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;
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.
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.
Subscribe. It’s free Help a Zombie out. Like what you read? Share, with the buttons below.