Needs and Wants

Our Wants & Needs are constantly doing battle for our attention, and more importantly our time.

Spend too much time on our ‘Wants’ and our quality of life will actually start to decrease or we’ll start ploughing through too much money.

Spend to much time on our ‘Needs’ and we start to get a bit resentful, life starts to feel like one long admin chore.

I might split my ‘Wants’ and ‘Needs’ like this;

What do you Want or Need?

I currently NEED to work as I can’t cover my living expenses without a salaried income.  I also NEED to keep the house clean and eat well, lest I descend into living like a warthog.

This means a typical working day might go a little something like;

  • Sleep – 8 hours.  Need 🙂
  • Wake up eat breakfast, make lunch, shower & get ready for work – 30 minutes.  Need
  • Do some writing for The Finance Zombie – 30 minutes.  Want
  • Walk to work – 30 minutes.  Need
  • Crunch up spine and type some shit into a computer terminal for work.  9.5 hours including lunch.  Need.
  • Walk home – 30 minutes.  Need
  • Do dishes and cook evening meal – 1 hour.  Need.
  • Other house admin – 30 minutes.  Need

That’s 21 hours of your working day right there, pretty much all filled with Needs.  You need some time to decompress after a days work, so that might be an hour or so reading/watching tv/playing computer games.

Really, there should be a bit of exercise squeezed in as well somewhere.

It doesn’t take much, a stretched commute or more hours at work, before the average work day starts to need to time slowing effects that followed Neo so easily.

It’s no wonder that by the time the weekend rolls round we flare up and bare our teeth at any admin task that needs doing, any kind of need ‘Need’.

But that chirpy bastard is always there reminding us that time is a ticking, making us feel guilty for spending any time on our ‘Wants’.  A Sunday morning on the bike is a serious time-suck when you only have a couple of days to play with.

Seen as we can’t boil some water, add some sand and gravel and mutter some words under our breath to create extra time, we are stuck with time as a limited resource.  It’s in short supply, and constant fucking demand.  Which starts to shift our perspective on certain activities.

It’s a 4 hour drive to visit my parents and it’s an activity that requires a whole weekends worth of time.  It happens infrequently due to such a high time-cost.

As the weekends pass since the last visit, the next visit slowly moves towards a ‘Need’.  Sadly even when you do make the trip half your brain’s capacity on a Sunday morning is taking up constantly computing when you need to leave to get back at a half decent time.

The dangerous drift of wants

The dangerous drift of ‘Wants’

Even exercise dangerously teeters on the edge of becoming a Need, something to be squeezed in rather than enjoyed.

So we need to readdress the balance to stop our Wants drifting into Needs due to time pressures.  We could try to reduce the proportion of free time spent on Needs.  Or try to shift some of the Needs into Wants, so that they become more enjoyable.

A life changing win would be to move the career from the Need box, into the Wants box.

Mr Zombie sees two ways of doing this.  The first, to do a career we truly love and so Want to do every day.  My Bullshit-Meter has just gone off rather violently, highlighting that this is a very rare occurrence.

Repetition and time pressure has a way of crushing charm.  If we do something we really enjoy, day in day out, it slowly loses it’s appeal.  The joy of tinkering with motorbikes in your spare time changes when you are doing it whilst dealing with customers, trying to make enough money to keep the business going and meet deadlines day after day.

Besides, people change.  I would have loved to have been Shadow from Homeward Bound when I was 7, now, I’m not so sure.

Having said that, it is possible to find a career that you truly love doing every single day, and people have done it.  If you manage to achieve this, I am truly jealous.  Sadly, I suspect it is far rarer and due to luck than people care to admit.  Not something I am willing to gamble on, for now.

My current employment is like a particle in the quantum realm, hard to pin down, flicking between various states of Want or Need.  There are plenty of aspects of my job I enjoy, I get to play around with maths and computer models.  There are aspects of my job I would happily drop kick in the teeth, performance management, dealing with bellends, general bureaucracy, working set hours each day etc.

As it flits about, on average my career spends more time in the Want than in the Need state.  Sure, there are shitty days, but on the whole I enjoy it and rarely resent having to go into work.  That said I am under no illusion that there is a chance that it could slowly drift into a Need over the years.  Hence, the second possibility.

The second, is to remove the Need for a salaried income.   If we can replace a salaried income with another source of income, say income from investments, then work is no longer a Need.

We can then choose what we Want to do for work and how much time we Want to spend on it, with any income as a lovely side benefit.

Of course, the issue is amassing enough capital to make this possible.  This means maintaining a high savings rates (50-60%+) over the span of many years (7 – 15 years let’s say), which is going to be tough.

This is the route that Mr Z has decided upon, year upon year working and saving, edging incrementally closer to that over arching goal.  I’m in the middle of the featureless Tundra of this journey at the moment, and it’s cool to see there are others out there too.

I’m hopefully not blinkered enough to think that this will automatically lead to a better existence, what it brings its optionality.  I’ll still have to figure out what I Want to do with that optionality.

Change career?  Quit work altogether?  Take a break?  Travel?  What I am certain of, is that it would remove the Need for salaried employment which would free up a lot of time for me to figure out what my Wants actually are.

Another option would be to increase the amount of free time you have available by tweaking your current lifestyle, so reducing the proportion of free time spent on Needs.

More free time means the Needs and the Wants aren’t doing battle over such a starved resource.

There’s some relatively simple wins here, moving closer to work or changing job to reduce your commute can save hours a week.  Not practical for everyone, but it is an option for many.  An option which many people are surprisingly resistant to.

Changing careers may also help, some careers are notorious for long hours.  It’s just part of the deal.  I moved out of working in an accountancy practice for this very reason.  Working long hours just because there’s a culture of being seen in the office is a shitty way to spend your time on the Earth.

Another way to increase free time is to transition into a part-time working arrangement or to take a sabbatical.

Working a four day week is mighty appealing.  A whole day to smash out all your weekly Needs in one big crushing blow.  Or a guilt free day to spend on Wants.  70 miles on the bike followed by a 3 hour session on Fallout 4?  Sure, go for it buddy, you got the time.

This, of course, results in a lower income.  It’s slides and sandpits my friends, slides and sandpits.

Each month that goes by with a solid savings rate edges me that little bit closer, and incrementally shifts my perspective on Wants and Needs.

With a couple of years of expenses saved up listening to an over bearing boss’s bullshit no longer becomes a Need, you don’t Need to deal with it.  You have the resources to make a relatively risk free escape.

With a few more years expenses saved up taking a 3-month sabbatical no longer resets your finances to zero, it’s just a blip.

Just a couple more years and you might decide to drop your hours at work, freeing up lots of time to spend on those under-nourished Wants.  Or take a jump into a more lucrative, but risky, earning opportunity.

Living from month to month under a pile of Needs is no fun, jumping from one admin task to the next.

Saving towards Financial Independence is really a way for me to have more control over the Wants and the Needs.

Mr Z

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20 thoughts on “Needs and Wants

  1. F.I. Drone

    Nice post Mr Z.
    5 years ago I asked my employer if I could work from home (typing shit into a computer all day type job), to my surprise they said yes… But did want a small reduction in my pay. Worth it for the extra Need/Want time gained.

    T- 6 yrs until F.I.

  2. The Rhino

    You think things are bad now, I’m guessing you haven’t got kids, try jamming them into the 24hr mix

    Oh the horror, the horror!

    On the plus side, it makes you look back at the pre-kid days in wide eyed wonder at all that free-time you had to play with. It instantly becomes a ‘golden era’ in the memory banks

    1. Mr Zombie Post author

      Haha I have heard this to be true. I was thinking about including children, but wasn’t sure if they would come under a need or a want, in terms of time!

      1. The Rhino

        If I want a 70 mile ride, I have to apply 12 months in advance, fill the forms in triplicate and suffer a minimum 72 hour stonewall after the event – It can stretch into weeks.

        Well worth it though 😉

  3. weenie

    Great post Mr Z.

    Striving for FI is all about giving me choice – upon reaching FI,, I may choose to carrying working, or I may choose to do something else. Or embark on all those hobbies that I don’t have time for now! I’ve never really gotten the whole ‘working for the man’ and striving to escape the ‘prison camp’ – if my work felt like a prison camp now, I’d be outta here, I wouldn’t put up with years of being miserable just so that I could give them the Vs as I swanned off into FI! I would love to be able to do what I do now but 4 days a week – bank holidays give me an idea of what I want!

    Despite imminent changes (to be announced by the company), I still enjoy my work, though like you, there are a few aspects which I could happily do without but as you say, very few people love every bit of their jobs. I’ve been at the company for an almighty 20 years and I can truthfully say that the huge majority of those years have been good ones.

    Of course, once the big announcement at work is made and big changes are made, I may not like the place any more so much but it’s either adapt or leave and if you adapt, you will always find positives in what you do and see opportunities.

    I’ve gotten to a point where I feel that my needs are under control in terms of shiny gadgets, new clothes/shoes/handbags (I can’t remember the last time I bought any of the last 3!) and just ‘stuff’ in general, but I need to put in at least 5 years of solid saving and investing to see if I am anywhere near being on track with my FI goals.

    1. Mr Zombie Post author

      9 months out of three would be about right. After that all the bureaucracy starts to grind me down. 3 months recharging and I’d be ready to face it again 😀

      5 years. It sounds like such a long stint. Until in 5 years time you take stock and think “Oh. .. Was that it. I’m nearly there”

  4. webnibbler

    Totally agree with your sentiment, Mr Z. My OH doesn’t really understand the push for FI and thinks it’s about retiring early. But really it’s about having options and gaining control over how you spend your time, as you say – moving from needs to wants. Fortunately she’s happy to tag along with my inconsistent mutterings about ‘independence’, my preoccupation with saving and investing and interminable spreadsheets.

    1. Mr Zombie Post author

      Webnibbler – sounds a little like Mrs Z and I sometimes haha. She agrees with the direction we are going, but perhaps not with the same ‘fervour’ 😀

      Mr Z

    1. Mr Zombie Post author

      Hi Money Beagle,
      Couldn’t agree more. There’s a lot of noise out there, shoving supposed Needs in our faces. Just got to filter it out best we can. The PF / FIRE community certainly helps to keep it real 🙂

      Mr Z

  5. Kevin @ The Debt Journey

    I am constantly fighting this battle of not getting to enjoy all the “wants”
    Truth is we’re all striving to get to the same place. Fill up as much time as we can with “Needs” to eventually get to FI and enjoy more and more of the “wants.”
    Just remember to not lose track of enjoying life along the way. We will eventually all be FI but we won’t be able to buy the time back!!


    1. Mr Zombie Post author

      < < Fill up as much time as we can with “Needs” to eventually get to FI and enjoy more and more of the “wants.” >> Yep!

      It is possible to go the other way and stop doing the things we enjoy just to save more. Which is where I might be going truthfully, time to start easing some of those Wants back in…

  6. ZJ Thorne

    Controlling my time is my biggest desire. It would be so nice to only do what I want. I would still do some work for my business, but only the satisfying stuff.

    1. Mr Zombie Post author


      Yes! How nice would that be? A bit of work, the enjoyable bits, for less money but much less hassle 🙂

  7. living cheap in London

    +1 here to going part time as i’m pretty sure i’ve commented before.

    3 days a week at the grindstone for me. sure my journey to FI is considerably longer, but with more of my time each week RIGHT NOW to do the things i want i feel in some ways like i have already made it ;-). Work is already the minority part of my life, & i get over 90 days a year off work more than a full time employee.

    The only downside to my set up is not being able to take long stretches off work at any one time – just 2 weeks at a time. in an ideal world i would take longer off in the summer with the kids.

    NB: fitting in the cycling…. from time to time each year i forgo a nights sleep to squeeze one of these magical journeys in….

    1. Mr Zombie Post author

      Hi LCiL,

      Yeah, I believe you have mentioned going part time before and it’s positives. It sounds like an awesome compromise. 3 days in, 4 days off does sound SWEET! Give me a couple more years building my savings then I’d be tempted.

      Never done a night cycle before. Sunrise must be amazing after cycling through the night!

  8. theFIREstarter

    Since I’ve bought a bit, well quite a huge chunk, of my time back by going part time I have found that time is filled in pretty quickly. Saying that we have just moved into parenthood so maybe things will never be the same in that respect as Rhino mentioned above.

    However I have to admit, at some point in my late twenties I moved from being someone who likes free time for a fair amount of lounging about to someone who cannot sit still, so I have to say I’m loving it. I guess you could say I’m busier than ever in my free time but ultimately I’ve decided to fill it with those things, so it’s all good

    There’s still never enough time to play enough golf though 🙂


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