Something I’ve always tended to be very good at is not spending money, or in a more positive light, I’ve been very good at saving money. Be it saving up for a £40 video game when I was younger, or saving money for rent in my modern life, I’ve always found it far easier to conserve than spend.
The idea of forgoing instant gratification for a greater gain at a later date is something I think many people actually do have difficulties with. We’ve all read or heard stories of people’s reckless spending in the form of shopping sprees and maxing out credit cards, and to some it is a genuine psychological problem. However, we rarely discuss the opposite problem of people that genuinely find it difficult to let go of wealth, forgoing the instant gratification but sometimes not even acquiring the better gain later on.
When we look at the logical reasons for conserving wealth, it makes sense to conserve for many reasons, one of which being security. If an emergency comes up, and they do, having money at the ready can be life-saver, sometimes literally. Between needing emergency money for travel, to needing cash to replace something critical. it’s always a relief to know the resources are there if need be. However, this becomes a problem when this thought process goes from a healthy reactive response; to an unhealthy passive one.
What do I mean by reactive and passive in this sense? Well, let’s use two examples to illustrate both below:
Example A – Reactive
When person X has money put aside in case something goes wrong with his car. Something does go wrong with his car so he’s relieved he can react appropriately with the set-aside funds.
Example B – Passive
When person Y has large sums put aside that keep accumulating because he’s always worried something will go wrong with his car. To the point where this thought is often in his mind.
While both have the wealth conserved to deal with the problem, Person Y’s attitude towards it seems unhealthy in some ways to me. Saving out of constant anxiety that something may go wrong could be argued by some to still be a helpful behaviour, but if that behaviour could be re-learned to more emulated Person X’s behaviour, that sounds like a more balanced outlook to have which would result in less worrying and anxiety.
The other side of this attitude towards money comes with spending.
The logical reasons for spending are mostly obvious; to receive essential goods and services, and to receive gratification in some way. If someone doesn’t spend, no-one will gain, so it must happen for us to continue living as a coherent society and race, this mostly applies to spending in any way, such as spending energy.
I don’t see spending behaviour being as easy to explain as the above examples of conservation, while they’re both spectrums of different behaviour in reality, I think the spending spectrum of behaviour is likely much wider. With that in mind, I’ll used three examples, in this case, to represent a wider spectrum of behaviour, however, keep in mind that this is very much a generalisation of the extremes.
Example A – The Reckless Over-Spender
This is the persona we formerly described: Person X who maxes out their credit cards and goes on shopping sprees, often not having money for important things like rent, food, electricity and emergencies.
Example B – The Balanced Spender
Person Y who doesn’t spend more than he earns. Will keep a respectable amount of funds available to cope with any emergencies, but also allows himself luxuries when they can be afforded.
Example C – The Ultra-Conservative Saver
Person Z who hoards their wealth, only letting go of it when it’s essential or when something can be acquired for much less money than it’s actually worth. Has more than enough money available at all times to deal with any emergencies.
Let’s imagine that Example A is on the extreme left of a spectrum or scale, Example B is exactly in the middle, and Example C is on the extreme right. Personally I would view myself as being somewhere between Example B and Example C, possibly closer to Example C. I save up a lot and find it difficult to part with amounts I see as large, a problem there being that a large amount to me isn’t considered a large amount to most people.
Naturally Example B, The Balanced Spender looks to be the perfect point on the scale for most. However, I believe the problem to be rooted in perception, in that without a long period of self-reflection, I would falsely consider myself to be the Balanced Spender, when in reality I’m further towards the right of the spectrum. Each extreme poses its own advantages and disadvantages, for example The Ultra-Conservative Saver may get feelings of anxiety or worry when having to fork over an amount that’s higher than their comfortable zone, they’re much less likely to let themselves get into debt or be financially destroyed by a terrible emergency. I believe the healthy thing to do is to work towards encapsulating the persona of The Balanced Spender, not in strictly financial incomings and outgoings, but in perception and behaviour.
How I’ve Changed my Perception
Changing your thought processes and perception of the world around you is no easy feat, it can’t simply ‘just be done’. One should take small steps over a long period of times to change themselves.
I began by looking at the money for what it is, a number we ourselves attach subjective worth to. Think about this; if everyone in the world decided that their respective currency was worthless, it would become so. This is because that’s simply what currency is when it comes down to it, it’s only as powerful as society deems it, but as you’ll no doubt be aware, society very much sees money as powerful.
Knowing the above, we can take another step as seeing money as infinite. It’s not some finite resource that eventually will run out of your bank account. Money will come and go with the buying and selling of goods and services. Most people gain money from society by giving up their time, their most valuable resource, then it goes straight back into society with those same people making purchases. It’s in a constant cycle of being given back and forth from society to individual back into society again. Hoarding your money won’t help you or others, it’ll always find its way back.
Realising that money will always find its way back to the masses some way or another makes spending it seem more like exchanging it than losing it.
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