Needs & Wants


“Needs” are necessities that you cannot live without, for instance, food, water and personal safety, that is, the lowest level in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. “Wants” are mainly used to meet human material or psychological needs, and are often affected by other individuals, social trends and culture.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
The highest level Self-actualisation
Esteem needs
Social needs
Safety needs
The lowest level Physiological needs


The relationship between “need” and “want” is often placed in terms of consumer behaviour. When people “want” more than “need”, it will lead to excessive consumption behaviour and even financial issues.



Key factors of overconsumption are as follows:

The Rise of Consumerism

Consumerism is the idea that spending money is a way of enjoying life, and even believes that consumption is the fundamental need of life. The media has exaggerated the consumption-oriented culture, including advocating that consumption can relieve pressure, and borrowing for consumption is acceptable which benefits businesses and merchants.

Life Becomes More Convenient and Fast

The popularization of the internet and e-commerce accompanied by discounts and convenience of online shopping somehow stimulates consumer desire. Besides, the rapid pace of life in Hong Kong and the habit of pursuing efficiency have led to the rise of fast-food culture, and disposable commodities with short life span, thus promoting the habit of overconsumption.

Seeking Social Recognition

Affected by consumerism and utilitarianism, measuring people's values based on possession has become the social norm. Young people may seek social recognition through consumption to demonstrate their personal identity and status.

Case Study

Buy Only What is Necessary & Affordable

Little Thrifty plans to use his savings in the past six months to buy a smartphone for communication and online information. He reads about the following three mobile phones in a magazine and he is looking for the best option:

Little Thrifty’s saving: HK$5,000
Little Thrifty’s budget: HK$3,000

Price Average life expectancy Features rating* Characteristics
Model A HK$2,000- HK$2,300 3-5 years CPU and download speed (3)
Camera pixels (3)
Battery durability (4)
Sound and Display (3) Memory capacity (4)
Though the phone has been launched for 2 years, it has great features as a midrange model. It’s ideal for daily communication and simple data exchange.
Model B HK$3,800- HK$4,200 4-6 years

CPU and download speed (4)
Camera pixels (3.5)
Battery durability (4)
Sound and Display (3.5)

Memory capacity (4.5)
This model has come onto the market for 3 months, due to the launch of Model C, the price has slightly gone down. It is more powerful than Model A with practicality, and its durable design is the biggest highlight.
Model C HK$7500- HK$8000 3-5 years

CPU and download speed (5)
Camera pixels (5)
Battery durability (3)
Sound and Display (5)

Memory capacity (4)
The latest model with a stylish design, bringing in high-end audio-visual quality and camera functions, it’s the best choice for those who enjoy watching movies and taking pictures with their phones.
*Based on a 5-point scale, a higher score means better performance

Although Little Thrifty finds the Model C very appealing, as it’s the latest model with high-end performance, its price far exceeds his budget, and some features are not necessary for him. As for Models A and B, they both meet Little Thrifty’s needs, however, Model B is slightly newer than Model A, and it requires 80% of his saving; in other words, Little Thrifty will have a low cash turnover for unexpected expenses if he chooses to buy Model B.

Therefore, Model A is the best option for Little Thrifty as it meets his needs and within his budget.

It is worth noting that even if Little Thrifty purchases Model B, it does not necessarily mean he is "overspending" as the phone is within his budget and the "upgraded" features meet his needs, it is something nice he can afford. Therefore, students must consider a variety of conditions to measure whether consumption is “excessive”, the basic principle is to purchase only what you can afford.


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