From Overspending or Tightwad Habits to Wise and Satisfying Financial Management

A guest post by Dr. Nancy Irwin

A Wharton School of Business that finds “tightwads” and “spendthrifts” tend to attract one another, even though they both consciously felt they’d be more comfortable with mates of similar spending habits.   So much for the limited power of the conscious mind!

The subconscious, which is where all behavior comes from, is much more powerful than the conscious mind.  This can be really great news, if you know how to work it.

There is a positive intent behind all financial and other human behavior, no matter how distorted/crazy/stupid/”evil” it may see at present.

Money can be a coping mechanism, a valiant attempt to feel soothed or powerful or in control.  Thus, tightwads are simply trying to feel secure and be prepared for the future. Overspenders are trying to feel safe and happy in the present. They may feel denied if they can’t have what they want when they want it. 

Both dynamics have their place and can be tempered with balance. Many tightwads really do want to loosen up and be a bit freer in their spending, and many spendthrifts really do want to rein in their spending.  So both these polar opposites are actually seeking balance.  Beneath their distortions are some powerful gifts:  the potential for fiscal responsibility over the long haul and the ability to be caring and joyous right here, right now.

We learned many of money behaviors from our parents.

As a gross generality, we tend to model the behavior of our same-gender parent, and to attract traits of our opposite-gender parent in our mate.  As long as those behaviors remain unconscious, they can drive behavior in ways that do not support either partner.

For example, a woman’s compulsion to over-spend on clothing may have little to do with the desire for clothing but more so with childhood habits. Perhaps she saw her mother use shopping as a coping mechanism, and she learned that when life presents stress, shop and you will feel better about yourself. Her mate’s refusal to spend much on himself or others may make him feel like a good provider like his father was.

On the other hand, we may also have taken on financial behaviors that defy our parents or other powerful authority figures.  Example:  the daughter of a very miserly, well-paid professional man was horrified by watching her mother “steal” from her dad’s pants pockets to have enough money to feed the family.  She vowed: “I’ll never depend on a man for money” She became a hoarder, and could not share abundance with others, or herself.

Healthy people learn how to let their own vision and values — not unconscious habits — guide their financial decisions.

The gap between overspenders and oversavers can be bridged through vigilance and a commitment to harmonious money management.  You can’t help how you were “trained” to deal with money, but you certainly can effect positive change in this department.

Here’s how:

  • Acknowledge the habits you picked up from your primary caregivers and how those habits now interfere with your best life;
  • Acknowledge your and your partner’s rights to feel safe and comfortable, whether or not money is part of your safety and comfort equation, and agree to help each other have the safety and comfort you desire;
  • Create a new vision of what you really want from life and how money might support this vision, not be the vision itself;
  • Chart a course together to achieve a more central plot on the continuum for fiscal responsibility, so that (1) both partners feel safe and comfortable – – not just financially but in every aspect of life, and (2) you create a financial reality that serves you both well.

Financial mission — a cure for “money disorders”

I work with my patients to create a mission for their life’s work…..focusing on their callings, their purpose, the spiritual essence of their work.  I help them move from a position of fear, rebellion, scarcity or other limiting belief into a state of grounded trust in the goodness of life and their potential to have enough money for their true desires.

Perhaps you are familiar with the expression “dirty money” (or have seen the popular TV show by that name). I help couples focus on making “clean money,” no matter how little or much they earn.  Clean money, as opposed to “dirty money” is made honestly and in a way that has integrity to you and is earned in a manner that makes you proud.

Whatever we focus on will expand, so focus on an authentic, purposeful, integrity-filled, spirituality of money.  Discover what each of those qualities means to you, and experience how it feels when you actually create your money in an authentic, purposeful, integrity-filled and spiritual way. This practice will not only help you attract more money, but it will also help you enjoy it more and use it better.

Best of Wealth and Health!

Dr. Nancy

nancy-irwin-full-shotDoctor of psychology and clinical hypnotist, Dr. Nancy Irwin is in private practice in Los Angeles. She is also a speaker and the author of YOU-TURN: CHANGING DIRECTION IN MIDLIFE (2008,, a collection of “over 40 stories of people over 40” who made amazing transformations. Dr. Nancy has appeared on numerous radio and TV shows, including CNBC, The Greg Behrendt Show, The Rachel Maddow Show, to name a few, and has been quoted in the Huffington Post, the The New York Times, Cosmopolitan, and more. She is a member of the California Psychological Association and sits on the Education Committee of the California Coalition on Sexual Offending.