Personal finance

Here’s how ‘spaving’ could hurt your finances

Spaving,” or spending more to save more, has become a dangerous habit for cash-strapped Americans amid elevated inflation and mounting debt.

Though inflation eased in April, the consumer price index was still up 3.4% from a year prior. 

Despite higher prices, Americans continue to spend.

To that point, credit card debt reached $1.12 trillion in the first quarter, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

‘Consumers are hyperreactive to deals’

Retailers are increasing promotions to combat their slimmer margins. Between March 2023 and March 2024, temporary price reductions were up by 72% and overall promotions rose by 15%, according to data analytics company Numerator. Free shipping offers, “buy one, get one free” deals and order minimums are successful ways companies get consumers to “spave.”

“If you’re spending more money because now you’re focused on the deal as opposed to what you’re getting, that’s when it becomes really, really dangerous,” says Charles Chaffin, co-founder of the Financial Psychology Institute.

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The personal savings rate — or how much people save as a percentage of their income — has been on the decline as households spent down pandemic savings and stimulus checks. In April, it was 3.6%, compared to an all-time high of 32% in April 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

“Consumers are hyperreactive to deals because they feel like they have less money than they’ve ever had,” said Melissa Minkow, director of retail strategy at consulting firm CI&T. “It’s just a weird mix of variables that is creating this very unique retail environment.”

While spaving isn’t always negative, continuing to make unplanned, impulse purchases can have devastating effects on consumers’ long-term financial goals.  

“On a basic level, if we’re incurring debt that we can’t pay back, it’s going to affect our credit score, which is going to have a huge impact on our ability to buy a house, on financing of large purchases and whatnot,” Chaffin said. 

Watch this video to learn more. 

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