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Why We Save, Why We Spend
5 / 3 / 2018
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We all understand the importance of saving, but what motivates us to stick to - or break - our budgets? A new report reveals the evolutionary psychology behind our day-to-day money motivations.

Do you constantly break your budget when it comes to food and drink? Can’t resist your online music subscription or gym membership? Well, you’re not alone, and you can partly blame evolution.

Brandtrust, a research and strategy firm, surveyed more than 1,000 Americans on a budget to find out how people of all ages spend and save their money. The trends were then linked to evolutionary psychology with the help of The Chicago School Of Professional Psychology. Interestingly, the results showed clear patterns depending on generation and gender.

Millennials are more inclined than older generations to spend their money on subscriptions for paid music services, gym memberships, and meal delivery kits. They also can’t resist brands, with 24.1% of 20 to 29-year-olds and 22.1% of 30 to 39-year-olds admitting to splashing out on big names, even when budgeting. Gen Y, for their part, spend more on organic food.

According to psychologists who studied the data, such money decisions are influenced by a focus on future survival and facilitating mating goals with alcohol, clothing, and entertainment to attract partners and ensure social status and activity.

Meanwhile, slightly older generations are focusing on the present and future survival of their families by paying off home and car loans and saving for purchases that will benefit their children. The oldest generation is paying off medical debts and focused on living out the remainder of their lives comfortably.

The report also highlights differences between genders, with women more likely to budget and save to get out of debt and pay bills, while men are focused on retirement or a large future purchase. When women break their budgets it is for food and non-alcoholic beverages while men are more inclined to splurge on alcohol. Women make twice as many purchases from Amazon, eBay, and Walmart as men in every age range.  

Assistant behavioral economics professor Jeremy Nicholson, from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, concludes that gender spending habits stem from our primitive instinct for self-preservation. In many species, males may be instinctively focused on the long-term survival of themselves and their lineage, while females can be more reproduction-orientated and concerned with wellbeing in the immediate future.

“Men appear to place importance on saving for large future purchases for themselves and their families, as well as retirement,” he says. “Women are more focused on what they need right now to be successful, whether in the job force, raising children, or traveling.”

Even if you think your spending vices really are dictated by evolution, budgeting and saving are essential for a comfortable future. Whether you’re inclined to save for the future or not, it’s hugely important for Americans to save for retirement. OpenInvest’s ethical investment platform offers a great, low-fee opportunity to watch your money grow over time while making decisions about which companies or sectors to back. All you need to do is sign up and tell us what you care about.

It’s important to remember that investing in the market comes with inherent risk, including the loss of your entire investment. Make sure you’re prepared to invest before getting started.

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