Psychology of Saving and Spending

Money plays an important place in human interaction today as a source of motivation and reward but also as a means of transaction. However, its centrality should not be confused, as it has, with primacy. Money is and should be a slave at worst and a servant at best. The moment it becomes a god at the worst or a master at best, then abuse and greed rule. Indeed, we live in times where the Golden Calf has a new name, money or possessions. Money should make life easier not for just a few but for the majority if not all. What motivates people in their use of money and in saving it? 

1. Modal Confusion 

In psychology, modal confusion is the muddling of being and having/doing. Either mode operates differently even though one might inform the other. The mode of being aims for states such as peace, joy and contentment. The mode of having or doing is about possessive and having power over certain aspects of the material world. The objectives of the mode of being are immaterial but the objectives of the mode of having are material. You cannot thus solve a need that is immaterial with a material response. You cannot buy peace. You will not love yourself better by owning half the world. You will not be happier even if the whole world worships you. 

2. Performance over Becoming 

Related to the above, we live in an environment that favours what you do more than who you are. Who you are is defined by what you have or do. From the time one is young, their performance in school takes is more celebrated than their levels of kindness, effort, courage and justice. This resorts to people being strongly convinced that unless they possess things and occupy important spaces, they are nothing. Money plays an important role to that end. 

3. Immediate Pleasure over Delayed Gratification. 

Individuals who are able to save have a great sense of self-regulation. Saving is particularly difficult especially in a culture that promotes consumption and immediate gratification of wants. How often do you see an advert regarding saving as opposed to ones on how you could use the money you have? How many people are praised for their expenditure as opposed to their saving? This manner of thinking is strengthened by a world views such as YOLO and FOMO. Learn to live in the moment but not for the moment. 

Other underlying issues could affect the manner in which you save or use money: 

  • Your primary caregivers’ manner of spending money is a strong influence. Were they stingy or spendthrifts? You could have coped by going against that or becoming like them. 
  • Equating net-worth with self-worth which part of the modal confusion. 
  • False optimism: An illusory belief or naivety that things will automatically get better, that you will get lucky and someone will notice how good you are;  
  • A refusal to take responsibility, paying attention to the economic conditions because you think someone else, those in charge, will solve it. 
  • A lack of inter-temporal thinking: Saving for my future self. A disconnect between present and future self. 
  • A lack of an adventurous and motivating “WHY?” for saving and delaying gratification. 
  • Spending money to hide an inner emptiness or insecurities. 
  • Alcohol and substance use impair judgment and can badly influence one’s spending habits. 
  • Jumping into the bandwagon: peer pressure, comparison, competition and character of the company one keeps. 
  • We all long to make free choices. Money thus can mean freedom or lack thereof. One can spend or save to improve their sense of freedom. 
  • Lack of financial intelligence and training: Many people simply do not have any know-how on matters money and so they act out of ignorance than spite. 
  • A major reason for many which cannot be ignored is that they simply cannot manage to save due to the pressing and immediate needs largely connected to survival. Correcting social structures that have geared too much towards profit  and indifference would largely benefit and improve the lives of such persons.

 

It is important for one to spend according to their means and allow time and effort to increase their lot. Focus on what you can do to solve your immediate problems and do not forget to include your efforts together with those who are trying to better our economic structures that no longer seem to have the human person as their primary subject and end and never a means. 

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