It doesn’t happen often, but from time to time my clients come to me not because they spend too much, but because they absolutely can’t bear to spend a dime, and it’s driving them nuts (and likely those around them!). This expresses itself in at least 3 different ways:
1. Some clients find they are having to be secretive about their finances (and I mean more than the normal-kind-of-secretive) and they are starting to fatigue of the effort. Family, friends, always these clients keep their guard up just in case people figure out they have money.
2. Another symptom clients experience is spending hours and hours researching the value of an item, and ensuring they are getting the best possible deal that can be expected. This is not a fun experience for them, but anxiety-ridden. And to top it all off, there is not a deep sense of satisfaction over getting the deal, but a disappointed sense in having had to spend the money at all.
3. And then there are those we call “cheap”. Frankly, I haven’t had a single person come to me because they thought it was a problem … but their partners have, and do! You know the type: Stingy on tipping. Stingy on gift-giving. And stingy with their partners. Partners over time grow resentful, and feel they’re carrying the load of creating a nice life experience (dinners out, trips, a nice home).
Very often, these clients are in fact well off, or better than your average canadian bear, but this misses the point. They are serving money as much as anyone paying crazy interest on their debt load. Rather than life and relationships being fulsome and easy, their tension around spending spills over into tension in general.
Do you recognize yourself in this? If so, this may be a great season for some reflection on the issue. Here are some starter questions:
- What are some of the origins of this approach to your money?
- Can you think of recent examples of spending that caused you anxiety? At what point did you move from simple, technical involvement in the process of spending, into anxiety? If you can identify the point, does that give you any clues about the underlying concerns?
- What would happen if you loosened your grip, just a little, on your cash, while at the same time ensuring your priorities are indeed accounted for? Is it possible that the experience may feel a bit better than you imagine?
Readers: almost all of us experience some degree of hating to part with our money. For me, it’s easy to spend on the little things, but dropping $2K on a piece of good furniture, for example, stresses me out (temporarily). How ’bout you?