You Can Learn from Spendthrifts. Really.

by Tracy · 13 comments

Poor spendthrifts don’t get a lot of love on personal finance blogs and websites. We tsk-tsk at their irresponsibility and try to show them the joys of being prudent and frugal but maybe there are lessons that we can learn from our more free spending cousins.

Of course, it’s all about balance and if the scales are too tilted towards wild abandon it can end in disaster but I’m a firm believer that there are positive ways to express almost any personality trait. And in the interest of complete disclosure, I have a spendthrift streak in me a mile wide and have found that it gives me a few advantages over my friends that come by their frugality naturally.

Spendthrifts Can Be Optimistic

Folks like me believe that things can and will get better, not worse so why worry too much today? This is bad when it comes to putting some luxury item on a credit card expecting word will come that you’ve received a fat raise or better yet, won the lottery any day now but it also gives you the confidence to dream big and take chances. Channeled properly, this can lead to taking the plunge to start your own business or investing a bit of money in the next Microsoft.

A healthy sense of optimism balanced with prudence is the key to making your dreams come true. Spendthrifts might need to work on prudence but they’ve got the optimism part covered!

Spendthrifts Tend to Live in the Moment

Planning for the future is necessary but enjoying today has a lot going for it, too. Spendthrifts are all about enjoying the here and now and letting the future sort itself out. This can, of course, lead to a grim retirement and a miserable tomorrow so you don’t want to let it get out of hand but going too far in the other direction can lead to another sort of miserable tomorrow full of regret that you didn’t enjoy your money more while you were young and healthy.

If you are unable to ever relax and stop worrying about money for long enough to fully immerse yourself in an enjoyable activity, remind yourself that money is a tool that can be used today just as well as tomorrow.

Spendthrifts are Decisive

There is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to researching a purchase or decision to try to make the most optimal choice ever. There will always be another point to consider, and another option that needs to be examined. After investing all that time whatever you do come up with will have to be pretty dang spectacular to have warranted such an investment in time and energy.

Contrast that with the impulsive spendthrift who just saunters in and says “I’ll take that one!” This is probably not the best way to buy a car or a house but there is something to be said for not sweating the small stuff and just going for a good enough choice with gusto instead of torturing yourself to make the perfect decision.

The Takeaway

Of course, I’m being a little tongue in cheek with this post and glossing over the negatives of being too free with a dollar but I think it’s important to look at people who are different than we are and see what we can learn from them. Sometimes it’s what we shouldn’t do, but sometimes what appears on first glance to be wholly negative can be a positive if balanced out with the traits we already possess.

If you’re completely happy with your life and the way things are going for you then there is obviously no reason to change. However, most of us do have areas where we could be a little happier or bolder or more confident. It might seem counter-intuitive to look to those who are moving in a totally different direction for guidance, but I’ve often found that doing just that helps me pinpoint the areas in my life where I lack a healthy balance.

And in the end, that’s exactly what it’s about: balance.

Have you ever felt like there was something you could learn from somebody who was your complete financial opposite? Do you think there is any merit to being a spendthrift?

Photo Credit: aresauburn™

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  • Mandy Cat says:

    I have a problem with spendthrifts who throw money away on things that will eventually wind up in a landfill. People who spend what is perhaps more than they should on meaningful and memorable experiences are not only more responsible than the folks who hoard a lot of junky stuff they didn’t need and won’t use but are usually more interesting and fun.

  • Brad Hart says:

    One can’t condemn all spend thrifts of not knowing what they are doing. For some it is very calculated. I hear people complain that the poor always spend everything they get without ever saving any of it and this is often the case. While you can hold some of them in contempt for this sort of behavior, I do, don’t get self righteous too quickly.

    The working poor, which constitutes more and more of us all the time if we are lucky, get penalized from social services for having too much cash on hand. If we were to go over $500 in savings we would lose $500 in food stamps a month and I’d be slapped with a hefty monthly spend down to receive the medical care I require. There are a lot of people in our position who know saving cash for a rainy day would be a good thing but aren’t prepared to throw away the benefits we receive by being thrifty elsewhere. I tell myself it is good for the economy and wonder when it will be good enough that my college educated wife can find something other than a crappy retail job that keeps us on welfare.

  • Cd Phi says:

    Hahah I saw a really funny quote the other day that said, “Shopping is cheaper than a therapist.”

    You gotta admit though that shopping really helps some people relieve their stress and may also be an added bonus to a good month at their job and such. Although there are cheaper ways to relieve that stress, shopping is a hobby of many people. I think shopping with a conscious is alright. :p

    • Scott says:

      A friend of mine who goes to therapy pays about $400/month on that.

      A shopaholic friend who buys things impulsively blows through $4000/month and doesn’t know where it went.

      Me? I drink at home. $40/month.

      • Practical Parsimony says:

        Scott, good observations and amusing. I don’t drink. But, it seems $40 drinking at home is not much booze or whatever.

  • Glass Is Half says:

    Really good post … funny thing is though while I’m the saver in the family … all the traits you mention are mine.

    I definitely live for the moment (but perhaps that’s because I’ve planned everything out now so don’t have to worry about it?) … I’m also 100% the more optimistic/positive one (maybe again, its because I know where my funds are going … how much is going to debt and how much to savings) & am also the decisive one in the relationship.

    Strange it wasn’t till I really thought about it due to this post that I realized how my money habits have affected my personality.

  • Personal Finance Fleur says:

    Excellent post. very informative indeed. I agree that we are working to live. It is just that dealing with our personal finances is a bit risky.

  • Tim says:

    This was a good post. I have a bit of a spendthrift in me but then countered by frugality. Sometimes there are things that by having them enrich the quality of our lives, and there is a point that money does not matter.

    Money does matter in the sense that it is necessary to live — but the things that give us true gratification are beyond dollars and truly, in an ideal world, money wouldn’t even be a necessary human tool (which seems to be often polluted by human greed).

    It’s good to spend money on something that will increase your enjoyment in life. We are simply working to live, not living to work.

  • Seo Guru says:

    I don’t really know if I can learn from somebody who is a complete opposite of me when it comes to money matters. I do try to look at them on a different perspective but I can’t get it. Even try to open my mind to them and put my shoes in them. But still can’t understand why. You may be right, they are too optimistic of the situation but I see them grumbling when they see their credit card bill. LOL

    • vicki says:

      I like this comment. Good to be optimistic for sure, but a credit card bill is not living in the moment. In our advertising, consumer driven society it is important to focus on values, family…etc. Do we really need that item(s)? I agree it is good to look at a different perspective. Thanks for your comment.

  • Jenna says:

    You can always learn something for observing how people interact with their money. I’ve struggled with having friends that are so super cheap they can’t do anything (not because they don’t have the money but because they don’t want to spend it) and those who have too much money to spend and are going out and doing things I can’t afford to do on a weekly/monthly basis. Having extremes in friends helps you figure out what is a comfortable balance for one’s self.

  • vered says:

    “Spendthrifts Tend to Live in the Moment.” I agree. I know someone who doesn’t have a lot of money and certainly no nest egg or emergency fund. We’ve actually had to help her out on occasion. Sometimes I see her new purchases and I think to myself, “She should have put this money in savings instead.” But she has such appetite for life and clearly loves every minute of this journey. She’s not nearly as stressed or worried about things as I am. So who’s better off?

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