Spending More Than You Should?

“I’m living so far beyond my income that we may almost be said to be living apart.” – E. E. Cummings

Why is it that some people can save money and invest it wisely while others let it sift through their fingers like sand? There are probably many reasons for the difference: upbringing, personal financial literacy, life circumstances, and so on. To add to these, one of our studies suggests that a propensity for spending more than one should is also determined in part by personality traits.

We asked our readers to agree or disagree with this statement: “You often spend more money than you should.” Overall, 63% of our community agreed that sticking to spending limits can be a challenge for them. The results showed that the Energy, Tactics, and Identity personality aspects – how we see the world, how we approach planning and decision-making, and how confident we are in ourselves – have the strongest influence on how we manage our money. Let’s take a closer look at how these results added up below.

Roles

Diplomats and Analysts (72% and 69% agreeing)

The Energy aspect was a key factor in this survey, with Intuitive personality types (71% agreeing) being 16% more likely to agree than Observant types (55%) that they often spend more than they should. Sharing the Intuitive trait, Diplomats and Analysts topped our results. Intuitive types favor big, imaginative ideas and theories and can get very wrapped up in thinking about the possibilities of the future. As a result, they can sometimes neglect the more basic parts of life, and nuts-and-bolts details like setting budgets and using ledgers are often an afterthought. Ho-hum as it may seem to Intuitive personality types, accounting is undeniably helpful when it comes to controlling the flow of money.

Turbulent Debaters (ENTP-T) (85%) agreed with our statement more than any other personality type, followed closely by Turbulent Campaigners (ENFP-T) (83%). These are two types that, although motivated differently, are notorious for thinking big and for losing interest in anything resembling routine, administrative minutiae. Caught up in the excitement of an idea, these personalities may rush to spend money to make it a reality, probably doing so before they’ve even begun to consider what a reasonable spending limit might look like.

Architects (INTJ) (55%) stand out among these groups as something of an outlier, particularly among their fellow Analysts. Agreeing at a significantly lower rate, Architects indicated that they exercise much greater fiscal responsibility than other Intuitive types. Arguably the most strategic of all personality types, Architects have a plan for everything and don’t shy away from details. Although just as interested in creative, game-changing ideas as other Intuitive types, an Analyst would never pursue an idea without first developing a rational plan that they’re confident will work in all regards, including financially.

It’s interesting to note, however, that Architect personalities also demonstrated the greatest difference between the Turbulent (INTJ-T) (63%) and Assertive (INTJ-A) (43%) variants, at 20%. It would seem that Turbulent Architects, more eager to prove themselves and to see their plans succeed, may also be more easily tempted to blow their budgets in order to do so. (We’ll discuss how our Identities impact our spending habits in more detail in the Strategies section below.)

Explorers (64%)

Explorers are defined by their core Prospecting trait, and that happened to be the single greatest influencer in our readers’ responses. Personality types with the Prospecting trait agreed at a rate of 73%, which was 17% higher than their Judging counterparts. Prospecting types dislike commitment, and what is a budget but a commitment to how we’ll spend our money? Instead, they prefer to keep their options open, so that they can take advantage of good opportunities whenever they arise. Although Explorers’ Observant trait makes these personalities quite pragmatic about real-world concerns like money, the spontaneous nature of their Prospecting trait sometimes offsets that. An Explorer might, for instance, spot a great sale in a store and jump on it, even if they don’t really need the item, and even if the purchase means they’ll spend more money than they’d intended to.

Sentinels (50%)

Sentinel personality types were the least likely to say that they spend more money than they should, which is no surprise given their reputation for fastidiousness. When it comes to money matters, Sentinels are driven by their Observant and Judging traits to be practical, organized, and prepared. Vastly preferring predictable outcomes, Sentinels aren’t going to squander their savings on purchases that offer little more than instant gratification – they’re going to do the responsible thing, like setting a budget and growing a nest egg.

Assertive Logisticians (ISTJ-A) (36%) were the least likely of any personality type to agree with our statement. It’s difficult to imagine a Logistician going wild with their credit card (or with anything else, for that matter), not just because they relish order and rules, but also because they take their personal responsibility and integrity extremely seriously. Always mindful of the consequences of spending too much money, Logisticians, especially Assertive ones, will choose to act in the best financial interest of their personal bank accounts, their family’s future, and their bottom line at work. In fact, Logistician personalities frequently go into careers as accountants, auditors, and financial planners.

Strategies

Social Engagement and Constant Improvement (76% and 67% agreeing)

The Turbulent members of the Social Engagement and Constant Improvement Strategies demonstrated a stronger inclination to spend more money than they should, underlining the importance of the Identity aspect to this survey. Turbulent personality types (71%) were 15% more likely to agree than Assertive types (56%). This result might speak to the theory of emotional spending. Since people who are Turbulent are likely to be driven by an always shifting, wide range of emotions, they may be more apt to engage in “retail therapy.”

Social Engagers, who agreed at a rate notably higher than any other Strategy, may be even more susceptible to emotional spending because of their status-seeking tendencies. As Extraverted personalities, Social Engagers are stimulated by social interactions – and it should be noted that Extraverts were 8% more likely than Introverted personality types to agree with our statement. Furthermore, as Turbulent Extraverts, Social Engagers tend to conceptualize their sense of self in terms of how they fit into their social circles. Eager to earn others’ approval, Social Engagers are sometimes a bit too quick to spend beyond their means – purchasing expensive clothing or jewelry, or buying a round of drinks at an upscale restaurant – if they think it will help them keep up with the Joneses. Turbulent Debaters, mentioned earlier, fall into this category, and their innate competitiveness can be one more reason that these personalities often spend too much money.

People Mastery and Confident Individualism (61% and 48%)

Generally more self-confident and even-tempered than their Turbulent counterparts, the Assertive personality types belonging to the People Mastery and Confident Individualism Strategies indicated a lower tendency to spend too freely. Because they make it a point not to worry too much about anything, be it a conflict at work or the opinion of a well-to-do friend, Assertive types are less likely to spend money as a way of seeking comfort or status.

For Confident Individualists, who agreed at the lowest rate, personal responsibility is of utmost importance, so to these personalities, spending their money reasonably is simply a matter of course. Assertive Logisticians, whose conscientiousness and aptitude for finance-related careers we discussed earlier, exemplify the Confident Individualist approach to spending.

Conclusions

While it’s clear that certain personality traits, most notably the Intuitive, Prospecting, and Turbulent traits, are powerful motivators for those who tend to get too loose with their purse strings too often, these traits by no means dictate what we do. It is just as possible for a Debater to curb his or her spending as it is for a Logistician. It may just require a little more dedicated effort and attention on the part of the Debater. Educating ourselves on financial literacy is an important first step to becoming a savvy spender, but just as important is recognizing the weaknesses inherent in our personalities and learning to compensate for them.

Do you struggle to stick to a budget, or are you a financial wizard? How do you see your personality shaping your spending habits? Share your experiences in the comments below!

You can see the full set of data, including correlation coefficients, in the Academy. Please also consider participating in our Member Surveys!

8 months ago
As an INTJ, I watch my monthly budget. I don't account for every cent, but my target is to spend less to what I earn. With the holiday season in full swing, spending has increased dramatically. I am a mix of impulsive and well-thought out spending. Recently I sold a passenger car (still on finance) in favor of a small 4x4 (fully paid up). This was both an impulsive and well-thought spend. I got more money in my monthly budget, at the expense of having dipped into the savings. With me having a 4x4, I went on a short 4-night holiday. The main purpose was to drive a 4x4-only road. I wanted to do this road for the last 10 years. That holiday had other components (like a day-hike) also, and I thought it was quite cost-effective. I feel lucky that I don't have to do social spending (spending money on somebody else). Most of my spend has a practical purpose.
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