What's Your Spentality?

Have you taken the time lately to assess your spentality? Oh, you aren’t familiar with the word spentality? That would make sense since I made it up. But if you were to reference it in the Helenictionary you would find it defined as one’s mentality toward spending.

A few years back I recall a conversation I had with my younger sister about acquiring stuff. We like stuff. We have both been guilty of buying a lot of stuff. We concluded that it stemmed from the frugality of our parents and our freedom as adults to buy the stuff we desired if we wanted to. In that conversation I confessed to being an over-consumer and just buying stuff because I could. By the end of the conversation we kind of agreed that we could improve ourselves in this area and then hung up the phone. She proceeded to spend less of her money on stuff and more of her husband’s money! LOL…I’m just kidding about that. But we both saw that during a time of great prosperity that we could spend less on stuff. We didn’t want to be like so many others who just spent money on stuff because they think they need it or because they saw someone else with it, or because everyone should have whatever the stuff in consideration was. We purposely decided to alter our spentalities. Then along came the recession and we found ourselves in a much better position of preparedness.

I’ve never been one to boldly live outside of my means. Although I’ve had my paycheck to paycheck moments in my early adulthood, it took a village to raise my credit score by living with relatives or borrowing from Mom while I pursued my low paying career dream to be on the radio. I had the benefit of parents who showed us that true riches have little to do with money. I actually thought we were rich when I was a kid. Little did I know that they were pinching ever penny, scrutinizing every dime, and doing a lot of things to cut expenses in order to maintain a household and family with six children. They were far from flashy. Practical is an understatement! I had no appreciation at the time for their wise ways like growing our own fruits and vegetables. We learned to build things and do things for ourselves so we didn’t necessarily have to pay someone else to do it. For example, my Father built our house from the ground up. And no he wasn’t a contractor or a builder. He was a minister and a theologian. It was more cost effective for him to do it himself and he possessed the knowledge to do so.

We rarely had anything in excess but always had more than we needed. My parent’s spentality was quite calculating. If you could sell your need or desire and they had the funds for it, we’d usually get a green light as long as grades, chores, and behavior were up to par. Our dreams were financed but our whims were chided. I had great role models for developing a prudent spentality. And that has helped me to go a very long way on very little.

I never like spending more than necessary or spending for something I did not have to. Close friends call me cheapskate at times because I’m a bargain hunter until the day I die. But I’d rather spend money on something that’s going to give me a return on my money than a designer bag that I’ll get bored with and throw in the back of my closet. Yes, throw. But the truth is I first started practicing a thrifty spentality out of fear; a fear of not being able to sustain myself. That kind of thinking will only attract what it is that you do not want. Fear was not a good reason for me to live a cost effective way of life.

There were bumps along the way like trial and error and sinkholes in my road to success to finally get it through my head that I needed to be in the driver seat of my financial destiny. I didn’t want to know about money, think about money, or learn about money; I just wanted to spend it. Here, you take it and make it grow and just let me know what you did. Bad idea. Nobody will take care of your finances like you do. And if you do have a pinch hitter who is going to help you to build wealth, make sure you are fully engaged and involved every step of the way. I had this notion that one day Prince Charming would come into my life and do all of that stuff for me. Much like my Father did for my Mother. When he died she didn’t have a clue about money yet had to make all the financial decisions from that point forward.

So learn all you can learn. Trust me, if I can figure it out so can you. It’s not that hard to have a basic clue. I’m not talking about buying futures, or puts and calls but I am talking about knowing the interest rates and terms of the credit cards in your wallet. Look at your paycheck. Do you know what each line, each deduction, each item on it is? What about your mortgage, do you know your interest rate, how much you escrow in taxes and insurance each month. For anything that you make payments on do you know how much you will pay for it by the time you paid everything off? Do you have any investments other than your home? Is that insurance policy term or whole life? What’s your fico score? How is it determined and how can you improve it or damage it? That beloved car that you bought last year, what’s it worth today? These are just some basic questions that having the answers to could help advance your spentality.

You may also want to create a spending filter. You know, for the stuff you feel like you have got to have! Many of my girlfriends have these fabulously awesome designer bags. Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga, Fendi, and Channel are in their closets and they didn’t get them from Canal Street bootleggers. But out of all of those women, I’d be willing to bet that only ten percent of them can keep the amount of money it cost to buy that bag in that bag at all times. For a girl like me I find that hard to understand.

The filter can apply to cars. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for a nice car. At one point I had three. Two of them I had the title for but number three came with a monthly payment of $1200! It wasn’t until I started to look for a studio apartment in Manhattan that I realized “Hey, the price of that uptown studio is the same as my car!” Except my car was quickly depreciating in value and an apartment would most likely appreciate. Thus began a new filter.

Now that the economy is the drama de jour, so many people are finding themselves being weaned off stuff and in retail rehab. Their spentality is being changed by default, literally. To hear that so many people had no idea that their house payment would increase because they had an interest only mortgage or a balloon mortgage kind of mystifies me. I get it because that could have easily been me under certain circumstances. However, I know that if I have only ten dollars I couldn’t afford a million dollar home. But more than anything I knew I didn’t need a million dollar home, and yes the mortgage broker told me each time, “You know you qualify for a much bigger house!” No thanks dude, the one I picked out is enough.

I’ve always look at the word need very literally. A need is air, or water, or food, or shelter, or clothing; I even consider love a need. I don’t need an iPod although I can’t imagine how I’d do without mine now, but it’s a want. As is most of the “stuff” we are quick to say we need. It doesn’t help that it’s in our face all day; the new and improved, the latest, the super version, the convenient, the coveted, and the thing that everybody has or is doing. If you can afford for your dog to get pampered with a massage at the pet spa, then buy all means go for it. But if you’re paying your rent late because all of your friends’ dogs get a hot stone treatment and you feel like yours should too, then you need to seriously work on your spentality!

I’m so saddened by what I’ve seen transpire in our communities with people losing their jobs and losing their homes that this is sort of a plea. It may not be you that may have to reassess your spentality but you may know someone else who does. Having more stuff than we can afford is never worth the part that comes with having to pay the piper. Save. Invest. Tithe. You may find a bargain on a better quality of life.

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