In the war of spending versus saving, one thing is often overlooked: spending is visible, and social. In the short-term, saving is invisible and (often) anti-social. It’s no wonder then that there’s such temptation to spend money… even if we can’t afford to.
In recent decades, we heard about the explosion in materialism – the idea that physical things are valued more than non-physical ones (like emotions, and spirituality). Then it was consumerism – not just buying things for the sake of having them, but for the supposedly cathartic experience of spending money (‘retail therapy’, anyone?). Then, in the social media age, it became conspicuous consumption – spending money to be seen to be spending money. No longer was it about lusting after things, or even the supposed joy of spending money to get them, but about doing it to show off to others.
Regardless of what’s next or how we frame it, spending is often social – we see when others do it (holiday pics, new outfits, food photos), and likewise others see when we do it. In fact, we may spend money in the pursuit of social interaction (flights to visit friends, going to a sports match, etc).
Saving, on the other hand, is rather anti-social – it’s the ‘staying in instead of going out for dinner’, the ‘having a few outfits on high rotation for months on end’ or the ‘driving the same old car’ factor that isn’t anywhere near as socially rewarding.
Of course, companies are particularly good at helping us give in to the temptation to spend our money on their products or services. This, combined with our drive to spend, is not a bad thing per se – we need clothes to wear (and companies to sell them to us), we need to get out and socialise with others (and often need companies to provide venues, like restaurants), and we’re hardwired to care what others think about us (companies’ role in this one is a little dubious…).
But what’s important is that we make sure we’re in conscious control of what we choose to spend our money on, and we don’t sabotage our long-term interests in order to serve our short-term ones.
If we’re slowing our progress towards our goals, and particularly if we’re racking up credit card debts making status purchases, we need to stop and reset. We need to decide what’s really important to us, and start working towards those things. We need to stop letting our direction be dictated by outside forces.
We might even want to look for something that gives us an occasional nudge in the right direction…
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