Talking About Needs & Wants

Chapter 01

Why talk about needs and wants?

Introducing the difference between needs and wants will help your kids decide where to spend right now, and even how to budget in later life. Win-win.

Chapter 02

What is a need vs a want?

It’s all to do with ‘needs’ and ‘wants’. ‘Needs’ are the essentials you need to live. A ‘want’ is something you’d like, but can live without. Cave people were far too busy finding water, food, fire and shelter to worry about any extras.

Nowadays, it’s important to make sure you have enough money for ‘needs’ before splashing out on ‘wants’. Allowing money for essential needs is the basis of every good budget. We may all need to eat, but let’s face it, we could survive without ice-cream sundaes.

Here are some needs and wants, try printing them out and going through with your kids


  • air
  • fruit and vegetables
  • basic bills like power
  • somewhere to sleep
  • basic clothing


  • air conditioning
  • sweets
  • your own room
  • hot tub
  • awesome trainers

Fun Fact

One of our most important needs doesn’t cost a penny – fresh air.

Chapter 03

Talking to your kids about needs and wants

We love a good chat at Rooster Money, so here are some easy ideas to kick start conversations about needs and wants:


Quick fire choices

Fire out a list of things like ‘TV’, ‘bed’, ‘skateboard’, ‘vegetables’, ‘car’, ‘house’, ‘cola’ and so on. Ask your child to say which ones are ‘needs’, and which ones are ‘wants’.


This or that

Next time a TV advert sparks a request for a new toy, ask them whether they think they need it? Or is there anything they want more, and would rather spend money on first? You’re not saying no, but it’s a good way to get them thinking.


A day’s delay

If kids are pestering for new purchases, play the 24 hour rule. Rather than just buying stuff, set an alarm on your phone for 24 hours’ time. Do you still need to buy it? If it no longer seems so urgent, it could be a ‘want’ rather than a ‘need’.

Expert View

After giving her children an allowance to cover their “wants”, Kristen Welch, author of 'Raising grateful kids in an entitled world', said: “From watching one of my children spend every penny and then realise THAT WAS IT for the month to watching another save more than I thought possible, it’s been a journey of education in teaching our children how to handle money."

Chapter 04

Having some fun with it

We all learn best by doing, so here are some fun activities you can try:


Split the shopping

In the supermarket, get your kids to identify whether stuff on the shelves or in your trolley are ‘needs’ or ‘wants’ – and discuss any disagreements! It may also depend what you have at home, if you already have porridge but the kids are clamouring for frosty flakes.


Clear the clutter

If the bedroom is a tip, instead of just tidying it all away, make it into a race creating piles of ‘needs’ (jumpers, pillows, socks) and ‘wants’ (the 8th toy car, the light-up trainers).


Bills, bills, bills

Ask your child to imagine they had their own home and earned their own money. Then ask them to write down all the things they’d have to pay for. Talk about any boring-but-essential items they might miss, like water bills and Council Tax. Sadly life isn’t all pizza and Netflix.

Expert View

“When I asked my nine-year-old to make a list of where her money would go after she left home, I was surprised how much she’d grasped about buying food and paying for heat, light, transport and somewhere to live. Did point out it might be tricky to afford daily taxis and McDonalds though.”

Faith ArcherMother and money blogger at 'Much More With Less'

How NatWest Rooster Money Can Help

Saving and budgeting are important lessons when teaching kids about needs and wants. Some wants might be more expensive than others, and with Rooster Money kids can create their own Savings Pot to save toward their goals.

Rooster Pots

Use the “Split Allowance” feature to help your child allocate their pocket money automatically between their pots.

Split Allowance

Even young children can grasp that by not spending money on small things now, they can save up for something bigger and better later. Read our guide on how to talk to your kids about saving money for their wants.

Saving for Goals