Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spendthrift or Tightwad

Are you a spendthrift or a tightwad? Probably like most people you are both. I know I am. It all depends on the circumstances. It's funny how we will freely spend money, even overspend, on some things and then begrudge spending on others. There are dozens of words and phases to describe these behaviors. Words like cheapskate, penny-pincher, skinflint, scrooge, miser, etc. On the other side there is squanderer, high roller, big spender, extravagant, etc. Spendthrift itself is one of those words that sounds like it should mean the opposite of what it does, like inflammable. 

Not only do each of us have some spendthrift and tightwad in us, but the different behaviors change over time. What we would willingly spend money on ten years ago may no longer interest us. Something that we once thought was a waste of money may now be one of our big expenditures. That hot expensive car you had to have at all costs gives way to a practical sedan later in life. Of course it may change again back to a flashy sports car even later in life.

I'm sure we are influenced by how we were raised. Was our family poor, middle class or rich? What was our parents' attitude and tendency toward money? What was the culture of our ethnic and social background? My generation's parents lived during the Great Depression. That made most of them very careful with their money overall but didn't necessarily stop selective extravagances. 

A big change in our spending lives occurs when we have kids. Not just the essentials like diapers and baby food but all the other stuff. Do we buy a utilitarian crib or the deluxe model? Do we get baby furniture and a few hundred toys that will never be used? Do we buy baby clothes at Walmart or a baby boutique knowing the baby doesn't care and will outgrow them in a few weeks? I suspect most of us overspend on our children, especially the first one. It's even worse with grandparents. It can be a huge expense if the kids are involved in sports. It can vary from as simple as a t-shirt, shorts and a pair of sneakers for some sports all the way to thousands of dollars for equipment, travel and private coaching for others. Have you ever been to a big youth softball or baseball tournament in the summer? The uniforms are top notch, the equipment is pro level, some of the coaches are professionals and the parking lot is filled with big, fully equipped recreational vehicles and tents. Were the parents even interested in the sport before little Bobby or little Bonnie started playing?

As our interests and hobbies change so does our spending. In my twenties I spent considerable dollars on photography equipment. For various reasons that hobby faded and I haven't owned more than a cheap point and shoot camera, until smartphones, for thirty years. I also didn't spend any money on bicycles, except for kid's bikes, until about eight years ago. I bought a relatively inexpensive bike, started riding and then became addicted. I now own two more expensive bikes, accessories, clothing and tools. I can't go into a bicycle shop without buying something even if I don't need anything. There are also things I hate spending money on. Some items I always look for the cheapest choice available if I can't avoid the purchase entirely. 

Frugality can also have other reasons. I enjoy scouring the grocery store ads and using coupons. However, I hardly ever look at other sales or take advantage of discounts for non-food shopping. I can think of no logical reason for my behavior. I can't tell you how many times I've had a restaurant coupon that has been left at home. I've even remembered to take the coupon into the restaurant only to forget to give it to the server or cashier. I usually realize my mistake on the way home. Yet I know some people who almost always go to restaurants based on a coupon or discount special. 

We all know people who will never pick up a dinner tab or buy a round of drinks. Those who have to pull out the calculator to split up the lunch check so they don't pay a penny more than their share. People who never tip more than the exact low side percentage they think is required. We probably all also know people who pick up every meal or drink tab and tip generously. What we may not know is that the one who appears to be cheap may make large donations to charities and the high roller may never take his family for a nice meal or vacation. 

It's just one more thing that makes us all different. Think how boring life would be if we all behaved the same.

So, what do you splurge on and what do you scrimp on? Is it different now than it was a few years ago? 


1 comment: