Getting down to the reality between wants and needs is essential to an effective family budget. It can be surprisingly difficult to differentiate, though. Here are some tips on how identifying wants and needs can go a long way toward effectively saving money as a family.
Home and Shelter
Everyone needs some kind of shelter. Your shelter needs will be different from those of others, but if you are focused on wants you may end up getting in over your head. Here are some things to consider regarding your shelter wants and needs.
1. Apartment versus house
Whether or not you go for an apartment or a house - which one you really need - depends on family size and income. What it should not depend on is prestige or the need to prove something to friends and family. Consider, too, if you are willing to put in the time, work, and money required to keep up a house.
2. Bedrooms and bathrooms
How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? Does everyone have to have his or her own bedroom? Does your family need two or more full bathrooms? What you need is for everyone to have a place to sleep comfortably, and for everyone's bathroom needs to be met (using the toilet, showering, fixing hair, etc.).
Privacy is a need that means more to some people than others. Consider your family's privacy needs when deciding on the number of beds and baths. For most families, one full bath and then one other working toilet is enough.
This is a big one - food expenses account for a big portion of the household budget. Determining a food want from a food need can get pretty dicey, so let's look at the basics. What you need food-wise is three healthy meals a day and two to three healthy snacks. You don't need candy, cookies, cakes, ice cream, and so forth. Some would argue that you don't need meat or dairy. As you buy your food, ask yourself if it is something your ancestors would have eaten before there were supermarkets. If it's not, you probably don't need it!
What your family needs are clothes that fit, look decent, and keep everyone cool or warm and protected from the weather. What family members may want is the latest brand-name sweater even though they have fourteen other sweaters. Buying only what you really need here is a big money saver. Do you need three black coats or seven pairs of brown shoes? No. You may want them, but that's different!