The Truth behind our Insatiable Need to Spend Money

Today’s Generation X seems to have it all – a bachelor or a master’s degree, a high level executive position, and are well travelled in and out of the country. However, many of them still carry their college habits – ‘if there’s money, spend it.’ It could be a new pair of boots, a renovation of the bedroom, a new gadget to replace your four month old one, or a lavish trip to the spa. Despite seeing and experiencing recession in this past few years, they continue to spend and act the same – they are unable to break the bad habit of spending money.

It isn’t necessarily because they are not thinking of their future or what, but it is actually a fact that Gen X’ersknow that they should save more and spend less, that they should start taking care of their future. They have seen the commercials and the television series with characters that discuss the importance of retirement. They have read the books and have attended dialogues of financial planners. And yet, their habits remain. Is it an addiction? What causes this behaviour that many of the educated are unable to control? This article lists three reasons why it is rather difficult to turn back from spending and save more.

The Traps of Social Media

With the involvement of social media in our lives, it is no surprise that almost everyone has a Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest account. Although the primary purpose of these is to connect people, they are also sometimes used as bragging board for those who bought new gadgets and clothes, as well as for those who are enjoying the vacation of their lives and are documenting every single moment of it. The saying says ‘a picture paints a thousand words,’ and these social media sites have a lot of them. Furthermore, Pinterest has different categories for fashion, beauty, gadgets, and home decorations, among others. These deeply etch the ‘want’ in our minds that we cannot wait to get rid of until we spend them the moment we have the money.

The Power of Television

Advertisers have found their way to television shows to promote their product. It’s no longer about the commercial breaks, but sometimes, they get to incorporate the products into the ‘lives’ of the characters we watch – and the more invested we are in a character, the more likely it is that we will want what they have. Furthermore, we are now at a time when reality TV is everywhere, and caters to different types of people. There are the housewives of wherever, the rich kids of the state, and families and couples who open up their lives for the public to see. They purchase dresses worth thousands of dollars, drink expensive champagne, and are always attending these events where all they seem to do is have fun. These kinds of TV shows plant the idea in our minds that we can be rich like them, that it is attainable for us. Thus, we visualize what it is like to live their lives – and since we can’t be on TV, we’ll try to match the lifestyle instead. However, what sometimes slips our minds is that these are things that may not really be the character’s – it could be a prop or something that they really won’t own, because they are purchased by the producers and not the actors themselves.

The Intrigue on Technology

The marketing strategy of Apple is brilliant. Every year, they release a new model of the iPhone, iPad, and their iPods of different sizes. And yet, people scramble in line every year to get the new models that may just be a tenth of a millimetre thinner than the previous ones. However, it is this insatiable need to ‘have to try’ the new gadget that drives many of us sleepless until we get our hands on it. Furthermore, we see them everywhere – at work, in the bus, the subway, the airplane, and restaurants – there will always be people who have the new gadgets, and for some reason, we tend to look down on ours, thinking that they are not as good as the new ones.

How this affects relationships and marriages

Recently, there have been studies surrounding marital mischief that couples experience, and how they increase over time. The idea of conjugality is slowly blurring out as more couples prefer having their own individual accounts rather than a joint one. If there is, it would be for emergency purposes only, and would most likely only receive the remnants of this month’s pay check. Many spouses hide purchases, withdraw cash so they can buy without being traced, and have been lying about their finances and debt to their partners.

According to studies, the below statistics show how mischief and deception flows between married couples and young professionals in a relationship:

For married couples:

  • 31% of adults with combined assets with their spouses say that they have been dishonest about the money
    • 58% of which hid cash from their spouses
      • 15% of them said that they created bank accounts that the spouse was not aware of
  • 34% say that they have lied about their money earned, debt, and other finances
  • 11% of men confessed that they withheld information about their salary from their wives (vs. 6% for women)

For single, young professionals:

  • 48% of young professional couples admit that they’ve hidden purchases from their partners
    • 12% of them hid the purchases in a closet
    • 53% of them say that they deliberately misrepresented the amount of a purchase
  • 34% did not disclose their debts to their partners

So, what does this mean for all of us? It means that temptation is everywhere, and our response is not good enough to fight it off, or to even avoid it. We keep on falling in the same traps and find ourselves somehow struggling despite our achievements in life. Perhaps, it is time to consult with your partner, spouse, or a financial advisor who can help save money and plan purchases to make financial management easier.