Switching Over

mint girl shadow

(While I’m away visiting a lovely friend, I’m reposting some content from my archives. This one was originally published on April 12, 2010). 

So since I’m been officially trying to switch camps from being a Spender to a Saver it’s got me thinking… are people born one or the other? Do people pop out of the womb saying “I want that so I’m gonna buy it” or do they come out saying “I want that but I’m gonna save up for it”?

I vaguely remember being a kid and standing in line at Kmart with my sisters and mom thinking “I’m not going to ever spend any money. I’m going to save all my money so I can be a millionaire when I grow up.” Uhh. Yeah. That wore off quick when I found out that I could buy a mini gum ball machine, keep it in my room, re-buy the gum from myself with a penny and taunt my friends with my luxury gummy life. I guess my millionaire dreams ended there.

Here’s a excerpt from an article I found online about this topic. It is written by M.P. Dunleavey: 

“Why a spender spends

Actually, when you talk to financial psychologists and planners about what makes a saver or a spender, they all agree that emotions play an important role, perhaps even greater than habit.

Bob Kenney is the executive director of More Than Money, an organization that was designed to help wealthy people do more with their money than just make more of it knows from experience that whether you’re a saver or a spender has nothing to do with how much money you have. He’s seen wealthy people who pinch pennies and equally rich folks who are spendthrifts.

What matters is whether what they have is ‘enough,’ and whether they tend to react to that perceived scarcity or surplus by buying or saving. 

The same fear of not having enough might inspire one person to save money and another person to spend it lavishly — regardless of how much money they actually have. Kenney’s point is that even rich people sometimes have to be taught to save. More Than Money sponsors community discussion groups for its members, and people often help to rein in each other’s spending. ‘If your peer tells you, ‘You don’t need three homes,’ you’re going to listen to them,’ Kenney says.

I wish someone would tell me I don’t need three homes, but Kenney feels that part of the problem with big spenders at all income levels is that changing your behavior ‘is almost countercultural.’ ‘Every place you go you’re pushed to buy more,’ he says. ‘But how much more do we need? It’s easy to forget (about saving), because the dominant culture wants you to believe you don’t have enough.’

A sense of control and a goal

Not everyone spends out of some underlying emotional need, however. ‘It could just be a bad habit,’ says Margo Geller, a wealth counselor with GV Financial Advisors in Atlanta. ‘It’s like eating junk food. If you grew up in a family that ate potato chips and McDonald’s, you’ll probably do that, too.’

Kenney says a lot of people are on automatic pilot. ‘They’re stuck in third gear and can’t get out of it. They go shopping without a thought, because it’s time to shop, because they pass that store or see the word ‘sale.”

So how do you become a saver? Well, I could give you the bad news about discipline and all that. But I’ll tell you the truth. It’s not about discipline: Learning to save is about wanting something else more than you want to spend.

It’s true that it helps to ‘pay yourself first’ and all that classic personal-finance advice. But you won’t do it unless you want something really, really badly.  

I never saved a dime (this is sad, but totally true) until I wanted to buy a house. Suddenly I was the saving queen. Now, I have to confess that as a longstanding spender, I’m not comfortable saving. It’s unfamiliar. So my desire to save battles with my desire to spend — on a daily basis. If not hourly. Especially when the Bliss Spa catalogue arrives in the mail. I hate that damned thing.

But increasingly my desire for certain things — more money for retirement, a new car, furniture for the house — is gaining the upper hand. And that’s how I’ve learned the little secret about being a saver that no one ever tells you.

Saving is even more fun than spending. (No, I’m not trying to pull the wool over your eyes.)

When you’re a spender, you can’t believe anything could top the feeling of indulging yourself. But talk to anyone who is a natural saver and they will tell you how fabulous it feels to be in control of your money, to know how much you have and that there’s plenty of it — and you’re watching it grow.

My friend Val is not only a natural saver (a habit she learned from her very money-savvy mother), but she dislikes spending. When she and her husband moved, it was stressful for her — not because of the hassle, but because she had to spend money to do it. Recently, she and her husband took a vacation, for which they had saved (nothing on Visa, OK?). She was glad they were able to pay for their getaway, but what made her happiest was coming home and knowing she was going to start saving again.

I can’t imagine I’d ever dislike spending money. No way. Not while there’s a Crate & Barrel still standing. But I am getting the idea that saving money can bring equal pleasure — and a really cool feeling of power. That kind of makes me want to keep saving.”

So, with that said what you think? And are you a natural saver or natural spender?


4 thoughts on “Switching Over

  1. Ryan Brown

    I'm a natural saver and get it from my parents I think. My father was a school teacher in a very small town and my Mom worked as a substitute while we were young because of the flexible schedule it offered. Needless to say, they didn't have 2 nickels to rub together. But they lived below their means and were able to retire entirely debt free around the age of 55. They don't live like millionaire's, but live a comfortable life. I learned my savings habits from them. What is odd though is that my wife grew up in a house where they made great money, but spent every dime of it. I thought it would be a big issue for our relationship. Our parents are at two polar extremes financially, but we try to land somewhere close to the middle. However, I tend to be a bit more like my parents. If I'm gonna miss, I'd rather miss on the safe side.

  2. Spending Faster in the DC area

    Wow, this is completely true.

    I've never had any luck saving even $100 in my savings account, but I'm hoping to save enough for a down payment on the house, and all I have to do is hold up the cost of X (sushi, or a new pair of tennis shoes) vs. the idea of finally laying back on a couch in my very own house, and it's not even close. I drop those tennis shoes like they're radioactive and walk out of that store!


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