Are some people saving TOO MUCH?
Via Consumerist comes a NYT article that says some people are not SPENDING enough. Evidently, there is research suggesting that when you spend money, you regret it for a short time, but when you forgo spending and later regret it, the regret lasts forever.
I think some people might argue that I could fit into the not spending enough category. Right now, I'm sitting on close to a year's after-tax earnings. Debtwise, I have a small student loan that I've been debating paying off, and a giant mortgage that I'm underwater on but able to make payments on. Truck is paid off, credit cards are used only for convenience and reward points and are paid off in full every month.
As far as spending, I tend to be very frugal. I seldom buy anything unless it's on sale. While I own some nice things - mostly electronics - almost all were bought on clearance, on sale, are refurbs, or otherwise were a deal. I will probably replace my desktop PC in a few months, most likely with a mac mini, but don't see that as an indulgence since my current machine is 3 years old and cost me $199 new (including a CRT monitor I gave away and a printer I sold on eBay for $25).
I will probably have to spend some money this summer on home improvements - I have a toilet that needs replacing - it's currently in pieces - and gutters and sofits that need some work. Other than that, I'm not planing on any major purchases.
I think that there is pleasure to be had from savings. When I log into my online banking and see the balance of my savings account, it makes me feel good. I feel that I've worked hard to earn that money, and I'm proud of myself for that, and for making the sacrifices to save it. It also gives me comfort to know that if I get laid off - or fired for, say, hurling a chair at a coworker - I will be able to survive for quite a while without ending up homeless. It is also nice to know if that some emergency occurs - car trouble, water heater explodes, cat gets sick - I'll be able to cover it without having to go into debt.
I also think that the short term/long term happiness study misses one thing - the unplanned event that didn't happen. If you save, you are ready for an emergency, and when it doesn't happen you may regret not spending that money. But chances are, if that emergency HAD happened, you would have regretted NOT saving even more.
I do sometimes wonder if I'm too frugal. For the most part, I have what I want - a place to sleep, a reliable if garishly colored vehicle, a cute cat, an off-brand flat panel TV. The one big thing I keep wondering if I should spend money on is travel. I'm not a huge travel fan, but I do enjoy long drives. I can't bring myself to spend money on a vacation, though - spending money spent driving somewhere I don't have to go so I can pay to sleep in a hotel bed while I'm still paying the mortgage on a house with a bed I'm not sleeping in. Since I became too old for family vacations, and with the exception of a 1-day trip to Atlantic City with an old roomate, I haven't been on a trip that wasn't either paid for work or consisted of driving up to NJ to visit the parents. And I don't think I will be anytime soon - luckily, I'm too busy with work to really have taking time off be an option anyway. I think the other thing is I keep hoping I'll meet a girl someday, that I'll have someone to travel with. But while traveling with someone is more fun, traveling alone isn't that bad - I enjoyed my drive to Indiana for training last year, and spending 22+ hours in a rented Cobalt was actually considerably more enjoyable than I thought it would be.
The other thing about spending is that the two times I pretty much threw caution to the wind and made a purchase on more emotional than rational reasons, I came to regret it. The first was in 2001, when I bought my first new car - a 2002 Chrysler PT Cruiser LE. Besides having huge payments during a time when I was fresh out of college and unemployed, it was also horribly unreliable, with a host of problems including a dead gauge cluster, a check-engine light that would come on when it rained, and a dead transmission controller. Also, someone stole all four wheels and tires off it 5 weeks after I bought it.
Stupid purchase number 2 was my house, bought at the peak of the housing bubble in 2006. The house itself isn't too bad - I mean, it's the usual money pit of shit breaking that you would expect in a 30 year old house, but probably not significantly worse than most other 30 year old houses - but it's probably worth about 25% less than what I paid for it, and I pretty much am chained to it for the foreseeable future since I can't sell it without having to bring a huge check to closing.
So maybe spending money isn't so enjoyable after all.