I am a Spender AND a Saver! What about you?

written by Bari Tessler March 22, 2022
Are you a spender or a saver

Dear Money Adventurer,

Last year, I had a brand new money realization.

I’ve been doing my money work, personally and professionally, for about 25 years now, and I’m still discovering new things about myself all the time.

This sudden insight brought some needed healing to a financial identity I had been holding onto since my childhood.

This is the story of how I finally claimed my identity as both a Spender AND a Saver. They are not mutually exclusive; it doesn’t have to be either/or. You CAN be both!

Growing up in my family of origin, I was given the title of “Spender” from day one. One of my earliest money memories is being at the school fair and wanting to buy my mom a ring. I had all the wants and desires; I wanted the candy, and oh, how I wanted to buy my mom the ring as a gift.

While my siblings, on the other hand, were “Savers” from an early age, more frugal, more like my mother when it came to money. I took after my father in that sense and we both delighted in spending.

All through my teens, I maintained my title. To feed my desire, I spent my high-school years working in clothing stores, taking advantage of the staff discount so I could buy the clothes I yearned for with my extra money. Needless to say, if money came in, it typically went out quickly.

But the wanting didn’t end there. I spent most of my 20s doing double-duty as a full-time graduate student studying Somatic Psychology while also working full-time in the mental health field. I made $11.00 an hour working in grief and hospice care – and even back then my meager paycheck didn’t go very far.

I longed to show up at potluck dinners with a basketful of decadent dark chocolate. I desperately wanted, and probably needed, a massage. I wanted and wanted, but I learned during this time that I had to figure out how to earn more income first.

This desire for more is what prompted me to learn bookkeeping, and my unexpected love for balancing the books led me to start my own bookkeeping business. It was my bookkeeping business, Conscious Bookkeeping, that helped me break through my money ceilings and eventually led to the creation of my first financial therapy groups.

It wasn’t until my early 30s, when I started working through my own Money Story, teaching my first financial therapy groups, and earning more income, that I decided I was going to learn about saving and start building new money habits.

Up until that point, I had a hard time thinking about the future. It just never came naturally to me. Like anything new, learning to save and plan ahead wasn’t always comfortable. I had to take baby steps, I had to practice, and build my skills. In the beginning, I started tucking money away in a separate savings account to keep myself from spending it all, but now I’m at a point in my life where those once new habits are like second nature.

Just like your money journey is ever unfolding, your financial identity is constantly developing as you learn, grow, and write new chapters in your money story.

My family of origin probably still refers to me as the Spender. Like many family dynamics, we are given one label early on and it can be challenging to break out of that role.

My husband and son, on the other hand, call me a squirrel because I’m the one who stashes money away for taxes, cash flow, rainy days, and the future. They also know my Spender side, and that I like to spend money on good food, traveling, acupuncture, facial lotions, and donations, fulfilling my top values of family, health, community, and self-care.

After years of sitting in these family dynamics, I had one of those simple but revelationary moments with my mom when she was over for Sunday dinner.

I told my mom that I am a Spender and a Saver, and that you can be both because they are not mutually exclusive. When I shared this new awareness with my mom, she paused for a moment, as though coming to this realization for the first time herself, before agreeing with me.

Claiming this new truth for myself first – and then having my mom recognize it, as well – was wonderful. It allowed me to fully shift the money personality label I had been dragging around since I was a kid. Even more than that, it empowered me to fully own part of my financial identity, as well as a deeper understanding of my money story and my personal money patterns.

Learning to recognize and honor your own Money Identity can bring powerful healing and beautiful new depths to your Money Story.

So, the moral of the story is I’m a Spender and I’m a Saver. We can be “both-and.” We can recognize and honor the truth that we all earn, spend, save, give, and invest differently!

We all have different definitions of what these things look like based on the lives we’ve lived, the lessons we’ve learned, and the values we hold – even within our own families – and there is beauty and wisdom in that.

Exploring Money Identities, Roles, and Archetypes

I love the Enneagram personality system and have studied it for over 25 years, but I haven’t been as drawn to working with money archetypes. If you’re an Enneagram lover, or you’re curious about learning more, listen to this episode of the Typology podcast where I was asked to talk about Enneagram types and money patterns on the spot. I only had a few minutes to riff on each personality and corresponding money type, but I do share some of the basic patterns of each.

So recently, when I had this seemingly small, but personally profound realization that I can be both the Spender and the Saver, I decided to dig into some of the money archetype research to see if anything was helpful.

Some of my colleagues have created personality systems to help bring more understanding to money types and identities, and highlight the fact that each of us has our strengths, advantages, and opportunities to grow when it comes to money.

I encourage you to take some time to discover different concepts and ideas around money roles and see what resonates with you.

Here are a few I have bookmarked:

  • Financial Therapist Lindsay Bryan-Podvin created her Four Money Management Archetypes to remove the negative connotations around money roles and help her clients see the benefits in the way that they relate to money.
  • In his book, “It’s Not About the Money: Unlock Your Money Type to Achieve Spiritual and Financial Abundance”, Financial Advisor Brent Kessel identifies 8 Financial Archetypes to help understand your money story.
  • Ken Honda, Happiness expert and bestselling author of “Happy Money: The Japanese Art of Making Peace With Your Money,” spent more than ten years researching the psychology of money and happiness, identifying 7 Money Personality Types to help bring more awareness to your relationship with money.

Remember that your money identity, like your money story, is a beautifully unique tapestry, weaving together facets of different experiences, beliefs, and ideas. Take what feels meaningful to you here, and give yourself permission to leave the rest.

Exploring Your Money Identity

Exploring your personal Money Identity is a potent opportunity to bring more loving understanding, greater self-knowing, and personal growth to your money journey.

The questions below are an invitation to curl up with your journal or simply take some time to sit and be present with the thoughts and feelings that come up for you here. Feel free to add music, candles, or cozy up with a blanket and a cup of tea and make it a Money Date!

Looking back on your childhood, what role were you given around money as a kid? What beliefs or ideas about money shaped this role?

What roles did your caregivers play? What lessons did you learn about money from these roles?

How did you feel about these roles? How did you react to them? How were you expected to react? Did you feel a need to prove yourself or rebel?

What feelings come up for you around your childhood role now? Do you still carry this in your money life? What ideas or beliefs about this role are you ready to let go?

What new role(s) would you like to honor as part of your financial identity? What strengths do you see in this role? What opportunities to grow do you recognize here?

What do you want to celebrate about your financial identity? What are you proud of? What are you thankful for?

Simply reading this, considering these ideas and questions and your own responses to them is exquisitely brave, beautiful work that you should be proud of. It is absolutely worth celebrating!

You can revisit old stories, heal the past, and write new chapters.

You can learn new things, change your patterns, add in new habits, and shift your financial identity.

You can choose this gentle path of compassion, grace, and understanding.

And I hope you do.

P.S. The Art of Money Workbook is coming May 31!

Pre-order your copy now.

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