Buyerarchy of Needs: Using what you have, borrowing and swapping

The Buyerarchy of Needs can provide reminders on how to save money through the different levels of obtaining wants or needs.

Buyerarchy of Needs. Photo credit: Sarah Lazarovic
Buyerarchy of Needs. Photo credit: Sarah Lazarovic

If you have ever taken a psychology class, you may have heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which looks at the structure of needs that influence our choices and behaviors. A newly imagined hierarchy of buying behavior needs has been created by Canadian illustrator Sarah Lazarovic. This “Buyerarchy” looks at buying as the last level after all other areas have been tried. This image is a great way to look at the choices made in buying and to focus on going up the pyramid in how items are obtained that we need or want. The goal in utilizing the “Buyerarchy of Needs” is to save money and keep it for future purchases where buying is the only option. Michigan State University Extension recommends using this as an opportunity to discuss money management.

This article will explore the bottom three behaviors: using what you have, borrowing and swapping. A future article will look at the top level rows of thrifting, making and buying.

Using what you have

While it might seem obvious, this base-level buyerarchy need looks at making good use of what you already have. Stop and think: do I already have the item or tool to achieve this goal or purpose? Being organized with your current items helps with this. If you can find the items you have, you can use them. It is also important to keep your belongings in good order. Don’t use and abuse your possessions. Take care of things so they will last a long time and make good use of your purchases. Use the food and supplies you already have before getting more.


Another way to make your money last is by using an item temporarily and then returning it. Consider if there is a place or person from whom you can borrow this item. Libraries are great for borrowing books, movies, music and sometimes even kits or tools. Friends or family might have a piece of equipment, interview clothes or a cooking supply that you can borrow instead of spending the money to use for a limited purpose.


This is a near cousin to borrow. Ask yourself if there is something you can trade to obtain this item. Do you know someone who might have the item you are looking for and might be willing to swap with something you have? Trade a video game that you are done playing with a friend for a new game or movie. Finished with a purse or clothing accessory? Someone you know also has an accessory that they can swap with you to enhance each of your wardrobes without spending money. Use to share your old items or swap for someone else’s items as part of a community of sharing, or consider hosting a swapping event with your friends. Keep in mind, your “traded” item could be a service. Help your cousin with moving and ask if you can have their old desk.

Print out the Buyerarchy of Needs and keep it on your wall or in your wallet. It can serve as a reminder to you when you find a want and need to explore the levels before making a purchase.

MSU Extension 4-H Youth Development has many resources to help youth with money management decisions and information. MiMoneyHealth also provides helpful tools to support a journey towards sound financial practices.

Other articles in this series

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