Section 1: Needs vs Wants

Learning Outcome

2.10 apply consumer decision-making skills in the management of personal, family and household resources for everyday living

Linking Learning Outcomes


In this section students identify needs and wants and differentiate between the two. They do this by analysing a case study and taking part in the Giant Steps game. Comparing needs and wants will lead to a greater understanding of the allocation of personal resources and how these resources can change over the lifecycle. The worksheets supporting this section provide students with the opportunity to apply their decision-making skills to make the best use of resources for everyday living.

Key Learning

  • Consider factors that affect decision-making
  • Understand the terms needs and wants
  • Distinguish between needs and wants
  • Identify their own needs and wants
  • Consider factors that affect needs and wants: age, trends, fashion, influencers, advertising and marketing, sustainability, culture etc.
  • Recognise how stages in the lifecycle affect needs and wants and how they can change over time

Decision making

Introduce the term decision-making i.e. making choices / the process of making choices. Discuss with the class the various decisions that people may be facing each day e.g. lunch options, what clothes to wear, what car to buy etc.

Explore the factors that affect the above examples of decision-making i.e. what could influence your lunch options?

Identify that needs, wants, resources, etc., are factors that will affect decision making. In order to make best use of our resources to satisfy our needs and wants we need to make informed decisions.

Needs and Wants

Discuss with students their understanding of the terms needs and wants. Explore examples of needs and wants with students by watching the video clip below.

Activity 1: Needs and wants case study; Seán

Case Study: Seán


Individually read the case study and consider Seán’s needs and wants.

Think-Pair-Share: Discuss Seán’s needs and wants and complete the venn diagram.

When this activity is completed provide feedback by facilitating a classroom discussion to identify the student’s answers and assess the factors that influenced their decisions.

Class discussion:

Which bicycle do you think Sean should buy? Explain why.

In order to purchase the bicycle, will Sean have to make any sacrifices? Explain why.

Summary: Making decisions often involves a cost. When faced with a decision, it is important to compare needs and wants in order to make the best use of resources available.

Discuss with the class ‘opportunity cost’. When a person makes a choice, they may have to weigh the opportunity cost of that action against the choice they are making which includes the loss of time, energy etc.

Needs and wants throughout the lifecycle

Discuss with the class how needs and wants will change as people move through the different stages of the lifecycle (early childhood, 2nd/3rd level student, retirement etc.) and explore the reasons for these changes.

Activity 2: Needs and wants throughout the lifecycle

This activity requires the class to create a variety of profiles of people at different stages of the lifecycle so that they can discuss and compare how needs and wants may change as they go through life.

Further discussion can occur to tease out the reasons why needs and wants may change throughout life’s journey for example: income, dependency on adult parents, work, responsibilities etc.

Student Worksheet: Social media profile


  1. Divide the class into pairs.
  2. Distribute a blank social media profile worksheet to each pair.
  3. Ask each pair to create a profile for one of the following: school going adolescent, 3rd level student, working adult, adult with small children, retired grandparent etc. (distribute evenly throughout the class).
  4. Once the class have created the profiles, swap the profiles around the class.
  5. Students must now outline the needs and wants of the profile they have been given.
  6. Discuss the difference between the needs and wants of the profiles created by the class.

Alternatively, the role cards from Student Worksheet: Giant Steps Role Cards could be used here for developing profiles.

Students could also carry out a survey on students in their school in both 1st year and 6th year to compare the needs and wants at different ages. This could be done using an online survey tool such as Google Forms, Survey Monkey or another suitable website.

Possible Assessment: Needs and wants

The worksheet summary on defining needs and wants and identifying examples along with how they change throughout the lifecycle could be used to assess student learning.

Student Worksheet: Needs and wants throughout the life cycle

Factors influencing needs and wants

Discuss: What influences our needs and wants?

Watch this clip from episode 5 of the CCPC sponsored TV show How to be Good with Money and get the students to work in groups and offer responses to the below questions:

  1. Identify the needs and wants mentioned in the video clip.
  2. In your opinion, do you think the consumer in this video clip spends too much or too little money on her wants?
  3. Give one piece of financial advice to the consumer in the video clip on how they could be better with money.

It is important to emphasise that the items referred to in the clip (i.e. hair extensions and nails are not essential items – these are wants.) In order to ensure that our needs are met we need to make careful decisions about our spending.

Activity 3: Giant Steps game

Different people have different needs and wants when it comes to their spending.  In this activity, we will look at what this means for the present and future financial well-being of a range of people at different stages of the lifecycle.

Student Worksheet: Giant Steps Game

Student Worksheet: Giant Steps Role Cards


  1. The class are going to participate in a role play to help understand that different people have different needs and wants when it comes to their spending.
  2. Ask the class if anyone has ever taken part in a Giant Steps activity before? Encourage those who have to help you explain how the activity works.
  3. Explain that each student will be given a card with a description of a person. They should take a few minutes to think about the character on their card and what life might be like for them.  If they want, they can make up some more detail about their character. They will then be asked to imagine how their specific character might respond to a set of statements (the teacher may want to give a short example to illustrate this clearly to students).
  4. Distribute one Giant Steps role card to each student.
  5. Once students have had a chance to read the role card, invite them to stand, ‘in character’, at one end of the room with their backs against the wall.  Use the full length of the space.
  6. Explain that you are going to read out statements (Giant Steps statements). After each statement is read they should:
  • Take a giant step forward if they agree that the statement applies to their character.
  • Take a baby step forward if they partly agree that the statement applies to their character.
  • Don’t move if they think the statement does not apply to their character.
  1. Emphasise that the aim is not to reach the end (where you will be standing). Instead, the purpose is to enter into character and experience what it would be like to be that person.
  2. Read each statement aloud, allowing sufficient time for students to consider the statement and decide whether or not to move.
  3. When all statements have been read, ask students to remain standing for a few minutes.
  4. Ask the students standing closest to you which statements motivated them to move, and which ones they felt did not apply to ‘them’. Ask the students at the back the same questions, and also ask how they felt when they could not move.
  5. Check to see if any students with the same role cards are standing in different places. Ask them to talk about their character, and to compare why one moved when another one did not.
  6. Invite students to sit down.

Facilitate a whole class discussion using the following as prompts:

  • What did you think about this activity?  Did you like it?  Why?
  • What did you learn about the needs and wants of different individuals?
  • What did you learn about the needs and wants of people at different life stages?
  • If you could give some advice to the person on your role card what would it be?

If space or the movement requirement is an issue in your classroom perhaps you could draw a ‘race track’ on your blackboard/whiteboard and assign a lane to each character. You can then use a set distance to move a character down the race track depending on whether the students agree, partially agree or don’t agree with the statement. For example you could progress a character down the track four inches if they agree, one inch if they partially agree and no movement if they disagree with the statements read aloud. 

Or have students working in small groups (say 3 – 5) with one student from each group taking the steps which the other group members decide are appropriate. The teacher reads the statement and the group discuss it very quickly (15 – 20 seconds) and instruct their standing group member to take the required steps.

Discussion & Reflections

In the above we looked at different scenarios and examined the difference between a need and a want. Below is a check in to reflect on your learning in this section.

  • Distinguish between needs and wants and provide examples of each.
  • What factors influence needs and wants?
  • How do the stages of the lifecycle affect needs and wants?
  • Why is decision-making important?

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