Is “Spaving” Draining Your Savings? How to Avoid This Common Financial Trap

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Is Spaving Draining Your Savings

Have you heard of “spaving”? It’s a curious blend of “spending” and “saving”, according to CNBC — and it’s been a trending topic lately, but not in a good way. In today’s world of flash sales and fast-moving promotions, spaving is hard to avoid. Here’s a deeper dive into the innocent-sounding concept … and its unexpected dangers.

Spaving Definition

So … what exactly is spaving?

Spaving is the concept of spending more to save more. When you think of it on its own, it doesn’t seem to make sense. But walking around any mall or going online to buy anything, you’ll see countless opportunities to spave your day away. Think: “buy more save more” events, promo thresholds (i.e., save $100 when you spend $500), and adding a few things to your cart just to reach that magical order total to unlock free shipping. All of a sudden it’s easy to see why spavers are popping up everywhere — and why credit card debt in America is at its all-time high.

The pitfalls of spaving

Once you start recognizing chances to spave, you might notice that they’re often marketed as golden opportunities to save. It’s easy to get the sense that buying more to save more makes you frugal, financially responsible, and completely sensible (“I’m going to need it all anyway, so why not add it to my cart now?!”). And, in some cases, it absolutely makes financial sense. But for many, the math doesn’t exactly work out in the consumer’s favor. But that can be tough to see in the excitement — and impulsivity — of the moment.

3 tips to avoid spaving so you can actually save money 

Here are some ways to avoid falling prey to the spaving monster, so you can be successful when it comes to saving money.

1. Set a budget and stick to it

This may not seem like revolutionary advice, but it’s tried, tested, and worth repeating. Set spending limits for different categories, such as groceries, home decor, entertainment, and clothing. Then track your expenses against that budget. Sticking to a budget encourages disciplined spending habits and discourages impulsive purchases that could upend your financial goals. By the way, this doesn’t mean you need to strip every shred of enjoyment out of your life. Sticking to a budget means that you can occasionally treat yourself to something (or a few things) extra. But staying within your budget, in the big picture, will keep you from venturing from self-care to self-sabotage. And setting up a budget is simpler than you think. 

2. Try a different activity

Retail therapy and impulse buying can feel like they’re alleviating stress in the moment, but ultimately, they only add to it once that bill shows up. Substitute shopping with alternative activities that are inexpensive or free but just as stress-relieving: from museum-strolling, to bike-riding, to volunteering. 

3. Sleep on it

Spaving often happens on an impulse. Giving yourself a designated “no-buy” period — even just waiting until the next morning — gives you more time to reflect on the potential purchase and see if you still want it once the initial rush of getting a good deal wears off. You may well find that the interest dissipates with time.

3 things you can do instead of spaving to actually save money 

1. Shop around

Sometimes a limited-time sale looks so enticing, it’s impossible to think that this life-changing deal could potentially be beaten. But in today’s ultra-competitive consumer world – especially online – that first “amazing deal” you see is often far from the best you can find, and it’s always a smart idea to shop around for a better price. There are plenty of online comparison tools and shopping apps that help you do this, especially for apparel and accessories purchases. But a good old Google search often does the trick: just put in the item name or SKU number and see what comes up. If it’s something that you need, and you decide it makes sense to buy, you might as well get it for the very best price. 

2. Play the long game

Write out a statement of your long-term financial objectives. What are you really saving for? A physical inspiration board is a good way to picture it. Take a look at it when the spaving urges hit. When you’re tempted, remember to distinguish between essential purchases and non-essential indulgences, and prioritize the former. Before deciding to splurge on something new, consider if it’s aligned with your financial objectives — and whether it’s worth sacrificing your long-term savings for immediate gratification. Practicing mindful spending in this way can help you build a robust financial safety net for the future. 

3. Set it and forget it

Implement automatic transfers from your checking account to a designed savings account on a regular basis. By automating your savings, you ensure that a portion of your income is consistently set aside for the future before you have the chance to spend it.

MoneyLion offers a convenient marketplace to compare high-yield savings accounts from our trusted partners that could help grow your money.

Related: Loud Budgeting: 14 Ways the TikTok Trend Is Helping Americans Save Money

Now that you’ve learned all about spaving — and when to avoid it — it’s time to put the above ideas into practice. But remember that you’re human. It’s OK to deviate from your plan sometimes, and practice self-care while staying on budget. Because the goal here isn’t to remove the joy from your life. It’s to keep you moving onward and upward toward a more secure financial future, and less stress — which is a reward that’s worth pursuing. 

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