A science blog at the NY Times surveyed people about being a spendthrift v. being a tightwad and got very interesting results. (Spendthrift = person who spends recklessly, tightwad = person who doesn’t spend even when they should)
The researchers say they’re not sure just how prevalent tightwads and spendthrifts in the general population, but they did identify significant patterns among the tightwads and spendthrifts in their study:
* Men have a harder time spending money. Women are no more likely to be spendthrifts than tightwads, whereas men are nearly three times more likely to be tightwads than spendthrifts.
* Whether they find spending money painful has a much greater impact on the shopping behavior of men than of women. Women are more likely to take other factors into account when shopping, such as the extent to which spending is expected to be ‘therapeutic.’ As a result, the spending differences between male tightwads and male spendthrifts are generally much greater than the spending differences between female tightwads and female spendthrifts.
* Respondents in their 20s are more likely to be spendthrifts than any of the older age groups, and respondents over 70 are more likely to be tightwads than any younger age group. “Longitudinal research is needed,” the researchers write, “to determine whether this pattern reflects the effects of growing up in different generations, or instead whether people generally move toward the tightwad end of the continuum as they age.”
Naturally, I wanted to take the survey myself. It took me 15 minutes and asked questions I expected – about my shopping habits – and those I didn’t – like whether I have a will and how many incandescent light bulbs I have at home. Um, okay?!
I’m still waiting for my results. In the meantime, you can take the survey, or read a 15-page paper about the study in the Journal of Consumer Research. Here’s the blog post on the NY Times science blog about the survey results.