finance

"Just stop. I don't want (or need) your money-saving hacks." 

Every time I see an article with money-saving tips, like splitting your money between several different bank accounts, or putting every $5 note into a jar, I think: Does saving really need to be this complicated? Does it need to involve tricks? Surely people just naturally save all the money they don’t need to spend.

But maybe not.

A few years back, I read some research that found that a quarter of the population are natural savers. (I think the technical term is “tightwads”, which sounds a little harsh.)

For people who are natural savers, it actually causes “emotional pain” to spend money.

“That’s me!” I thought when I read it.

It was comforting to know I was not alone in my weirdness.

I’ve always found spending money to be slightly painful. Even when I’m buying something I really want, it’s still not easy to hand over my hard-earned cash (or tap my card, whatever). A trip to the supermarket can leave me feeling vaguely sad by the time I reach the checkout with my overloaded trolley.

I know why I feel the way I do about money. My parents grew up during WWII, when rationing was around, and they’ve always been very frugal. I can see I’ve followed in their ways. Yep, I have the financial personality of an 87-year-old.

But that’s OK. When spending is painful, you don’t have to try to save. It just happens.

You don’t buy the best you can afford, you buy the cheapest you’re satisfied with. Your eye is naturally drawn to the “half-price” rack in clothes shops. The word “special” is more appealing than any designer’s name. You get a kick out of how little your entire outfit cost you. You always order the second-cheapest bottle of wine. You think tap water tastes perfectly fine. You tell yourself you like second-hand furniture and vintage clothes because they have character, but perhaps it’s also because they’re cheap.

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I used to find it a lot harder to spend money when I was younger. I can remember going to France and ordering fish fingers at a restaurant on the first night because everything else seemed so terrifyingly expensive.

I made a lot of stupid buying decisions, thinking I was being smart. I bought $5 pairs of shoes that cut into my feet so badly I spent the night hobbling around or being piggybacked. I bought a bargain-priced couch/bed that was so hideously uncomfortable that no one has ever slept on it, except my dogs. I bought a super-cheap secondhand car that spontaneously combusted as I was driving it.

I have changed a bit in recent years. Now that I have kids, I find it much easier to spend money – on them, anyway. They need cool toys and shiny bikes and good shoes. I still find it hard to spend money on myself, though.

Being a natural saver is both a blessing and a curse. Sure, there’s the pain of spending, but there’s the thrill that comes from saving. And there’s the comfort of always having money in the bank.

You know that if you lose your job and the roof falls in and your dog needs a knee replacement, all on the same day, you’re going to be all right. That’s a reassuring feeling.

Just don’t try to tell me your savings tricks. I don’t need to know.

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