There are many theories that aim to label people’s relationship to money (almost as many as those that label relationships to other people- as we all know!), and I’m sure at some point they are helpful to someone. One of the most familiar is the old “saver/spender” dichotomy. According to this theory, most people fall into one of two categories; either they are a saver, stockpiling money for use at an undetermined time, or a spender, unable to tear themselves away from any purchase.

While this is obviously a little simplistic, I do think we can recognize parts of ourselves in these descriptions, and sometimes even, identifying with one of these can prove very useful in recognizing and changing certain behaviors. I’m starting a new series of posts, entitled “Turning Spenders into Savers” which aims to help us in the areas where we identify as spenders. Most especially in these tight economic times, changing our shopping and spending habits can have a lasting impact on our lives. And if you don’t feel like you fall into a spending frenzy over anything at all, then forward this on to people who might, like recent college grads living away from home for the first time, or high school students developing spending habits.

As for me, I feel like I fall squarely within the “spender” category. While there are things I’m more apt to splurge on than others (hello bacon of the month club!), I definitely like to spend money much more than I like to save it. Call me stereotypical, but, as a femme, I love to shop.

To kick of the series, I want to leave you with two bits of really interesting information about why we buy. Next week we’ll kick off with some of my personal tools for keeping more money in my pocket, instead of in a store’s cash register.

1. It takes between 15 and 30 days to create or change a habit. Why is this relevant? Well, aside from the people who feel that being a spender is an innate trait, most of us picked up the habit of spending money somewhere along the way. Spending becomes more like a routine than an actual need. I can easily pinpoint when this happened to me – my freshman year of college in NYC. Suddenly, every time I left my dorm room, $60 would disappear from my bank account. While it is a bit discouraging to recognize bad habits at first, the flip side is that one month is not a long time. Trying something different everyday for just a month- like tracking every penny spent- doesn’t seem that hard. Especially when you frame it as a “Thirty Day Challenge”- a current trend – and it appeals to the competitive side in us. Amazingly, at the end of the month, the tedious and cumbersome task is no longer that, and you’ve picked up a new (good!) habit. Now, obviously, changing your whole attitude from “spender” to “saver” is a little harder, but changing small habits can certainly help.

2. In the most recent issue of the Harvard Business Review, the last page is devoted to the question of why we buy. Don Moyer writes, and quotes Paco Underhill’s Why We Buy:

People’s stated and actual reasons for purchasing something differ tremendously. [Shopping] is “a method of becoming a newer, perhaps even slightly improved person.” But people rarely admit that to a market researcher- or even to themselves.

I’m fascinated with the idea that I, for example, am just as much in the dark about my own personal decisions regarding spending, as I am about any of yours. From my own experience, I noticed that I was much more apt to purchase something when I had direct contact with a salesperson. At first, I was certain this was because having a human being tell me about a product gave it a certain level of credibility, and I thus believed what I was buying was of better quality. I’ve since realized that the truest reason for why I’m more likely to buy from a salesperson is that I don’t want them to be disappointed in me, or feel like I’ve wasted their time. Silly, right? And also deeply reflective of my personality, my weaknesses, and my inner life. Confronting why you shop may lead to some uncomfortable truths, but better the devil you know then the devil you don’t, right?

What are your deep, dark spending secrets? If you’re open enough, share your realizations about your spending habits in the comments.

Conversely, if you’re a former habitual spender, and you’ve found some foolproof tricks for saving, please share. We’d all love to learn from you!

Photo credit: stock.xchng.