Needs and Wants By Sarah McMurray

Meeting Topic


Want to actually achieve your goals this year? Gamify them! We’re all at least a little bit competitive. In the article below, contributed by Ann Cooper-Smith, you’ll learn what gamification is and how you can use it in your day-to-day routine to smash your goals and have fun along the way!

Gamify Your Goals – Money or Otherwise! By Ann Cooper-Smith

I was a girl who didn’t tidy her bedroom, until my mother started a star chart system. Mum made a wall chart and before bedtime she’d check my room.  If my room was tidy, I got a gold star.

There was no other incentive.  No pocket money reward, nor a treat for a certain number of gold stars. But since I desperately wanted gold stars my room was kept tidy.

I haven’t changed.  When I want to achieve something, I track my goals – a calendar tick each day I don’t drink alcohol, weight recording, and debt reduction.  I mentioned this to a friend and she said “Oh, you’re gamifying your goals!”.

SMART goals

SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. My goals are SMART because I have specific targets for alcohol free days per week, my weight, and debt reduction.

Making the invisible visible

Visible score boards tracking KPIs (key performance indicators) are powerful…  “if you’re not keeping score it’s only practice”.  If the All Blacks played the Springboks and didn’t keep score, then we wouldn’t bother to watch.

Recently, a client started a score board to record warehouse boxes dispatched each day. Within 3 months, box numbers had increased 33% without any change in personnel!  The warehouse team was competing against themselves – and winning.

A recent survey of accounting firms unsurprisingly found that the lowest performing quartile included the highest proportion that didn’t keep timesheets.

Choosing goals

Choose goals carefully – chasing one goal may have unintended consequences (for example, I snack if I don’t drink).  Ensure your goals align with each other, as well as with your core values.

And, when it comes to goals “less is more”.  Tracking one to three goals is about right.

Despite being an accountant, complex KPI tracking spreadsheets don’t work for me. A simple hand drawn chart on the wall is hard to beat.

So, how to gamify your goals (financial or otherwise)?

Firstly, decide the three KPIs that would have the biggest impact on your financial or business success – for example recording productive time, sales calls, personal spending, or debt reduction.

Secondly, check your goals are SMART.

Thirdly, create a visible tracking system that is easy and fun to use!

And lastly, keep at it. If you miss one day / week / month then make a commitment to succeed the next day / week / month.  Keeping score, and winning, is fun!

If you’d like to get better acquainted with Ann, check out her website:  or email

Next Meeting Topic


Everyone sometimes struggles with differentiating a need from a want. The author of this introduction remembers the discussion about ‘what do we want’ vs ‘what do we need’ being a massive part of shifting her family (and life) from the US to NZ 14 years ago. In this article, member Sarah McMurray gives us a simple yet effective way to begin to learn the difference for ourselves so that we can improve our relationship with money. Consider sharing how you navigate this issue during your 60-second introduction in the next meeting.

Needs and Wants By Sarah McMurray

One of my favourite quick jokes in the Pixar movie “Inside Out’ is when they are on the Train of Thought and Joy knocks over crates of facts and opinions, then tries to tidy them up.

Joy:  “Oh, no! These facts and opinions look so similar!”

Bing-Bong:  “Ah, don’t worry about it. Happens all the time.” Puts an armful of everything into the crate labelled ‘facts.’

In my line of work, it is the needs and wants that can look so similar.

“Asking yourself, is this thing I’m about to buy a need, or a want” is really common ‘be good with money’ advice.

The first problem with this advice is that needs and wants aren’t always that easy to tell apart.

It doesn’t help that when we really want something, our brains can instantly produce at least 17 reasons why we need it.

And the opposite problem can also occur. Sometimes we can find it very hard to allow ourselves to either want something, or to allow ourselves to have the thing that we want. Especially after a sustained period of having to deny ourselves any wants at all, the idea of spending on something that isn’t absolutely necessary can feel less like freedom and more like the beginning of a free-fall.

When we’ve taken on the idea that (basic) needs can be (begrudgingly) fulfilled, but that all wants are a frivolous waste of money, we quickly get to the point where we’re living in deprivation.

We can all live like this for a while, especially if doing so allows us to achieve an important goal, or if we know it will end in a certain time frame. But living with constant deprivation can lead to acting out and overspending – a “Damn it, I’m worth it!” attempt at self-care.

What’s needed is a way to tell our true needs and wants apart. I’m yet to find a better way to do that than my favourite quote from Karen McCall:

A want, when met, entertains you.

A need, when met, sustains you.

Substituting wants for needs will eventually drain you.

When you identify the things that sustain you, that’s where your time, energy and money are best spent – on your deepest needs.

Over the next fortnight, take the time to notice the things you are denying yourself.

Instead of just dismissing the idea (“Far too expensive; can never do that; especially not right now!”) ask yourself how it would feel if you could have what you’re thinking of.

If the idea of getting a cleaner, or making a dental appointment, or having more than two work outfits, (or whatever it is) makes you feel happy, that’s probably a want.

If you get a deep sense of relaxation and relief at simply imagining having (whatever it is) – that’s a need. Figuring out how to meet that need (sometimes by spending little or no money) is a vital part of healthy behaviour with money.

To find out more about how Sarah helps her clients, check out her website:

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