Tightwads Loosen Up; You’re Not Alone
Survey Shows Tightwads Outnumber Spendthrifts 3 to 2
March 18, 2008 -- Do you hate to spend money and wince when you reach for
your wallet? You've got lots of company.
Tightwads outnumber spendthrifts by a 3-to-2 ratio, researchers report in
the Journal of Consumer Research.
Data came from surveys completed by 13,327 adults, most of whom heard about
the survey through The New York Times.
In the surveys, participants were asked to rate themselves on a scale
ranging from "tightwad" to "spendthrift." The survey defined
tightwads as people who have difficulty spending money, and spendthrifts as
those who have difficulty controlling spending.
Tightwads made up 24% of the group, compared to 15% who called themselves
spendthrifts. The other participants fell somewhere between tightwad and
Being a tightwad wasn't the same as being frugal. Both scrimp, but for
"Conservative spending by tightwads is likely driven by a pain of
paying, whereas conservative spending by the highly frugal is likely driven by
a pleasure of saving," write the researchers, who included Scott Rick, PhD,
of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.
Rick's team also noticed that tightwads can be lured into spending, say, $5
to get a DVD delivered overnight if the $5 fee was framed as a "small $5
fee." Spendthrifts weren't swayed by that tactic; they went for the $5 fee,
whether it was called "small" or not.
But if tightwads are more common, why is debt so high and savings so
"One possibility is that our samples are not representative of the
population," write the researchers. "Another possibility is simply that
it is difficult for many people to make ends meet."
They also note a third theory, which is that some tightwads aren't so pained
by paying that they stop spending. It hurts, but they still fork over the
(Do you feel guilty
when you spend money? What do you feel most guilty about buying? Tell us
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