Budget Basics: Needs vs Wants

budget basics


After you’ve decided to venture into the world of budgeting, you be asking yourself, how do I determine one? What needs to be in my budget anyways? Are there some sort of categories I need to be following? Although these are all great questions, and have great and beneficial answers, the one question we’ll be answering is what needs to be in your budget, through the example of needs vs wants.

What’s a Need? What’s a Want? 

In life, there are needs and wants. A need could easily be classified as something simply as, what do you need in order to survive? For you to be a functioning member of society, and a capable adult, what are some of the basics that you need? For most of us, our needs can be categorized for easily:

  • Shelter ( You need a place to sleep.)
  • Food ( You need food to work, sleep and I don’t know, live?)
  • Transportation ( You need to be able to get to and from work and school)
  • Clothing/ Hygiene ( You need protection from the elements and it’s illegal to walk around naked. 🙂 )
  • Utilities ( You need to have running water,electricity to cook and see at night and gas to perhaps heat your living space or cook as well.)
  • Prescriptions ( You need to be able to maintain your health and take medications as prescribed to you for ailments and health issues.)

You need other things as well, such as love and happiness, a sense of belonging, etc, but for now we’ll just focus on these things in our budget. Now, what’s a want?

  • Entertainment
  • Smartphones
  • Internet
  • Excessive shopping for fun ( extra clothes, accessories, shoes)
  • Household items that are non-essential ( throw pillows, candles, etc)
  • Alcohol
  • Eating out
  • Take out coffee
  • Electronics
  • Makeup
  • Travel
  • Anything else NOT ESSENTIAL to your survival.

Now, we are not saying that wants do not belong in your budget. Far from it. As a matter of fact, I always make sure there is plenty of room in my budget for wants, most specifically, travel and entertainment. But wants should definitely not take up more than 25% of your budget, nor should they stop you from making financial goals for yourself and making progress on them.

Needs should also not stop you from making financial headway on your goals either. You need shelter, but you don’t need to live in the fanciest place with no roommates either. You need food, but you do not need to eat out everyday. And you need to be able to get to and from work, but you most certainly do not need a fancy SUV with rims.

What are some of your needs? What are some of your wants?






Latinas, you need a budget


The first piece of financial advice I give anyone in passing is about budgets. Specifically, how YOU need one.  Still not sure why you exactly need a budget? Let’s go over all the reasons you need one, stat! After I convince why you need a budget, which is basically a plan addressing every dollar of your hard earned income to work for you, we can go into the next steps of how to make one.

  • You need to be able to see where your money is going. Better yet, you can tell your money where to go. Are you one of the millions of people who doesn’t know where your money goes day in and day out? I used to be like and sometimes, I still am like that. But after years of tracking my finances, I can easily tell you where my money goes now, Starbucks and Target! But without having a budget, or tracking my finances, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you that. And I bet you five dollars you are probably spending way too much on fast food.
  • You can finally set and reach those financial goals you’ve been dreaming about. Dream about going back to school, buying a new home or owning a new car? A budget can help you track your spending AND saving. You can save for numerous things and buy them in cash, which leads to number three.
  • A budget helps create a life without debt. Not only will you be able to see how much money you can save and spend, budgets allow you to see where you can cut your spending to get out of debt in a hurry. You can also save towards items you might have put on your credit card before and now purchase them, debt free!
  • Not only can you save for retirement, you can save for emergencies too. After establishing a monthly budget, you can regularly contribute to accounts with money your now saving for retirement and emergencies. If you have a budget established and have decided that you still can’t comfortably save for either, it’s time to see what we can cut out or how we can make more money. I’m a personal fan of both but you can always make more money.

These are only some, but not all, of the reasons why you need a budget. Next week, we’ll dive more into budgeting in our new series called, “Budget Basics.”

Do you have a budget? Why or why not?



Athena Princeton 003

Hello and welcome to Money Smart Latina! My name is Athena and I wanted to take a minute to introduce myself and my new site, Money Smart Latina, where Latinas and finance meet.

Although I’ve been consistently blogging since 2007, I didn’t dip into personal finances until I was a broke college student in 2009, trying to live off of $900 a month. I had been on my own since being orphaned when I was 15 only to be going down mayday in college. I was struggling to put together money for that semester and keep my head above water.

Flash forward to 2014, and I am currently working on my second degree in Criminology at Arizona State University. My part-time job at a nationally non-profit has helped establish a career I love and I can now bring over 11 years of non-profit experiences even though I’m not 30 yet. And not only did I just pay off braces that have cost me well over $6,000, thousands of medical debt paid off and a car that was paid for in cash. Did I also mention I’m the first one in my family to graduate from college with an associates in Criminal Justice?

Even though hard work and persistence has helped me succeed, I was always left wanting more. I came from a household that wasn’t financially savvy and becoming orphaned at such a young age meant I had to learn a lot about being a grown up the hard way, aka, lots of debt and hard financial lessons. And even though there was a lot of personal finance bloggers out there and still is, there is definitely not enough about personal finance for Latinas such as myself, which has been proven to me by working with youth in generational poverty that look and sound just like me. I want to change that.

And so, without further ado, the idea for Money Smart Latina was born. I want to help not only young adults and millennials learn about money but I want to make sure the Latinas have a resource too. On this site, we’ll be covering everything you need to know from college and career, saving and debt, retirement and investing, and budget living, with a sprinkle of sass and memoirs thrown in. I couldn’t blog about it if I haven’t lived and boy have I lived it.

Welcome to Money Smart Latina, where Latinas and finance meet!