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Are Your Spending Habits Based on Fear?

spending habits

Saving money is helpful when it has a purpose and a plan. Looking forward with anticipation of a good future can be helpful in promoting positive spending habits. But fear-based spending habits aren’t helpful. Hoarding money with no plans to spend because of a fear of letting it go won’t move you towards a successful financial future.

Take note of the difference between saving and hoarding:

To save verb-(def.) Keep and store up (something, esp. money) for future use

To hoard verb- (def) To amass (money or valued objects) and hide or store away

Fear-Based Spending Habits

My stepfather, Gerry, was a successful businessman and he became a millionaire. He was also an obsessive coupon clipping, sales brochure collecting, penny-saving canned food hoarder. I can recall going with him to coupon exchanges; it was quite an experience to see his six-foot-seven frame, with the ever-present cigarette hanging from his mouth, towering over all these blue-haired little ladies. He was one of them because he was as serious as they were.

They would swap coupons. “Hey, I’ll give you a 75 cent Green Giant peas for a 50 cent Hungry Man.”

They would bicker. “HEY! This coupon is expired…what do you think you’re pulling?”

They would form alliances. “Gladys bought the same dress as me when I told her where I got it. Don’t swap with her this week.”

Gerry was not above taking giant steps over someone if they stood between him and a coupon he wanted. These swaps were practically a bloodsport. But there was something that these ladies and my stepfather had in common; they had all been through hard times and food insecurity was part of their backstories.

I don’t want you to think that Gerry was cheap because he was quite generous with his money. If my mother made a casual remark about a fur coat, she got it. My hints were not so subtle and Christmases tended to be over the top for me.

At one point, my school was having a food drive and my mother told me to take a few cans from the cupboard to donate. When Gerry got home and discovered the missing cans he had the strangest reaction—he seemed to be scared and heartbroken all at the same time. He asked me to please not take cans from the cupboard, but to ask him for cash and I could go buy whatever I needed. To prove his point he took $40.00 from his wallet and gave it to me. He immediately went to the store and replaced the missing cans.

Gerry’s reaction seemed extreme considering he could buy whatever he wanted—but a full cupboard gave him comfort and security. The price tag, however, was fear.

Spending From A Goal-Based Mindset

Saving money driven by fear can turn into hoarding or a scarcity mindset. What if you flipped that mindset and focused on goal-based spending habits instead? Financial goals can be an important motivator for positive spending habits that lead to a healthy desire to find ways to save money as well as how to responsibly put aside enough to reach present and future goals.

Handling money in a healthy way is an important component of saving. In our budgeting classes, we often hand out a pie chart of what a healthy budget looks like and stress the importance of paying yourself in the form of saving. It’s important to cover our household needs, and paying bills is appropriate, but there should also be room for using some money to bring joy without fear.

As you evaluate your financial situation, we encourage you to take stock of your money motives and spending habits. Are they based on a healthy goal-based perspective, or are they based in fear? Make it a point to use money as a tool to get and enjoy the life you want while saving for what you need. Don’t let fear boss you around. You are in charge of your money and your mindset!

If you are experiencing financial difficulty and are looking for a solution, non-profit credit counseling can help you make sense of all your options. ​Contact us today for a free financial assessment with one of our certified credit counselors.


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