The fear of spending a buck

I learned long ago that everyone is afraid of something. Even the most rational have their own quirky, irrational fears and as long as that fear doesn’t interfere with their day to day life (like a lifeguard with hydrophobia – fear of water – or exterminator with arachnophobia – fear of spiders), I think people generally overlook their anxiety and find a way to push on.

I’m afraid of spending money, which I learned this week is called chrematophobia. I’m a chrematophobiac (Chrematophobiate? Chrematophobiac?). No matter the correct term, I don’t like spending. It seems to be my irrational fear and I can prove it. I have shoes that I still wear daily but leave me with wet feet every time it rains because water seeps through the holes on the bottom of the soles. I buy socks in bulk (30 pairs for $2 – sounds good at first, then you put them on and understand why so cheap). My cell phone is only a few short years away from being bar mitzvahed; and I hold a wake for any food in the refrigerator that’s become too green and furry to eat. Some people might call this being cheap, but I call it... actually, I call it being cheap too, but until my health insurance provider recognizes it as a medical disorder, I have to find my own way to deal with it.

I’m not wasteful. I like having a sense of financial security that money will be in my savings account when I absolutely need it. Like most young married couples, my wife and I hit a financial bump in the road early on, leaving us to pull apart the couch cushions for spare change to buy boxed macaroni and cheese. The feeling still sticks years later. Of course, now we’ve built up somewhat of a savings account and I’ll even buy the occasional cup of burnt gas station coffee, which leaves me with the fear that afterward, my car will break down and I fall exactly $1.50 short of being able to fix it. Oh, cruel irony.

I have my own theories as to why I hate spending. Mainly, I hate to part with what I worked hard to earn. They say “easy come, easy go.” What a half-truth. If money were “easy come,” I must be making it harder than it needs to be by doing silly little things, like working. “Easy go” is more believable. In fact, I would say easy go is an understatement; my paycheck is already spent long before I get it. So returns my phobia (I’d breathe into a paper bag if it didn’t mean buying one). It might help that grocery and retail stores incorporate on-site counseling available for people like me, who need the extra emotional support to overcome departing with their cash. They can comfort me by telling me how I did the right thing by using that buy one, get one half off coupon, and buying socks in bulk will save money in the long run.

The way I’ve come to see it, there are two trains of thought when it comes to spending money. One way views spending as something that needs to be done with little regard. “Money’s there to spend,” they say. It tends to be the way of life for the “work hard, play hard” crowd, who show little reservation when it comes to free spending. The other way is tailored toward people like myself; the people who are afraid to spend money now because it might mean eating a weeks worth of Ramen Noodles when the car doesn’t quite make it to point B and has to be towed to the nearest car doctor. I’ve considered it and since I’m not a fan of Ramen Noodles, I think I’m happier not even trying to overcome my chrematophobia. After all, it’s better to be afraid to spend money than not having any money to spend when I need it most.

Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunshawn.

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