The other evening, over a bottle of Chateau de Friday Night Decompressé, my friends and I found ourselves doing battle over money. Not over who should pay for our latest 75cl of thinking relaxant but over a more ineffable aspect of this endlessly provocative subject; namely, spending versus saving. And we savers – or “Joyless freaks!” as the cackling hecklers on the other side had it – were losing.
It’s easy for a spender to explain what he or she loves about spending. They are, after all, usually wearing, eating, drinking or showing you pictures of it on their phone. Buying things is brilliant. Having stuff you want when you want it is great. I’ve just bought a cashmere jumper from Hush that I love so much I’m thinking of having a party – a sort of knitwear equivalent of a baby’s christening – just so that everyone can gather to admire it and congratulate me. We’re all acquisitive human beings. We all understand the joy – yes! We are not freaks! – of spending.
But for savers to explain themselves is harder. However, now that I have slept off my thinking relaxant, the crux of it, I think, is this: money is pure potential. It could yet become anything. It’s basically a purer form of the impulse behind the purchase of stationery (my greatest weakness after chestnut cashmere jumpers – did I mention it was chestnut? You must come and visit us!) – the gorgeous possibility of it all. I buy new notebooks because the next one, the next one, the next one will be the one that finally unleashes my greatness and inspires me to create The Bestseller.
With money I haven’t converted into paper or wool – I sound like a medieval merchant – it could still be absolutely anything I want it to be. And in the meantime…well, in the meantime, it’s security. It’s freedom. It’s independence. If you can resist the urge to turn it into tangible stuff straight away, you get to enjoy these more intangible pleasures it brings too. And if it’s invested while it’s waiting then – give me a moment, please, I am becoming slightly giddy – then it generates more security, more freedom, more independence and more potential and eventually even more stuff! It is surely all that has ever been meant by the phrase “a win-win.”
Spenders do too often take the ‘joyless freakery’ line when it comes to saving. But in fact it’s savers who really revel in the delight that money can bring. We stagger the pleasures – we enjoy the having, the planning, the anticipation, the parcelling out into long and short term goals and the eventual realisation of them. We play with our money before we spend it and – money being the virtually magical substance that it is – the longer we play with it the more benefits and happiness it brings us. Spenders draw their vision too narrowly – expand it, and feel the joy.
Lucy Mangan Journalist