I read this interesting article over at Jezebel yesterday that I thought I’d share with you guys; apparently, a professor at the University of Michigan (as well as other researchers) have found that when it comes to making large purchases – the kind that are expensive, but that we can afford – we fall into three distinct categories: spendthrifts, tightwads, and the unconflicted. Basically, we can be categorized by how much “pain” we feel when parting with a big chunk of our money. The names of the categories are pretty self-explanatory, but just in case:
Spendthrifts – Feel no “pain” when making a large purchase, to the point that they often make too many expensive indulgences and can end up in financial trouble.
Tightwads – Feel too much “pain” when making a large purchase, often agonizing too much over it and feeling guilty or remorseful afterwards.
The Unconflicted – Consider large purchases carefully and weigh all of their options, but ultimately enjoy the purchase after it has been made and don’t feel guilty about it.
Obviously, we all want to be the Unconflicted (kinda sounds like a motorcycle gang, I know) but that doesn’t come naturally to all of us. I, for example, am a natural tightwad. I get very anxious about large purchases, I definitely agonize over them, and I almost always feel guilty if I ever actually go through with making one. Clearly, this is unhealthy, especially if the purchase is something I really value and can afford or have save up for. Luckily, the article has some advice to help tightwads like me – and spendthrifts – cope better with making big purchases. It suggests that I ask myself two questions before walking away from a large purchase that might otherwise have enriched my life:
1. Can I afford it?
2. Is it something I value?
If I can answer yes to both questions, I should probably go through with the purchase. Of course, this advice presumes that we all have a good grasp on our values, which I’m not entirely sure I do…but that’s sort of a separate issue I guess.
Interestingly, even though I classify myself as a tightwad when it comes to big purchases (which is what the research focused on), I would probably classify myself as a spendthrift when it comes to the little, everyday purchases. That’s why I really, really struggle to keep to my budget every month because I don’t think nearly as hard as I should about the little day-to-day stuff. So why do the big things freak me out so much if it’s so easy to lay out $5 and $10 there? I really don’t know….?
What about you? How would you classify your psychological response to making big purchases? What about the little ones? I can’t wait to hear which categories you all fall into!