My previous post “Is living on minimum wage possible” brought quite a bit of mixed opinion. In fact a few strongly disagreed with me in the ability to live on minimum wage. Words like “impossible” were thrown out, which actually surprised me a bit. Maybe I’m just picking a fight here, but I think people often forget needs versus wants. So where do we draw the line… what’s a need, what’s a want, and most importantly, why should you care?
A few people reminded me that I only really mentioned food, water, shelter, and maybe a bit of clothing in my minimum wage budget. I consider those the basic needs and I think it’s something I learned in elementary school (a few years ago 😉 ). If you have these basic needs covered, you’re not going to die. Everything else is details.
There are people a few blocks from where I live who choose to live in tents, use public water, and focus mainly on the needs listed above. In fact I even met a lifeguard who lives out of a VW van because he didn’t see the purpose of having an apartment and all the expenses that went along with it. His expenses are a few bucks in gas for whenever he moves his van and his small food bill. His clothes are limited, especially since his uniform is a t-shirt and swimming suit. This guy would live like a king on minimum wage.
Is health insurance a need? Is a car a need? A few people mentioned that they needed a car to get to their job. What would happen without the car? Would it be possible to move closer to the employer, would one have to get a new job closer? Where we live is not a need, it’s a want. Before agriculture (again a few years ago ) human’s didn’t have the luxury of where to permanently live, it’s been developed as a social norm, but in reality where you live is a want.
We are social creatures, and therefore we desire the love and affection of others. We receive that love and affection when we’re like others. In nature being an outcast or runt will get you killed, in our society it makes you different, and thus not part of the normal social circle. So how do we gain social acceptance? We act like others. How do other act? Well that depends on where you are. If you’re in the U.S. that means you’ll spend about 50k a year have 2.5 kids, a house, and two cars. You’ll work Monday through Friday 9-5 and do so for 40 years. If you do this, you’ll fit in and therefore you’ll gain social acceptance and love. **Extreme generalization, I realize there are different situations, just going off the “American Dream.”
If you set an Maasai tribesman in Manhattan what happens? Different culture, thus different amount of love and acceptance. The comments reflected in my previous post show directly the social norms from those who are answering the question. The same scenario was given to everyone yet some found it possible and others not so much. It does not matter where you come from, the needs are the same… so what creates the confusion between the two camps?
Wants are anything that you don’t need. Health insurance, cars, tv’s, eating out, entertainment, and the list goes on and on. Your existence will continue without these things (health insurance could be argued I suppose), but you might consider life a little more boring or not as much fun. Why is it not as much fun? Because society tells you that. Don’t have the iphone? That’s too bad because all your friends do and now you can’t compare apps. It’s all based on relative comparisons and the only reason you’re bored without the newest gadget is because you’re told that you should be bored. Books, nature, outdoor activities, many hobbies, and friendships are all free, yet they’re not enough for some reason. The Maasai Warrior I mentioned earlier isn’t bored without an iphone, why are you?
I can see the argument for wants being needs. I see this argument because giving up on a lot of your wants you’ll also be giving up on social normalcy (depending on where you live). Many people have a strong desire to fit in, to be loved, and to be accepted. That’s completely normal, and I experience that myself (yes, I am human). But realize that on a basic level you do not need the things that bring acceptance, you simply want them as do the other people who “need” them.
Why Am I making a point of this?
I brought up the minimum wage post because that’s literally as low as you can go in terms of wage income. Worse case scenario, you’re working a minimum wage job. If you can survive the bottom of the barrel, and realize that you can live only on your needs you’ve got power. You have the potential to do anything you want because the worse case scenario is something you’re no longer afraid of. If you can live on minimum you will never be forced to do anything you hate in your life again since you won’t be tied to debt since the ability to pick up a minimum job is like shooting fish in a barrel. Once you have that confidence you’ll be able to pursue the things you enjoy or launch your business knowing… worse case scenario is something you can handle.
I’m not advocating that you should go live on minimum wage (although I think it’d be good for some politicians to do so for a few months), but I do think if you realize that you have the ability to live on minimum wage will help you release some of your fears and ironically enough, accomplish more. Come full circle and you’ll begin to see that you have freedom, and if you decide that your wants are needs your wants are what likely imprison you from what you really need, to follow the things you enjoy in life.
Needs and wants are different. Just because we have the ability to make shinier newer products that doesn’t mean we need them, we simply want them because they’re entertaining, advance our social standing, or make our lives easier. You also didn’t need to read this post 😉
What do you need beyond food, shelter, and clothing?
Image from wwarby