In my profession a question I hear posed to prospects and clients very frequently is “are you a spender or a saver?” In fact, until recently I was guilty of doing this as well – unfortunately it’s not helpful. You may enjoy spending or saving, but it’s not “who” you are; any more than enjoying a good book makes you a “reader”. We (humans) are not one-dimensional creatures, yet we assign labels almost willy-nilly to help put those we interact with into a box.
My son was the catalyst for this blog. As many of you may know, he has Autism. He is not, however, Autistic. The difference is important, because having a disorder or disability is not the same as being defined by the characteristics that typically go along with that disorder or disability. Autism is a neurological disorder with a broad range of associated challenges, and families like mine can choose to accept the “reality” or find ways to compensate and work-around those challenges. My son and I have worked together in the years since my wife passed away and I’m proud to say now he has achieved significant levels of independence we never thought possible – in fact I distinctly remember being told not to be disappointed when he plateaus at an early age by an elementary school teacher he had.
What does this have to do with being a saver or spender? I feel identifying yourself as a saver or spender hinders your sense of control. After all, if this is who you are what possible chance is there to change? And it shouldn’t be taken at face value that one is bad (spender) and the other good (saver). If you’re preventing yourself from doing what you enjoy or hoarding your cash for fear of what may come, being a saver can be detrimental. And not all spending is bad – if you plan and budget for your spending then I say go for it.
The trick is building habits to support what you enjoy doing – either saving or spending. It’s also important to own your actions, don’t go on an Amazon spending spree after a bad break-up and qualify it by telling yourself “I can’t help it, I’m a spender”. Maybe you did it because the act of buying things makes you feel good, because it’s something you have control over. When my wife died, I was definitely guilty of retail therapy – there is something strangely liberating about the act of buying. This doesn’t make me a “spender”.
This was a long-winded way of saying I think we are all spenders and savers. Maybe you don’t enjoy saving, or you have a hard time qualifying why you should save for an uncertain future when you’re living today. Or maybe you’re petrified of what the future brings so are unwilling to take any risks today. There IS middle ground, we just need to find it. But you may not be able to find it on your own – an outside perspective could be just what the doctor ordered. Whatever you do, don’t get discouraged if there are false starts or hiccups in the process, I have found those things I most value didn’t come easily.