Getting to Yes, And

Tightwads and Spendthrifts


Scott Rick

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Is your spouse a tightwad or a spendthrift? Kelly talks to Scott Rick, marketing professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business about his new book “Tightwads and Spendthrifts: Navigating the Money Minefield in Real Relationships.”

I thought your insights on the pain that tightwads feel was very interesting.

“There seems to be this reaction - kind of like the brakes on the car, so to speak - that feelings of distress or anxiety prevent tightwads from buying a lot of things that they know they should buy, and even things that they need. And you know they just can't bring themselves to spend the money, and it hurts them, and it hurts the people around them. It leads to a lot of regret. And so, there's kind of pain before spending, and then pain after not having bought the thing you needed. ”

And your top spendthrift example is Sammy Davis, Jr.

"Sammy is my muse. He's my spendthrift hero. You know, he took it a little too far. There was a time when his accountant told him, ‘You gotta stop spending so much. You're gonna have to keep doing these crappy shows just to scrape together money.' And he said, ‘Okay, I get it. I understand. I hear you.’ And the accountants are like. ‘Good. You got it.’ And Sammy, after that meeting, goes down the street, goes to a jewelry store, gets the accountant a solid gold cigarette lighter, and he gets engraved on it: Thank you for the advice about money.”

You talk about a concept by which tightwads can nudge themselves to spend.

“So, it's it's mental accounting. It's mostly meant to be a self-control device to tamp down overspending. But you can use it to help yourself. Tightwads can use it to help themselves spend more if they can set aside earmark some fun money in advance.  Because, in the moment they'll never be able to justify the purchase. But if they've already earmarked some optional spending money well in advance, it's there. It's waiting for them. They can kind of seize on some opportunities.”

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