A Money Coach in Canada

Follow & Subscribe

Maslow Theory

An axiom of sound money management is distinguishing between our wants and our needs. Periodically I ask folks to share their best tips, and invariably this comes up. I’ve always nodded in agreement, yet as I think about it, it’s not nearly so simple.

What defines a want?

What defines a need?

Food is an obvious response as a Need – but even there, what do we mean? Simply ensuring our blood has the right mix of salt, sugar and water? Do we need precisely the optimal mix of nutrients so that we can operate at our peak? Or would less than our peak suffice? And what defines peak for that matter?

Shelter is another obvious response. Again: Do we need to be warm, dry and safe, in which case a good cave might suffice, or do we need a thick carpet, and big windows to let in natural light?

And what about our need for esteem? Do we even agree that it is a need? If so, does that legitimize top-quality, perhaps even designer clothing? A watch or jewelry that signifies we have good taste and invest in ourselves?
This is a personal area of interest for me – I was often conflicted as a money coach: Did I need to sport a great haircut, have well manicured nails and in general be “well heeled” to be taken seriously as someone with a measure of authority on the topic of money?

You see where I’m going with this?

So readers, I’m curious: what criteria do you use to distinguish your wants from your needs?

About the Author

Imagine if Canadians were known for being all over their money. Engaged. Proactive. Getting out of debt. Savvy. Saving. Generous. Nancy wants to help. Nancy started her own journey with money over 15 years ago, and formed her company “Your Money by Design” in 2004 to help others along the same path. It’s not the usual financial advising/investment stuff. It’s about taking control of day-to-day finances –managing monthly cashflow effectively, spending appropriately, getting out of debt, saving. If you're ready to take control over your finances, pop by her business site, YourMoneybyDesign.com


  1. Karl

    Most of my needs are defined by what i need to grow, or at the very least plateau. Most preferrably to grow. I don’t make a lot of money, so I live a very basic life as it is. I’m the guy who cuts out all the coupons and saves them for whenever I might need ….whatever they save on. I browse twitter and facebook of a company before I buy for them for promotional deals.

    On the other hand I see my car as a necessity in life, so I would also spend a lot of money driving and guzzling gas. To keeping my self “plateaued” I made that requirement for myself – to be able to slip away wherever and listen to music for hours, chill in a bug-free environment surrounded by nature.

    Looking back it’s a very subjective thing to define a need from a want – I found it became a conundrum of “what I need in the moment*” and thus whatever that was became synonymous with “wants”


    nancyzimmerman Reply:

    @Karl I absolutely salute you for coupons and savings! Seriously, you’re already ahead of the game if those are habits of yours. And I think your observation re: defining “want” as “need in the moment” is very perceptive. It speaks to impulsive, versus thoughtful, strategic spending (errrr…. see next post about Temperance!). But sometimes, gratifying that need-of-the-moment can be a wonderful thing too. Conundrum indeed!


    Aug 08, 2010

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge