The Difference Between Want, Need, and Value

Want. Need. Value.

The difference between want, need, and value should be clear. However, like right and wrong these ideas are subject to our emotions, to our idols, and to our dreams. The most innocent influence our intentions.

Value is how we determine our wants or needs.

My father introduced the concept of want and need to me when I was still internalizing the definition of both words. I still find it challenging to describe how want and need influence value. But in the end my understanding always begins with burgers.

My burger has a first name
It’s T-R-U-E-B-U-R-G-E-R

Burger Love

I love a good burger. On more than one occasion my wife has recognized a look of fatigue and nutrient deficiency that will drape across the features of my face. Next thing I know she is calling in an order to my favorite burger spot.

Twenty minutes later the burger and fries are fading into a warm memory. My stomach swells with glee and I am gently slurping down a chocolate shake with peanut butter mixed in. Every time I take my first bite I know that the value in this burger is worth every penny.

Balancing Act

Things We Want

When I was a kid my tastes were less developed. I wanted McDonald’s, Burger King, and any other fast food restaurant with meals on demand. Those were all instant favorites. Mom indulged us when she didn’t have time to cook, but Dad was deterred by the cost.

My dad was stubborn and determined. He didn’t understand paying for something that he could make on his own. How could cheaper and better quality be wrong? 

In his mind the money my dad was paying was more than the value of the food he was getting.

What We Need

In this case, what we needed was food which is something we had or could obtain for a lower price at the grocery store. What we wanted was something mass-produced that was lower quality and cost more because someone prepared it for you.

Every move we make is defined by our wants and needs

I can see him standing in the kitchen, breaking down how with ten dollars I could buy the ingredients for the burgers and make them two or three times as thick. He always illustrated the measurement with his thumb and forefinger. Even prized fixings and condiments could be purchased for a tenth of the price charged at the drive-thru window.

So what was the difference? Dad’s value required work. Making burgers involves planning, purchasing, and preparation. It took me years before I understood why that is important. I’m still learning.

My Father’s Foundation

This wasn’t the first time my dad and I talked about want and need. But it’s the first example that created the mental foundation for my understanding. Later, the examples came down to tougher decisions and the lessons that we can learn from their hardship. 

My father is a Christmas Eve baby. Every December usually brings him to mind. Last Christmas he collapsed from a torn aortic valve. Now every December, much like his lessons, takes on a new meaning. 

About the Storyteller

Freelance Writer
Storytellers tell stories

Seth Singleton believes in a common thread that connects us all.

In the end, everyone has a story to tell.  

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