One of the first things Gretchen sets out to do is help you identify your own personality style in regards to forming and keeping good habits. She does this by laying out four broad tendencies (I'm pretty sure I'm an Obliger who leans heavily towards Upholding) and then personalizing them by asking a series of questions.
I've been thinking a lot about one question in particular: Are you an underbuyer or an overbuyer?
Gretchen talked about this question in The Happiness Project in relation to the question, "Can money buy happiness?" (The answer: yes.) But she brought it up again in relation to habits because it's helpful to know if you're the type of person who will go out and buy all the latest running gear in order to make running a habit or if you're more likely to run in whatever you already have available.
I am an underbuyer. No question. In answer to the running example, I run in a pair of two-year-old Nikes (that felt like a big splurge at the time), a pair of men's athletic shorts (when the weather is warm enough) and an old family reunion t-shirt. I cut a mean figure, that's for sure. Granted, I'm not that serious about running, but there are still many days when I'd like to own different running attire . . . but just not enough to actually buy any.
But it's not just running. My underbuying tendencies influence everything I do. (And no, I don't think this tendency has anything to do with money trauma in the past. Thankfully, I've always been blessed with enough.)
When we go out to eat, I rarely order anything to drink besides water, and I always begrudge the tip at the end (I know! I promise it has nothing to do with not appreciating the waiter; I would just rather have the tip included in the total cost so that it doesn't feel like a decision). It's the same thing with paying a babysitter. Yes, I know she just watched my four wild children. Yes, the money was well-earned. But oh wow, it hurts to hand it over.
Mike, on the other hand, is an overbuyer (but a wise and conscientious one). When he was working on his doctorate and we didn't have any money, he didn't spend it. But once he had a real job, his spending habits gradually changed with the increase in cash flow. Going to Costco and filling his cart to the brim gives him a happy little thrill. It sends me to the edge of anxiety.
However, the great irony is that on the rare instances when I make myself spend money on something I want or need, I actually do feel happier. Take Gretchen Rubin's book, for example. I bought it. I almost never buy books for myself (after I read Notes From a Blue Bike, I went to the bookstore to buy it. I held it in my hands and walked to the checkout counter, but once I actually got there, I told them I didn't want it). Sure, it hurt to push the checkout button on Amazon, but once it came in the mail, I was so happy to actually own it.
A few weeks ago, my hair was driving me crazy. I passed the mirror, saw the gross split ends, and texted my friend on the spot. I avoid haircuts almost as much as going to the dentist. It seems like such an exorbitant cost for something that's going to grow right back . . . especially when I'm not even changing the style but just getting a trim. But oh wow, after I'd done it (and paid her and the money was gone), I was so happy. It was the best haircut I've ever had. I didn't settle for the cheapest option like I usually do, and even though I agonized a ton before I went, I didn't have a single regret after the fact.
I think I will always be an underbuyer. And for the most part, I'm happy about that. It means that we stay well within our means and that we use what we have. But, I'm slowly realizing that there are benefits to being an overbuyer as well. Overbuyers are generous and kind. They don't keep track of how many granola bars the neighbor kids are eating, and they look forward to buying a present for a baby shower.
So while I hold tight-fisted to most of my money, I'm going to make a conscious effort to relax my grip . . . just a little.
What about you? Are you an underbuyer or an overbuyer? Examples of ways you spend or hoard money are welcome in the comments!