A need is something that you have to have. A want is something you would like to have.
A lot of people will say that needs are different from person to person and that the distinction between the two is not always easy to make. I am not one of those persons. After seeing a documentary about shaolin monks in Nepal more than 25 years ago I came to the realization that the bare basics needs of a human being are: a brick (which is used as a pillow to rest one’s head on when sleeping), 1 piece of clothing and some food. Anything above this is a want. End of discussion.
Everything above this is comfort and luxury. Now I am a lazy slob so yes I have more than two bricks, one piece of clothing and a bowl of rice (anybody who has seen me will attest that I definitely have more than a bowl of rice a day). And I sometimes have been known to really, really want a completely ridiculous item (like a 1.000 euro DJI phantom 2, and then hardly flying it). But now and then I remind myself that we all live in a totally ridiculous amount of wealth. And it has made us soft.
When I was younger (and single) I was a lot more hardcore. Saving was something you did until it hurt. And then you saved some more.
I just found all this stuff to be, cumbersome. I also did not have a car so dragging stuff to my place (or getting rid of it again) WAS cumbersome.
I did not have chairs in my place: I had a sofa I could sit in when eating or relaxing. Chairs just seemed decadent to me. I had a hard time explaining this to people. They just could not wrap their head around this fact.
For all of you thinking this is too crazy: this guy now sleeps in a van with even less stuff then I had. My youthful life was decadent compared to his.
So the bare basic needs in our western society are a place to sleep, some clothes, food and a bike. Everything above this is a want. Understanding this is the first step.
Really, really understanding this will help you limit your wants. Material possessions will not make you happy. I was perfectly happy with not owning chairs, I am not happier owning 6 of them now (if anything they annoy me when I have to move them – again- while cleaning). And somewhere in San Francisco is a guy sleeping in a van who is perfectly happy.
Step two is trying to fill in your (limited) wants in a frugal way. Being frugal does not equal being cheap.
A cheap person will always go for the cheapest. A frugal person will try to get the best value for his money. This can be the cheapest product or service but sometimes it can be expensive. Some products that will last a lifetime are worth it to spend some decent money on them. What these products are will be different for each person but even different for the faze of your life you are in.
If you only go camping once or every 5 years a cheap little tent is all you need. When camping is going to be your main travel style for the next twenty years it is best to pay for quality camping gear It off course might be interesting to search the internet for secondhand material from people who bought quality camping gear and then discovered they do not really use it and decide to get rid of it. Buying quality does not always mean paying full retail price either…
So one frugal person will spend 20 euro on a tent and another person might spend 200 euro on a tent. And both will have made a frugal purchase.
Those two persons might actually be the same person, but just at a different point in his life!
When young, a cheap tent might be the best purchase because it is only used two or three nights at a festival. But if 10 years later the same person goes on regular two week camping trips it will definitely be better to get some quality gear.
Frugal means looking at your want, then determine what is necessary for that want and then try to get it at the best possible price.
If you ever find yourself lusting about something, remember your true needs are: a brick, a piece of clothing and a some food. Everything else is a want. How much of your limited time on this earth are you willing to sacrifice for this something you want?