Spending is Social and Saving is Solitary

After receiving our bonus in work – lots talked about what they’d spend the money on and nobody talked about saving it.  I’m sure that many did save it but it made me think.

Spending is social and saving is solitary – the wise GFF

This thought came to me as I wondered about how the end of the tax year was not mentioned in our office but the release date of 19 plate cars was avidly discussed by one and all.  Spending is social it seems – it brings people together in a grown up game of show and tell

How else could you have people in my office drooling over the new cars in the car park with 19 plates on them after our bonus was paid and nobody talked much about the benefits of salary sacrificing that bonus into your pension?  Knowing where’s the best place to save your money is complex – it’s really not straightforward and talking about it would help.  Everyone wants to have more than everyone else, it’s a natural desire – but it just leads to what Alain de Button calls Status Anxiety.  You don’t know who is rich and who is poor based and talking about money and how much we earn is a taboo!

Only when the tide goes out do you discover who's been swimming naked. - Warren Buffett

But let’s face it, we all have taboos that we dare not speak about – money is one of them.

As I walked around the graveyard to pick up some flowers for the Lady, I reckoned that I should invest in a good metal detector and a sharp shovel.  But more importantly, I thought that you don’t really need any help in how to spend money – that’s what advertising is there to do – if you ask most people what they would do if they won the lottery they have a list of things ready and waiting.

Maybe GFF is a bit funny – I wound’t want to win the lottery and I don’t buy tickets.  Furthermore, the lottery is just a stupid tax and winning it won’t solve all your problems.  Personally, I think that they should be banned or made into an anti-lottery where everyone wins £2 but one poor bugger ends up being billed £10m and then all his family, friends, neighbours & random strangers have to stump up to save him from debtors prison.

With saving money, investing and money in general the level of awareness and education is woeful in the UK.  Maybe everywhere.  But the fact that personal finance is considered to be first and foremost personal means that there lies a secret inner world of financial emotional turmoil.  We want all these nice things that cost money, we can’t have them or we go into debt to acquire them but they don’t make us genuinely happy so we either try to get more money or feel bad about it.

What we don’t share and we let it fester!

So, maybe that’s how the FIRE movement can help.  Getting people to open up about their finances.  There are lots of people out there with stories to share and relate able experiences to learn from.

Thinking idealistically now, if I spend money on a new car, I’m really spending that on myself.  How often does anyone else sit in your car – when did you pick up your last hitchhiker?  Maybe spending is solitary and maybe saving is social.  If we work hard, save hard, invest wisely it will mean that we don’t have to work as hard – or suffer from the stresses of desire that make people unhappy.  If we didn’t have to work full-time all the time, then maybe we could spend more time together as a family, see family and friends in distance places and play more of a part in our community.

So maybe Saving is Social and Spending is Solitary.

Thanks, GFF

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8 thoughts on “Spending is Social and Saving is Solitary

  1. It’s not limited to the UK, I see it here in Australia and I’m sure it happens everywhere. We are conditioned to consume, consume, consume. Car ads on the TV imply that you won’t be successful without the latest model luxury car. Social media influencers with their perfect Insta-life compel us to emulate their lifestyle and influence our purchasing habits. It’s omnipresent, and it’s relentless.

    That’s why the FIRE movement is a breath of fresh air. Being more mindful about our personal consumption. Starting and keeping good habits to achieve financial goals. These are the messages that should be spread more widely.

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  2. You’re right that what’s behind a lot of this is social anxiety. I think that there is a weird quasi-shame about admitting that you save as it suggested you are somehow scared about the future. By contrast if you spend then you’re a baller – particularly in some professions.

    It’s all tied up in how people feel affirmed I think. When people feel to get approval from their colleagues (or indeed any external source) it makes it more likely that they need to spend to ‘buy’ that affirmation. When people lose that and can just be happy in themselves they can happily save.

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  3. I have a few thoughts to share. I disagree on the “Lottery Tax” as you call it for myself, although I see it is real for many folks. I have a short commute, and end up buying gas on my way to work about once every 2 weeks. When I do that, I buy one ticket for the 3 major lotteries in my area. That’s a total of $5, and about $130 a year. I don’t always remember, so it’s likely closer to $100. Now I am quite good a math, and I know the odds. I am more likely to get bit by a shark, and that nearly did happen to me once. I was followed to the shore by one when I swam to a sandbar when I was a teenager. Anyway, when I spend that money, I am buying entertainment. I enjoy the daydream, and buying the ticket makes it real enough to be fun. So, it can not be bad, if you have the right attitude. It is cheaper than a movie, especially when I have to get a babysitter!

    The other point, your main point, though is dead on. This community is one of the ways that it helps me to save by having everyone to talk about these things with. It’s not like most of my friends want to hear that I bought savings bonds for my son with his birthday money this year. He’s 5 and they are in his name. He still gets plenty of toys, but I think he will thank me later. That point aside, it is a change that we should add, but there is something in culture that is against showing off your money saved. Sigh, well, count me in as someone who will be happy when this changes.

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    1. Whilst I don’t buy lottery tickets, I completely agree with you here – and disagree with GFF that it should be banned. Around 25% of UK National Lottery profits go to the Big Lottery Fund, which provides vital funding for arts, sports and communities. Even more vital since successive Governments have progressively cut this type of spending from their core budgets down to practically zero.
      Of course, the situation isn’t ideal – when Camelot’s licence expires in 2023 it would great to see the amount of profit going to the Big Lottery Fund increase.

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      1. I’m maybe being a bit tongue in cheek when I say Lotteries should be banned but saying that X% goes to good causes doesn’t mean that any extra money overall goes to good causes. The people running the lottery use the “good causes” as cover for what they really want. States in the US where there is a state lottery with money going to good causes don’t have overall higher spending on health in that state.
        The fact that the government can cut spending and have the lottery pick up the slack (paid for disproportionately by the less well off) was I thought very well known.
        Still – at least the lottery gives dreams and distractions to the general public.

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      2. In the US lottery funds are supposed to help offset educational funding. Some states do and others put in in the general fund.

        In the days before the lotteries, the Mob had the Numbers. In effect it was the lottery. People like vice, and they will always get it. The US learned that the hard way with Prohibition. This, among other things, has lead me towards a lot of US style Libertarian positions on on many issues.

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