Tightwads and Spendthrifts: Which are you?

John Tierney in the New York Times:

As promised in my column today, here’s a survey you can take to see where you fall on the Tightwad-Spendthrift scale developed by economists at Carnegie Mellon University. I took it, and the result independently confirms the shopping brain-scan experiment I describe in the Science Times column: I’m a spendthrift.

I’m not proud of that, but I don’t yearn to be a tightwad, either, not as it’s defined by the economists. They find that tightwads aren’t any happier than spendthrifts, and suffer more in some ways. “It’s like the old line about a hero dying once and a coward dying a thousand deaths,” says George Loewenstein, one of the CMU economists. “A spendthrift suffers after he buys something. A tightwad suffers while he buys it and then again afterwards.”

Loewenstein and his colleagues, Scott Rick and Cynthia Cryder, distinguish “tightwadism” from “frugality,” which is measured (naturally) on a whole separate scale developed by other social scientists. Being frugal means you enjoy saving money, and people who are more frugal tend to be happier than average. Tightwads are less happy. They pass up purchases not because they enjoy saving money or are sensibly calculating the benefits, but because they hate to part with cash. They do without things they could afford that would genuinely improve their lives.

The happiest people are the “unconflicted” consumers who fall in the middle of the the scale…

More here.