achieving financial freedom one lazy step at a time

Needs versus wants

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.

Two legs! We don’t need that kind of luxury to stand!

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.

How much swarovski kristals does it take to be happy? one?, A thousand? A million?

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?


  1. ambertreeleaves

    Never knew you were once so hardcore…!

    • finan112_wp

      I blame the girlfriend.
      I actually did run the numbers and I would have been able to retire now if we hadn’t bought our current house.
      But as I am slowly learning, there is more to life than just getting a big pile of investments (off course, that is easier to say once you have the big pile …)

      • ambertreeleaves

        that lessons is my main take away of the 2016 journey… The pile of money is the mean, not the goal… our goal now is to live the desired life now already…

        • finan112_wp

          Yeah, but my desired life doesn’t involve travelling. I just do not like all the moving around it involves (I am a sloth after all)!
          I really enjoy lazying around in my comfortable sofa and a quality series on the big television, just sitting in the grass in my orchard, or starting a three day weekend with an evening of some old school techno + high quality MDMA (now that’s a fun evening for a low, low price right there!).

          • ambertreeleaves

            I follow you on the techno, I might replace the MDMA with vodka Red bull

          • finan112_wp

            We will discuss the merits of the one versus the other in depth during the next meet up!

  2. misterslm

    That blog you linked, “FromInsideTheBox” comes with a HUGE caveat. He works for Google. They provide literally everything for their employees from world class chefs to fully stocked bars, gyms, arcades, the works. He eats every meal for free on their campus, uses their showers, their gyms, their wifi, basically everything except sleeps there. He’s hardly roughing it. He lives better than most of us do.

    • finan112_wp

      And I lived pretty decent during those years as well (hell I regularly had fries and a Taittinger millesimé in the courtyard of my place at the time)! The main point is I knew very early one I did not need a lot of stuff to be happy. And I think the guy from Insidethebox also has learned that. We all live extra ordinary comfortable and luxury lives compared to a big part of the rest of the world. And I am in no hurry to go live like a shaolin monk, but realizing most of what you want (or think you need) are luxuries is a big plus in trying to achieve financial freedom.

  3. When Do You Retire?

    Nice story to read. I must say army life has been a great teacher in ‘needs vs wants’. Sometimes people just complain too much. I’ve been hours in -15C on a winter’s night in a foxhole in the forest, piling up snow on my kevlar helmet. Then I can really appreciate just the comfort of having a roof above my head, food, warmth and something to entertain myself. This reminds me things can always be worse.

    • finan112_wp

      Definitely, handling discomfort is a superpower! Knowing you have had similar or worse situations and overcame or endured them.

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