As a result, we often find ourselves repeating a pattern very similar to the cycle of debt.

  • We purchase an item we mistakenly believe will make us happy.
  • The item loses its value to us over time.
  • We look for the next item to make us happy, and then another, and so on.

A simple experiment will help keep the wants vs. needs debate in the forefront of your mind as you shop.

For one week, classify every item you see in an advertisement or on a store shelf as a want or a need.

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You don't have to have any intent to actually purchase the item, in fact, it's better if you don't. You're simply placing each product in one category or the other. It's a revealing exercise, and it can be particularly meaningful if you have children. Invite them to join in, and you'll also help them gain an appreciation for the spending decisions you have to make for your family. You may be surprised at how long the game will linger in your mind beyond that week.