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11 Needs vs Wants Budget Worksheets (And Teaching Help)

Needs vs. wants worksheets can help students recognize examples from real life. Ultimately, this helps with budgeting and understanding spending priorities.

Teaching your kids and teens needs vs. wants can start at a very young age, with changing the way we talk about things.

Mom with daughter at desk working on worksheet and smiling, text overlay "11 free worksheets to teach kids needs vs wants"

For example, I routinely correct my 5-year-old son who says that he needs his Power Ranger toy, or he needs an ice-cream, or he needs to listen to his favorite tweenie-bopper song for the 117th time. Instead, I take two seconds to say “you mean you want fill-in-the-blank”. Just that little correction is like a placeholder in his mind for future talks about understanding the difference between needs vs. wants.

Psst: here's 11 more interactive money activities for kids you can do at home.

And I don’t just do it to him – I routinely correct myself in front of him, as well. Because let’s face it – us adults get needs and wants mixed up all the time!

Another way to start teaching this important financial literacy lesson is through worksheets, PDFs and activities.

Needs Vs. Wants Worksheet (PDFs)

Check out these wants vs. needs worksheets and lesson plans.

1. Make the Most of Your Money

Suggested Age: 4-6 grades

Here’s a quick little worksheet about needs vs. wants. I like that it offers a real-life scenario of needing to update equipment…but all the options out there don’t fit the bill.

What I mean is, clothing is a need. But $150 sneakers? That’s a want. You could satisfy the need with a $20 pair of sneakers.

This will get students thinking about how spending can get out of control even for “needs”, because they may actually be a “want” in disguise.

2. Simple Activity to Understand Needs

Suggested Age: Not given

Here’s a really simple activity to do with students and kids to help them learn needs vs. wants.

You’ll ask them to draw two columns on a white sheet of paper (one for “needs” and one for “wants”), and then to go through a magazine to cut out various pictures of things that represent the two.

Then, they glue them in the right column.

3. What Do You Need? What Do You Want?

Suggested Age: Not given

Here’s a free printable activity where you cut out and stuff envelopes with various pictures of items, then have small groups of students go through each to determine whether they’re a “need” or a “want”.

A need, by the way, is defined here as:

  • Things you need to live a healthy life
  • Things that you don’t necessarily need, but that might be nice to have

An interesting angle this activity takes is the next step, when students are asked to then sort the piles into:

  • Things that end up being thrown away or wasted, at least in part
  • Things that are not usually thrown away or wasted

FYI: Scroll down until you see “show more content” under the first set of pictures – keep clicking that until you see this activity.

4. FDIC’s Money Smarts Needs vs. Wants Worksheet

Suggested Age: 6-8 grade

This is a whole course on personal finance, but you can find a specific worksheet for needs vs. wants in Lesson 3: Designing a Dream that would be great for around Grade 7.

5. CFPB’s Reflecting on Needs Vs. Wants Worksheet

Suggested Age: 13-19 years

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has a worksheet that asks students to reflect on how needs and wants influence their spending decisions, plus how to differentiate between the two.

There’s also a free teacher’s guide to print.

6. CFPB’s Analyzing Budgets Worksheet

Suggested Age: 13-19 years

Students learn about the 50%/30%/20% (needs/wants/financial goals) rule of budgeting (one of many rules), and then are asked to figure out what sort of costs in a budget are needs, which are wants, and which are financial goals.

Based on a net monthly income, they’ll need to create a budget to maintain the above percentages.  

7. Young Minds Inspired Needs Vs. Wants Worksheet

Suggested Age: High school

Inside a free workbook called Building Your Future is a worksheet called needs vs. wants (fyi: you can download the whole workbook, or just the single worksheets within it).

The worksheet talks about how one item might be a need for one person, but more of a want for another (and the fact that there’s gray areas, too).

Then, students are asked to determine whether a list of items/services are a need or want.

Psst: don't forget to check out these money worksheets for 2nd grade, financial literacy activities for high school students (PDFs), and fun budgeting activities PDFs.

Needs Vs. Wants Budget Worksheets

Figuring out needs vs. wants goes hand-in-hand with budgeting. However, I had quite a bit of trouble finding budget worksheets directly tied to the subject.  

Below is what I was able to find.

1. Emergency Fund Worksheet

Suggested Age: 17-25 years

One of the biggest needs your teen will face in the next few years? Is growing an emergency fund.

Help them to see this as a need and not a “nice-to-have”, or a “someday”, so that they don’t end up back in their old room before truly making a go of it.

Use this free worksheet to hep them calculate their first 3-month emergency fund.

Needs vs. Wants Financial Literacy Activities and Budget Games

Here you’ll find other needs vs. wants money activities…that don’t necessarily come with their own worksheets or PDFs.

1. Relationship between Happiness and Consumer Goods

Suggested Age: 1-2 grades

PBS has a great lesson plan that attempts to teach kids about the relationship between happiness and consumer goods.

In other words…things do not always make us happy, and we can be happy without adding more things into our life.

Kids will watch a video on Happiness (just 1:59 minutes long), and then are asked to write down things that make us happy.

They then work in groups to sort their ideas into various corners, such as needs vs. wants, things that make us happy vs. things that cost money, etc.  

2. Jeopardy Needs Vs. Wants

Suggested Age: Not Given

Check out this free Jeopardy game centered around your students identifying needs versus wants!

Pssst: here’s another great needs vs. wants jeopardy game.

3. Online Game

Suggested Age: Not given

This is a very simple needs vs. want game, that also briefly goes over what each category means to give your students a refresher.

Teaching your kids, students, and teens all about prioritizing needs before wants is such a worthy thing to do! I hope these needs. vs. wants worksheets help. Next up? Maybe have them start reading some of these great money books for kids I've personally reviewed.

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Amanda L. Grossman is a Certified Financial Education Instructor, a 2017 Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Money Prodigy. Amanda's kid money work has been featured on Experian, GoBankingRates, PT Money, CA.gov, Rockstar Finance, the Houston Chronicle, and Colonial Life. Read more here.