out some level of Gospel poverty, in the sense of simplicity and Christ centered living so we can share with those in need. This doesn’t mean we have to take away from our children’s true needs in order to live zealously.)

Here’s an example of the list in action…

You can download and print your free copy by clicking the link below. I’d love to hear how it helps your family set clear limits on needs versus wants!

DOWNLOAD NOW —> Family Needs/Wants List

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What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear from you!