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How to Master Your Wants and do Your Wallet a Great Favour

You already believe that what has an enormously positive effect on your money is learning to control your wants, not your needs. What you’d like to learn next is how to master your wants. In this blog post, I share with you an exercise for mastering your wants that I developed. It worked for me – I no longer lust after most material things and know exactly what to allow myself – and it has worked for many people around me over the years. The exercise is quite fun and all you need is a piece of paper and a pen. Are you ready? It is worth it, I promise.

Controlling your spending is not about conquering your needs but about mastering your wants!

Realising that to control spending you ought to control your wants and working out a way to really do it are very different things. Important as the AHA is, without taking action it is not very helpful. This got me thinking again and this is what I worked out:

• Most people don’t want everything most of the time. People want specific things but these may change over time. I bet that if you look around your house you will easily spot the things you have far too many of. Make a mental note of these things.
• People’s wants form stable but changeable hierarchies. This means that there are things that you want so much more than others, things that motivate you so much that these will be hard to forego.
• Things that rank lower in your hierarchy of wants are usually things you will find easy to give up. Interestingly some of these things may be the things you have been acquiring.

It seemed that working out my hierarchy of ‘wants’ was essential. Furthermore, controlling one’s wants is probably rather similar to controlling one’s cravings – forbidding something we crave only makes it more desirable and much harder to resist.

Completely rejecting what one really craves is not sustainable long term and often, if not always, results in excess. I decided that just like I don’t tell myself that I can never have chocolate again, I will not tell myself that I cannot have the things I find I most desire. To work out my ‘protected wants’ I devised the following exercise.

Master your wants: work out your ‘protected wants’

Do you want to master your wants? Complete the exercise below.

To complete this exercise you need about 10 minutes quiet time, a pen and a piece of paper and imagination.

Close your eyes and breathe deeply for couple of minutes. When you feel calm and your mind is still imagine that the door bell is ringing. You open the door and you see couple of men in suits. They tell you that you have to leave your house and will never be allowed to return. You have ten minutes to pack and you are allowed to take twenty things with you; once you leave you won’t be allowed to buy anything for a year.

What are you going to take? Write down the twenty things you are going to take with you; it is important that this is done quickly, without much thinking and please don’t try to reason – just write what springs to mind.

Now that you have your list of twenty things look at these carefully. If you were told that you can take only five things which ones of the twenty would you take?


You just worked out your ‘protected wants’. Allow yourself to have these things and enjoy the result. Oh, and you already know that the rest is not that important anyway.

If you feel like taking this a step further you can look at the detail, at how you expressed yourself, what words did you use? This can tell you much about the other ‘wants’. I, for instance, always thought that I like jewellery but after this exercise realised that this is not the case; I like the stories that my pieces of jewellery carry.

Working out your protected wants and allowing yourself to have these is the first, and very important step towards achieving complete mastery over your wants; and over your spending and financial destiny. How to master your wants further? Just leave all this to germinate in your mind. Very soon you’d notice that you have become indifferent to most of the things you used to lust after. If you wish to take all this a step further, start thinking of ways to get your protected wants met while someone else is paying for these.

Not kidding. My top protected want are computers and electronic gadgets – I used to pay a small fortune on my electronics. This has changed. I still get it all but meanwhile I found that my workplace has the contractual obligation to buy me computer every three years or so – a major means of production, you see. From my externally funded research projects I can finance other electronics. So there.

What are your protected wants? Did you find anything that surprised you?

photo credit: A100319_MAMC_TBI 1 via photopin (license)

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