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A Spender Trapped In a Saver’s Body

A Spender vs. Saver

Whenever articles come out that ask: Are you a natural-born Saver or Spender? I always think about which category I’d fall into.

On the surface, I’d probably be classified as a natural saver – I save for retirement, long-term goals, big trips, etc., and I don’t live beyond my means. And yet, I think I am a spender trapped inside a saver’s body – because I really, truly, hate the feeling of not being able to spend.

If you are like me, you wouldn’t be very good at depriving yourself / enforcing no-spend rules. For example, I thought about going to Paris one night, and bam, I am making plans for a $4,000 trip. I see a beautiful $300 dress, and I click “Buy” after just a few hours (the travesty is that I still have not worn that dress. Six months later. But I will in October for a wedding). I go through Starbucks like they are going out of style, and at $4 per latte it would be a very good thing for my wallet if they DO go out of style. I eat out much too much.I tried living without a budget and while that went OK for a while, I soon realized that, nope, I DO need an budget adult allowance. I get bitten by the shopping bug.

Can you become a saver if you are naturally inclined to spend?

I think so. Just like you can still get in shape if you hate exercise or you can still eat healthily even if you love sweets. It’s all about playing little tricks on yourself to help you along. How I’ve done that is to put away money before it gets into my hands. I do this with my 401K contributions – every month over $2,000 disappears before I get my paycheck. That way, my spending is constrained by the money that I actually have. I also try to minimize my BIG expenses (rent, car, etc.) so I don’t have to go through daily acts of deprivation (no Starbucks, no eating out).

Automatic savings, paying myself first, and forgetting about the money I have so I always feel less well-off than my bank ledger – these are the ways I try to keep my inner spender at bay!

Are you spender or a saver? Or are you, like me, a spender trapped in a saver’s body? Any savers trapped in a spender’s body here?:)

  • onegirl - I'm definitely a spender trapped in a saver's body. Like you, I also save my money first and then spend the remaining (even though some of the remaining is still going into another savings pile). I do jump off the ledge every now and again and go on big shopping spurts (narrow heeled shoes are not cheap).

    A friend invited me to go to Milwaukee by motorcycle after our week at Grand Rapids. The ferry cost $150 dollars but you can ride through Chicago and around Lake Michigan in 5 hours. Chicago traffic is the worst, so I decided that the 150 was worth it. I save money so I can take the ferry across the water without being stressed out and stuck in Chicago traffic. ReplyCancel

  • Dana - You sound like the kind of person who likes to make and spend money, which is classic trader characteristics to me. You get to make profits, save some and spend some. Perfect! ReplyCancel

  • Leslie - I am definitely the spender in the family. I think it stems from always having my parents pay for things when I was in high school, and then having them as emergency back-up in college. I always had jobs, but the only reason I don't have credit card debt now is because I had the option to pay in full from my parents checking if I went over my savings – which I often did.

    I am learning how do be a saver now, and some days are easier than others. I think having a goal, that I really believe in!, is the key. ReplyCancel

  • frugalforties - Oh I'm a spender .. and there is no saver's body to protect me. I have to do all the "trick" things you mentioned to automate and hide my saving, because money burns a hole in my pocket.

    I have automatic deposits from my paycheck into my HSA, my E-fund, my 401(k), my IRA, and everything else. Then I transfer an allowance amount into my personal spending checking account. I spend from there and when it's gone, it's gone. Most months I wind up scraping the bottom of that account, although there have been a few rare months that I've had some leftover (that immediately gets moved to savings).

    I would love to be more of a natural saver, but I've learned to accept that I'm not. I guess knowing yourself is a big part of the process, though. Now that I accept it, I am learning how to work around it! ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Hahah, it sounds like you are doing well! Do you split your paychecks into the different funds? Or do you deposit the paycheck into one checking account and then that gets divvied up? ReplyCancel

  • ND Chic - I'm really not good at daily acts of deprivation. I save money because I have set it up automatically so it just happens but if I have cash, I will happily spend it. I'm a spender trapped in a saver's body as well. I've just never thought of it that way. ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - If I start the day with a $20, it's highly likely I will end the day with a few coins and no idea where that money went. Cash is the answer for many people, but I don't think I will spend less on cash than I would on credit cards. ReplyCancel

  • Alex | Perfect Dad - I'm experimenting with changing my impulses. Depriving yourself is not very effective, because you still want it. The key is to eliminate that want impulse, and you do that by changing your mind. I wrote a couple of pieces about how rewards and punishments work for parenting, but they work the same way for adults. You can associate happiness with modest living and unhappiness with excess. Right now, we bought a new house and I hate it! I hate owning a house, I hate owning the tools for upkeep, I hate all the registrations and legalities, I hate that I can't easily move if I want to. I'm happy that I hate it. But I also love the emptiness of a new house. There is no clutter. No thousands shelled out for furniture to hold and display all the junk I own. ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - You know, it's funny you wrote this comment, because I've been thinking really hard lately about changing my perspective – WHY do I want a $1,000 necklace that I see in the magazine? WHY do I want that new jacket even though I know that it won't make me happier? (And I know this because I just got a new jacket and it was nice for a few days but now it's just a normal jacket). I am trying to eliminate – or at least – modify – the 'wanting' process, especially when it comes to Stuff. Or at least Too Much Stuff. ReplyCancel

  • AffordAnything.org - I do the same thing — I make sure my "big" costs like housing & car are low, so I can splurge on a daily/weekly basis on restaurants, clothes, cab rides, etc. I prefer my lifestyle this way. Plus, when people see where I live and what I drive, they assume I have less money than I really do. They'd be shocked if they knew how big my retirement account is! ReplyCancel

  • NoDebtMBA.com - I'm a saver all the way. I hate clothes shopping in particular and usually feel bad about spending money in general. ReplyCancel

  • wmwo - I'd say I'm 78% spender, 21% saver, and 1% "I don't want to deal with this, just look after me!". I opened my RRSP when I was 18, but I've been far more diligent in my spending than in my saving! lol. ReplyCancel

  • Jeff Sustainlifeblog - I'd have to say that spenders can turn into savers (and vice-versa) because I used to be quite the spender, and as of right now, it has been 8 days since i've spent a cent! One trick for me is to take the money away from myself (via automatic transfer) before I have a chance to spend it on anything. It has worked well so far. ReplyCancel

  • MommaStar - I am def. a spender trapped in a saver's body. Although I desperately want to save and tried so many times to trick myself I still have many "relapse" and go all out on spending when that does happen. I'm trying to balance things out more now so that I don't feel the pinch and still get to save a lil so baby steps until then.

  • Meg - I completely agree with this post! I am a saver by all appearances – I max out my retirement account, for example – but I am terrible at practicing delayed gratification and spend way "too much" (i.e. more than any one person needs to) on food, shopping, etc. I simultaneously feel that I spend too much AND save too much. How crazy is that? But I'm like you; I minimize my fixed expenses and max out my savings automatically so that I can drain my checking account each month on things like designer clothes and Whole Foods groceries and $20 bottles of wine on a Tuesday for no reason…not justifying my spending, but at least I'm not doing it on credit! ReplyCancel

  • Lindy Mint - I know exactly what you mean. I think for me it's that I don't like to be told that I can't spend on something that I want. I avoid big purchases as long as I can, or I find a way to get them for less. But when it comes to small purchases, my desire to save doesn't override my desire for a frothy coffee.

    I'm still working on how to trick myself into not liking sweets so much though. That one's tough. ReplyCancel

  • Matt - I am definitely a impulse spender. I love living in the moment and spending money like it doesn't mean anything to me. On the other hand I get stressed out that I am falling behind on my chances to save for retirement. I always feel like I should save more or make it to a certain financial goal, and then I can relax, but that is not how saving money works. Like you said it takes consist saving efforts to ensure that your money will grow over time. Good post! ReplyCancel

  • TeacHer - I'm definitely a spender. I have no natural impulse to save. I kind of think that's why paying off debt as a positive financial behavior (as opposed to saving) is easier for me, because, in a way, it's spending.

    I'm working on ways to trick myself into saving….just found out that my employer will split my paychecks between up to two accounts, like my checking account and a savings account of my choice, so that I literally never see the money. I think this is the way to go for someone like me…. ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Most employers will let you split your paycheck into 2 or 3 accounts. I am actually thinking about that too… what I'm worried about is that if there is a mistake on the payroll, it'd be easier to notice it if you only have the money going into one account than 2 or 3. But maybe I just need to bite the bullet and do the paperwork to split up the funds! ReplyCancel

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  • Melissa - I am like you. I do best when the money automatically comes out of my paycheck and I never see it. Somehow it is always a nice "surprise" when I check my bank account.

    I used to have a Starbuck's addiction, but now that I am intolerant to both dairy and soy, it is not a problem. It is a good thing they discontinued carrying rice milk. :) ReplyCancel

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  • Alterations Needed - Believe it or not, but I have major saver tendencies. I tend to not spend any money on any other aspect of my life, except for my wardrobe. My apartments has always been cheap, I eat cheaply, and rarely go on vacations, let alone exotic expensive ones. I sock all that extra money away, and then splurge on what I really love in life…my closet! Yes, I'm that girl who drives a tinker toy car, lives in the ghetto…but damn, I'll look good when I step out in my Burberry coat. Credit cards paid in full every month, baby! :) ReplyCancel

  • nicole 86 - I behave like a saver
    I dream to splash on books, furniture, jewels …..
    I do not enjoy life
    I should think that over .
    nicole from France ReplyCancel

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  • Andrea Travillian - I love this idea! I would say I fall into that category of spender in a savers body. I learned early on that if I want to afford the things I want to do in life I would have to save early and often so that I could build a nest egg to live from. I love to spend on nice vacations and spa days, but I forgo in many other areas such as super nice car. ReplyCancel

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