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Spendthrift or not spending enough?

Have you ever thought about your spending habits? Especially in this time of economic heebie jeebies, it's probably a good idea to determine how you spend and why.

Upon reading a quiz about whether you are an "over buyer" prone to filling your garage with dozens of gallons of deals or an "under buyer" unable to splurge or even, heaven forbid, stock up on essentials, we decided to share our deepest spending secrets.

Sherry is an avid shopper who can spot a deal a mile away, but also sees that her pantry runneth over with her bargains. Meanwhile, Sharon can't even bring herself to buy that extra tube of toothpaste even when it's on sale because it just seems . . . too much. Which means our girl runs to the drug store at midnight to replenish her family's stocks.

We put them to an over buyer vs. under buyer smackdown, and here's their confessional:

SHARON: I used to be proud of my under buying ways. I have friends who are always hunting for bargains or deals and proudly brag of paying half price for this doo-dad or that. All the while I'm thinking, "But you could have saved ALL that money by staying out of the darn store in the first place." But I can see how my hesitancy hurts me now. I'm constantly running out of staples like dish soap or saline solution because I can't bring myself to buy more than one bottle at a time. Sherry can buy 10 bottles of kid's shampoo when they are on sale? I'd have to bite my nails to buy two. I'm also the one who is trying to buy a bathing suit in July. I failed to buy one when they were on sale last spring because at the time, mine was in fine condition, and I'm a hunter not a browser. When I need a suit, I hunt for one. Since I'm not there browsing I didn't even run across that sale.

SHERRY: Now, Sharon, you're right about me: I will buy 10 bottles of kid's shampoo marked down to a $1 because that's a bargain and because I don't have to think about that for a while. I look at it as one thing off my plate. But gosh, where can I stash them? I may be cramped, but I am prepared.

SHARON: I can't tell you the number of times I had second thoughts right before the check-out counter and put an item back. I often regret that later, but not always. I reward myself with a lack of clutter, but I also find myself with things that have grown shabby.

SHERRY: Put it back?!? Are we talking toilet paper or a blouse for yourself? I think there is a difference. The frivolous buys have long bitten the dust. But when I am looking for a bargain, it is mostly something for the house. I do have to say you are right about the finding a spot to store the bargains. It's a big problem when you have four boxes of Hamburger Helper you got BOGO but none of them is what you want that night. Maybe I should open my own shop.

SHARON: No, it's the frivolous stuff I put back. For necessities, I buy only as needed. So what feeds my under buying ways? Growing up without much money could be part of it. As a teen I hated going to the mall because I'd see so many things I wanted and couldn't buy. Now when I see things I want, I still can't seem to let myself buy any of it.

SHERRY: It's funny that your under buying ways are fueled by the same reasons for my over buying. When I was a kid, my family didn't have a lot of money either. So my mom often looked for bargain prices and bought in bulk for my dad and the five kids in the house. She was — and is — a frugal shopper. I feel like I learned my way around a bargain from her.

SHARON: And my other co-conspirator is time. With two kids and a job, I just don't have the luxury of wandering stores and browsing in shops. My shopping trips are like military invasions: Have a list. Procure supplies. Retreat.

SHERRY: Sharon, this is going to sound completely sexist but you shop like a guy! They don't wander unless it's in the hardware store or the electronics department (ask your husband). Browsing is not in their genes.

SHARON: You are such a chick, Sherry. You can't tell me in all your browsing and bargain hunting you haven't also ending up buying some useless but too-cute thing that you just couldn't resist. The stores are designed for people like you. I'm not even there to see their temptations, so while I may pay full price for toothpaste, I don't have anything on my credit card and few foolish purchases to point to. I also like that my kids are the least materialistic souls I've ever met. Even in the toy department, my 5 year old has a shopping tolerance of about a half hour.

SHERRY: Sure, my little guy has a vast collection of tiny Star Wars action figures, but most are gifts from grandparents, aunts and uncles. The disaster that is the over buyer is the failure to make room for the new stuff you bring in. And, I'm sorry, but wasn't that your then 3-year-old kiddo I saw walking around your house with a Nintendo DS a couple years ago? Not materialistic?

SHARON: Ah, but that DS is for me and the quiet time it buys me. What I mean is they haven't had a new toy or new clothes in I can't tell you how long and it isn't an issue. The downside of under buying is that we sometimes get caught without a winter jacket that fits and have to make an emergency run to the store. And since I'm usually filling an immediate need for some staple like soap, I have no time to compare prices.

SHERRY: I think that is where the over buyer can feel a little superior. I'm never without some staples that keep the house humming — dishwasher detergent, toilet paper, paper towels — and I've always got the next winter jacket ready because I bought at the end of the season. A jacket that regularly sells for $50 costs me $10. I buy a couple sizes up. It's a gamble but so far it has paid off.

SHARON: Simply putting a name to it, under buying, has made me more mindful of the pattern. I've even noticed my under buying ways at the ATM machine. I take out no more than $20 or $40. As a result I almost never have cash on me. So now that I'm more aware, I make a conscious choice to get the extra cash or stock up on laundry soap, for once. Awareness is half the battle.

SHERRY: Me too! And like you, when I see the BOGO Hamburger Helper or toothpaste for the third time in the last five weeks, I make myself not buy it. That cuts down on the clutter and helps to keep a little money in my pocket. Maybe online deals — with free shipping of course — is your answer since you are store-averse. For me, it would be great if I can stop the urge to find one more great deal.

Sharon Kenndey Wynne can be reached at wynne@sptimes.com or (727)893-8595. Sherry Robinson can be reached at robinson@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8305.

Are you an over buyer or an under buyer? Take the quiz at http://www.happiness-project.com/happiness_project/2007/12/this-wednesda-1.html

Spendthrift or not spending enough? 10/07/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 7, 2008 11:16am]

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