It's the question I ask myself every time I go shopping. I pick up an item for purchase and then ask, "Do I need this item or do I just want this item". To help me answer I think through a couple of other questions.
Do I need this to live/survive?
Do I have something at home that can provide the same function?
Do I have to have it now or can it wait until later?
Why am I buying this item?
If replacing an item, can I fix the item I already have for cheaper than buying a new one?
I believe we all really know what our needs are but when there is a sale that is almost too good to be true it is sooooo hard to pass it up. I am guilty of compulsive buying when it comes to those good deals. So is my husband. Here is our most recent example. My husband has been wanting an air compressor for sometime now and every time he goes to a home improvement store he checks the prices to see if by some chance there is one we can afford. I don't know exactly why we "need" one but apparently we can sure use one around the house. Well, last week he was at a store and checked the prices and low and behold, one was on sale for 50% off the original price. It turns out the store had it priced wrong but he got the advertised price anyway. It was our luck. Now, did we really have the money for this purchase? No, we did not but the price will never be that low ever (we got it below wholesale). So, because the sale was so good we ended up making a purchase I feel we didn't really need to make. However, I have a very happy and excited husband.
Usually by asking myself the above questions and giving honest answers I save myself some money. The point I'm trying to make is, if you don't "need" it don't buy it. And, if it is something you can't use immediately there is no need in buying it. See how you can save money by distinguishing wants vs. needs.
How do you distinguish your wants from needs?