Financial Advice

Are You a Spender or Saver? How to Become a More Conscious Consumer

Many things can influence our spending habits. Understanding the triggers can help you become a more conscious consumer. Here’s what to know.

Published Dec 15, 2021 | Updated May 8, 2024

Does it give you angst to take money out of savings for a large purchase? Or, do you often make impulse purchases just because they make you happy?

How you answer those questions says a lot about your personal psychology of spending. Even two siblings raised in the same home environment can have vastly different views about spending and saving.

So, what exactly drives our tendency to be a spender or a saver? And how can we become more conscious consumers? Learn how to identify the triggers that influence your spending habits, and the six questions to ask yourself before making a purchase.

What Drives Attitudes About Money

Why do we sometimes spend our hard-earned money on things we don’t really need? Lots of factors influence our attitudes about money: media, cultural norms, our own emotions, even how our parents spent and saved.

Take the media, for example. Experts estimate that the average consumer is exposed to as many as 10,000 advertisements daily! And there’s good reason that advertisers bombard us: they work. Advertisements influence 90% of consumers to make a purchase.

Our parents’ relationship with money is also a big influencer on our own behavior. If your mother always brought flowers when visiting a relative, you might find yourself doing that, too, without questioning if it is always necessary or even appropriate.

Cultural norms and religious beliefs factor into our spending psychology as well. One culture might spend lavishly on weddings while another doesn’t spend much at all. Religious practices like tithing, donating to charity, and participating in traditional celebrations that require significant expenses can impact our views on spending, too.

And don’t underestimate the power of emotions on our spending behavior. The Journal of Psychology and Marketing found that well over half of Americans—62%—have engaged in “retail therapy” to cheer themselves up. While a little shopping therapy may be just the salve for an occasional stressed-out day, routinely turning to binge shopping to placate negative emotions is not financially, or mentally, healthy.

Turn Spending Habits into Saving Habits

Spending habits are just that—habits. Like other habits, how we spend money is an acquired behavior pattern that is followed so regularly it’s almost involuntary. If your spending habits are interfering with your saving habits, it may be time to take a closer look at your self-concept around money.

A “spender” who makes a conscious effort to change their self-concept to that of a “saver” will find it much easier to save for their goals. Ask yourself these questions before you spend:

  • Will I really use the product/service?
  • What are my motives for making the purchase?
  • Do I own anything else that provides the same use?
  • Did I feel a need for this item before I saw it in the store?
  • What are the financial and emotional costs of the purchase, and can I really afford it?
  • Can I get the product or service for less elsewhere?

Remember, self-identifying as a spender does not mean you can’t evaluate your behavior and habits and decide to save more consistently. It just means you might have to work a little harder to make it a priority.

If your spending habits are interfering with your ability to reach your financial goals, seek out a trusted financial counselor you can ask for budgeting guidance. With a little help, you can create a livable spending and saving budget to meet your financial goals.