30 May 2015

Meconomics: Do you Spend your Money Objectively or Subjectively?

This post is a continuation to:

Meconomics: I need my Wants and Want my Needs to be Satisfied
Meconomics: Wants and Needs in your Daily Living

In my previous post I started looking at how wants and needs are confused in our daily living. Needs would be the things you cannot go without and so, common sensically, they would be your priority when deciding what to spend your money on. Wants are things you can go without, but you would prefer not to. Often we lose sight of this distinction – where we will forget about or compromise on our needs to fulfil a want. Then we looked at the following:

“Most of the time, we don’t feel needs or are even aware of our needs, it is only when we lack our basic needs that we suddenly start being affected by them, first on a physical level – and if we see we can’t satisfy our needs, we’ll go into anxiety, stress and survival-mode. But when our needs are being met – they are ‘silent’ and go unnoticed, we feel they don’t really ‘add’ anything to our lives, because we have taken them for granted as just being a part of our daily living.

Desires on the other hand – do give us an energetic thrill or rush. We feel better thinking about our desires and fulfilling/satisfying them, we look forward to fulfilling them, they occupy our minds and lead us to daydreaming, they make us feel hopeful that we/our lives will be better once we satisfy them.”

We’ve been hardwired to lean towards positive experiences, so with the insight that we’ve given wants a positive connotation and needs a negative or neutral connotation – it is easy to see how we can experience wants as an overriding factor on a subjective level. Objectively – we can all quite easily understand that needs come before wants and that satisfying wants is secondary to satisfying needs – but on a subjective level – the level where energetic experiences, emotions and feelings determine what we value and think is important – the opposite is true: wants are more interesting, because they ‘give us’ more pleasant experiences than needs.

So – the problem doesn’t seem to be our rational understanding of needs and wants – but rather that our subjective experiences can in a moment cloud what is most important. A person can for instance make a budget plan, intending to have sufficient funds set aside to pay off bills throughout the month in consideration and understanding of the importance of doing so and the consequences of not doing so – and yet, can in a moment indulge in an enticing want, that ends up compromising the person's available funds at the end of the month. Because in that one moment – when the desire is experienced – the decision is influenced by the subjective experience that comes with fulfilling a want – objective rationality is denounced in the name of a feeling. Some might be able to relate to such moments more than others, as it will depend on your own relationship to your feelings and emotions  - to what extent you place value in them / to what extend you include momentary experiences in decision making.

Here we can also highlight another dimension that plays a role in deciding what to spend your money on – which is: time. Objectively – we know that if we don’t plan ahead to ensure we have enough funds to cover our needs – be it certain or uncertain ones (for instance, having savings for unexpected medical emergencies) – we will come to a point in time where we will not have enough and be in trouble. Yet – subjectively – short-term gratification can override long-term satisfaction – where we will be willing to ‘risk’ not having enough funds later on, to be able to indulge in a satisfying a want in the present moment. This often goes hand in hand with an idea that there is ‘time’ to figure things out and find another solution for the problem we are about to create later down the line – and also, unfortunately, often goes hand in hand with regret when we get to that later moment and realize: we got something we desired in that moment, but didn’t actually have alternatives/magical solutions to sort out/generate other funds to cover the need.

So – we have looked at how wants can in a moment override a need – where we identified subjective experiences and time as important players – but we can look a bit further and ask: why does it sometimes feel like we ‘NEEEED’ the things that we ACTUALLY don’t need. Objectively speaking – they are wants, things you can go without – and yet, you can experience a sense of ‘urgency’ and ‘must have’ and ‘I need it’ towards that which you want. Now wants really start messing with your sense of priority, lol. It’s one thing to be clear on the fact that what you are enticed by in a moment is not something you truly need, but you want to indulge yourself anyway – it’s another to feel like you actually NEED it when you don’t.

Let’s look at that dimension more closely in the next post.


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