Confessions of an Over-Saver: Why I Hate Spending Money

confessions of oversaverEveryone is talking about the crisis among twentysomethings. We don’t save enough. We’re behind on retirement. Our loans are untenable. We have high credit card debt.

Not me.

I’m a 27-year-old legal consultant in New York City. I don’t make six figures, but I make a comfortable income. And I like saving. A lot. Maybe a little too much. I max out my 401(k), have a robust savings account and no credit card debt, and I paid off $34,000 in student loans in less than a year. Even my parents think I’m an over-saver, and they save a lot.

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The author at her mother’s wedding, where she wore a dress from Filene’s Basement and made her own bouquet.

What Made Me This Way

I was raised on Staten Island, New York in a middle class family. My dad was a teacher, and my mom worked for the government. We were generally financially secure, though somewhere below what would be termed “comfortable.” But for some reason, I got it into my head at a young age that we were poorer than we were.

It probably had something to do with the fact that both my parents came from poor families. My dad’s parents were both factory workers who lived in Brooklyn in an apartment with no heat. When the factories would close down for a month in the summer, they went on temporary welfare.

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My mother grew up the oldest girl of seven kids in a two-bedroom house in Queens. She went to Queens College even though she was valedictorian of her class, because it was all her family could afford. I think she’s always regretted that she didn’t go somewhere fancier, so she’s made it her goal to give me and my brother as much as she could.

For this reason, she tended to spoil us. I had several dozen Barbies, the Barbie dream house, the Barbie limo, the Barbie yacht (that thing had a working blender on it) and nice clothes. Of course, my mom bought everything on sale whenever she could, because that’s just how we roll in our family. And the rest of her money she saved and put in savings bonds … so she could give it to me and my brother later. (She gave my brother the down payment for his first condo and money for his next home with his wife, the result of saving a little bit of each paycheck since the day he was born.)

I walk to work—it takes a half hour each way—rather than spend $2.50 each way on subway fare. That also saved me from getting a gym membership.

I saw my parents fight about money a couple of times, and they were separated by the time I was eight. Though I later found out that their divorce was for very different reasons, I think that in my head I at least partly attributed their separation to money, which made me think that more money equaled less discord.

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  • Sammy

    I think it’s good that you want to save money and it is important, but you need to live life also. So what you save all this money for when you get older and may not be in the best shape to enjoy it. Life has no guarentees and you should enjoy life now while you are still young!!

  • tim

    this is a well written article. I myself am very cheap and live in a van. Rent or property tax is a very big expense you can avoid. The one thing a disagree with u on is not using a cc. I use a cc for everything because u get 1.5 percent off EVERY purchase. By not using a credit card u are throwing away good money. I assume u are like me and would have no problem with over spending on the credit card.

  • Conolly Boughner

    Just read this story now in 2016. Great article & way to be disciplined! Reminds me of myself with the way you spend, save, and plan for retirement. You are definitely on the right track to becoming financially independent.

  • 303

    I think it is great that the author is prioritizing her future. We don’t have to spend money on a lot of advertised crap and I totally disagree that she is “missing out” if she doesn’t keep debt. However, for most of us in America, it simply is not this easy. I didn’t have parents or grandparents to pay for my college, help me buy my home, and I could not afford to live in a city where a car would not be needed. In the 20 years we have been married, my husband and I took one vacation for 4 days to a neighboring state with our kids (two years ago). We hope to save up and go further someday, but our air conditioning just died, so we are using all our savings to pay it in cash (plus had to borrow a couple grand). Wish I had parents who are “poor” but still seem to have enough to give homes and educations out! Debt was and is a necessary evil for most of us.