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Finding Your Money Personality

Have you ever considered your money personality? Sure, you know your own background; you know whether you were raised poor, rich or somewhere in between. And yes, that can definitely have effects. You also know what your situation is now; are you struggling or making bank?

It might come as a surprise, but even people with the lowest incomes can find themselves able to save and stay within a budget, whereas some with the highest incomes struggle to make ends meet. It may seem like a complete paradox, but it does hold true. And part of explaining that paradox is your money personality.


Over a decade ago Rick et al (2008) published their work on tightwads and spendthrifts. This research argues that there are individual differences between how people relate to spending money. Some people hate it; it’s almost impossible for them. These would be tightwads. For others, it’s as easy as breathing, possibly even insanely enjoyable. Those would be spendthrifts. And knowing where you fall on that spectrum, might be a surprising reveal to you. To find out, you could apply the Spendthrift-Tightwad Scale (STS) to yourself. The scale has been validated across a variety of studies, so you’re good to go. The questions are as follows: 1. Which of the following fits you better: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Difficulty with spending money Neutral Difficulty controlling spending 2. Please read the following two descriptions: Description 1: some people have trouble limiting their spending; they often spend money – for example on clothes, meals, vacations, phone calls – when they be better not to. Description 2: Other people have trouble spending money. Perhaps because spending money makes them anxious, they don’t often spend money on things they should be spending money. a. How well does the first description fit you? That is, do you have trouble limiting your spending? 1 2 3 4 5 Never Rarely Sometimes Often Always b. How well does the second description fit you? That is, do you have trouble spending money? 1 2 3 4 5 Never Rarely Sometimes Often Always

3. Following is a scenario describing the behaviour of two shoppers. After reading about each shopper, please answer the question that follows.

Mr. A is accompanying a good friend who is on a shopping spree at the local mall. When they enter a large department store, Mr. A sees that he store has a “one-day-only-sale” where everything is 10-60% off. He realizes he doesn’t need anything, yet can’t resist and ends up spending $100 on stuff. Mr B. is accompanying a good friend who is on a shopping spree at the local mall. When they enter a large department store, Mr. B sees that he store has a “one-day-only-sale” where everything is 10-60% off. He figures he can get great deals on many items that he needs, yet the thought of spending money keeps him from buying the stuff. In terms of your own behaviour, who are you more similar to, Mr. A or Mr. B? 1 2 3 4 5 Mr. A About the same/neither Mr. B

Now knowing where you stand is simple, take the scores for question 1 and 2a, and the reverse score questions 2b and 3. To take the reverse score here means to do your answer – 6., and then times -1. So if you answered 4 to question 3, the score would be 2. Now, add all 4 scores together and you’re done. To put your score in context, the maximum score to be had here is 26 (spendthrift) and the minimum is 4 (tightwad). Most people fall somewhere in between, but the middle point here is essentially 15. If you score below 15 you’re more of a tightwad, and above 15 you’re more of a spendthrift. This scale very clearly has a happy medium; if you fall close to the extremities you may not be having the best relationship with money.

I’ll admit this scale and its respective questions are a bit on the nose. But it has been validated, and it doesn’t exactly lack clarity. Rather than your score showing you what kind of money personality you’re likely to have, let’s discuss some tangible actions to go with here. If you’re a happy medium, good for you, seems very healthy. Carry on. If you’re a spendthrift, it might be time to start consuming a bit more consciously. Plan your purchases rather than mindlessly buying on impulse. Ways to curb spending, if you want to, are to not use credit cards (or go as far as to only use cash!), leave your wallet (just all access to money) at home, have no spend/no buy days, weeks or even months, block certain types of spending, or apply a daily limit for spending. You can also ask friends or family to have a challenge with you, or at least hold you accountable. Whereas being a massive spendthrift is definitely frowned upon, being a tightwad isn’t necessarily judged as being as bad. But you’d be wrong there. If you’re a tightwad, it means you’re not allowing yourself to live a good life, because you’re too scared of spending money. Keep in mind that this is not a sign of smart money management, or discipline; this can take the form of someone trying to skimp out on necessary medical treatments to save money. It's very Scrooge. A key part of this assessment is also that you’re not spending, but can afford to. For extreme tightwads almost the exact reverse applies; you need to make spending easier for yourself so you actually engage with products and services that make your life easier. For example, if it’s easier for you to spend with a credit card than cash (and it’s likely to be), do that. Take your credit card to the grocery store instead. Knowing you’re a tightwad, you’ll pay down the debt manually as soon as you get back home again, but this may allow you at least buy all the things you need, and maybe even some things you just liked to have? Additionally, plan some of your expenses in. As in, actively budget for larger upcoming expenses that you’re trying to avoid. It’s almost like exposure therapy; you know it’s coming, but this may help you wrap your head around that, at whatever pace you’re comfortable with.

So there you have it – a spectrum of money personalities, at least when it comes to spending. Now tell me, are you more of a tightwad, or more of a spendthrift?


Reference Rick, S. I., Cryder, C. E., & Loewenstein, G. (2008). Tightwads and spendthrifts. Journal of Consumer Research, 34(6), 767-782.

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