Tightwads vs Spendthrifts

“Frugality is driven by a pleasure of saving, as compared with tightwaddism, which is driven by a pain of paying.”

That’s one of the findings of a new study comparing people’s spending habits. Here’s how the differences between tightwads and spendthrifts break down, according to the survey of 13,327 people:

Feel emotional pain when spending
Men are bigger tightwads than women
Male tightwads feel 3x the pain in buying as male spendthrifts do

Feel pleasure when buying
Younger people more likely to be spendthrifts than older people
Less education increases spendthrift tendencies

So, are you a tightwad or a spendthrift?


Edit Your Comment

  1. bonzombiekitty says:

    I’m a bit of a tightwad. I feel uneasy any time I spend money, especially if it’s a large sum or more than I would normally spend, i.e. spending $80 on groceries instead of $60.

  2. pda_tech_guy says:

    OMG i am definitley a tightwad. I start feeling guilty anytime I buy anything. Sometimes i even return stuff.

  3. formatc says:

    I thought this was the next “Worst Company” poll and was thoroughly confused because I didn’t remember seeing those names on the bracket, and I’ve never heard of them. I then postulated what odd company names they were. Then I read the rest of the post. I’ll go back to work now.

  4. Bladefist says:

    Yea I’ll spend a week of searching online for a better deal to save 5 dollars. Pretty stupid. But it’s the principal in things.

    Then i’ll spend another 2 weeks working with RMA’s because I bought it from a company in Hati.

  5. DrGirlfriend says:

    I’m a low-scale tightwad. I was not at all a tightwad until maybe a few years ago. I can definitely feel the wad getting tighter as time goes on, though. :p

  6. ManiacDan says:

    @formatc: Don’t feel bad, I was very close to putting both “tightwad” and “spendthrift” into google to find out who they were.

    That being said, I don’t think I’m either. I commonly buy things that I want after careful consideration of my budget, and occasionally go over budget if it makes sense to do so.

  7. Sherryness says:

    I can’t participate in the poll; I feel my spending is balanced! It didn’t used to be, though. I used to be a major spendthrift. Then I went through a horrible time financially and became a tightwad for several years. Now that things are better, I feel I’ve achieved “balance.”

  8. sleze69 says:

    @ManiacDan: /agree. I feel no pain when I buy something because I know that I spend within my means.

    The expensive ring for the girlfriend is the only outlier to my guilt spending trends.

  9. AcidReign says:

        I tend to be a tightwad most of the year, then go NUTS on vacation…

  10. B says:

    I’m definately more of a spendthrift.

  11. barn25 says:

    I have to admit i’m a tightwad i’ve returned half the stuff bought. Thats why i do most my electronics shopping online (harder to return stuff makes me keep it)

  12. B says:

    If I refuse to pay $4.95 to read the article, would that qualify me as a tightwad?

  13. savvy9999 says:

    I’m a tightwad for the little things in life that add up… always looking to save a buck or two on lunch or groceries, on fixing things instead of throwing them away, on holding back on getting that piece of clothing that I’d like, but don’t need.

    But when I’m on vacation, or at a nice bar or restaurant, or when I’m buying something for my kids, I spare no expense. Life is to be savored, not saved forever.

    For me, in the end I get great joy when I work to find deals to save $ here and there, and then great joy again when I blow it on nice things. I would eat ramen noodles every day for lunch, so that on Saturday night I don’t worry one tiny bit about ordering a Kobe steak and a bottle of Dom Perignon.

    So I guess I’m a tightspendthriftwad.

  14. smitty1123 says:

    Both. I love buying things like movies, games and other fun stuff. I hate buying necesities like toiletry items and clothing.

  15. UnicornMaster says:

    Does anyone else find it ironic that in order to read the full article you have to spend $4.95 or sign up for a “14-day free trial” where you can sign up, read all the articles you want and dump the subscription?

    “To continue reading this article, you will need to purchase this article.”

  16. Zombilina says:

    Tightwad here. Well, maybe a relaxed tightwad. Buying things like groceries makes me cringe a little on the inside. Larger expenses, like rent, make me feel worse.

  17. t-r0y says:

    Go from Spendthrift to Tightwad in less than 9 hours! [www.google.com]

  18. mcjake says:

    “Less education increases spendthrift tendencies” I take offense to that. Just because I like cool shit doesn’t make me unintelligent. It just makes me irresponsible.

  19. Trai_Dep says:

    I try to buy based on needs, not wants.
    But when I decide to buy, I buy for value, not price, since I’ll be hanging onto them for a while.
    So, it took me three years to join the wide-screen TV bandwagon, but when I did, it was maxed out Sony Bravia all the way, without looking back. Or an iPod over some podunk, featureless mp3 player. Umm, computer choice is best left unsaid, but take a guess. :)

  20. B says:

    @mcjake: education does not equal intelligence.

  21. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    I don’t know how to answer the poll. When I was poor right after college in the late 80s, I prided myself on my intense frugality. I could stretch a dollar until it snapped. I could feed three people adequately on a hundred dollars worth of groceries a month (that’s about a dollar a day per person). During periods of unemployment or work schedule cutbacks, I was able to survive without welfare or begging my parents or friends for help. I still don’t use credit cards, take out loans, or watch TV. We will build our house without a mortgage.

    I can pinch pennies now that I have a respectable IT job making decent money, but I don’t want to. I do want to buy nice things and enjoy them. I wanted to shoot myself when I got that IRS letter last week, but I reminded myself that I did, if worse came to worst, have the money in savings. My younger brother took my dad’s whole death benefit when he died earlier this year, and I didn’t fight because I didn’t want to tear the family apart. I have a collection that I add to from time to time. I went on a vacation alone. I contribute a fairly high percentage to my 401K (thanks, those of you who talked me into it). I paid my cat’s expensive vet bills instead of putting him to sleep.

    But you’d better believe I applied my frugality skills to the above. I have a top-notch hairdresser, auto mechanic, body shop, and veterinarian, so I know my money is buying quality, and these service people are all less costly than lower-quality alternatives. I used the service from work to find myself free or discounted legal and accounting services. I scour the Internet looking for the best deal on what I want before I buy it. Everyone asks me where the best deals are.

    So am I a tightwad because I seriously care where and how I lay my money down, and I’m a crackpot without credit cards or a house and with a cheap car, or am I a spendthrift because my standard of living is pretty darn good?

  22. I think I ricochet between the two. I’m a real tightwad about most things most of the time, but once I decide something needs to be bought, Katie bar the door!

  23. PaperBoy says:

    This looks like the same study, covered in an earlier story in the Washington Times:

    Consumer researchers find frugality not a spent force

    March 20, 2008

    By Jennifer Harper – So much for living large. Misers are now in fashion.

    Even in a culture that glorifies $500 handbags and outlandish McMansions, tightwads outnumber spendthrifts by a 3-2 ratio, according to consumer researchers at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and Carnegie Mellon University.

    “Chronic underspending” is widespread despite press reports to the contrary, said Scott Rick, a professor of information management at Pennsylvania who led the research. He probed the secret shopping habits and pocketbook concerns of 13,327 adults from 2004 to 2007, drawing on a population that included readers of the New York Times, the Toronto Globe and Mail, university students and NBC News viewers.

    Shoppers fall under three categories: Emotional tightwads, happy-go-lucky spendthrifts, plus a blithe group Mr. Rick calls unconflicteds.

    The cheapskates have angst, apparently.

    “Tightwads save, not because they care more about the future than spendthrifts, but because forking out the money is too painful of an emotional experience. Those who experience the pain of spending money more intensely tend to spend less,” he said.

    “On the other end of the ‘spendthrift-tightwad’ scale, spendthrifts typically experience minimal pain when spending money and tend to spend more,” Mr. Rick said.

    And those unconflicteds? They live a life of balance. Should they go out to a fancy restaurant one month, for example, they will deliberately forgo the treat next time month to avoid “the pain of paying.”

    Frugality isn’t necessarily painful, according to some.

    “Embracing your inner cheapskate” is paramount, according to Robin Herbst and Julie Miller, Minnesota-based authors of “The Cheap Book,” published last month.

    “Cheapness is not a trait one is born with, encoded in DNA. Cheapness is an art form,” the pair wrote.

    The new study, meanwhile, further differentiated the behaviors of cheapskates and big spenders.

    Although salary ranges were almost equal between the two groups, almost three-quarters of the tightwads always paid off their credit card balance in full, compared with 37 percent of the spendthrifts. The misers also saved more. The researchers found that 28 percent of them managed to sock away more than $250,000, compared with 12 percent of their big-spender counterparts.

    There were important gradations among those who were tight with a buck, though.

    “The evidence suggests that frugality is driven by a pleasure of saving, as compared with tightwaddism, which is driven by a pain of paying,” Mr. Rick said.

    The researchers also found some sex and age bias. Men are nearly three times more likely to be tightwads than spendthrifts than women, while folks older than 70 were five times more likely to be tightwads than those younger than 30.

    The research will be published in the April issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, an academic journal.


  24. trickonion says:

    HAHAHA, it says i have to pay for the article! Im a tightwad, I wont pay! is that the test?!

  25. picshereplz says:

    I’m kinda both. I hate spending money but can’t resist deals. I’m also very good about not making big purchases but I also buy a bunch of little things without thinking much about it.

  26. FrugalFreak says:

    One only has to look at my handle to guess. My spending philosophy isn’t so much as saving money in a savings account as it is paying the least for an item as to not promote a materialistic society.

  27. nikkomorocco says:

    i’m going to say both. i dont like to pay full price for non-necessities (clothing, electronics, etc…) but usually if i find a deal i can’t pass it up. i get guilty when i buy something and somehow dont have much of a use for it (clothes mostly) but then i rationalize it by saying i didn’t pay full price.

  28. randombob says:

    yeah, where’s the option for “neither” here?

    I’m a saver, but I also save money for later spending. So once that 65″ Sony Bravia becomes a little more affordable and my stockpile has grown to encompass that price, I’ll pull the trigger, and enjoy it.

    But that’s not to the detriment of my other savings strategies.

    So, neither.

  29. Daniel-Bham says:

    I bought a vehicle yesterday and made a large down-payment. I felt like crying… I was in zero-debt outside of my house. I generally maintain tight control on spending and budget everything out.

    Though I did qualify for 3.9% interest on the loan which is good. (Credit Score 775)

  30. Carencey says:

    @PaperBoy: aha! I am probably an “unconflicted” then. That fits me much better than the other two.

  31. Doug Nelson says:

    Why does this start with discussing frugal vs. tightwad, then immediately shift to spendthrift vs. tightwad? I think the former is much more interesting.

  32. Pop Socket says:

    My dad was an extreme tightwad, hence I am way more spendthrift than I should be.

  33. bbagdan says:

    If I feel an item is appropriately priced or will give me great value then I love buying it. (e.g. clothes from Zara)

    If I feel an item is a ripoff and has no long-term value than i am pissed off when i have to buy it. (e.g. wine in restaurants).

  34. Maulleigh says:

    TIGHTWAD (she types in all caps)

  35. benmicro says:

    I don’t feel pain when I buy something because I only buy what I need such as groceries and utilities. I don’t spend money on frivolous things.

  36. snowmentality says:

    Totally a tightwad. I internally panic whenever I spend over $20 in one place, and I likewise panic if I have less than $200 in checking at any given time. I always research the hell out of big purchases, but even if I rationally know it’s worth it, I still get all anxious and guilty once I’ve done it. My mind keeps chattering “What if you get in a car accident tomorrow? What if you get sick and need surgery? What if your car dies? What if the roof opens up in a rainstorm tomorrow? YOU’LL REGRET BUYING THAT COMPUTER THEN, MISSY.” You know, even though I need a computer in order to do my work.

  37. ogremustcrush says:

    I’m generally a tightwad, and I hate letting things add up. I will refuse to buy almost anything if I consider it overpriced, if I even considered it in the first place.

    However, I do get enjoyment out of buying something I have wanted for a long time and saved up for. That, and I love me some bargains, say on the day after thanksgiving.

  38. ogremustcrush says:

    To be more specific, I am always saving for something, either a new laptop, a newer car, or a better place to stay, and I hate anything that deters me from my goal. Every little thing I have to buy that isn’t being saved towards my goal is like a stab in the heart. Sometimes I will save for an event though, and then I let myself spend somewhat more freely during that event(vacations, day after thanksgiving). Of course I’m usually saving for more than one thing, and I prioritize them.

  39. forgottenpassword says:

    I am definately a tightwad. My life’s savings takes precedence over everything else! And I HATE paying more than I have to for things I dont like spending money on (examples… toilet paper,cleaning supplies, utilities, gasoline etc. etc…). I DO splurge on fast food & SOME things I like to buy. I USED to splurge on cable tv (direcTV), but after moving & not having access to a southern sky view I stopped getting cable (directv).

    I use coupons/discounts whenever possible.

  40. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @snowmentality: That is not being a tightwad. That is called “bag lady syndrome.” I know because I used to have it bad. I spent more money than I want to think about on disaster preparedness supplies and a year’s supply of long term storage food. If I felt like I depended on something, I bought a replacement and stored it away just in case it wouldn’t be available later when I needed it. I just looked at all the crap I “needed” for a two-week work training trip to Scotland next month that I’ve known about for a year, and I literally will not have room in my luggage for it all. And I am just like you when you say you panic when you fall south of 200 dollars in your checking account… for me it’s 300 dollars and less than 500 in savings.

    I am not a spendthrift, either. I spent the money on all that stuff just because I was in a throat-gripping panic that I would need it and not have it, or the money to pay for it, later.

  41. Syrenia says:

    Hard to say…

    On the one hand, I won’t bank where there are fees and only use credit cards that have cash rebates. I will not pay for cable (and was appalled to find out how much a friend was paying for it), so I either go without TV or use an antenna. When I had to furnish an entire apartment, I went to Ikea.

    On the other hand, I am completely willing to pay for memberships at the museum, the aquarium, and the gym, and season tickets for the opera. I want to kill friends who spend twenty minutes trying to find street parking (particularly the ones who can’t actually parallel park), and pass three garages where I would gladly have paid the $7 to get out of the damned car.

  42. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    I think I’m both. I love to save, and I love to spend on things that are important to me. Conversely, I feel pain when I have to pay $400 for something like…car repairs or other bills that don’t leave me any better off than you were before I incurred the bill. I also love to get things on sale (but only things I was going to buy anyway), and I do all my grocery shopping by the unit price tag.

    My philosophy is to cut corners on stuff that doesn’t really matter and save it and spend the extra money on things I really derive pleasure from. I’ll buy the 99 cent store brand ketchup and buy dishes from the Salvation Army and use the money I save to upgrade my PC hardware or take a trip somewhere.

    It’s ironic that they want $4.95 to read that article. Ha. I don’t think so.

  43. PalmBayChuck says:

    That’s amazing! 50/50. I really wanted to put tightwad, but I answered honestly. Oh dang! Look at that shiny new thing, gotta have it!

  44. MARTHA__JONES says:

    I’m kinda both – I buy as many clothing items as our budget can allow, but as I work in fashion retail I see it to some extent as a necessity.

    I feel no concern about the little inexpensive things that just whittle your money away dime by dime, but every time I buy a shirt or a pair of shoes I cringe.

    When I buy furniture I have to over-convince myself I am not making a mistake. This normally takes days if not weeks or months, along with the advice of several people. It usually ends with my mom or my husband yelling at me to stop fretting and just buy it.

  45. I have been accuse of being cheap a few times by my girlfriend.. I consider myself to be money conscious though. I waste money sometimes, but only if I can afford it.

    but that’s not the point here.. The poll is completely 50/50 right now! weird

  46. psyop63b says:

    I definitely feel pain whenever I spend, but I also relish in saving. I think I have dual personalities.