Wants vs. Needs Checklist

Wants vs. Needs Checklist

A common budgeting tool is creating a wants vs needs checklist to understand your spending. It’s a tool to help understand money priorities. This list isn’t entirely complete, for my “wants,” but it helps give me a sense of what I can do to change my habits. My wants especially reflect my worst habits of emotional spending, but also, I know that I might think a gym membership is crucial, when in fact, it is not since I don’t use it that often.

Inspiration from these articles: NerdWallet, Forbes, Budgets are Sexy


  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Cell phone
  • Food
  • Cat supplies
  • Basic clothing


  • Lunch out of the office
  • New outfit for an occasion, or new clothes in general
  • Sephora skincare and makeup
  • Movies; books; Broadway shows
  • Travel spending and souvenir purchases
  • Target $1 buys
  • Subscriptions or memberships (gym, Spotify, Apple iCloud storage…)

To be clear, to want something is not in itself a bad thing (like books, listed here), I just use it to illustrate that I don’t need to by a lot or excessive amount in order to function in society. And to illustrate further the point of entertainment spending, there are plenty of ways to get free books, movies, or the like if you know where to look. Wants listed here are something that can be budgeted. If you use the 50% needs/ 20% savings/ 30% wants budgeting method, it’s not unreasonable to buy lunch once a week or indulge in Sephora once in a while, just as long as it’s a planned purchase. I like this idea in theory, but for me 50% of needs spending is not realistic in my life living in New York, so that means that I have to take some of my “wants” spending for my needs. This has become less of a problem as I earn more money in my career, but it is still not entirely 50% yet. I need to be more conscious of my purchases to not overspend.

The interesting part about these checklists are that they will look different for each individual depending on so many factors. What are some of your “wants” spending? Leave a comment!

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