I've thought about this a bit. My wife accepts the frugal lifestyle. She's entirely ok with it. No complaints. So she just lets me handle the finances and she just asks me what card to use and how much we can spend on stuff for the month.
But as I thought deeper, I realized that my wife isn't naturally frugal. She's ok with spending less currently cos I'm always around to keep her in check. But I do think about what happens if I'm not around. I think about my mortality a lot. As in, what would happen if I were to die suddenly. Cos I like to be prepared. I would like everything to be settled well and easy when I'm gone and my loved ones would have an easier time.
So I think about what happens when I'm gone. And she gets the insurance money and my other assets. Cos I hope she would be able to use the funds to take care of my parents and herself.
I think a person's natural daily habits reflect what a person would do without supervision. So the only indication I have on her natural behavior is what she thinks/considers doing, before I step in to manage it.
The thing is, like many other people, my wife doesn't have a sense of value. I think most of the frugal community has a good sense of value. So I think for most of us, when we spend a dollar, we think, is this good value? If I go to a restaurant and spend $30, I think, would I be happier spending this $30 at another restaurant. If so, then might as well go to the other restaurant. Or if I buy a wallet, I would think, $50 wallet vs $100 wallet. Does the $100 wallet make me 2x happier?
I realized many people don't have this sense of assessing value. I spoke with an ex colleague once. And she said, if want to spend then just spend, what for think so much, if think so much then there's no fun in spending anymore. She and her husband are able to clock $4k spending on both their cards per month.
So when I analyze my wife's behavior, she trends towards the normal when I'm not around.
To her, having a $20 meal is not much different from $80. As long as the price is not too ridiculous. She does have a light sense of value when I'm around, but I think it's fleeting, meaning, it comes and goes, and if I'm not around, it would likely go and never come back.
At the hawker center, she tends to order a number of dishes and we usually spend $20, combined, after adding her food, my food, sides, soup, juice... And she rationalizes it by thinking she got a good deal cos we got so much for just $20+... But to me... Hello!!! We're at a hawker center, we should be spending maybe $5 per person max, and that's a lot already.
She's also definitely on the hedonic treadmill. We tended to go buffets previously when we had the Amex Platinum card, and we used to go to W Hotel for the buffet dinner. It was fairly cheap and good for the quality and variety of food they offered. Now, when she walks past some other buffet places, she comments that she wouldn't bother going cos the food isn't good enough even though it's cheaper. Although I do agree with her that some places aren't value for the dollar as compared to W Hotel with the promo, this kind of mentality that the other stuff isn't good enough for her anymore is indicative that she's someone who tends to keep upgrading her lifestyle when she gets used to the good stuff.
Every once in a while, she goes on Taobao to stock up her working clothes. Apparently they are half the price as retail outlets here in Singapore. However, as they are cheaper, she tends to buy more stuff, so maybe in retail stores she may buy 4 pieces, but on Taobao, she may select 8 pieces, or more. It's only when I step in and remind her that her existing clothes are still usable AND the whole idea of online shopping is to buy similar things for cheaper prices. By spending the same absolute amount, even though she gets more stuff, it defeats the purpose.
Then she also has the tendency to want to be pampered. On our recent trip to Taiwan, she opted for a slightly more expensive hotel, around $20 more per night. The additional benefit was that they provided breakfast and snacks. Snacks was between 3pm-9pm. Not very good breakfast and snacks items and we didn't eat much, but it gave her the option to have a drink at the cafeteria in the evenings with some light bites. To me, this was pretty unnecessary cos we could easily find food in Taiwan around where we stayed. But since it was within the budget, I didn't think too much about it. The thing is.... After that experience, she enjoyed it so much that she said she will look out for such restaurants in our future trips...
She also recently wanted to improve her image. Ok, I understand that she needs to look professional cos she's working so I agreed that it was reasonable. The next thing I know, she's looking to rebond her hair, colour it, buy new earrings and dresses and shoes... And I was like waaaiiittttt a minute... Let's review this more logically. I told her... Look, it's very easy to go down this slippery slope. Cos almost everything we can say it's to improve your professional image. Hair, nails, make up, bags, shoes, jewelry, etc. it's very easy to lose sight of what you're doing and just write them all off as "professional image" expense. But it's a bottomless pit. Let's look at some good items which we can improve your image with the best effect for the dollar spent. Else, it's going to be like a patchwork game, you see something that you think is nice, you spend, then you see something else, you decide to buy again. There's no concrete plan on what items to focus on which gives the best effect. So she picked a couple of elements she wanted to focus on and we agreed that that would give the best outcome for the dollars spent.
So I do think about it. When I'm not around, it's likely that her natural state is not frugal and that she would revert back to a normal consumer without my constant reminder. She doesn't complain when we are frugal, she likes looking for deals, but based on what I see, that's not her natural state. She may still look for deals when I'm not around but she may look at higher value deals, you know, those... Oh just add another $xxx and you could get so much more... Those up selling deals, it's likely that she would fall for those.
I find this interesting. Cos even after we are together for over 10 years, she still has not lost her natural state. Even with so much practice, I can see that she would easily revert back if there was no one to remind her regularly.
I suppose it really is a difference in values and upbringing, and it's hard to undo the stuff we have practiced since young. And it takes a lot of personal disciple and constant reminder to maintain an unnatural state, even though we do not mind doing it, it just isn't the default mode.
Same for me. I once tried to spend more. Just for the sake of trying. And I found it difficult to increase my spending. It just wasn't my default state, I was still thinking about value per dollar spent, and I had to consciously tell myself to disregard the value and just spend for the sake of the experiment. It was a tiring experiment cos I had to keep consciously overcoming my own values for each purchase decision I made. For me, I just feel more at peace with myself when I'm efficiently allocating resources. In this case, money.
I suppose the difference is that I actually mind spending more, cos it's an inefficient allocation of resources, as compared to my wife. She doesn't WANT to spend more, she just doesn't think too much about spending and value, so she just gets lost in it and doesn't think about it as much. That's why with a constant reminder, she can still get with the whole scheme of things and follow the same path as me.
Whereas for me, even with a constant reminder to spend more, my brain would reject the idea and it takes constant effort to maintain that unnatural state. Not that I would ever want to maintain that state anyway.
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