The joy of spending

If you have $2 million and can’t force yourself to buy a coffee, there’s a problem.

138

by Julie Cazzin
August 30th, 2010

From the Summer 2010 issue of the magazine.

138

Tony and Cecile McGregor worried about money their whole lives. They constant­­ly saved and hated to spend — always looking for cheap bargains before they considered any purchase. It’s no wonder they became extreme savers, unable to buy and enjoy even the simple pleasures in life, like a coffee from Tim Hortons or a pair of tickets to a baseball game.

Two years ago, the McGregors’ (we’ve changed their names to protect their privacy) inability to enjoy spending began to take its toll. “I spent hours pouring over the flyers looking for bargains in the grocery stores and then Tony and I would split up and spend Saturday going from store to store, buying only what was on sale,” says Cecile, 59. “We never bought anything unless it was an absolute necessity because we’d feel foolish and afraid that our money would run out. To be honest, I couldn’t remember the last time I bought a new dress.”

You’d think they were struggling, but the couple was far from poor — they had close to $2 million, with no plans on how to spend it. Tired of their compulsive penny-pinching, they sought financial counselling in 2008 and started on the road to learning the joys of spending.

“They needed permission to spend,” says Vancouver money coach Sheila Walkington. “They got endless messages from childhood that it was bad to spend unless absolutely necessary, so they were ashamed to do so.”

So what’s the key to getting such extreme savers to spend happily? Financial experts say super-saver couples need to see the hard numbers crunched for their particular situation. They need to be reassured that they really do have enough money saved to last a lifetime. “People need to feel safe,” says Ruth Hayden, a financial educator and author based in St. Paul, Minn. She recommends a plan with several different types of savings, so extreme savers can let go of their fears. One strategy Hayden uses is to set up three “money pots” — one for savings, one for emergency cash (six months to one year’s worth) and a third pot for what Hayden calls “regret-free living.” “This is when we talk about their goals,” says Hayden. “If they were close to death, what would they wish they had done?”

Does the approach work? The McGregors say it does. Their “regret-free living” pot now holds $10,000 — enough for two wonderful Caribbean cruises a year. “We now spend happily on our vacations because we have a plan,” says Cecile. “Plus, we’re not spending our capital. Knowing that our main pot of money is safe means that we’re spending without stress for the first time in our lives. It took us almost a year to feel good about this, but now it gives us so much pleasure, our only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner.”

138 comments on “The joy of spending

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  2. And this couple is representative of the average American or Canadian how? From all I'm reading we've become a continent of spendthrifts ready to sell our grandchildren's souls for just another bite of that apple. So in debt to credit card companies & banks (not to mention the various levels of government debt) it's a disaster. Still the beat goes on… some who may not know how to spend are a far cry from the many. The article should at least give a nod to those facts. Did I miss it?

    Reply

    • Refreshing. I can only hope financial planners will inspire others with the means; to spend, and maybe the rest of us will not blow THIS opportunity.
      Brian Elwin Pomeroy

      Reply

  3. I found it interesting but more information would have provided better understanding.
    Are they retired; are they about to? Do they have pension income plus almost $2,000,000.00?
    If this money is it and they want to not erode their capital, this amount provides less money to live on then the average cival servant or teachers pension.

    Reply

  4. Would strongly recommend to to give away some monies to true charity or to some poor students or families in the third world-, there no pleasure higher than this in my experience. Suggest put $200,000 in in Monthly
    Income Fund offered by Bank of Montreal which is a very conservative type of investment will provide about $1,700. per month(guaranteed by BMO) rest of your lives. This will help at least 25 poor students or families rest of your lives. If it can be organized properly and money can be given directly in the hand of the receipients if you know how to select them. YOu will find there is no higher satisfaction or pleasure in life than this(helping real needy but unknown others in the world).

    Reply

    • Thanks for the info. My partner has always wanted to set a scholarship at his alumni University for disadvantaged kids but wanted to set it up so that he was personally involved with the selection process. This gives him an idea of where to start when we're ready. If it hadnt been for a scholarship program he never would have been able to get his degree or it would have been much, much harder. Now, he wants to pay it forward.
      BTW I do agree that too many of us are scared to spend or feel guilty for not putting every spare penny away for our 'future'. Having lost both my parents to cancer I agree that we also need feed our dreams and desires as well. This is not a new subject though…my mom as well as other financial self helpers have been preaching it for a while.

      Reply

    • $1700 / month guaranteed. Bah! that's a rate of return of over 10% annually. No bank would guarantee this. Maybe an annuity would consider 5 or 6% but what a rediculous statement.

      Reply

  5. I'm currently tracking all of my families spending for the month to see where all of my money is being spent.

    Reply

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